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Obama In, Bush Out



Obama inauguration

Their foreign policy widely discredited, their economic policy in tatters, George W. Bush and his Neo-Conservative cronies finally leave office today. Change we need? You bet says Steve Beauchampé.

I am not a believer, but I’ll invoke the word, because plenty of others in this sorry tale have. Thank God - it’s over at last!

Eight years after George W. Bush, his acolytes and henchmen, stole the US Presidency when the electoral authorities in Florida, a state run by George’s brother Jed, refused to count the votes they knew would deny the Republicans access to the White House, the lunatics are finally being ousted from power.

They leave behind a world riven with ideological hatred, intolerance and misunderstanding along with an economic system imploding under the weight of greed, corruption and consumerist hedonism. Oh, and a planet that much closer to self-inflicted environmental annihilation for jest! Quite how Private Eye could be so naive as to preface the 2000 Election with the headline ‘Bush and Gore: Too Close To Care’ I could never fathom!

The current shambles is not all the departing US Government’s fault of course, but in their hands resided substantial power to steer the course of human history, instead they ploughed us headlong into a brick wall - and the wreckage crawls with the blood, pain and anguish of the passengers.

True, the dear leader himself was in part merely a frontman for some of the more ideologically committed members of his Administration - hawks such as warmongering Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his former deputy Paul Wolfowitz, bellicose ex-UN Ambassador John Bolton and, perhaps most darkly, Vice President Dick Cheney and Richard Perle, sometimes described as the Godfather of the Neo-Cons.

Bush, reliable enough to remain on message, amiable and patriotic enough to appeal to the man we now know as Joe the Plumber, was the ideal - and willing - puppet.

This Neo-Con cabal, to whom the state terror depicted in Franz Kafka’s The Trial might be seen as a mere starting point, displayed the worst excesses of American military muscle, political expansionism and abject disregard for human rights.

Coming to power with the unfinished business of Iraq 1991 firmly on their agenda (just read the speeches, the briefing papers), yet diverted by 9/11 to overthrow an Afghanistani Mujahadeen trained and armed in no small measure by the CIA (much as Saddam Hussein would later be), this was an administration for whom such niceties as international law, treaties, agreements and due process were irritating inconveniences, the responsibilities attached to them swept aside by the perversion of language and re-definition of meanings, by wilfully misrepresenting the truth (some would say lying) or by shifting blame and covering up.

The phraseology was consciously simplistic: “War on Terror; “Axis of Evil”; “You’re either with us or against us’, the perceived dangers often over-stated in order to pressurise both the US public and foreign governments into accepting actions they would otherwise have found unacceptable, such as the kidnapping and torture of ‘terror’ suspects and their imprisonment without charge or trial.

Indeed, turning a blind eye was one of the outgoing US Administration’s most unedifying traits; Abu Ghraib - blame a few low ranking marines; 600 (mainly civilian) dead in Al Fallujah - collateral damage; Guantanamo, torture and illegal rendition - just a bunch of evil Muslims so who cares; 1,000 (mainly civilian) dead in Lebanon 2006 - all done in self-defence and anyway, the IDF were aiming for the bad guys; 1,200 civilian dead (and rising) in Gaza.- ditto Lebanon.

It was probably only the military, financial and political disaster of Iraq which prevented an even more calamitous and dangerous escapade into either Syria or Iran, which no doubt the Neo-Con’s most unswerving cheerleader, Tony Blair, would ultimately have been fully signed up to (though his Cabinet may not) once his attempts to reason caution had fallen on deaf ears.

In tune with much of the Neo-Con’s patriotic bluster and religious zeal, yet prepared to tolerate enormous suffering by others for the greater good of sacred western economic and political freedoms, Blair is now an EU Envoy to the Middle East (as well as an advisor to at least one US investment bank).

He was in Washington last week to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bush, just as thousands of Gazans, denied access to medical and other humanitarian aid by Israel for many months (a situation apparently acceptable to the EU and it’s Middle Eastern Envoy), were being pounded by military hardware supplied by the US and fired by personnel whose training owes not a little to America, Britain and other EU member states.

And as Bush lounges back on the porch of his Texan ranch, enjoying the income from the family oil wells, what excuses to the people of Bangladesh or a host of Pacific Islands scheduled to be submerged by rising sea levels? What excuses to future generations for his Government’s failure to sign up to Kyoto (indeed, for trying their damnedest to prevent it), for defiling parts of Alaska in the search for more fossil fuels and for the legacy of landfill produced by an economic system dependent upon unending consumption?

How apposite that with the Neo-Con’s foreign policy exposed as a failure, detested and in shreds, and with the world a substantially more dangerous place as a result of this gung-ho militarism and the radicalisation it fostered, their system of unfettered and unbridled capitalism should come crashing down too.

The delicious irony is that both the US and many other western free market capitalist economies have been forced to inject massive doses of state support as the only way to save their financial systems from meltdown.

Bernard Madoff (and made off with it he certainly did), the $50billion Wall Street swindler, is testimony to the staggering greed endemic in Neo-Con America and the mantra of it’s ultra-capitalist think tank, Project for the New American Century, a line that runs from Enron via Halliburton to the last gasps of the Bush Presidency…”never in the field of human history have so few ripped off so many for so much” would be a fitting epitaph.

What blessed relief it will be then to have the most powerful office in the world occupied by someone apparently free of xenophobic spite and religious hokum and with no business interests to conflict with or determine his political strategy.

An author and former Ivy League university law lecturer with a reputation for intellectual discourse unthinkable amongst his immediate predecessor (that said, Radovan Karadzic was a professor and man of letters), Obama has such charisma, eloquence and reassuringly authoritative manner that he could have been elected in almost any country on the planet!

That said Barack, you and I are going to have some falling outs. I won’t be onboard with some key elements of your foreign policy for starters; though it will generally be softer and more conciliatory than your predecessors and I appreciate that politics is often determined by the requirements of pragmatism, diplomacy, tact, the benefits of a non-hostile media and the need for electoral survival.

I’d like to think that you’ll disengage your troops from the cul-de-sac of Afghanistan and stop supplying Israel so readily with the weapons they use for mass destruction. That you’ll cease propping up unpleasant military regimes across the Middle East, talk with Iran, engage with the UN, agree to expansion of its Security Council and use your power of veto there rather less.

I hope that you’ll chill out on Cuba and tell Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (whom the CIA are widely believed to have tried to help overthrow shortly after he was first elected), Eva Morales in Bolivia and Luiz Da Silvia in Brazil that you respect their economic and social reforms and would like to learn from them

I trust that you will not give presidential pardons to your political friends while playing dirty tricks on your political foes and I believe that you will curb the power and excesses of Wall Street and try to create a culture of personal financial restraint. I think that you will end America’s systemic human rights abuses and that you will urgently address its frightening environmental footprint (even if you meet with only partial success) and help to facilitate and sign Kyoto 2 in Copenhagen this autumn.

Mostly however, I hope that under your stewardship America will rejoin Team Planet Earth with humane, honest, fair and well-intentioned policies that substantially reduce the reasons that, not surprisingly, radicalised so many throughout the world. Can you do it? No easy call and response catchphrases here…but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.



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