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Waver in the matrix

Do not adjust your sets, regular programming will return

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A waver ran through the matrix of manufactured press Americans have been force-fed since Bush’s disastrous Iraq War began. The images of flag-waving crowds and the impossibly naïve expectations from the White House ran headlong into the wall of reality when it became apparent that maybe Iraqis wouldn’t just lay down their arms and welcome the American army of occupation into their homeland. While the military’s much-touted “psychological operations” didn’t seem to achieve their goals with Iraqis, it’s worth pondering just how successful their brainwashing propaganda has been here at home.

The waver in our seamless optimism began with an ambush on the U.S. armored column that now stretches for hundreds of miles across the Iraqi desert like a sand-blasted snake. The Pentagon and the White House versions of our vast intelligence and weapons superiority seemed greatly in doubt as determined resistance from Iraqi forces undermined the political construct of a “war of liberation.” While our whitewashed news services filled our screens with computer simulations and endless shots of rolling tanks and night-time bomb explosions, people around the world were seeing an entirely different version of the war through their media outlets.

These days the globe is surrounded by orbiting communications satellites, and at least one of those belongs to Al-Jazeera, an Arab television network. While we were fed sanitized (and some would say intentionally incomplete) coverage, much of the world was getting a totally different picture of the war from non-U.S. news sources. While our view of reality was obscured by a sandstorm of national propaganda, graphic video was being shown on TV sets around the globe—including pictures of the dead or grievously injured women and children that we write off as “collateral damage.”

Needless to say, this is causing some problems for those who are more interested in controlling American thought than in having Americans receive the truth about the realities of this ill-conceived war. In a rapid-fire barrage of bad news, the non-U.S. media then reported an ambush that resulted in the capture of some U.S. soldiers. While our government sat mum (and numb), it soon became obvious that obfuscation was impossible in the face of videos showing captured and killed American troops. Only a day later, non-U.S. media showed an Iraqi peasant tribesman standing proudly in front of an Apache helicopter he had somehow brought to earth with a 1920 vintage bolt-action rifle. Again, our “authorities” would say only that a helicopter was “missing,” while the rest of the globe saw both the chopper and the pictures of the two pilots who had been captured.

Suddenly and undeniably, the release of information from global sources penetrated American airspace with devastating effect. While our government sought to cover up or negate the reality of both the fierce resistance in Iraq and the effects of same, the manufactured image of American invincibility began to fracture. As the perception that this could be a much longer and messier war than President Bush had led us to believe sank in, the bubble of optimism he crafted like a fairy tale popped and the stock market suffered its single worst day in years while the price of oil crept higher.

Then came even more bad news as Bush took his war funding request to Congress. Now some people might think that spending more than a billion dollars a day on our military means they are fully funded for their mission (whatever that is these days—because it certainly has strayed from “defense”). But no, Bush told Congress it must pony up another $75 billion in taxpayer funds to cover the cost of the war in Iraq. Not the full cost, mind you, but just the cost of running the war for six months. That comes out to more than $13 billion a month and does not cover the long-term costs of occupying or rebuilding Iraq if and when we “win” the war.

The ongoing budget for Bush’s military global adventurism combined with these outrageous new expenditures are sending the country into a tailspin of deficit spending that will leave us trillions in the hole. Plus, the negative effect the war is having on international trade and travel is depressing not only the U.S., but the global economy as well. And then, of course, there is rising tension and unrest throughout the world as stunned nations watch the mad American president throw the globe into military, economic, and social chaos.

It is important to remember that both our nation and state are totally in the hands of Republican politicians at this crucial juncture in our history. Republicans control the presidency and both houses of congress at the national level and the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature here in Montana. If the fairy tales they have been feeding us were real, we should be in heaven right now—making money up the yin-yang while enjoying a booming global economy in the safety, security and unbounded freedom of our own homes.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Our economy continues to decline, our freedoms are rapidly and intentionally being eroded at home, and the mere fact of being an American is coming to be seen as a disadvantage, if not an outright danger, around the globe. Meanwhile, here in Montana the best our disjointed and totally ineffective Republican leadership can do is dig us further into the fiscal hole by stealing our one last legacy to the future—the Coal Trust. If this is Republican heaven, it’s long past time to consider a different path to the future.

But don’t despair, dwellers in the matrix—and do not adjust your TVs. That disturbing little waver in our nation’s manufactured reality will be corrected soon. Our “shock and awe” campaign may not work on the Iraqis or the rest of the world, but who cares? As long as it works on Americans, the Republican fairy tale can be sustained.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.

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