|“To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends.” --Attorney General, John Ashcroft, December 2001 at a Senate hearing
What friends? America no longer has any. Oh there are the occasional fuckbuddies – Lonely Tony, and the silent Pimps of the Willing Coalition, whoring out their countries’ integrity for tuppence or pittance, but friends? Bullies don’t have friends. They have worshippers, hangers-on and cowards -- people who cringe and fawn and kowtow to please or to ingratiate, but whom, when tables are turned, will stab in the back at the drop of a hat.
As Fox, CNN, MSNBC and their print counterparts at the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post celebrated the siege of Baghdad and imminent fall of Tikrit, gloating at America’s speedy victory, and looping incessantly what they termed the “historic moment” as a statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad’s Firdos Square toppled, the “coalition” exercised a stunning Miss Manners moment. Having bombed and blasted and tomahawked their way to the center of Baghdad, stopping briefly to pee in a golden toilet in the ruins of one of Saddam’s palaces, they quickly removed an American flag they had used to cover the statue’s face and replaced it with a pre-Gulf War Iraqi flag, so as not to offend the Iraqis.
Tim Russert, NBC’s anchor of Meet the Press, embedded in Washington DC and the Pentagon, could barely contain his glee, grinning as if his wife had just won a Pulitzer for her cheap-shot tabloid expose of Wacko Jacko as limbless Iraqi children burned in Basra, literally dying for water.
While Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney high-five one another over all the money they will make from this war, it might help Americans to wade through the fog of American media propaganda that presented such a polished and sanitized version of the war. Iraqi suffering does not make for as good television as “embedded” reporters cozying up next to marines and it would be easy to confuse it with Hollywood propaganda. Particularly the kind vomited by Fox News owned by Rupert Murdoch -- soon to control both production and distribution pipelines with his timely and predictable $6.6 billion purchase of Hughes Electronics which includes America’s largest cable satellite provider DirecTV from General Electric.
So while we’re applauding our rapid kick-ass victory massacre, or liberation, over what was supposedly America’s greatest threat, and once we’ve decided whether our objective was to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, regime obliteration, or the SUV survival in the United States, it will behoove us to remember that the war against Iraq does not mean the war against terrorism is over, or that all the civil liberties we traded for a false sense of security will be miraculously returned to us.
Here is mere sampling of what Iraq can expect in terms of liberation, once the bleeding stops, there is nothing left to loot and plunder and food and water supplies are eventually replenished.
The brief period of sympathy the world felt for the United States following the “liberation” of the Twin Towers and Pentagon on September 11th was all but lost when America, like a spoiled brat swatted, reminded the world what is was like just before September 11 when it stormed out of the World Conference of Racism, as it ripped up ABM treaties, continued to scorn Kyoto treaties, scoffed at World Court jurisdiction, spat on Geneva conventions and kicked Vicente Fox back to Guanajuato empty-handed, Mexican immigrants be damned. Can anyone forget the media darling of the day back then, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, reminding the world how great the views are at Guantanamo Bay?
If every fundamentalist terrorist pig with death and revenge pulsating through their evil veins plots to kill and bomb America in the name of Allah, following our preemptive example, we will have earned it, if not provided a blueprint as to how to go about it.
We allowed the Supreme Court to appoint a C-grade cheerleader with mad cowboy disease, who lost the popular vote to a wooden stick, and then stood by idly as he appointed a cabinet of corporate gluttons to mismanage the country the way they did their companies. A bunch of thieving CEOs that were so greedy they chose to publicly display their corporate interests rather than give them up to avoid embarrassing the Office of the President (held by a man who is beyond both the Office and the embarrassment).
While our timid representatives signed legislation that diminished our voices and gave the President carte blanche to endanger ourselves and our children every waking moment ever more, we were too busy gaping at whitewashed history revisions, painting over Rudy Giuliani’s censorship tirades and petty, messy divorce shenanigans with colorful and glowing hues of heroism.
While the Old Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, sneeringly told the hypocritical, sycophantic pigs and whores we mistakenly elected to serve us in Washington DC that the costs of the war could not be tallied if we don’t know how long it will last and what our commitments will be, we the duped, doped and deluded sat back in silence, stomaching the building of yet another memorial at the Pentagon so that we can be reminded of Barbara Olson for the rest of our miserable little lives. And so Joyce Rumsfeld can feel useful waving tatty little flags to remind her husband that he’s American -- should the trite lapel pin fail.
While Halliburton, or its barely veiled spin-offs, the company with accounting irregularities that continues to pay Vice President Dick Cheney, (who would sooner tarnish the office he holds than lose the tax advantage this ethically reeking set-up allows), is being rewarded with fat contracts to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq once we’ve finished bombing them into oblivion. All while, of course, as our government sets up Iraqi dictatorship zones run by retired American Generals plucked from expert panels at cable news networks, and we, the American idle, sit glued to American Idol.
Perhaps the only good thing about the war so far, was the decision by MSNBC to preempt shock jock Don Imus in favor of MSNBC journalists who aren’t dying of sudden death embolisms. “Due to the continuing developments in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Imus will be pre-empted until further notice,” they curtly informed. (For now, those suckers that wish to help Imus decorate his tax-exempt ranch to entertain the likes of Senator John McCain can give money to organizations that actually support kids with cancer, not loot from them). Despite Secretary Rumsfeld’s assertion that looting is what “free people are free to do,” no doubt borrowing a chapter form the Searle Pharmaceuticals handbook. Or perhaps MSNBC will decide to use that time spot to broadcast surviving Iraqi orphans working without pay at the Imus ranch of altruism as they learn how to live and hate American style, courtesy of Readers Digest.
While America annihilated, Eminem became the darling of the overmedicated soccer Mom set, humming “Am I the only one who’s fucking normal anymore,” on the way to drop the kids at Starbucks, and Lynne Cheney, the Vice President’s wife moved the rapper out of her crosshairs to focus on something far more dangerous than Oscar-winning, homophobic, misogynist lyrics of Doctor Dre and Barry Manilow’s lovechild. A web site parodying the oh so patriotic Mrs. Cheney received a threatening cease and desist letter from the Vice President’s counsel, scripted with the icy subtlety of a Nicole Brown Simpson throat slit. While the Democrats have yet to launch an Independent Counsel investigation into whether a Vice President using the facilities of the White House to threaten First Amendment violations against parodies of his wife is any worse than making phone calls to raise funds, the Vice President will likely be as forthcoming as he has been with his Energy policy guest list.
While the military mobilized, John Ashcroft ignored, and continues to, critical and gaping terrorist vulnerabilities at American ports and borders by unleashing his jack-booted storm troopers on web sites selling marijuana paraphernalia. His Department of Justice goons are implementing a Just Force Feed Yes campaign in federal court -- one that will allow the very doctors who are being punished for involvement in assisting the terminally ill commit suicide with dignity, forcefully administer drugs against the will of prisoners in order to deem them sane enough to be executed.
While the Texan cowboy gouges on cocktail blends of Prozac and Viagra washed down with Jimmy Beam (aka pretzels) trying to reconcile having found Jesus in a pile of cocaine with his moral crusade to realize the Armageddon nightmare scenario of Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, Rummy and Dick have been embedded at News Corp to sell their “Saddam is Osama in Secular Drag” routine on Fox News, even though they cannot show us a trace of either of them. Other than what’s available, of course, from what’s left of Al-Jazeera. Remember, that annoying Qatar-based satellite news channel that keeps getting in the way of precision missiles and is way too reality-based to embed in the military or broadcast live in the United States.
While the world witnessed the widest ever global protests against launching a preemptive war, dismissed by the White House as misguided focus groups not worthy of listening to, America and Britain hastily prepare to bestow on the shell-shocked Iraqis a blend of the polices of John Ashcroft and Britain’s David Blunkett that will make the average Iraqi with an iota of intelligence mourn for the return of Saddam Hussein or a merciful dose of yet-to-be-found chemical weapons to self-destruct en masse. Of course only civilized executions by lethal injections or electric chairs will be allowed now, and only if ordered and sanctioned by the new democracy the Iraqis involuntarily sacrificed their kids for.
While Tom Ridge color coded his new office to match the pancake base on his puff pasty cheeks, ABC, Fox and Vanity Fair used weapons of mass distraction in the form of Michael Jackson bashing that provided a perfect vehicle for Gloria Allred to resurrect her floundering career by abusing all the little children who had ever spent time alone with Jackson by setting them up for humiliating and intrusive investigations. Why attack pedophile priests and apologist cardinals when you can attack a child-like entertainer? After all Bernard Law Flawed doesn’t have quite the same tabloid ring to it as Wacko Jacko does. As America prepares to quarantine people with SARS -- as important to the media as AIDS in the early days -- and Executive Orders allowing the equivalent of concentration camps are signed, sealed and filed, perhaps Allred can lecture Iraqi children, once liberated, on the dangers of sleeping in the same bed as stars, given how widespread and imminent the danger.
Condoleezza Rice disdainfully belittled the relevance of NATO allies and the Security Council by effectively letting them know that not only did the United States not really require or need their support, it would – and did -- ignore their input if they didn’t unequivocally support America. Suggesting a global body somehow meant the automatic green lighting of the wishes of its individual members. And while petrified POWs were captured in Iraq and beamed on state run television, including Shoshana Johnson, politically correct, predominantly white news networks all but ignored the irony and timing of civil rights pioneer, Rosa Parks’, undermining of her own greatness and global stature by boycotting a NAACP event honoring Barbershop – a film in which one of the characters makes a negative reference about her. Rosa Park’s one-hit-wonder legacy henceforth, unfortunately, is that blacks can indeed sit in the front of the bus, provided their gags are securely fastened. Or their gasmasks.
High end graphics and dramatic jingles transmit such a polished sanitization of combat that the harsh and deadly realities of war and plight of humans on both sides is trivialized. Lily white anchors like MSNBC’s barely articulate Alex Witt conducting Sesame Street sophisticated interviews and saccharine sleaze Chris Jansing or replacement clones like Christy Musumeci, plucked from the Don Imus “Smut Report,” are trained to seductively purse their glossy lips and flutter their eyes at the camera like tabloid tarts and pin photos on walls as marines and Iraqi civilians are blown to bloody bits. CNN, desperate to compete, beams bleached blonde anchors with similar names, like rank amateur Christi Paul who looks and sounds like a high school reporter on an episode of Beverley Hills 90210 and is even less proficient at reading a teleprompter than the President.
A smirking George W. Bush once told the world that he could see Putin’s soul having invited the Russian leader to Crawford, Texas to rip up the ABM treaty in his face and send him home smarting and humiliated, while the media gushed at how effective he was at the Cliff Notes version of Foreign Policy 101 for Dummies, blissfully unaware of how the tables would turn when America needed a helping hand, like a vote for a resolution that would have helped reduce the global fury over America’s blatant unilateralism by force. Instead you have CNN, MSNBC and Fox -- the Special Olympics of News and Journalism -- berating Germany, sans irony, for being anti-war.
Back in February 2002 Donald Rumsfeld disbanded the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), the only entity that provided a modicum of oversight to the rampant sexual harassment in the military, as the Air Force assaulted and raped female servicemembers with abandon. The same females that were flying airplanes and dropping leaflets over Afghanistan, decrying the Taliban’s treatment of women. Perhaps if they’re lucky, Laura Bush will send them sewing kits to mend the uniforms of the men that were torn or damaged during the rapes and assaults, as she did the newly “liberated” Afghani women. Iraqi women better hope that the U.N. can add chastity belts to the food packages they’ll be dropping as part of their “central role” in the rebuilding. If U.S. servicemembers are raping and harassing their comrades, the natives had better watch out.
As debate over America’s role in the modern world raged in congress, a dimwit from Ohio, Bob Ney, saw fit to spend our precious few remaining tax dollars just saying no to fatty, oil-drenched potatoes, by passing a resolution changing the menu of the cafeteria in congress from French fries and French toast to freedom fries and freedom toast. Blissfully unaware that freedom, that dwindling concept supposedly represented by the Statue of Liberty, was given to America by the French. He should not only be flogged for wasting money, lack of focus and trivial pursuits, he should be “liberated” from the shackles of an educational system responsible for his grasp of history, and under-appreciation of French cuisine.
While Cheney, Rumsfeld and their Diplomacy by Decree gang of thugs told Turkey to “spread ‘em wider” if she wanted more from the Cash for Loyalty Fund , and just before the bombs started dropping on Baghdad, Ari Fleisher, dryly stated: “The president continues to hope that this can be settled in the most peaceful way possible and the use of force is being pursued to help make this get settled in the most peaceful way possible.” Journalists embedded at the White House had all but ignored the massive buildup in the Persian Gulf, giving credence to the charade of last minute diplomacy efforts with the same distorted lens through which Iraq’s former Minister of Information, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, saw the desecration of Baghdad – suggesting all was well as statues of Saddam Hussein toppled on his head.
So now we deal with the reality that America will never see on its fast-food diet of faux reality television, designed to delude viewers and distort reality. The same coke-snorting college drunk that became the Commander in Chief that allowed seven Arab-speaking linguists to be kicked out the military for being gay rather than help decipher terrorist threats in Arabic, sat mouthing words at the teleprompter as a woman teased and pouffed his hair (which seemed significantly less grey than images from a couple of days prior) just minutes before announcing to the world that little girls in Baghdad were about to experience what a Tomahawk felt like. The Queen of Mean. Move over Rosie.
Donald Rumsfeld, once defined as “tough”, “macho, “no-nonsense” (and other supposedly glowing terms) by American media who let fly his evasive, if not nonsensical, answers to their unchallenging, pre-packaged, vanilla questioning, has become the next media plaything – a victim of his own making. First he faced increased criticism for his handling of Iraq and his politically and diplomatically disastrous blunders that made Secretary of Sate, Colin Powell, look like an idiot out of the loop until he became a warmongering hawk to simply save face. Then reports from troops in Iraq revealed deep-seated resentment that the Pentagon did not sent enough troops to wage the war the way they wanted to fight it and that Rumsfeld, who has never dug a foxhole in his life, is out of touch with the realities of war. He increasingly sounds irked, defensive, irritated and less in command, as his generals towering above him, cower in his presence, looking comically pathetic. As the realities of the Bomb Now, Plan Later campaign come home to roost, Rumsfeld has become the crusty old American version of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, insisting that the rampant looting, as clear as the falling statues, is a media exaggeration.
Right wing armchair hawks at corporate media controlled American propaganda channels, too pampered to even attend a pro-war rally let alone fight in a war, mock Iraq’s missing leadership for failing to play by the rules of treaties ignored by America, branding them cowards for hiding in bunkers (as opposed to undisclosed locations) to avoid the falling of bombs and missiles on their homes and headquarters.
Rumsfeld’s age and agility are beginning to show cracks as his belligerent threats against Syria and Korea endanger the entire world. Shocking and awing everyone but the supposed enemy. And pleasing few other than George W. Bush, rumored to have responded “Good!” upon hearing Rumsfeld’s threat, and subsequently threatening Syria himself.
As prisoners of war, thought to be tortured and murdered at the hands of Iraqi soldiers, are recovered relatively unharmed, America’s complaints of Geneva Convention violations to the United Nations, whom it defied in the first place by waging the war, seem even more vacuous than they did prior to the recovery. Rumsfeld’s chilling words, and Bush’s arrogance appear to have come back to haunt America. Asked on January 2, 2002, to respond to reports of torture and mistreatment of the shackled and blindfolded prisoners in Cuba, Rumsfeld spouted: “To be in an eight-by-eight cell in beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay is not a – inhumane treatment. And it has a roof. They have all of the things that I’ve described. And how each person is handled depends on where they go.” Well, seems like the desert is pretty sunny too, and that the torture chambers have not only roofs but walls as well. And how each person is handled depends on where they go-- whatever the hell that means.
And if Iraq’s missing military needs more justifications down the road for their barbaric acts, they need just quote Britain’s then Foreign Office minister, Ben Bradshaw, who in response to the same Guantanamo Bay torture allegations, as well as the Geneva Convention-flouting release of images of POWs that they are up-in-arms over today, countered: “The recent pictures featured in the media were taken on arrival where security needs are paramount. These are some of the most dangerous detainees in the world, who have variously demonstrated murderous and suicidal tendencies.” Not the loving and caring missiles and child-killing, women-maiming bombs and missiles of liberation.
As anarchy, chaos and disorder unfolds across Iraq by the minute, casually dismissed by Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush as merely the exercise of freedom after years of oppression, America may want to rethink the language and consequences of such oppressive home-grown tools as the insidiously named USA Patriot Act which is about as patriotic as friendly fire is friendly.
And now the same America that ignored the wishes of the world by acting in defiance of their wishes to give weapons inspections a chance and their grave concerns over setting a precedent of preemptive force, the same America that flouted Geneva Conventions after “liberating” Afghanistan that turned around and pointed angry fingers at Iraq, accusing them of the same, and the same unilateralist, self-interested America that refused to join a World Court if American servicemembers were to fall under its jurisdiction wants to now prosecute, try and convict Iraqi military for war crimes as an international exercise.
Despite global concerns, expressed in advance of the bombings, by international academics, historians and ordinary citizens in the form of petitions, American servicemembers were so busy helping Iraqis chop down and destroy statues of Saddam Hussein, they ignored the looting of people’s private possessions and Iraq’s greatest riches, as treasures from the Iraq National Museum housing ancient priceless Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian collections and rare collections of Islamic texts were carted off in wheelbarrows. As marines peed in golden toilets in Saddam’s palaces, posing for cameras lounging on expensive furniture, and while Secretary Rumsfeld scornfully derided as “exaggerated” the already-too-late media reporting of the looting (missed almost entirely by the networks giddily repeating footage of the toppling statues), the renowned museum was emptied leaving nothing but shattered glass and broken pottery bowls littering its floors. The cradle of ancient civilization destroyed and plundered by modern barbarians under the banner of liberation.
Hyperbole notwithstanding, America’s violent, preemptive foreign policy is the moral and ethical equivalent of rape. If you’re in the mood for getting fucked involuntarily and are willing to deal with the potential diseases, psychological trauma and unwanted offspring that might well follow, then lucky for you -- you’re with us. If not, you don’t get our friendship or our money but make no mistake; we’re going to fuck you anyway.
In this messy, brutal, ruthless, swaggering, testosterone driven new world order, there are at least a couple of silver linings to the clouds of hell. Damascus and Tehran still have time left to stash and save their historic treasures somewhere safely. And John Ashcroft can stop worrying about Americans voicing concern over the actions of our government giving pause to our friends. It’s a little late for that.
Clinton Fein can be reached at email@example.com