The Timid Chorus and the Mad Marchers: Bush the Empire Slayer
By BERNARD CHAZELLE
If you fancy losing an argument, try shooting down my contention that Mikhail Gorbachev is the leading historical figure of our time. Not one to miss a shooting opportunity, Dick Cheney tried. To my surprise, he won.
Westerners fondly remember Gorbachev for finishing off an ailing Soviet empire left bleeding from its Afghan travails. Defusing half a century of nuclear tension can leave a mark on impressionable minds. On Cheney’s-not so much. The former Defense Secretary had a tender spot for the Cold War and never forgave Gorbachev for ending it with not even a kind word for defense contractors. Cheney is the quintessential warrior, with plenty of dead quails and birdshot-peppered lawyers to prove it. He is the gallant hussar-one day greenlighting “Shock and Awe” to give Guernica a second chance; the next day apprising US Senator Pat Leahy of his favorite sexual technique: “Fuck yourself ! ” (1) Quite the martial wag, the man Maureen Dowd calls Big-Time Dick saluted the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 by persuading his boss to invade Panama (for reasons no one seems able to remember). And today it is anybody’s guess which Caribbean island the United States will invade to celebrate its victory in Iraq.
Dick Cheney is a man of war, and a man on a mission: a crusader who won’t rest until the name Bush Jr is etched in the history books-not lost in the microscopic print of the endnotes section, mind you, as is destined to be Senior’s fate, but glowing in the radiant typeface of a chapter heading. That mission, for once, is all but accomplished. In January of 2001, George W. Bush took-er, grabbed-the reins of an American Empire at its zenith. He will soon hand back a smoldering wreckage of broken lives, enduring hatred, and vanished influence. Michael Ignatieff has called Pax Americana Empire Lite. (2) A better phrase would be Empire Short-Lived, or, if you’re William F. Buckley Jr and the vernacular ruffles your literary feathers, Imperium Brevissimum. At a recent ceremony for his son Jeb, George H. W. Bush was caught on national television sobbing uncontrollably. Pity the man who stands one short letter away from the worst president in US history. The letter is H, as in H for hubris.
“We’re winning! ” exulted Bush last October. (3) Well… actually, “We’re not winning,” he clarified a few weeks later, but “We’re not losing” either. (4) So “We’re wosing,” quipped the Guardian’s cartoonist Steve Bell. Indeed, we are; and for you, Mr President, I shall count the wosing ways.
Somewhere, deep in the cold, worm-infested soil that a mother will keep watered by tears, lies one of 3,000 young Americans. (5) Dispersed across the land, thousands more will forever carry the scars of war in their battered bodies and hollowed souls, mutants battling hellish shadows and silent phantoms. And the Iraqis, yes those, Mr President, see them spiral into Dante’s lower rings of hell, as they join the fastest-growing sect in the land: the dead-hundreds of thousands strong. (6) Watch the White Man’s Burden devolve into an orgy of torture and mayhem. (Has it ever devolved into anything else?)
The words Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, detainee bill, and extraordinary rendition are seared in the world’s consciousness as the badges of shame of a democracy gone mad. According to Pew’s most recent “Global Opinion” survey, “anti-Americanism is deeper and broader now than at any time in modern history.” (7) The war effort’s claim on the US treasury will soon exceed $600 billion: more than Vietnam; (4) more than all the money ever spent on cancer research; (8) more than enough to “race for the cure” all the way to Alpha Centauri. We’re wosing big, Mr President.
Read the excruciating remainder here.