WHAT WE THINK
May 9, 2003 | Page 3
THE ARROGANCE of empire is on full display. Jay Garner, the Pentagon-appointed colonial overlord of postwar Iraq, crowed last week that people in the U.S. should celebrate Washington's war victory by beating their chests and saying, "Damn, we're Americans!"
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited conquered Iraq for a victory tour--and put his signature on a Baghdad street sign looted by U.S. troops. Capping it off was George W. Bush's Navy jet landing on an aircraft carrier--30 years after he dodged the draft for Vietnam and went AWOL from the Air National Guard.
In his shipboard speech, Bush boasted that "with new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians." Never mind the uncounted thousands of Iraqi civilians who died in the U.S. invasion--or those being shot down by U.S. occupation troops on a regular basis.
A few voices in the rabidly pro-war media acknowledged the U.S. failure to meet Iraq's urgent need for food, jobs, functioning hospitals and schools--and Washington's promotion of Ahmed Chalabi and the crooks of the Iraqi National Congress. "What we have done is import Mafias into Baghdad," one anonymous U.S. official told the New York Times.
If Iraqis complain, they get their answer in bullets. "Already, it is possible to identify some familiar landmarks in the progress of occupation: a series of brutal incidents for which the Americans are never, ever, to blame," wrote British journalist Robert Fisk.
"So here is a little prediction. Mr. Bush says the war is over, or words to that effect. Then Shia resistance begins to bite the Americans in Iraq. Of course, Mr. Rumsfeld will have warned of this: it will be characterized as the famous 'terrorist networks' which still have to be fought in Iraq. And Iran--and no doubt Syria--will be accused of supporting these 'terrorists' So stand by for part two of the Iraq war, transmogrified into the next stage of the 'war on terror.'"
For now, Bush is using his Top Gun image to project himself as a wartime leader beyond challenge both abroad and at home. He hopes to avoid the fate of his father--who went from 90 percent approval ratings after the last Gulf War in 1991 to being run out of the White House 18 months later with the lowest share of the vote for a sitting president since Herbert Hoover was defeated during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Bush Jr. has literally nothing to offer when it comes to the issues that most concern working people. His only proposal for lifting the economy is to hand out more tax cuts to the rich--based on the nonsensical claim that this will spur growth. Meanwhile, the White House denies extensions of unemployment benefits, despite the worst long-term joblessness in 20 years.
On other issues as well, the Bush gang is planting the seeds of future opposition by blustering ahead with a right-wing agenda--from new attacks on a woman's right to choose abortion, to its stance against affirmative action, announced in typically offensive fashion on Martin Luther King's birthday.
If Bush has gotten away with this so far, it is in part because of the pathetic opposition of the Democrats. When the nine announced candidates for the party's presidential nomination met for their first debate last weekend, the majority of them attacked former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) for proposing that money should be spent on creating a universal health care system rather than on tax cuts for the rich. All the candidates but dark horses Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) supported the war on Iraq.
Still, Bush Sr. faced a weak field of Democrats in 1992--and lost anyway. The reason is that his Gulf War popularity temporarily hid the unpopularity of his conservative agenda. A year after the war, riots in Los Angeles following the acquittal of police in the Rodney King beating case highlighted the social crisis caused by the recession of the early 1990s--and exposed Bush Sr. as out of touch.
The same could easily happen to Bush Jr. Like his father, his high ratings in opinion polls aren't the result of political support among ordinary people for the right-wing ideas that he actually stands for.
It's impossible to predict how and when resistance to Bush's policies will take shape. But the enormous growth of the antiwar movement in just the few months before the invasion of Iraq showed the potential for opposition to U.S. imperialist adventures. And the stagnant economy and attacks by Corporate America could lead to growing protests around any number of issues.
One thing that's certain is that the Bush gang's arrogance will fuel generalized bitterness and anger--and that can be the basis for activists to build ongoing resistance to Washington's wars at home and abroad.