James Alexander Thom
It's only eight years since I was last at the White House, but it seems like a hundred.
I don't frequent that place, but chanced to be there on Bill Clinton's last day. On one hand, it was a day of warm satisfaction, on the other hand, a dark, cold, ominous day.
My wife Dark Rain and I were in a group of scholars, historians, filmmakers, movers and shakers, and American Indians, who had spent years planning the upcoming 2003-06 bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clinton's very last White House function was in the hour just before George W. Bush and his gang arrived to take over. Many of us felt that the incoming administration was illegitimate and were grousing as we were ushered in by the Marine guards. But we were happy with what Clinton was about to do before leaving:
It's Obama instead of Ol' Bomber. What a relief!
At last, after all these dark and terrible years, we might have a man in the White House who doesn't stoke our fears and look about for enemies to taunt.
The one advantage of that endless election campaign was that it gave us time to see that Obama is obviously sane. How refreshing!
He doesn't immediately brand as an "enemy" any country that disagrees with us. Everything isn't U.S. versus T.H.E.M. He doesn't feed the national paranoia that those Bush Crazies whipped up out of 9/11. He doesn't wave weapons and middle fingers when he's speaking of foreign policy.
As someone wisely noted: when things get hot, you want a cool leader. Obama is warmhearted but coolheaded. That's what we desperately need. If you don't believe that's what we need, look at the last seven years:
Dear Smiley-face Doll from Alaska, listen please:
You've accused Barack Obama of "pallin' around with terrorists." You were speaking of a professor named William Ayers, who got way too angry in his youth.
When Ayers was an alleged "terrorist" Obama was a 7-year-old boy who didn't know him. Ayers was violently opposed to the Vietnam War, as was a large proportion of the American public at the time. The Pentagon was a target because that's who was running that misbegotten war. Millions of Americans opposed that war because the United States was bombing and strafing Vietnamese cities and villages, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Our bombings were terrorist acts on a huge scale.
The silver-haired old gent beside you now, the one who picked you to be his running mate in the presidential campaign, was one of those people who flew fighter-bomber planes over Vietnamese cities and killed innocent people in their own country. To them, such pilots were genuine terrorists.
Don't look now, America. You've just been mooned by the masters of Creative Greed.
Wall Street has shown its ass again. Buns of Steal!
Now we have to pay for the show, as usual. But pay with what? We don't have anything left. All the commonweal is gone, sucked up by our coddled billionaires, siphoned off into the coffers of our oil-rich friend/enemies on the Arabian Peninsula and our own insatiable oil tycoons, and shoveled into the black hole of Bush's Iraqi Horror Picture Show.
With what are we supposed to pay for this glorious glimpse of gluteus?
The first time I obtained a passport was in 1983, when I was planning to visit Scotland, the homeland of my ancestors. It was plain little booklet with a navy blue cover, impressed with an eagle-and-shield emblem in gold, and the words "United States of America."
The inside front cover contained identifying data, a long string of cryptic numbers and a mug shot of me that evoked the old joke: "If you look like your passport photo, you're not well enough to travel."
There followed a couple of pages of terse instructions and rules about customs, immunizations, visas, embassy contacts and so on, and a place to write name and address of next-of-kin. All the rest of the pages were blank spaces where visa entries would be stamped when you arrived at and left foreign countries. These pages were faintly underlaid with a pattern of Liberty Bells and red-white-and-blue shields, barely visible.
Very neat, compact, well-made, understated, easy to fit into a small, secure pocket. But it had a feel to it, beyond the booklet itself, a kind of potent little unspoken statement that the "bearer is one of America's people; we expect him to behave, and we expect you to treat him decently while he's in your country." Being a veteran and a taxpayer, I felt that the passport and I were made for each other.
It's hard to refrain from saying, "I told you so."
I first began pleading, way back about 18 years ago: "Let's not start wars in the Middle East. Please. Don't attack Iraq, George Bush."
The first time, I was speaking of George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States. He was getting ready to hit Iraq for attacking Kuwait. Old George's popularity ratings were way down (as Bush popularity ratings tend to go as soon as they get in the White House), and here was a chance for him to look righteous and strong, even if it meant turning suddenly against an old ally, Saddam Hussein.
We know Hussein was vicious and nuts, but we'd been sucking up to him because of certain oil-supply realities and because he was an enemy of our "enemy," Iran. Maybe you remember that photograph of Donald Rumsfeld bowing to and shaking hands with Saddam, who had been gassing Kurds with chemical weapons acquired from American businesses. It's one of my favorite news photographs of all time, because it is the purest image of political hypocrisy that ever stood before a camera lens.
We mustn't forget George Orwell, not at a time like this. He wrote the phrase "Big Brother is watching you," pertaining to the government spying on its people; the statement that "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others;" and the memorable essay, "Shooting an Elephant."
Orwell was a terribly truthful writer, especially when writing about the power of the English language to obvert and obscure the truth for political purposes. In his novel 1984, the state controlled its citizens minds by fear, and by erasing and revising history. In Animal Farm, the animals who made themselves more equal than others were, of course, the pigs, who, as in government, came out dominant.
He was born Eric Blair: George Orwell was his nom de plume.
Now let us consider George Ohwell, whose real name is Bush. It is he who has so recklessly abused the English language to control the citizens, invoke fear and put the pigs in power, with utter disregard for truth or reality:
Jane Mayer's brave new book on the Bush administration's moral nadir -- the use of torture -- is titled The Dark Side.
The title is from a long-ago remark by Dick Cheney, ominously hinting that the War on Terror might require using practices from "the dark side."
It seems so appropriate a title. The Dark Side means "where the sun don't shine," and that's where Cheney, as we perceive him, seems to dwell.
George W. Bush could be the world champion Limbo dancer.
Just when you think that even a snake couldn’t squeeze under such a low bar of expectations, Dubya prances under effortlessly, with plenty of headroom to spare.
Okay, what’s his latest? What could be lower than all that’s gone before -- election-stealing, war crimes, spying on American citizens, advocating torture, etc.?
Well, it was when he clamored for another $180 billion to continue his war on Iraq until he leaves office. Congress, too spineless to cut off funds and end the war, instead tried to authorize $50 billion to fund higher education for Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans -- a sort of G.I. Bill update.
Two big capitalistic forces are at work to exhaust and impoverish Americans, and both power themselves by exploiting fears they themselves create.
The similarities are remarkable, once you look at them together.
The first of those forces has long been known by the name President Eisenhower gave it: The Military-Industrial Complex.
The second is coming to be recognized for the problem it is, but it needs a name, so I shall here dub it "The Health Scare Industry."