Mr. Chimp and Dr. Win-the-War
By HENRY GALLAGHER FIELDS
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The great charade we call American democracy is designed to give the masses the edifying impression that SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT really is being decided in the BIG ELECTIONS. The owners and operators of the system unleash an avalanche of banners, buttons, maniacally cheering throngs, mind-bending TV commercials, and other varieties of hoopla and hoopla-related products to make it seem as if weighty historical events are taking place. The recent non-debate debate between John F. Kerry and George W. Bush was one of these accouterments. Of course, the reality behind the show is that while the hucksters and con men competing for office may change places making elections important for them nothing important changes in terms of actual governing policy.
That being said, you may wonder why old H.G. would take the time to follow the presidential "debates," and even watch the first one on TV (old H.G. managing to stay awake for almost 25 minutes), when he could have flipped over to such tempting cable alternatives as "How to Choose the Proper Setting for Your Aquatic Garden," the Northwest Pacific Coast Region 3 Log-Rolling Championships from South Sasquatch, Oregon, or the latest infomercial about Professor Shinetile's Effortless Super-Steam Floor Cleaner. But as a student of anthropology and the left tail of the Bell Curve, I take a special interest in scrutinizing the current occupant of the White House. And I was amazed to find that Dubya could actually talk in sentences and engage in somewhat rational discourse, at least for most of the debate. It was like visiting the Primate Research Center and coming across the chimpanzee who is able to type, kind of.
That is to say, the debate revealed a different Bush from the one who every once in a while is coaxed away from his keepers and obliged to talk extemporaneously with reporters. In those instances Dubya babbles absolute nonsense: pure stone-headed Bushish, garbling the simplest thought, tripping and falling over the commonest phrase. It's always a sight to behold a marvel for those of us who managed to complete second grade in under three years. But then as I watched I had to recall that Dubya does have the ability to memorize short, simple, painstakingly scripted sound bites. And that is what he apparently did in preparation for the Big TV Show on September 30. He simply regurgitated the mantras he has been repeating for the past year or so, which even he could be expected to have down pat by now:
I'm the President and I always act to defend the security of the United States, and It's my job to protect the American people, and so forth. The War on Terror is hard work some resentful surprise showing through there, I guess but America is bringing democracy to the "liberated," and Iraq and Afghanistan are being democratized. And it's all happening with great popular support. True, there is violent opposition from a few evildoers, but America must see the job through. The message is that whatever Bush does (and did he mention that he works awfully hard to do it?), it automatically advances American security. Enough said! (Which is just as well, because he can't say much more.)
Well, OK, usually he does say more. Demonstrating the rule that those with nothing to be modest about are often the most immodest, he praises himself for his steadfastness and resolution: You know where I stand. And he then goes on to point out the contradictions and wanderings of his flip-flopper opponent, John Kerry. And Bush would have us remember, too, that any criticism of his war policy, however evil or moronic that policy may be, undermines Our Boys (and Wymyn).
Now, a certain internal consistency does emerge from Dubya's elementary utterances. Yes, during the September 30 medicine show he did hem and haw a bit, he tended to hunch over, and in his facial expressions he sometimes exhibited befuddlement and even anger, approximating what one might see in a National Geographic TV special on the great apes and their struggles. Yes, the kindergarten simplicity of his message necessarily left unaddressed the specifics of the international arena, which obviously are too difficult for him to memorize. (Apparently, though, he has memorized the names of some of the foreign leaders, no doubt with the aid of a specially designed set of flash cards.) And, yes, he arrived at a 90-minute debate with only five minutes of material about all that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney could fit into his subcompact brain. But that is all beside the point.
What Bush said didn't have anything to do with the reality of his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He didn't try to explain, in light of the scandal of the non-existent WMDs, why the United States went to war. And he seemed oblivious to what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan now, oblivious to the information available from intelligence and military experts or even the information that can be gleaned from a cursory viewing of the TV news. But, after all, he admits he doesn't follow the news.
As always here's the consistent part Dubya was talking about an essentially imaginary world, one obviously crafted for him by his advisors. Meanwhile, most Establishment pundits and talking heads, following the script of "The Emperor's New Clothes," are all too consistently failing to point out that glaring fact, while most of the vast unwashed (or vast brainwashed) have no idea of what's happening in an area of the world whose cultures, history, and politics they know absolutely nothing about.
Enough of the Chief Simian. What can be said of John F. Kerry? On September 30 the Bronzed Brahmin actually appeared to understand something of the reality of the war in Iraq. He went over the bogus reasons for the attack on that country. He pointed out the non-existence of Saddam's WMDs. He dealt with the disconnect between Osama bin Laden and the Iraq war. Like government military and intelligence experts, he recognized that the war has become a quagmire. Pretty good so far. But then he had to go and mention his "solution." And instantly the real world was replaced by an imaginary world, a world of fantasy. (Sound familiar?)
Instead of stipulating that the United States has to get out of Iraq pronto, Kerry provided his own recipe for how to "win" the war. And it was the same tired recipe he has been repeating from the beginning of the campaign. He is going to build an international coalition as if the French and Germans would jump at the chance to die in Kerry's War after failing to show up for Bush's War. Also, President Kerry would rely on training the Iraqis to fight. Here one thinks of the recent case of the "loyal" Iraqi officer who apparently was in cahoots with the "terrorists." A meditation upon America's "loyal" Iraqi troops may call to mind a variant of the old Lone Ranger and Tonto joke: "Whaddaya mean, we, infidel?"
Sounding like the ghost of Richard Nixon (remember "Vietnamization"?), Kerry says he'd pursue a policy of "Iraqification," training the "loyal" Iraqis to fend for themselves so that U.S. troops could be removed in four years. FOUR YEARS! In four years the Likudnik-inspired World War IV will have spread to Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and God knows where else. The American troops couldn't remain in Iraq in any case; they'll have to be sent to some other dusty province to kill and be killed.
Despite the Establishment media's assurances that the debate reflected the clash of two different views of the Iraq war, the fact is that nothing important would change if Kerry became president. Kerry simply mouths things that Bush would also mouth, if only he had a brain. Should Kerry win, Bush's War would become Kerry's War. Here's what the glory and triumph of American democracy boils down to: on their Big Day, November 2, the people will be allowed to choose whether or not to rename the war.
But what about old H.G.? Will I be hanging up my well-worn pith helmet? If Kerry wins, I might lose my anthropological motive for keeping abreast of the Big Chief's endeavors. On the other hand, in January 2001 some of us expected to be bored by George W. Bush, ascending to the chieftainship as he did after the mojo-man himself, Bill Clinton. So maybe a President Kerry would introduce some new rituals and ceremonies of his own to fascinate civilized observers. In any case we'd still have the tribal taboos to study. Not to mention the human sacrifice.
In closing, a note to our foreign readers: Thanks to the power of the American military and its bunker-busting bombs, some of which have now been distributed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the democracy in which America glories is coming to a country near you in fact, it could be your own.
October 4, 2004
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