Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


What Might Tom Paine Have Said About George Bush?

What Might Tom Paine Have Said About George Bush?

By Sherwood Ross

Peculiarly, a lot of what American patriot Tom Paine wrote in 1775 about the British Crown seems to apply to President Bush today.

For example, Paine believed, “any excuse can be made to serve the purpose of malignity when it is in power.” And when ever was there a more deceitful example of this than Bush’s lie that Iraq had WMD?

As historian John Keane wrote in his excellent “Tom Paine: A Political Life” (Little, Brown and Co.) despots --- as Paine saw them— plunder “the pockets and lives of their subjects, since that is the most effective way of raising and feeding armies and making their subjects afraid, obedient, and willing to pay taxes. Wars between despotic states thereby tend to increase rulers’ lust for power over their own populations. War, wrote Paine, is ‘the art of conquering at home.’” (Original italics.)

And so we are, indeed, conquered at home. We live under a regime that can arrest and imprison any of us for as long as it likes, one that denies our privacy, scraps our international treaties, and shreds our Bill of Rights.

Having been given no honest reason for launching the war on Iraq, the real reason most probably is oil, just as Paine wrote the reason King George III made war on America was because “her crime is property.”

As President Bush confiscates our taxes for Iraq, and squanders the lives of our troops, let’s recall Paine’s words about the crimes of the Crown: “Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor?”

These words ring true in thousands of American homes tonight, where loved ones have been killed or maimed in Iraq; where millions of people are sliding into poverty as a result of Bush's anti-compassionate policies; and where 40-million people have no health coverage. The bell tolls even louder for millions of Iraqi families whose nation Bush has turned into a veritable charnel house.

And what would Tom Paine have made of the wanton cruelty that George Washington forbid his soldiers to engage in but can now be described as “routine” under Commander-in-Chief George Bush’s military?

“It is time to have done with tarring, feathering, carting and taking securities for their future good behaviour,” Paine wrote charitably of British sympathizers. “Every sensible man must feel conscious shame at seeing a poor fellow hawked for a show about the streets.” What Paine might have said of men stacked in human pyramids or hung from chains until dead!

Paine inveighed against the death penalty. Condemning the excesses of the French Revolution, he said, “as France has been the first of European nations to abolish royalty, let her also be the first to abolish the punishment of death, and to find out a milder and more effective substitute.” What would he have said about the ever-sizzling Texas electric chair under Governor Bush?

As for all citizens bearing government’s burden equally, Pain’s view was very different from President Bush’s call to ditch the “death tax.” According to Keane: Believing as Paine did the earth is “the common property of the human race,” it followed “the propertied have an obligation to help the poor, not by charity alone, but by accepting a government-administered inheritance tax system designed to redistribute and equalize income.”

As for Bush’s boasting about “freedom,” let us recall these words by Paine: “When it shall be said in any country in the world, ‘My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive’--- when these things can be said then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.”

With two million men in jail, and the poor growing by the millions, Bush has precious little to boast about. Speaking of jails, when do you suppose Bush might pardon the hundreds of thousands of Americans imprisoned on flimsy marijuana convictions while he, who tramples the law of nations, whose tongue spills lies, and whose hands drip with the blood of hundreds of thousands, enjoys the run of the White House?


(The author is a reporter. Reach him at

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news