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.
so?" says someone.
of lashing out in anger, Americans discovered
a new curiosity and tolerance," he says.
begin to drop.
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
eyes start rolling, and several people suddenly
feel the urge to excuse themselves and grab another
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
they certainly do not!" chimes an exasperated
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.
party and the discussion never happened.
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.
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
will focus on just a few salient points.
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."
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
this sudden surge of inquisitiveness, we learn
"was not anger or vengeance."
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
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
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
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
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
is reality, notwithstanding bizarre attempts to
re-write the script wearing rose-colored glasses.
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.
can be reached through www.punditman.com
Posted: September 20, 2004