woensdag, januari 29, 2003

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

One thing I learned watching television last night: Congressmen and Senators are praetorian little cheerleaders, capable of derailing and stalling even a long awaited speech by the President with unnecessary and frequent interruptions for applause. These overzealous idiots turned a 42 minute speech into a 59 minute long groupie handclapping exhibition and would have put me to sleep prematurely were it not for the fact I'd already endured the painful experience of yet another overly-hyped yet equally uninformative experience on Sunday with the advent of the Stupor Bowl and was well-prepped.

For the purposes of intelligibility and economy, I've translated and broken down some of the key elements of the State of the Union speech President Bush delivered last night into three categories: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

1. When Bush said Secretary of State Colin Powell "will present information and intelligence about Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.", he gave a splinter of hope to the rest of the civilized world that the final decision of war on Iraq will not necessarily be based on the "because I said so" principle.

2. The rated "R" section of the speech which was the gruesome catalog of Iraqi torture methods: ["Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.]. Is this really supposed to shock a nation of viewers already inundated with the violent images of television and movies? Next time, photographs or illustrations would be more effective. Or, in consideration of the general tone of the speech that addressed its viewers in simplistic, rhetorical imagery, perhaps Dubya should have taken a little chalkboard to draw stick figures on.

3. Reminding Europeans of their own sordid histories of unilateral imperialism by promising that the United States, if forced to go to war, would "exercise power without conquest", implying that unlike European imperialist powers of the 16th through 19th centuries before it, the US will not occupy and ruthlessly exploit lands it invades.

4. Addressing an Iraqi people without access to CNN or uncensored television coverage by saying: "Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country,". It may well be true but did he really think the Iraqi people were going to hear him?

The Bad

5. "We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.". In other words, speak only when you're spoken to and if you don't agree with me, then keep your opinions to yourself and if you don't agree with me then to hell with you. It doesn't really strike me as the sort of diplomacy that lends itself to legitimizing the UN. Why doesn't he just come right out and admit the UN, if not a vehicle of American goals, is a charred and demolished wreck on the Highway of Death.

6. "I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean." THIS is a brutally cynical piece of political Manicheism. What we are told in essence is: America is going to invade Iraq whether anyone likes it or not. As a token gesture, here is a few hypothetical billion dollars so I can make a nice segway into my sad tale of poor Africans being turned away at hospitals, told: We can't help you. Go home and die."' Of course, Bush says that "The best way to address the deficit and move toward a balanced budget is to encourage economic growth and to show some spending discipline in Washington, D.C." $15 billion to pay off a few thousand people in Africa doesn't sound like spending discipline to me.

7. "Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.". The biggest problem here is the question: WHAT has one got to do with the other? Simply linking IraQ and Al Qaeda because they share a few Qs in their names and showing no substantive proof otherwise just doesn't cut it. The issue of linking Iraq and Al Qaeda is supposed to be settled next week by Colin Powell. Of course, the Bush Administration has been promising these breathtaking samples of Saddam's direct duplicity in 9/11 ever since the war grumbling first started. Unless they move to overtly doctoring photographs and falsifying documents, I expect the usual flowery language itself will be the summation of Bush's case against Saddam and will have to suffice.

The Ugly

8. "Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity." God's gift to humanity?! The liberty we prize? I thought God's gift to humanity was CREATION. (Assuming of course, you, like me, are willing to take that wild leap of imagination and pretend there really IS a God, winkwink). This is a frightening attempt by Bush to lend his mission to invade Iraq the credibility of a religious mission of mercy for all the rest of the duplicitous anti-war mongrels populating the Earth who don't believe in him.

9. "We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving god behind all of life and all of history. May he guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America." I don't know about you, but if GOD has ALL this power to guide us and bless us and give us the gift of liberty and creation then I guess everyone should vote for GOD in the next presidential elections since Bush appears only to be God's spokesmodel.

10. The president also alluded to the sacrifices the military may have to make. "The technologies of war have changed; the risks and suffering of war have not. For the brave Americans who bear the risk, no victory is free from sorrow," he said. I have one word in particular for this cynical attempt to link himself with other military men in the past who have actually FOUGHT in a war and know what a REAL WAR is like: Chickenhawk. A chickenhawk is a person who is enthused about one's country engaging in WAR ( hence "hawk"), but makes sure that his or her own butt isn't anywhere near the fighting (hence "CHICKEN) or, a cowardly hypocrite. The Bush Administration, in particular, seems riddled with them. Those within the Administration calling hardest for war: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz have, uh, surprise! NOOOO combat experience. So what business does someone like Bush, who never fought in a war, have in telling the REAL soldiers about the "suffering" of war? Perhaps the ole Texas Air National Guard is alot tougher than we were ever led to believe.

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