Damned lies and war loot 

By Mike Carlton 

January 17, 2004 : (Sydney Morning Herald) More and more evidence is coming in. The jigsaw pieces are fitting into place. It is becoming appallingly clear that President George Bush is an arrant liar and - as Mark Latham correctly suggested - "the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory".

Two books I read over the summer holidays pointed me in this direction. Both were by Americans. The first was How Much Are You Making on the War, Daddy? by William D.Hartung, a policy wonk at the New School University in New York. 

Hartung gives chapter and verse, sourced and annotated, on the crony capitalism and brazen conflicts of interest which reek from the highest levels of the Bush Administration. His particular bete noir is the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, who even while in office receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in "deferred payments" from his old company, Halliburton, a giant oil services conglomerate which now has the lion's share of (untendered) Pentagon contracts to rebuild Iraq.

But it is not only Cheney. Invoking Dwight D.Eisenhower's prescient warning of the rise of an American "military-industrial complex", (Link: Eisenhower's Warns America) Hartung joins the dots on a web of richly profitable insider dealings by Administration figures - from Donald Rumsfeld to George Bush the First.

The second book was The Great Unravelling, a collection of writing by Paul Krugman, an economist at Princeton who turns out regular columns for The New York Times. Witty and irreverent, Krugman has the happy knack of explaining complex economic issues in plain English, rather like our own Ross Gittins. And he does not hold back:

"It is a simple fact that George Bush and Dick Cheney got rich through pretty much the same tricks, albeit on a smaller scale, as those that enriched Enron and other scandal-ridden corporations," he writes. "At a time when we need another Franklin Roosevelt, we are instead led by men who are part of the problem."

Krugman demonstrates with cool logic that Dubya lied through his teeth about massive tax cuts promised equably to all Americans but which, he says, deliver 40 per cent of the benefit to the richest 1 per cent of the people. 

It is these tax cuts that helped push the US to a record-shattering budget deficit of $US374.2 billion ($486.03 billion) in the last fiscal year and which, as the International Monetary Fund reported last week, now threaten the stability of the global economy. I ASKED Mark Latham this week if he stood by his "incompetent and dangerous" crack at Bush. 

This question will dog him all the way to the election later this year, so he has developed what I suppose is a formula answer: he supports the American alliance but reserves the right for Canberra to differ with Washington if needs be. 

Or words to that effect. But he added, firmly enough, that he believes the Iraq war was a mistake. 

"It was a war justified primarily to find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction. None were used in the conflict; none have been found since," he said.

"And on that basis [the] war was sustained on a premise that hasn't been proven and hasn't been justified. And for that reason you'd have to be worried about the conduct of Australian foreign policy."

The Bush and Howard toadies in the media will use this as a stick to bash Latham as anti-American, a common smear when they are devoid of logical argument. 

They would have more difficulty, though, in suggesting the same of Bush's former treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, whose recent portrait of his ex-boss as "a blind man in a roomful of deaf people" was devastating.

Then there was this week's report from the US Army War College (America's "most prestigious institution for the education of strategic leaders", says its website) which slammed the invasion of Iraq as "a detour" from the war on terrorism and said the Bush Administration's attempts to prove a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were a "strategic error of the first order". 

Or take these words from Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts in a speech last Wednesday: "No president of the United States should employ misguided ideology and distortion of the truth to take the nation to war. In doing so, the President broke the basic bond of trust between government and the people. If Congress and the American people knew the whole truth, America would never have gone to war."

Copyright: Sydney Morning Herald

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