Saul Landau Read Spanish Version
media dissection of Senator Larry Craig’s toilet stall indiscretion
abates, George Bush prepares to resume center stage for his starring
role in the “The Decline of the Imperial Presidency.” In the last
episode of this drama, Bush planned to nominate the recently resigned
“brain,” Karl Rove -- after the Senate rejected Michael Chertoff
and Rush Limbaugh -- to replace Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General.
etched his name in U.S. history by adding torture to democracy’s
great arsenal, while stripping away cumbersome baggage like habeas
corpus. Gonzalez accomplished these Atlas-like feats while serving as
White House Counsel
then Attorney General. After drafting a series of memos at Bush’s
request to strengthen Presidential power to combat enemies of
democracy, Gonzalez visited then Attorney General John Ashcroft,
barely conscious in a post operative state, to demand a signature on
some of the documents. What loyalty!
subsequent gripping scenes, Gonzalez told
didn’t remember some of his actions. Some Senators said he lied.
Others shook their salonic heads. Inside the Justice Department
morale sank and Bush complained about how Gonzalez’
name was dragged through the mud.” What good name, asked a deus ex
U.S. democracy, I learned in school, along with all American children, means freedom from government intrusion, free elections and fair trials, symbols of our liberty that we now export.
neither my grade school teachers nor the mass media challenged the
adjectives -- free and fair, nor questioned intrusion -- a President,
like George Bush, can still use them in his own play to paint a thin
veneer to cover blatant imperial aggression abroad and violations of
civil liberties at home. He has counted on the media not to ask
stand as the prime symbol of democracy and since by 2004 searchers
had found no evidence existed for Bush’s alleged reasons for making
war on Iraq -- WMD and links to al-Qaida -- White House playwrights
the agenda: “Iraq as the first step in the war to make democracy in
the Middle East.” The
White House stage managers
Iraqis should hold elections. The play continued. After screening the
candidates, Washington provided “security” for the big day. In
late January 2005, with military patrols guarding polling stations
and nearby streets -- the sound of drum rolls? -- Iraqis voted. The
media responded as the scribes predicted. Images
filled TV screens of Iraqis holding up their ink-stained fingers
showing they had voted or
were the media and the White House the objects of the proverbial
finger -- as in screw you?
Iraqi people gave America the biggest ‘thank you’ in the best way
we could have hoped for,” wrote Betsy Hart, a Scripps Howard News
Service columnist, words Karl Rove could have scripted.
stream analysts naturally avoided discussing the meaning of the vote.
Only Naomi Klein stood as Cassandra, declaring that the finger might
the United States. Klein said that the platforms of the winning
parties showed “Iraqis voted overwhelmingly to throw out the
U.S.-installed government of Iyad Allawi, who refused to ask the
United States to leave. A decisive majority voted for the United
Iraqi Alliance; the second plank in the UIA platform calls for ‘a
timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq’.”
Feb 28, 2005)
responses met White House expectations. “The fact that the voting
was going great despite the violence was something few people
expected….The voice of the Iraqi people had risen above the clamor
of insurgent violence.” (Michael Yon, OnLine Magazine, Oct 10,
elections conform to the wishes of the imperial power, they represent
democracy. When elections go wrong -- Hamas or Hezbollah winning in
Gaza and Lebanon -- the empire script writers dismiss
results. In 1970, Chileans elected Dr. Salvador Allende to the
presidency in Chile on a socialist ticket. National Security Adviser
Henry Kissinger, an Iago-like character, described Chileans as
“irresponsible” and advised President Nixon to alter their
destiny. What drama when Nixon ordered the CIA to destabilize Allende
and helped Chile’s military stage its bloody coup in 1973!
spinners staged repeated election façades in Vietnam in the
1960s and 70s, but couldn’t get the actors -- “elected
governments” -- to heed the U.S. directors and stop corruption and
cronyism. Does this remind you of the Iraq drama?
darn puppet governments don’t seem to understand they have to obey
the puppet masters -- or else,” said one young White House staffer.
“Or else what?” answered a cynical spinmeister. “Get a new
puppet? In Vietnam, the governments we installed didn’t get their
troops to fight. The South Vietnamese generals showed little interest
in war except for the profit making part.”
staged elections, White House scribes sketched the other twin pillar
of democracy drama: trials. In December 2003, following the capture
of Saddam Hussein, the world watched a fabulous farce: Saddam
Hussein’s orchestrated execution -- 3 years later, via a U.S.
orchestrated trial at least as free as a Salem witch trial.
U.S.-created court was stripped of jurisdiction to hear testimony
related to U.S. roles in Saddam’s crimes, like allegedly gassing
his own people in Halabja
and slaughtering them en masse in southern Iraq in1991. Thus, key
supporting actors like Rumsfeld and Cheney were exempt. Both had
backed Saddam in the 1980s and George the First’s policy in 1991 of
not helping rebels who rose up against Saddam at his urging.
execution diverged from script when executioners baited the condemned
man while slipping the noose over his head and he spat back insults
at them. Oh well!
had learned from Daddy about the importance of show trials. In 1990,
Panama George dispatched almost 25,000 troops to arrest the “military
strongman,” as the media labeled puny General Manuel Noriega. In
1989, Noriega had disobeyed Bush’s command to help in the Contra
war and thus became a serious narcotrafficker. Noriega then received
a fair trial in Florida where 52 convicted felons testified against
him and received time off from their sentences. (So what that the CIA
and DEA used Noriega to get crucial intelligence and make major drug
busts. What’s truth got to do with democracy?)
the Second therefore understood that trial theater not only distracts
public from the horrors of occupation, but perpetrates the image of
the demonized enemy. In the latest scenes, Saddam Hussein’s cousin,
Chemical Ali, and 14 other former Saddamites stood in the dock last
week, accused of perpetrating “among the ugliest crimes ever
committed against humanity in modern history.” The language
conjured up images of these Iraqis dropping nuclear bombs on Japanese
-- oops, Iraqi -- cities! Ali and company allegedly killed tens of
thousands of rebellious Shiites in 1991, people George the First
rise up against Saddam. W’s Daddy followed the adage Kissinger
introduced in 1972, supporting a Kurdish uprising and then abandoning
the Kurds to the Shah of Iran’s slaughter machine. “Promise them
anything, give them what they get and fuck them if they can’t take
The Ali trial continues Kissinger’s joke. By mid 2007, as many as 1 million Iraqis have died, four million driven from their homes and hundreds of thousands incarcerated -- for no legal reason. In this context, White House playwrights demand that Ali go to trial for killing Iraqis -- in the past.
media, of course, fails to note the irony.
in Saddam’s trial, U.S. script writers stripped the court of
jurisdiction from hearing testimony of U.S.
complicity in mass murders: providing Saddam with the ingredients for
his deadly weapons and the logistics of where to drop them.
Administration managers of Ali’s trial
show the United States as a virtuous law enforcement officer who
caught another mass murderer and brought him to trial as civilized
nations do. Pictures will come with the guilty verdict!
Randolph Hearst kibbutzed from his grave: “Without pictures, you
can’t keep them at war.” As Bush’s empire sink lower in world
opinion polls, the drama moves from surrealism to cruel teenage
comedy. Welcome to “Jackass III – the degeneration of the empire
and its chief.”