COLUMN 101, JANUARY 1, 2004
(Copyright 2004 The Blacklisted Journalist)



The world is caught in a vise of terror. Bush's counter to the horrendous terror in Istanbul is that we have far bigger bombs than Al Qaide and will use them with greater abandon in Baghdad. To most of the world, that is not just an obvious non sequitur; it is insanity. It is the madness that offers war in Iraq, whatever its actual objectives, as the "answer" to the massacre of innocents in New York, Bali, Tel Aviv, and Riyadh.

The danger for us in the United States is that too many Americans may see the "war on terror" as "Bush's way or no way". The measure of support that Bush retains (as with Sharon among Israelis) rests on propagating the misperception that war or surrender is our only choice. With that goes the image of Bush as the indispensable war chief and relentless foe of terrorism.

The worst of it is that Bush's course dramatically reduces other options and closes off "exit strategies" (as Orville Schell explains so well.) The more irrelevant the occupation of Iraq appears as a response to terrorism, and the more dangerous the occupation becomes, the less likely that the UN or any "coalition" will pull Bush's chestnuts out of the fire.

It is a travesty that the man whose actions have only driven the world further into dysfunctional violence and war should pose as the chief symbol of humanity's horror over the murderous blasts at Istanbul's synagogues and in its central district. Karl Rove chose this very time to launch election ads charging that opposition to Bush equals a lack of patriotic fervor against terrorism. The simple fact is that no American president would fail to direct our resources to hunting down those who plan and execute terror attacks against civilians. (Put aside for the moment assassinations, mass murders and coups spawned by the CIA and "client" terrorists over many years.).

Further, where Bush has failed spectacularly, others could do far better. Let us count the ways. Instead of pursuing a perpetual so-called "war on terrorism", the problem would be viewed both for its immediate urgency and with the perspective of changing the long-term picture. In the short run, preventive and protective actions at home would gain public trust if an administration did not exploit the issue to build fear, cancel constitutional rights, control elections, and pursue partisan advantage for a regressive social agenda. Certainly international cooperation would be enhanced if the issue were disentangled from appeals for troops and support to war, occupation and global US dominance. War and occupation inevitably evoke legitimate resistance, including violence, as well as criminal acts of terror against civilians.

No real "exit strategy" from the present mess of war and mounting terror, from isolation and worldwide antagonism, will come from the Bush Administration. The emergency exit the country needs to find is from the strategy and program of this administration.

In the long run, a safer world can come if there is a positive change in the international climate. Nothing will eliminate forever the presence on this planet of warmongers and addicts of terrorism. Their activity and ability to poison human relations can be made effectively insignificant only if they are rejected decisively by the people whom they claim to champion. That can only happen in a world that moves to an agenda of survival, of greater equality and justice, of action on human needs. As an example, the recent Geneva Accord initiated at a non-governmental level by both Israelis and Palestinians lessens the despair within both populations that violence will never end. In contrast, missiles, tanks, bulldozers and fences have only assured continuing catastrophe.

The political elites in Washington and London tout terror as the world's number one problem, but their corporate-run world is terror's home. When the unique strength and influence of the United States is responsive to the hopes of the human majority, when it joins the world community on equal terms rather than aspiring to be its superpower master, the climate will become permanently inhospitable to war and all other forms of terror.

Istanbul renews great alarm over what can happen almost anywhere. But while the hunt for bin Laden and company is heightened, we need to put our hopes in safer hands and in a saner vision than those of George W. Bush and company.  ##

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The alarm has sounded loud and clear, and the Bush team is scrambling.

The worry that surpasses all others is that their grandiose aims can be aborted if they lose the election in November 2004. Everything they do in the next 12 months, in foreign and domestic affairs, is going to be dominated by a fanatic desire not to be denied their perceived destiny. Whatever it takes, they want four more years to consolidate autocratic one-party rule.

The growing panic in the Bush Administration is not a sign that it is prepared to give ground on its long-term "iron-hammer" strategies of war and domination abroad and at home. But its arrogant confidence of some months past will give way to maneuvers and retreats aimed at reversal of the spreading antagonism and distrust that threaten its future. That's the strategy of the hastily revised plan for Iraq, timed to declare an end to US occupation a few months before the 2004 elections. It's a frantic adjustment to erosion of public support in the face of the casualties, the general sense of lies and failure evoked by its Iraq mission. But there is no intention whatsoever to give up the actual military occupation. Just as the Bush strategists concluded belatedly that they should try to get the UN to provide cover for what would remain a US occupation, they now anticipate an "invitation" from a contrived Iraqi "government" for long-term US military control of Iraq as the base for extending domination over the Middle East.

At home, it's time to expect a revival of "compassionate conservatism", although tied to totally partisan scheming. So the GOP flamboyantly flies its prescription benefit and energy programs, while under the radar it subverts Medicare, pursues absolute control of the courts, and strangles civil liberties. The GOP knows it can't win a presidential election by touting its retrograde program for a rightwing fundamentalist autocracy, but beneath "compassion's" outreach to voters, the grip on the iron hammer is firm.

Which brings me to the letter we got a couple of week's ago from Terence McAuliffe for the Democratic National Committee. In three pages, he lists the main issues for the campaign to defeat Bush. I had to rub my eyes and reread?nowhere does he mention the war, what led up to it, or what flows from it!

There is no way Bush can be beat without challenging the disastrous course he has chosen for America. McAuliffe and like-minded "leadership" strategists apparently fear a groundswell of support for a presidential candidate who will say what more and more Americans are thinking: "We were fooled into an ugly war that never had to happen." What is needed from an American president is not a shift in tactics and rhetoric, but a strategic change of course. What's happening in Iraq, like the continuing tragedy in Israel and Palestine, is exactly what an occupying power cannot evade: the unstoppable sacrifice of young lives, the spilling of innocent blood, growing hatred for the occupier, isolation from most of the world, and ultimate failure.

Karl Rove and company will seek to deflect and diminish the whole range of vital domestic issues, especially applying smoke and mirrors to rosy up economic perceptions. Bush is vulnerable in most areas, and his presidential opposition needs to be confidently multidimensional. But to fail to confront him strongly on the war, the occupation and America's place in the world would be to repeat the timidity and defensiveness that gave Bush the White House in 2000. Worse, it would be acquiescing to a certain renewal of warlike adventurism and dictatorial ambitions in a second Bush term.  ##



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