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Reality Rewritten: More Bizarre Tales from our Mediocre Pundocracy
by Wayne Saunders (aka "punditman")
September 20, 2004

Imagine the following scene. You're at a party and the discussion turns to the Bush administration and the so-called War on Terror. A man, appearing a bit tipsy, suggests that the attacks of Sept. 11 have actually made America a better place. People gather around.

"How so?" says someone.

"Instead of lashing out in anger, Americans discovered a new curiosity and tolerance," he says.

Jaws begin to drop.

"People began watching news on TV, newspapers discovered a mass audience for foreign news, and a sense of global magnanimity developed," the man explained. "This was reflected in official circles. Mr. Bush launched an expensive campaign to return democracy to Afghanistan..."

Some eyes start rolling, and several people suddenly feel the urge to excuse themselves and grab another beer.

"Wait, hear me out," the man says. "He (Bush) began implementing a much larger campaign to bring democracy and markets to the world---a campaign that would be terribly ill-executed in many places (especially in Iraq), but whose motives were a genuine idealism. The world still doesn't know what to make of this idealism."

"No they certainly do not!" chimes an exasperated passerby.

Finally, another guest gently suggests some alternative reading material, and a couple of websites that point out the bleeding obvious. The discussion roams awkwardly back to sports. Blood pressures return to normal.

The party and the discussion never happened.

But the fancifully naive sentiments do exist. In fact, the above statements are some of the exact words and presumably sober analysis of Globe and Mail weekly columnist Doug Saunders (no relation), in a creatively absurd piece, published Sept. 11, 2004.

Under the curious headline, "Did 9-11 make America a better place," the piece meanders through a minefield of tenuous connections and dubious assumptions as if written deliberately to be de-constructed from head to toe.

I will focus on just a few salient points.

To begin with, what is the upshot of all those people watching TV news, and reading their newspapers? An ABC/Washington Post poll conducted back in June tells the tale: Despite any hard evidence, 62 percent think Iraq provided direct support to al Queda; 23 percent say there's "solid evidence" of this support; and 38 percent suspect this to be the case. This should come as no surprise to the savvy media observer. According to University of Texas journalism professor, Robert Jensen, "The performance of the U.S. corporate commercial news media after 9/11 has been the most profound and dangerous failure of journalism in my lifetime."

Doug Saunders also informs us that immediately after the attacks, "beyond the obvious fear and mourning, there was a clear-eyed feeling of exuberant curiosity, an opening of minds and a determination to discover the larger world." Perhaps. But apparently "exuberant curiosity," and "open minds" is no match for Fox News.

Furthermore, this sudden surge of inquisitiveness, we learn "was not anger or vengeance."

You don't say! What then, are we to make of the chauvinistic, insane ramblings of Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh and their tens of millions of loyal followers -- mere figments of the collective imagination? Furthermore, those who dared to "discover the larger world" (to find a geopolitical context for the attack on the US), were immediately labeled "moral relativists."

He admits, "This is "tricky terrain since I don't want to diminish the indelible horror and absolute unacceptability of the attacks themselves." Why of course, who would? But his column does nothing to diminish the "indelible horror" that has befallen other innocents as well, namely the tens of thousands of dead and wounded that have resulted from what he calls the "stark idealism" of the Bush administration. The fact that this "stark idealism" works in tandem with a stark killing machine merits not even a footnote.

Instead, we learn that after 9-11, "a magnanimity on the main streets of Fresno and Bangor" was "reflected in official circles," the assumption being that the United States has a mature, democratic culture in which grassroots sentiment flows naturally up to the executive branch. How this process occurred is not revealed, nor can it be, because it is pure silliness. If it were true, then the Bush administration would have actually sought consensus by listening to the voices of their opponents (or would have at least been seen to be doing so).

Consider this: some 400,000 Americans recently took to the streets of New York during the Republican convention. It is safe to say many of these people have a "determination to discover the larger world." So "global magnanimity" has apparently turned millions into marching, dissenting citizens who have turned against a reckless and deceptive government precisely because their voices WERE NOT, AND ARE NOT BEING reflected in official circles. In fact these people, along with millions more around the world, are the ones Bush once labelled "a focus group."

Doug Saunders also cites Bush's 2000 debate speech in which he denounced nation building and said that America should focus narrowly on its own interests. Then, he informs us, after 9-11, "America was suddenly governed by an idealist project (first outlined in the early 1990s by the Republicans in the Project for a New American Century) to transform the world in the interests of democracy, stability, commerce and trade."

While this is all old hat, what he fails to mention is that in their literature, PNAC also lists a series of ambitious and ominous schemes for US global domination, including targeting Iran and China for regime change, establishing total control of both outer space and cyberspace, and developing new and exotic biological weaponry. But what's relevant here is that these same Republican "idealists" had a pre-meditated plan to attack Iraq as a means to establish a more permanent role in the Persian Gulf regardless of whether or not Saddam Hussein survived. More missed, unconnected dots.

Instead our Globe reporter tells us that Iraq, is "not about oil, or contracts, or imperialism, but is an "unfinished project" of the Republicans who, unfortunately "may have collapsed back into a mean-eyed wallow of self-interest." Earth to Doug: The Bush program (also known as the Dick Cheney agenda) is about empire building. It is not about nation building, and so in that sense at least, he kept his 2000 campaign promise.

Furthermore, to label the invasion and occupation of Iraq merely "ill-executed" (which it is), nevertheless trivializes the impact of the war in the Muslim world. It's no wonder the "project" is now off the rails completely and headed down the mountainside. Based upon wishful thinking, false pretenses, officially sanctioned deception and a colossal arrogance unmatched in US history, there is no end in site to the carnage, and no exit plan. In fact the Iraq invasion and occupation is arguably a worse foreign policy disaster than Vietnam. At least in Vietnam there was just one enemy with which to negotiate a way out.

In the meantime, Mr. Bush's "expensive" democracy campaign in Afghanistan has been overshadowed by the Iraq debacle. Yet it is a far cry from the Marshall Plan it was originally touted to be. Of the current appropriated budget of $3 billion, $2.3 billion goes directly to military and security operations, and yet outside the capital, Kabul, the country remains chaotic and insecure. A recent article in Mother Jones Magazine quotes Kathy Gannon, a veteran Associated Press reporter, as saying that the security situation is "as bad as it's ever been." The Taliban have re-emerged, dope peddling is back into full swing and warlordism is also back. In fact, forces under the command of Pashtun strongman Gulbuddin Hekmatyar now regularly attack U.S. troops. In short, the country is a dangerous, uncivil disaster, and like Iraq, there is no end in site.

So where has this stark idealism and these unfinished projects taken the United States? Let us count the ways: Afghan torture cells. Guantanamo Bay. The Patriot Act. Homeland Security. Frayed alliances. Alienated friends. Abu Ghraib. Fallujah. Ramadi. A bitterly divided homefront.

Such is reality, notwithstanding bizarre attempts to re-write the script wearing rose-colored glasses.

If America became a better place, post 9-11, I shudder to think what a worse one will look like in another three years -- now that self-interest has returned.

"Punditman" can be reached through www.punditman.com

Posted: September 20, 2004


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