|This article, one of the best short analyses of the Bush
administration's policies, was published by "Vorwarts,"
First Published 08 June 2003
In the Western democracies in the last fifty years, we have grown
accustomed to governments whose policies on specific issues may be
good or bad, but which essentially institute incremental changes
to the status quo. The major exceptions have been Thatcher and
Reagan, but even their programs of dismantling systems of social
welfare seem, in retrospect, mild compared to what is happening in
the United States under George Bush-- or more exactly, the ruling
junta that tells Bush what to do and say.
It is unquestionably the most radical government in modern
American history, one whose ideology and actions have become so
pervasive, and are so unquestionably mirrored by the mass media
here, that the population seems to have forgotten what
George Bush is the first unelected President of the United States,
installed by a right-wing Supreme Court in a kind of judicial coup
d'etat. He is the first to actively subvert one of the pillars of
American democracy: the separation of church and state. There are
now daily prayer meetings and Bible study groups in every branch
of the government, and religious organizations are being given
funds to take over educational and welfare programs that have
always been the domain of the state.
Bush is the first president to invoke the specific "Jesus
Christ" rather than an ecumenical "God," and he has
surrounded himself with evangelical Christians, including his
Attorney General, who attends a church where he talks in tongues.
It is the first administration to openly declare a policy of
unilateral aggression, a "Pax Americana" where the
presence of allies (whether England or Bulgaria) is agreeable but
unimportant; where international treaties no longer apply to the
United States; and where-- for the first time in history-- this
country reserves the right to non-defensive,
"pre-emptive" strikes against any nation on earth, for
whatever reason it declares.
It is the first-- since the internment of Japanese-Americans in
World War II-- to enact special laws for a specific ethnic group.
Non-citizen young Muslim men are now required to register and
subject themselves to interrogation. Many hundreds have been
arrested and held without trial or access to legal assistance-- a
violation of another pillar of American democracy: habeas corpus.
Many have been taken from their families and deported on minor
technical immigration violations; the whereabouts of many others
are still unknown. And, in Guantanamo Bay, where it is said that
they are now preparing execution chambers, hundreds of foreign
nationals -- including a 13-year-old and a man who claims to be
100-- have been kept for almost two years in a limbo that clearly
contravenes the Geneva Convention.
Similar to the Reagan era, it is an administration openly devoted
to helping the rich and ignoring the poor, one that has turned the
surplus of the Clinton years into a massive deficit through its
combination of enormous tax cuts for the wealthy (particularly
those who earn more than a million dollars a year) and increases
in defense spending. (And, although Republicans always campaign on
"less government," it has created the largest new
government bureaucracy in history: the Department of Homeland
Security.) The Financial Times of England, hardly a hotbed of
leftists, has categorized this economic policy as "the
lunatics taking over the asylum."
But more than Reagan-- whose policies tended to benefit the rich
in general-- most of Bush's legislation specifically enriches
those in his lifelong inner circle from the oil, mining, logging,
construction, and pharmaceutical industries. At the middle level
of the bureaucracy, where laws may be issued without Congressional
approval, hundreds of regulations have been changed to lower
standards of pollution or safety in the workplace, to open up
wilderness areas for exploitation, or to eliminate the testing of
Billions in government contracts have been awarded, without
competition, to corporations formerly run by administration
officials. In a country where the most significant social changes
are enacted by court rulings, rather than by legislation, the Bush
administration has been filling every level of the complex
judicial system with ultra-right ideologues, especially those who
have protected corporations from lawsuits by individuals or
environmental groups, and those who are opposed to women's
reproductive rights. It remains to be seen how far they can push
their antipathy to contraception and abortion. They have already
banned a rare form of late-term abortion that is only given when
the health of the mother is endangered or the fetus is terribly
deformed, and a large portion of Bush's heralded billions to
Africa to fight AIDS will be devoted to so-called
Most of all, America doesn't feel like America any more. The
climate of militarism and fear, similar to any totalitarian state,
permeates everything. Bush is the first American president in
memory to swagger around in a military uniform, though he
himself-- like all of his most militant advisers-- evaded the
Vietnam War. (Even Eisenhower, a general and a war hero, never
wore his uniform while he was president).
In the airports of provincial cities, there are frequent
announcements in that assuring, disembodied voice of
science-fiction films: "The Department of Homeland Security
advises that the Terror Alert is now . . . Code Orange."
Every few weeks there is an announcement that another terrorist
attack is imminent, and citizens are urged to take ludicrous
measures, like sealing their windows, against biological and
chemical attacks, and to report the suspicious activities of their
The Pentagon institutes the "Total Information
Awareness" program to collect data on the ordinary activities
of ordinary citizens (credit card charges, library book
withdrawals, university course enrollments) and when this is
perceived as going too far, they change the name to
"Terrorist Information Awareness" and continue to do the
same things. Millions are listed in airport security computers as
potential terrorists, including antiwar demonstrators and
pacifists. Critics are warned to "watch what they say"
and lists of "traitors" are posted on the internet.
The war in Iraq has been the most extreme manifestation of this
new America, and almost a casebook study in totalitarian
First, an Enemy is created by blatant lies that are endlessly
repeated until the population believes it: in this case, that Iraq
was linked to the attack on the World Trade Center, and that it
possesses vast "weapons of mass destruction" that
threaten the world.
Then, a War of Liberation, entirely portrayed by the mass media in
terms of our Heroic Troops, with little or no imagery of
casualties and devastation, and with morale-inspiring, scripted
"news" scenes-- such as the toppling of the Saddam
statue and the heroic "rescue" of Private Lynch-- worthy
of Soviet cinema.
Finally, as has happened with Afghanistan, very little news of the
chaos that has followed the Great Victory. Instead, the propaganda
machine moves on to a new Enemy-- this time, Iran.
It is very difficult to speak of what is happening in America
without resorting to the hyperbolic cliches of anti-Americanism
that have lost their meaning after so many decades, but that have
now finally come true.
Perhaps one can only recite the facts, and I have mentioned only
some of them here. This is, quite simply, the most frightening
American administration in modern times, one that is appalling
both to the left and to traditional conservatives. This junta is
unabashed in its imperialist ambitions; it is enacting an
Orwellian state of Perpetual War; it is dismantling, or attempting
to dismantle, some of the most fundamental tenets of American
democracy; it is acting without opposition within the government,
and is operating so quickly on so many fronts that it has
overwhelmed and exhausted any popular opposition.
Perhaps it cannot be stopped, but the first step toward slowing it
down is the recognition that this is an American government unlike
any other in this country's history, and one for whom democracy is