Out by 20 years...

George Orwell was right, almost. He just got the date wrong by 20 years. But on the other themes of 1984 he was right. While the Bush Junta has not reached the totalitarian nightmares of Big Brother, it is applying his principles and slogans quite liberally.

Take, for example, Bush's "State of the Union" address. He happily reiterated the doctrine of pre-emptive military action, claiming it had advanced the cause of democracy and non-proliferation around the world. He was unapologetic over the invasion of Iraq, asserting that Saddam Hussein's removal had made the world "a better and safer place".

So "war is peace" after all...

Yet even Bush could not deny that the Iraq war is still on-going. As he put it, America "face[s] a remnant of violent Saddam supporters" who "attack from the shadows." Moreover, they are "joined by foreign terrorists" and both "are a serious, continuing danger." So terrorists "killing . . . in . . . Baghdad" is an example of making the world "safer"?

What of the "terrorist" threat in the US? Bush proves himself a failure. In spite of invading Iraq and Afghanistan, he gave a sombre warning that the risk of new terrorist attacks "on American soil" remained: "To say that danger is behind us is understandable, comforting but false. The killing has continued . . . The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world." So the world is "safer", yet the threat remains? In other words, US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have not made the world safer at all. Indeed, according to Bush, the Patriot act should be renewed as the "terrorist threat will not expire" when it does. Terrorism remains and, thanks to US actions, has spread to a new area, namely Iraq.

Ah, the joys of "doublethink."

Incredibly, he tried to claim that the Iraqi invasion had persuaded Libya to renounce weapons of mass destruction. That Libya's announcement was the end result of nearly a decade of (Libya initiated) negotiation is obviously now in the "Memory Hole", along with most of the claims from last years "State of the Union" Address. Thus this year Bush significantly failed to repeat the claims that Iraq had massive stockpiles of banned weapons. Now it was a case that "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" had been found in Iraq. Except no such "activities" were discovered. Obviously the Bush appointee ruling Iraq, Bremer, needs to correct his master on this the same way as he corrected Blair a few weeks back. "Had we failed to act" he said, those "programs would continue to this day." Yes, that vial of botox would have remained in that fridge...

Perhaps we can expect to see it noted that the "commander in thief" has been "malquoted" rather than simply making "misstatements"?

Ironically, given the blatant lying in the run up to war and in its aftermath, Bush actually argued that "for diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible and no one can now doubt the word of America"! In that case, where are the Weapons of Mass Destruction? Where are links between Saddam's regime and al-Qaida? How different it all was a year ago. Now it is a case of "seeking all the facts." Back then, it was Colin Powell saying to the United Nations that he was presenting evidence, not conjecture.

Should we be expecting an announcement that the "chocolate ration" has been increased?

But the rationale for the war has been changed. Bush noted that "some" people "did not support the liberation of Iraq." He talked of "the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power" and significantly failed to suggest he was an immediate threat to the USA. Rather than actual WMD aimed at America we now get WMD "related program activities." He defended his ignoring the UN Security Council by suggesting that "had we failed to act" it would "have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world." So by the US ignoring and defying the UN, it had in fact strengthened it. Lastly, the brutal nature of the regime was mentioned. Yet it was as horrific as when the US backed it and is as horrific as many other regimes supported by the US.

But, then again, "Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia"...

As well as the rewriting of history, he repeated his dismissal of democracy while claiming to promote it. He stressed that Washington was prepared to act unilaterally again, defending the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive military engagement. "America," Bush threatened, "will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people." So having the unelected Bush Junta promising to attack whoever and whenever it likes makes the world a "safer" place? Why? He argued that America has "no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire." Considering that the US has a military presence in 130 countries (out of total of 191 recognised by the United Nations) and has consistently intervened in other countries to defend its interests, this is somewhat incredulous. It appears that if you deny you are an empire then you can act as like an empire as much as you like. Simply change "security" to "profits" and "people" to "corporations", and we get the real reason for Bush's violation of international law and his promise to ignore the UN while, simultaneously, upholding it -- namely, imperialist reasons.

Bush linked this to a broader goal of promoting democracy around the world, by force if necessary. He defended the real Bush Doctrine (i.e. rejection of democracy), by arguing there was "a difference ... between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few." Bush is obviously refining his doublethink techniques on that one. He wants to imply that most of the world supported him, with a few exceptions (i.e. the French). In reality, the majority of the world opposed the Bush Junta and its poodle. Only four countries committed troops to the war. Of them, three (Britain, Poland and Australia) ignored the majority of their people. World opinion was against the Bush Junta.When the elites of France and Germany reflected this opposition, they were attacked and dismissed as "Old Europe." The "New Europe" praised by Rumsfeld were those governments who refused to represent the viewpoint of the (vast) majority of their people. This is the same Rumsfeld, of course, who stated in 2001 that "the mission determines the coalition and we must not let the coalition determine the mission." Hardly an endorsement of democracy within the "coalition" itself.

So "two plus two" is indeed much greater 187 (the number of the other nations who did not provide troops for the invasion) when it is required by interests of state.

Bush states (correctly) that "last January, Iraq's only law was the whim of one brutal man." Yet, today, Iraq's only law is that of Bush's appointee, Bremer. He has decreed press censorship, privatisation, the flat tax, brutal raids against the population and a host of other repressive measures while systematically refusing demands for direct elections. Instead, Bush's "transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" would be based on US appointed caucuses "electing" a government. Bush, to be fair, did not suggest the Iraqis were free just now. All of the grand plans for freedom and democracy in Iraq were, like "a basic law, with a bill of rights," were being worked on and would arrive sometime in the future. Until then, the Iraqi people would just have to tolerate the "whim" of Bremer and the occupying forces.

What next? "Freedom is slavery", perhaps...

Talking of which, Bush significantly failed to discuss his regime's systematic undermining of freedom within America. No mention of how the Patriot Act has given the state more powers over its subjects, undermining the very freedoms he stupidly claims the terrorists hate America for. Indeed, he wants to "renew" it. Nor the herding of anti-Bush protestors into "Free Speech Zones". Nor the criminalisation (and repression) of anti-globalisation protesters in Miami.

But Bush is a tad unclear what "justice" is. After all, he talked about how he had brought numerous al-Qaida terrorists and Ba'athists to "justice," by which he meant they had been arrested or been killed. Yet, for most people, justice is done when the alleged suspects are judged in a courtroom in a fair and honest trial. Bush has not brought a single alleged terrorist suspect to court. In over two years he has not brought a single person accused of planning the September 11th atrocity to trial. Instead, he has assassinated at will and incarcerated 700 people from around the world in Guantanamo Bay.

Not quite "Ministry of Love" levels, but little to do with real (or even bourgeois) justice.

So Bush, against all evidence, declared that "because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better." How, exactly? Iraq is a quagmire. At least ten thousand Iraqis were killed in the invasion (no one knows for sure, particularly their "liberators" who refused to count the numbers they killed). The Iraqis have seen a US-backed dictator replaced by a US appointed one (who is reemploying Saddam's thugs). People in North Korea Syria and Libya are as unfree as any subject in a US-backed authoritarian regime. The US economy plummeted to new depths, with Bush being the first occupier of the White House to oversee a net lose of jobs since Hoover presided over the start of the Great Depression (over 2 million jobs lost, so far). And not to mention Bush's turning Clinton's budget surplus into a massive $500 billion deficit. Or the rising cost of healthcare, assuming you are not among the 43.6 million who do not have health insurance in the US. Or the numerous corporate crime scandals. Or slashing $300 million from the federal programme that provides subsidies to poor families so they can heat their homes. Or the 6% increase in the number of US families in poverty since 2001. Or the 200 public-health and environmental laws Bush has attempted to downgrade or weaken. Or the 58 million acres of public lands Bush has opened to road building, logging and drilling.

But rest assured, making the rich even richer ("tax relief") ensures that the "economy is strong and growing stronger." Why? "The pace of economic growth in the third quarter of 2003 was the fastest in nearly 20 years." That figure was 8.2%. The 1930s also saw large growth rates. 7.7% in 1934, 8.1% in 1935 and 14% in 1936.Does that mean that people were doing well during the Great Depression? Of course not. The economy was simply making up lost ground. Likewise, the U.S. recessions of 1980-82 were the worst since the Great Depression. These years were followed by a seven-year boom. So to say that growth is as good as 20 years ago means that the recession Bush presided over was one of the worse America has seen. And, needless to say, one quarter of fast growth will not reverse this kind of damage. Significantly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, December last year saw 1,000 new jobs were created. The unemployment rate only fell because 309,000 people gave up on searching for jobs. The $120 billion wasted on invading and colonising Iraq are resources stolen from education, health and other activities which would make the world a better place. Not to mention given decent jobs to countless Americans. Not to mention the human costs of 500 American, 50 British and unknown (and uncounted) thousands of Iraqi lives

And what of terrorism? Can Americans just ignore it? Of course not. Rather than use billions to increase the number of "anti-American" terrorists by invading and interfering in other countries, the money could be used to fight the root causes of terrorism. Such as fighting to eliminate inequality, oppression and ignorance at home and aboard by encouraging change from below rather than imposing it from above. This would, of course, mean that the US state stops propping up authoritarian regimes abroad, stops pushing "neo-liberalism" dogma onto its own citizens and other countries (and punishing those who say no), stops using globalisation to further the interests of its elites, stops interfering in other countries and embark on systematic reforms which will destroy concentrations of wealth and power. This will take time, but it is achievable -- unlike "the war on terror" which is utterly self-defeating.

Sadly that option is not going to happen. It would require a social movement in the US aiming for justice and liberty for all to force change from below. It would require, in other words, a revolution. Even the first stage, combating ignorance, would be an impossibility for this regime. For Bush "Ignorance is Strength." The ignorance of the American people is the source his power. He can only hope that the American people will not, as so many have across the rest of the globe, see through him. Our job as libertarians is to explain why Bush is bad for America and the world. But more than that, we need to convince people that changing the figure head is not enough. We must be strong on Bush but also on the causes of Bush: ignorance, inequality, oppression, corporate power, imperialism and the capitalism and statism that underlies them all.

Ultimately, this was no "State of the Union" address. Rather it was a very long party political broadcast made at the start of an election campaign and not a very good one at that. It is the first step in trying to be elected to the office of president for the first time. But it is significant in terms of charting the Orwellian nature of the Bush Junta and its increasingly self-contradictory rhetoric. The address was defensive, its posturing simply reflecting what an utterly miserable job he has done -- for the American people. For the corporations and billionaires who back him, well, that is a different issue.

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