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UQ Wire: Greetings from Boston, Mr. Bush

Unanswered Questions: Thinking For Ourselves
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Greetings from Boston, Mr. Bush

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday, 1 October, 2002

It is one of the great sins of ego in writing to address readers in the first person. Better to keep the remoteness of the third-person, better to be simply a deliverer of information. Best to not inject yourself into the conversation the reader is having with the facts.

This time, however, the matter is personal.

Two years ago, on October 3rd, 2000 George W. Bush came to my home town of Boston for the first Presidential debate of the campaign with Al Gore. The memory is still very fresh in my mind. I was only a few weeks into my first year of teaching; the process was still managing me, instead of the other way around. I had not yet begun to hear the worried voice in my head, the one that whispered, "Bush might actually win in November, yes, he might, he could do it." By the end of October, that whisper had become a banshee scream. But on October 3rd, I was more concerned with lesson plans than intestinal polling data.

There is no simpler way to put it: All hell has broken loose in the two years since Bush visited Boston on that night in October. The democratic ethic of American elections was torn to pieces in Florida, and by a Supreme Court that should never have gotten involved in the first place. A President was installed who lost an election but won a lawsuit. Upon arrival, he proceeded to fill the ranks of government with a rogues gallery of extremists and slick corporate CEOs:

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- Religious fundamentalist John Ashcroft became Attorney General after losing an election to a dead man;

- Neo-conservative hawk Don Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense, backed by appallingly dangerous men like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle;

- Harvey Pitt became chairman of the SEC, institutionalizing the idea that conflicts of interest do not matter and that foxes are perfectly trustworthy when given a key to the henhouse;

- Former Enron vice president Thomas White was made Secretary of the Army, and when the Enron scandal exploded, we were told he knew nothing of it, he does not in fact know much about anything, his staffers call him 'Mr. Magoo' behind his back, and isn't that a heartwarming thought when one considers the control he has over our armed forces. Mr. Magoo is riding herd over the army during the War on Terror. I doubt that will be on the GOP campaign literature in 2004.

A trillion dollar tax cut was fobbed off on the American people as a boon to the common man, looting a budget surplus that turned out to be made up of smoke and mirrors - the surplus numbers had been based to a great degree on expected tax revenues from profitable super-companies like Enron and WorldCom. When their false profit reports came to light, the sudden realization that Bush tax cut had bitten through a negligible surplus and into the guts of the budget sent a shockwave through the economy.

Someone needed to take George aside and explain the dangers of not looking before you leap. Circular firing squads are bad for business. Evidence suggests this conversation never took place.

In the innocent months before September 11th, the Bush administration rolled back environmental protections, safety regulations for workers, and laughed in the faces of campaign finance reformers. Only the sudden defection of Senator James Jeffords kept Bush from having de facto control over every single branch of the Federal government. Vice President Cheney sat behind closed, locked doors to craft a domestic energy policy with the robber barons of the corporate world. Many, or all, of these men knew full well why California had sat dark and spoiling for months under disrupted, overpriced power grids. When Enron was shamed, the substance of these meetings and the energy plans it spawned were buried by moonlight, and Dick Cheney has since spent a great deal of his own personal energy avoiding subpoenas on the matter from the General Accounting Office and Judicial Watch.

Then, on a bright September morning, the mettle of the man was sorely tested, and found wanting.

Before the smoke had cleared in Washington and New York, the Bush administration had decided that the best possible way to defend freedom was to restrict it as much as possible. The PATRIOT Anti-Terror Act was drafted - the original version carried a provision from Ashcroft to suspend habeas corpus indefinitely, but was wisely deleted by the Senate - and in its core lay the tools of a new, fearful domestic statecraft. Americans could be detained without access to attorney or trial for an indefinite period. Access to attorneys would be monitored and recorded. Searches of private homes could be performed without notification. Religious and political groups could be put under surveillance with no justification. Mr. Ashcroft proclaimed to Congress in public testimony in December of 2001 that anyone who disagreed with these new policies was aiding terrorism, or were terrorists themselves.

The War on Terror was begun, and the might of Mr. Magoo's military swarmed across Afghanistan. In a very short amount of time the ruling Taliban regime was scattered and destroyed, and al Qaeda networks operating there were badly disrupted. Yet the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks - Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and their lieutenants - completely escaped capture. Bush, who had demanded bin Laden be brought in "dead or alive," very quickly reversed course and said the man simply did not matter in the equation. Osama bin Laden became Osama bin Forgotten. In the interim, 3,000 civilian lives lost in America were avenged by the taking of over 5,000 civilian lives in Afghanistan, in bombing attacks that fell on private homes and on wedding ceremonies. For a time, the Afghan people celebrated their liberation from the Taliban. Today, they tremble on the edge of riot as they contemplate the graves of their wives and children and fathers and sons.

Then came the revelations. American intelligence services had received a dizzying array of disturbingly specific warnings, received from FBI agents at home and a variety of foreign intelligence services abroad, many months before September. These warnings spoke directly of terrorists planning to use hijacked airplanes as bombs against notable American targets. The warnings specifically named the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nothing, but nothing, was done to act upon this information.

Humming underneath it all was the tension of dissolution. The Enron collapse had sabered the stock market through the guts, and there was blood on the trading floor every single day. A litany of catastrophe marched across the headlines: WorldCom, Dick Cheney's Halliburton, the shredders of Enron documents at Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing and a mob of other companies were forced to 'readjust' their profit reports and accept prosecution. Bush's umbilical connection to Enron became standard fare for a time, and journalists were even beginning to tickle the sordid details of his failed energy company, Harken Oil. It seems Mr. Bush played as fast and loose with the Harken numbers as his pal, Kenny-Boy.

In August of 2002, Mr. Bush took a month off from his busy schedule - which included some 42% of his total time in office on vacation - to take a vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. The following September, Bush returned to work and prepared to unilaterally destroy the nation of Iraq, without consent from Congress or the international community. It seems America and the world had spent the month of August blithely unaware that the sword of Damocles was suspended above them. Saddam Hussein was preparing to unleash death and destruction upon the United States and the world, and Bush was going to put paid to that.

Suddenly, no one in the media was interested in corporate criminality anymore. Fancy that.

Facts, as John Adams once said, are stubborn things. No proof was offered that Hussein was a threat to America or anyone else. No proof was offered that Hussein possesses prohibited weapons technology. No proof was offered to support Bush administration claims that Hussein has connections to al Qaeda. The push for war was based on speculation and hyperbole, and the American people wanted nothing to do with it. The unilateral war Bush envisioned in Iraq was thwarted by bad poll numbers and an increasingly restive Congress, which forced Bush to eat his hat and bend a knee to the United Nations Security Council. When Hussein offered, in the aftermath of Bush's speech, to allow weapons inspectors back into Iraq, Bush's hopes for a UN-backed war fell to ashes.

In the last couple of days, Bush has made some interesting noises about getting the inspectors back in, saying that the UN needs to be involved and that combat should be the last option. This is a 180 degree reversal from the bombast we have endured for weeks, and begs the question: George, were you lying? You seemed so intent upon going to Iraq, and you were so shrill about the threat. Congress, in the guise of Daschle and Kennedy and Byrd, has begun to actively resist you, and the UN wants nothing to do with your plans, so you backed down. But if you really believed Iraq to be a present threat, you wouldn't back down, would you? Nor would you have gone on vacation for the entire month of August, right? What's the deal, George? Where do you stand? What is the truth of the matter?

Never mind. I think we know.

If you are wondering why I have recapitulated the last two terrible years of American political history, why this is personal, the answer is flying into Logan airport on Friday, October 4th. George W. Bush is visiting Boston two years and one day since his debate performance. He is coming to lay friendly hands upon the shoulder of Republican Gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney at the Seaport Hotel, out by our version of the World Trade Center on the pier by Anthony's restaurant.

150,000 people protested Bush's war in London this weekend, and thousands of Americans have been popping up on cities like Denver and Portland to loudly explain their distaste for his methods and plans. A few have taken rubber bullets for their troubles.

Yes, it is personal. George W. Bush is coming to Boston. I would hope that my fellow city dwellers would take time from their busy schedules to come down and greet him. The last two years have been hard and wrong, and in the city where the tea went overboard, maybe we need to remind the man of a few home facts.

Welcome to Boston, George. You're in my yahd now.


William Rivers Pitt is a teacher from Boston, MA. He is the author of two books - "War On Iraq" (with Scott Ritter) available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available in April 2003 from Pluto Press.

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