Bush Manipulates Patriotism
By Don Monkerud
After a stunned nation rallied around the president in the aftermath
of the bombings of September 11, the Bush administration is pursuing
its right-wing policies with a vengeance.
The speed and sweeping nature of Washington's policies portend an
increasing shift to the right in US policy. After facing criticism
for a "unilateralist" and "go-it-alone" attitude, Bush now wraps his
agenda in a common fight against terrorism. Under the mantle of a
"War on Terrorism," Bush finds new acceptance and approval.
Now virtually every new policy is backed with a call for
"bipartianship" and unity during the "war." For example, the Bush
energy plan gives oil, gas and coal companies billions of dollars in
subsidies, rejects fuel-efficiency standards for SUVs, foresees a
forest of oil derricks off the California coast and supports drilling
in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Despite huge
profits-such as Exxon Mobil's record $17 billion-by oil companies,
Bush argues for his industry-created energy plan as overcoming
"dependence on Middle East oil" because it harms "national security."
Bush's new plan to boost the economy is equally filled with
regressive policies. After a giveaway of over a trillion dollars that
primarily went to wealthy tax payers in 2001, Bush now calls for 41
percent of his 2002 tax cut bill to go to the richest one percent of
Americans. His "stimulus package" provides $70 billion-out of $100
billion-to go to businesses. Companies like General Electric and the
auto industry stand to reap huge benefits.
Bush will subsidize the wealthy to make it through this time of
"hardship." Meanwhile the top one-fifth of Americans set a record,
receiving 49.7 percent of national wealth. The average poor person's
income in 2000 fell to a record low. A family of three struggles to
stay above the federally mandated poverty level of $13,738 and the
poorest one-fifth of Americans received 3.6 percent of the national
income-another record low. Bush proposes this policy, while urging us
to visit Disneyland and appeals to our patriotism "to get the country
Opposition to Bush's defense spending increases melted on September
11. Immediately afterwards, Congress appropriated $40 billion, part
of which will to be used for counter-terrorism. Congress then turned
around and approved a $345 billion defense budget that included the
largest military pay increase in 20 years as well as $8 billion for
an unproven missile-defense system. Another $50 billion was approved
for a "black budget" to be used for intelligence, and observers
expect Bush to come back with additional defense spending proposals
before the end of the year. Chairman of the Armed Services Committee,
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said passing the bills were "essential to
our national security."
With limited opposition, Congress also succumbed to Bush's expansion
of police powers in the US. The FBI and CIA, for the first time, can
now share investigative evidence, wiretap phones and computers, and
conduct lightning-swift searches. Immigrants can only be held for
seven days- rather than indefinitely as Bush proposed-but any
investigation begun before the new law takes effect can continue
indefinitely. If innocent people are hurt, they can sue for up to
$10,000. Some of these were Bush proposals before the "war," but
others were added.
Ignoring the role that globalization played in the September 11
bombing, Bush is touting a "new multilateralism" and pushing Congress
to allow him "fast track" approval of trade treaties. Such treaties
will abrogate US antitrust, intellectual property and food-safety
laws. Opponents warn of labor and environmental disasters if the US
surrenders trade sanctions as a way to prevent these catastrophes,
but right-wing business interests argue that rich countries improve
labor and environmental laws. Such improvements appear unlikely, but
Bush claims fast-track authority is necessary to build an
international coalition to fight terrorism.
Foreign governments are also jumping on the bandwagon to fight
terrorism and further their own regressive agendas. With hints that
the US may begin to rely upon Russian oil to replace dependence on
the Middle East, Russia appears ready to accept Bush breaking the
1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. This would clear the way for US
nuclear testing and US weapons in space, a long-stated objective of
the Bush Administration. In exchange, they would receive much needed
The rearmament of Japan also got a boost from the "War on Terrorism."
Its House of Representatives is on the verge of allowing the
Self-Defense Forces, for the first time, to participate in distant
military actions. Although Japan's postwar constitution renounces
war, four Japanese warships are set to join US forces. Right-wingers
in Japan, who have pushed for a revitalized military for some time,
praise this as "a big step forward."
In the face of criticism, the Bush administration appears unwilling
to examine its policies. Many foreign and domestic critics of Bush's
bombing of Afghanistan suggest that the bombing is a failure of US
foreign policy and that policy needs to be reconstituted. One
administration official even admitted that we are losing "the hearts
and minds" of the Arab and Islamic world. In response Bush hired a
Washington public relations firm to hold focus groups, create a
website and recommend ways the US military can improve its image.
The newly concocted "War on Terrorism" was a godsend to President
Bush and the Republican Party. As a minority president handed the
office by a Supreme Court that disallowed the manipulation of votes
in Florida, Bush had so alienated Republican moderates that the party
lost control of the Senate. Many of Bush's policies appeared to be
headed for rough sledding. People spoke of him as a one-term
president. After September 11, everything changed.
Today the Republican Party is riding high, but the rest of the
country will suffer. Unfortunately Bush's policies relentlessly build
toward a nation where the rich grow richer and the poor poorer and US
globalism rules the world economy. These are the same conditions that
bred the fundamentalist fanatics that bombed the WTC on September 11.
As such conditions grow worse, the American people need to realize
that the war will be much much longer than anyone expects.
First time print publication
rights in circulation area only
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