Editor’s Page




A lot of people are getting in their whacks at President George Bush and the United States administration at the moment and, at the risk of sounding grouchy, I will do the same, as well as whacking the Johnny-come-lately wankers.


As an American expatriate, George W. Bush has been an acute embarrassment to me from the moment he became a serious candidate for president, because he embodies all the clichés non-Americans have mentally imbedded about what a gum-chewing, arrogant, gun-slinging, provincial, muddled, inarticulate, xenophobic character the typical American is. (With apologies to those Americans from other Western Hemisphere countries who are not citizens of the United States, for the expression “non-Americans”; but it is at least kinder than “aliens”, which the U.S. government still insists on using. There are three alien categories: resident aliens, non-resident aliens and illegal aliens. Residents are those from other planets who currently reside legally in the United States of America, non-residents are from other solar systems, and “illegal aliens” is used to describe humanoids from other galaxies who have infiltrated the U.S.)


Some contend that Bush “stole” the election. I don’t agree. Bush, after all, got 49 point-something percent of the popular vote, which is enough to say that the people have the government they deserve. That the other candidate had slightly more votes and nevertheless lost, is the fault of the archaic delegate system, designed for a different era and different conditions, but which nowadays permits political wheeling and dealing and outright cheating, and can and did include the Supreme Court in disgraceful behavior. Wouldn’t the Democrats have done the same, had they been in a position to do so?     


That a person like Bush, a veritable big-business marionette, who probably wouldn’t have lasted as Commissioner of Baseball, a job he coveted and probably preferred, with no knowledge of the world outside Texas, could actually become president of the most powerful (economically, militarily and, yes, to a certain extent, culturally) country in the world, is, in itself, one of the low-points in United States history, easily comparable to the election of psycho-pathetic Richard Nixon.


But that is merely for starters, before he went into action. Then came September 11 and the Bush gang’s reaction. At that moment the world was on America’s side. People marched in the streets and lighted candles in sympathy instead of opposition. It was the moment to enlist the rest of the world in a concerted, real intelligence-based operation against terrorism, one of civilization vs. barbarity. Instead, America, having seen “High Noon” too often, decided to go it alone – accompanied by a loyal British Sancho Panza – kill the bastards, and ride off into the sunset. Teddy Roosevelt has reincarnated in the person of GWB in a flight suit landing on an aircraft carrier 30 miles from San Diego. Aren’t you embarrassed, too?


Afghanistan was the home of the Taliban, allies of Osama bin Laden, and therefore an obvious “soft” target. But had anyone in the U.S. government read the history of previous attempts at taming that uncaged lion of a country? Both the British and the Soviets tried, at the height of their power, and both finally folded their tents and retreated with their tails between their legs, leaving thousands of their own and Afghan dead on the field of dishonor. Some in the State Department must have known, but apparently not Bush or his ex-CEO handlers who, had they learned the lessons of history, would have known that it is relatively easy to conquer Afghanistan but almost impossible to get out of with any of your marbles. Nevertheless, the Afghanistan adventure, though geo-politically mistaken, was at least understandable.


Iraq is another story


Bush & Co., swore right and left that the United States was in imminent danger of attack from Iraq because they had or were developing atomic weapons and held vast stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Furthermore, bin Laden and his al Qaeda were bosom buddies with Saddam Hussein and they probably plotted 9-11 together. All this has turned out to be false.


There are two possibilities for the false information. The first is that the intelligence services, especially the CIA, gave the administration wrong information, in which case a lot of heads should roll, especially the Director’s. But that has not happened. Rather are we told that they did a great job. There are two new books about the CIA on the market, both by high ranking ex CIA functionaries A Look over my Shoulder, by Richard Helms, and The Main Enemy, by Bearden and Riser. They are not critical of the agency. On the contrary, they praise it, but chide various administrations for twisting intelligence to their own purposes or ignoring it altogether. Is there any doubt that this is what happened in the case of Iraq? How could Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld, et al, know more about Iraq’s offensive capabilities that the U.N .weapons inspectors and the International Atomic Energy Agency?


The second possible reason is that they knew the truth but lied. Frankly, and at the risk of sounding naïve, I find this hard to believe, simply because they would have had to know that the lie would be exposed sooner or later. More likely it was a gamble that didn’t pay off, combined with the deadly ingredients of ignorance, arrogance and a belief in invincibility. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they wanted to believe that Iraq was a real threat to U.S. security, and so convinced themselves to believe it. Who could prove the contrary at that point? They then wrapped themselves in the flag to keep the public, furious about the Twin Towers catastrophe, in line. And it might have worked if the initial military victory had turned out to be permanent and the American troops had been greeted as liberators a la Paris 1944, and American soldiers weren’t being picked off like sitting ducks at an alarming rate. In short, if Iraq hadn’t turned to be another Afghanistan, only far worse. So now we’re stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the exits seem to be closed. So let’s just chuck another 89 billion dollars into the desert winds for the next fiscal year and keep sacrificing a grunt a day until the American public finally wakes up and gets rid of Bush.


Now, two years after 9/11, they continue to exploit the nation’s grief by continuously invoking that atrocity for their own political gain, and not only to justify the invasion of Iraq. It is also invoked to justify drilling in the Arctic, tax cuts for the wealthy, budget deficits and unemployment. This is real dirty pool.  


This guy has got to go. And not only because of the Iraq fiasco. What about the scrapping of the ABM treaty, the refusal to approve the Kyoto Protocol and the biological weapons protocol; and refusing to join the International Court of Justice. What about the international reputation of the United States, which is not only tarnished, it is at its lowest point in the country’s history.


Then there’s the Israel-Palestine conflict


Yitzhak Frankenthal is an orthodox Israeli Jew whose son, Arik, was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas. He set up Parents Circle, first only with Jews, later with Palestinians, to help parents on both sides deal with their grief. He sent this to friends and associates worldwide:


It is now 11:59 PM, half an hour after the suicide bombing at Hillel Cafe.

Just the night before, my wife and I and two of our friends were sitting at the Cafe until around 11:40 PM. The place was packed.

I can now hear the sirens of the ambulances racing through the streets of Jerusalem. I cannot get the images out of my head; images of severed arms, decapitated heads, people with nails and pieces or iron stuck in their bodies, broken tables, the cake and sandwich bar shattered into thousands of pieces. What happened to the sweet waitress who was serving us? What happened to the young bus boy? We were sitting in the middle of the room; all those people came there for a good time and were carried out in coffins. Is the high ceiling still in place? The glass wall shattered into millions of shards, covering body parts and swimming in the blood that spilled on the floor like water. Shema Israel, hear O Israel, we pray — but Israel is not listening.


And I feel empty inside, asking myself which of my friends and neighbors were at the Cafe today? I am thinking about the people holding their coffee cups when the bomb went off, and how they were lucky if the shatters only got in their eyes and did not kill them. I think of the man biting into his sandwich not knowing that this would be his last bite ever; about the piles of human bodies flying in the air into one another; about the severed arm thrust into the young woman still seated at her table, but she feels nothing — she is either in shock or simply dead. I see how tables are blown by the blast, hitting the guests, and how in the fireball human flesh mixes with freshly-served cheese; and the smell, the smell of explosives and burnt human flesh blending into one; and the quiet after the blast, and the cries of pain and shock, the shock that comes after the quiet. I think of the victory that the Chief of Staff has announced two months ago, saying we have beaten the Palestinians, and I my heart weep: how could my chief of staff be such a fool? I think of the folly of the politicians who are leading us from one catastrophe to the next, and I think about how the people keep silent. Has everyone forgotten? Adonai eloheinu — the Lord is our God, not Greater Israel.


I know the painful truth. The body count will continue, because our political leaders are petty little people. So full of themselves, they are clueless about conflict resolution; they slay Palestinians and expect them to exercise restraint. These wise men believe that the occupation can continue; these glorious generals have for three years now been “letting the IDF win,” as the slogan goes; they may be seasoned soldiers, but they are absolutely ignorant in conflict resolution. They believe that by using terror to counter terror they can give us security. They believe that they can devastate the infrastructure of Palestinian leadership and government and at the same time stop militias from wreaking chaos. They have for two years now been pronouncing Arafat “irrelevant”, but what does that make of former defense minister Binyamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer, of former prime minister Ehud Barak and of the incumbent, Ariel Sharon? Are they any more relevant than he? How long will it take us to wake up from this ongoing folly? How many more body bags will it take? Adonai ehad — God is the only unshakeable truth, not any political creed.


The beauty of Israel is slain upon the Messianic pipedream — how long shall the petty leaders of this nation triumph? It is now the morning after, and I have just learned that Dr. Appelboim was killed, along with his daughter who was to get married tonight. I knew this wonderful, special man. My heart bleeds for him; it was only two months ago that we had a chat and even argued over my political views. How painful and despairing it is to see more blood being shed in vain. The young bride, excited to start a family with her betrothed, is forever married in a blood wedding to her father. They will lie side by side, as the silence of all eternity quashes the joyful sounds of the wedding that will never be. Shema Israel, yitgadal, veyitkadash sheme raba — hear O Israel, exalted and sanctified be the name of the great Sovereign — these are the words of the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer recited over every freshly-dug grave. Shame on you, leaders of the nations.


When I used to visit Israel on business Ariel Sharon was Minister of Agriculture, or something like that. He had to have a ministry because of the right-wing lunatic fringe votes he controlled. The Israelis I knew – mostly business people, hardly leftists – considered him a very dangerous individual. Now he’s in power, which is the Israeli people’s fault. But the fact that he is able to pursue his insane “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” policy is just as much the U.S. government’s responsibility as his, because the U.S. finances the Israeli military machine and could easily exert sufficient pressure to stop him. I doubt that the American Jewish vote and/or influence is sufficient to explain the Bush administration’s reluctance to do anything more serious than to express their “concern”. No. Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and the others agree with Sharon. They worship the same vengeful god.


The opposition


Now the presidential candidates, for the most part the same politicians who gave Bush extraordinary power to go to war and were almost as blusteringly enthusiastic about it as he was, have jumped on the critics' wagon. Good, even if they are hypocrites. Perhaps they were also fooled. In any case, they seem to be a sorry lot, except perhaps for Dean, who after all started the political Bush-whacking. But unless the Republican’s dump Bush themselves, which is highly unlikely, one of them will be the only hope for saving the day and the country before it’s too late. Let’s hope that Ralph Nader doesn’t continue to massage his ego and run again, which is just as good as handing the election to the Republicans.


Let’s keep whacking Bush. No one deserves it more.