"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we"
-- George W Bush
There's a very rare, very fine wine hidden away somewhere in the house, the kind you keep away even from lovers, brothers and long-lost friends. The kind you save up for the mother of all special occasions.
That occasion is now. With this wine, and much to the horror of my progressive-liberal-left circuit, I celebrate Bush's re-election ...strike that, I meant election.
There are reasons why a second term for the world's most staggeringly insolent, arrogant and dangerous administration is epochal.
First, it delivers us from the me-too wannabe lesser-of-two-evilism that defined John Kerry and his campaign.
Kerry, let's face it, ran on a Bush Lite ticket. To the jaw-dropping dismay of his supporters, this anti-war hero did a Superman in the phonebooth routine and transformed himself into a war hero, using every card in the deck to prove he'd make a better commander-in-chief than Bush, a better steward of Empire, more qualified to carry out the noble task of looting defenseless nations of their resources.
Kerry was silent when the US stage-managed a coup in Haiti, ousted its popularly elected socialist leader, and left the country in the able hands of a militia that better serves US corporate interests. Kerry was silent while the Sudan genocide ballooned under the 'civilised' world's very nose. Kerry was silent on the inequitable and unjust trade rackets that keep billions hungry and naked in Third World nations across the globe.
Kerry was silent when the Patriot Act was passed -- nay, he even authored parts of it. Kerry was silent on America's roguish refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol, and expressed no intention and revealed no plan to lessen America's disproportionate contribution to global greenhouse gases. While coastal communities from Taiwan to Bangladesh to Florida were being uprooted by Biblical-strength hurricanes, Kerry was silent on the desperate need to arrest abrupt climate change. Kerry was silent when nauseating evidence of torture began pouring in from Abu Ghraib. Rather than commit to withdrawing troops from Iraq, he even started his campaign by promising another 40,000 troops for Iraq -- something sure to be received well by citizens of Fallujah, Baghdad and Najaf.
While on the subject, let's not forget that Kerry voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq, saying he wouldn't have if he knew then what he knows now (if he'd listened to the ten million people marching worldwide against the war back then, he might just have known). Kerry then said he would have voted for the invasion anyway. Erm... do they have a clinical term, apart from flip-flopping, for this kind of thing?
There's a silly apocalyptic sci-fi film playing in your local theatre these days. The promotional posters read "Alien versus Predator ...whoever wins, we lose."
Precisely. There never really was anything to distinguish Kerry from Bush. They're joined at the hip.
Now, when people are faced with a choice between the genuine article and a carbon copy, they choose the genuine article. They chose Bush.
Which brings us to the second point.
Back in October 2001, shortly before the Bush administration started bombing Stone Age Afghanistan into whatever age preceded that, the Taliban offered to negotiate. They were willing to hand over Osama bin Laden so long as the US furnished evidence that bin Laden was personally responsible for the kneecapping of America -- an entirely legitimate request under international law, it turns out.The US doesn't negotiate, of course, and bombs whom it bloody well pleases.
Within two months, B-52 stratofortresses, AC-130 gunships, B-2 stealth bombers and F-16 fighter jets had bravely butchered at the very least 3,767 civilians and about 28 bonafide card-carrying Taliban leaders (that's about 200 civilians for every 1.5 Taliban leaders). Three years later, Osama bin Laden (wanted dead or alive back then) is still releasing music videos from his recording studio somewhere. I expect the next one will appear on the iTunes store as "Now That's What I Call Jehad: Volume 23."
We watched, the horror of 11th September still fresh in our minds, assuring ourselves that these are just the actions of one unelected government against another unelected government, and that Afghanistan -- despite all the uncalled-for bloodshed -- would be the better for it.
A year-and-a-half later, the same Bush administration turned its back on the international community and international law, the protests of millions of ordinary people across every continent, the cautionary words of former US presidents, the sage advice of security experts everywhere, the accumulated wisdom of Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama and the Pope, even the tenets of Christianity (a force that, more than any other, guides US policy) ...and invaded another Third World resource-rich nation, defanged by years of UN-imposed and administered sanctions, a destitute country that posed no threat to any of its neighbours, far less to the US.
We watched again, in shock and awe, telling ourselves that these are simply the actions of one rogue administration with no popular mandate against another rogue administration with no popular mandate, and that -- despite the unnecessary bloodshed -- this too will pass, Iraqis would be better off without their brutal dictator, and that Bush wouldn't see another term in office.
But this hasn't passed. Iraqis are worse off than before -- more Iraqi civilians have been killed and incarcerated by US forces than at any time during Saddam's rule, and are now 58 times more likely to suffer violent death than under Saddam. Oh, and Bush is back for four more years.
He wasn't appointed by the Supreme Court this time. He was elected. What does that tell us?
It tells us that though the American public could be excused the first time around for not being responsible for what their government did in their name (since they didn't elect that government) this time it's different. The American people now know what Bush and his cronies are all about, and still have voted for them.
And since, in a democracy, citizens have to be held accountable for the actions of their governments, every American is now a target. Till now, it was only the Iraqi resistance that refused to see the distinction, now the whole world agrees: today, you are all Bush.
While you deal with the implications of that new reality, let's move to the third reason why the Bush win is epochal.
That reason is Michael Moore. This is not a typo.
Mike used to be urgent and necessary, once. Even entertaining. A couple of awards here, a couple of best-sellers there, and he's lost it all.
Thanks to his distracting and destructive "Anyone But Bush" campaign, we've seen the likes of Wesley Clark and John Kerry eulogised, deified and endorsed in the most unctuous terms, while truly progressive candidates with truly progressive policies got sidelined. Yes, a bar of soap would be a better alternative to Bush, but it takes something like Michael Moore to ignore the progressive candidate and root for the bar of soap.
Dennis Kucinich made it clear that, were he president, he'd stand for withdrawing troops from Iraq, withdrawing from NAFTA and WTO, repealing the Patriot Act, guaranteeing social security, switching to renewable energy, and respecting women's rights and gay/lesbian rights.
Dennis who? Never heard of him? You've Michael Moore to thank.
Given Mike's phenomenal influence and reach, it's incumbent on him to "do the right thing" and to get his base whipped up in a frenzy about the right candidates and the right ideas. It's also criminal, given his influence and reach, that by endorsing first Clark and then Kerry, he forced Kucinich off the electoral radar. By his silence on the candidature of Kucinich, Mike is perpetrator, accessory and victim, all rolled into one.
Of Wesley Clark, a war criminal by every definition of the term, Mike had this to say: "I have met Clark and spoken to him on a number of occasions... I have to tell you I have found him to be the real deal... he's someone whom I'm convinced all of you would like both as a person and as the individual leading this country... Wesley Clark is an honest, decent, honorable man... he would be a breath of fresh air in the White House... and he's opposed to war."
What Mike neglected to mention is that in 1999, when Clark was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces, it was under his direct and deliberate orders that Yugoslavia -- civilian targets included -- was bombed relentlessly for 78 days and 78 nights with cluster bombs and depleted uranium, some of the most savage weapons known to warring man.
But Michael Moore still somehow felt that Clark was the best anti-war candidate to come along and challenge Bush, that Ralph Nader was "crazy" to even think of upsetting the apple cart, and that (subsequently) John Kerry was going to save America and the world from Bush and his ideologues.
His discerning taste in candidates aside, Michael Moore is as clueless, and as effervescent around the mouth, as Anne Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. What does that make him? The Fox News Channel for the progressive-liberal-left.
Is that a bad thing? Not if you manage to sell a lot of books and videos in the process, some of them utterly unreadable and unwatchable.
Take Fahrenheit 9/11. Nothing in the film says a word about the immorality and illegality of the invasion of Iraq. There isn't a word about what it must feel to be an Iraqi cowering in a street as bombs rain down from 38,000 ft. There isn't a word about anything except the same old grainy footage we've been watching since the 60s... of GIs and the effects Vietnam had on them, not the effect the GIs had on Vietnam. Every single flick to come out of Hollywood since then, and I mean this without exception, has viewed and presented the conflict from the imperial perspective. How it was a "mistake" and not a deliberate, calculated choice to invade a country that just happened to buy into a different political system than yours. How "our boys" suffered in those faraway lands and not the suffering that our boys brought to those faraway lands. How horrific and scarring it was for us to kill and maim innocent people, not how horrific and scarring it was for innocent people to be killed and maimed. Fahrenheit 9/11, quite frankly, is "Deer Hunter" and "We Were Soldiers" and everything else in between: Empire, from Empire's perspective.
Allow me to spell it out one last time: Michael Moore is not the progressive-liberal-left movement, he's just given it a bad name
For the past four years, all of us blamed Nader for "helping" Bush steal the election from Gore in 2000. For the next four years, we've no-one to blame but Michael Moore
Hopefully, but don't hold your breath, all of this will make Mike more circumspect, a little more mature, a little less self-serving. And therefore a little less dangerous to democracy in America.
In my book, that qualifies as epochal.
The fourth, most important, most heartening, most heart-warming consequence of Bush's return to power is this: Empire will implode.
That's right, it's curtains for that shining city upon the hill. Why? What's about to happen? Let me break this down for you:
For half a century, intellectuals and academics, organisers and activists, unions and social movements, and progressives from Che to Chomsky have been shouting themselves hoarse about the threat posed by an unchecked American hegemony. We've gathered around the campfire, sharing experiences and ideas and strategies with those who share our values, and tried to reach out to those who don't. We've tried to expose the inner workings of Empire, the little circuits and levers and motors that keep it alive and well and kicking.
But we haven't come close to dismantling it. Yet.
What we've witnessed over the past four years was the beginning of the end of Empire. What we need to do now is sit back, arms folded, doing nothing as we watch George W Bush and his band of right-wing fundamentalist born-again Christian zealots hasten the process along. Their work is only half-done, they need another four to finish the task for which God has chosen them.
Abortion, contraception, same-sex marriages and stem-cell research will be banned across the US. The few gay and lesbian rights that exist will be taken away. The misogyny and hypermasculinity that mark fundamentalist societies will become official policy. And church and state will become seamlessly integrated. In other words, a country whose president is a creationist -- or rejects the notion of evolution -- will begin competing to be on the same medieval terms as its favourite bogeyman: Osama bin Laden.
Arbitrary detentions, summary deportations, and torture of suspects will only increase, making America -- hard as this sounds -- even less popular across the world than it already is.
Meanwhile, one major Tet-style offensive in Iraq and the body bags will start piling up in heaps so high they'll need to outsource the task of 'processing' the dead to places like India. If the average middle-class Indian can do the Texan drawl, she can bloody well do the Texan dead.
Add to this the fact that blue-collar workers in America already have their wages frozen, their jobs exported (see above), and their unemployment benefits kicked in the testicles. Once this administration privatises social security, does away with medicare and further lowers taxes for the richest Americans at the cost of services for the poorest Americans, the US will be further reduced to a level of deprivation and destitution that'll make Argentina of the '90s look like a welfare state.
Then, as the dollar plummets and the economy slips into the final stages of decomposition -- a rot quickened by increasing debt and rising oil prices -- we'll see America filling forms in triplicate for loans from the Third World.
All these problems at home will compel the US to withdraw military, diplomatic and financial support to Israel and its illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine, thus hastening the resolution of that particular conflict. With Arafat dead and a less malleable administration in his place, the Palestinian Authority should manage to squeeze out larger concessions from a largely neutered Israel that it hasn't till now. Then again, it might not. But who cares? Concessions or no concessions, without US support, Israel is defunct anyway, and Palestine stands a better chance.
When, thanks to its impoverishment, the US sees its grip on the World Bank, IMF, WTO, NAFTA and FTAA pried open, it'll resort to military might to protect its economic interests, as it always has -- and its military might is all that'll be left. But it won't be enough. Aurangzeb had one of the biggest and most powerful militaries in medieval times, and they weren't enough to keep his empire from slipping into rigor mortis nearly overnight.
The likely and desirable scenario is that, in Bush's custody, the US will transform itself into something like North Korea: a state whose leaders no-one wants to talk to or listen to, a state whose citizens live in abject and utter fear of a world they know nothing about, a state where a concentrated elite live exceedingly well at the cost of everyone else, a state armed to the teeth but empty in the belly.
Its institutions of justice and democracy will come crashing down. Its notions of freedom and equality will crumble. Its spirit weakened, its will broken, its innards exposed, the US, as a consequence, will stand cap-in-hand before every international institution, forum and treaty it has ever slighted or sabotaged: the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions, the Ottawa Convention on landmines, the CTBT, the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol... the list is a long one.
With a begging bowl in hand, the United States of America will kneel with the rest of us, finally willing to join our interdependent community of nations. Finally willing to listen, to learn, and to work together with others on equal terms. Finally joining us human beings by being human.
I drink to that.
After dropping out of Delhi University in 1992, Gene Hashmi has worked with some of the world's most unscrupulous, dishonest and successful advertising agencies. By way of atonement, he runs The Daily Dissidence, Singapore's only news source that doesn't seek the approval of mainstream media. At the rate of one new subscriber every other day, it has quickly become the most circulated, criticised and controversial mailing list in that part of the world. If this goes on for long, you can eventually reach him at Changi Prison.