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POLICY THROUGH ROSE-COLORED PILOT’S GOGGLES

John Chuckman

Everyone, not attached by threadbare ideology or plain old war profiteering to President Bush’s War on Terror, knows that even on its own terms, it can only fail miserably in a great waste of lives and substance. You cannot fight a war against religious faith and opposition to injustice unless you are prepared to be as utterly ruthless as Stalin, and even then, when you lie pickled in your tomb, the roots you missed destroying will grow hardy new plants, as they have in contemporary Russia. But I would never have expected stark evidence for failure to come so quickly.

Massive explosions in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, just before the arrival of Colin Powell for talks, have left a smoking mass of blood and charred bodies.

Before this, only hours after talks in Israel about easing restrictions on the Palestinians, Mr. Powell was rewarded by Mr. Sharon’s sealing Gaza. Already Sharon had dismissed the new peace plan, and already he has publicly broadcast that Israel will continue to build new settlements.

Seeking stability for America’s Middle East policies was the central purpose of the Iraq invasion. One might think Sharon would show some gratitude for the monstrously-costly invasion of Iraq, but instead something like “Well, you can’t take back the invasion now, so it’s not going to change what I do” seems to be his response.

These signs follow others. The American Proconsul for Baghdad has been sacked for incompetence as chaos still characterizes life for a city of five million souls. Reports by independent journalists – that is, those not tied to America’s propaganda consortium of major networks and newspapers – indicate a growing fierce resentment towards the liberators. My, such ingratitude.

And in a move strikingly reminiscent of Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 triumphant return to Iran from exile in France, last Saturday (May 10), Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim, a noted Shia cleric and fierce opponent of Saddam Hussein, returned after twenty-three years of exile. He was greeted in Basra with far more enthusiasm than anything seen by America’s kevlar-clad warriors for peace, justice, and the American way – especially the American way. The cleric has made statements both about a widely-based elected government and an Islamic state – goals that are not entirely inconsistent since Iraq is about sixty-percent Shia.

How that will be reconciled with Iraq’s more modern elements is not clear – many Americans being unaware that Hussein was a rather secular ruler and women, for example, in Baghdad lived a more modern life than those in most other Arab capitals. Of course, there’s still the angry demands of the Kurds in northern Iraq for autonomy, a people previously betrayed by American foreign policy. Who knows what they’ll be up to if betrayed again?

The Kurds’ demands are accompanied by a background roar from Turkey against any such thing happening, but then Turkey is in the dog house for failing to permit a second front against Iraq from its territory, even after being offered billions in bribes. Still, Turkey is a key ally and is trying to join the modern world as quickly as possible, so it can’t be treated as badly as Bush is determined to treat France and Germany.

Such are the rewards of rudely elbowing your way into the intimate affairs of others. If only America’s great power were ever actually used against the world’s great injustices or to protect the weak, but all evidence since the end of World War II points the other way. It is used only to defend narrowly-defined interests, fight superstitious fears such as those it feels around communism or now Islam, and lay low anyone who seriously gets in its way. Any end to an injustice along the way is strictly coincidental.

Of course, one can only be glad the murder in Iraq is largely over, despite receiving notice of the fact from an odd man in an Armani suit and pilot’s goggles on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The likelihood of Bush understanding what he has actually achieved in Afghanistan and Iraq is not high. So too the likelihood for success of his limp effort to control Israel’s bloody excesses.

And what of the longer-term results of Mr. Bush’s mismanagement? Additional attacks against American interests will bring further suppression of American rights and freedoms, and I believe this may be supported by the almost childish fears and lack of understanding of many Americans. “Heavens, there was a terror alert while we were buying ice-cream cones at Disney World!” Of course, there will be more violent, hatred-inducing incursions abroad.

At the same time that Mr. Bush increases repressive and intrusive measures at home and destruction abroad, he insists on massive, economically-obtuse tax cuts as voter bait. This is a formula for re-creating the economic chaos of Israel, only there is no one out there able to bail the United States.

The combined effects of massive American security restrictions, secrecy, retaliation against otherwise-friendly states opposed to its destructive acts, national deficits, trade deficits, war and the resentments it generates may well depress the growth of international trade seen in recent decades, imposing still a further cost on the world.

The first part of the twenty-first century looks promising indeed. Let’s hear it for Commander Bush, giggling in goggles, while he launches us all into darkness.

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