Vol. 4 Num 327 Fri. April 30, 2004  

Cross talk
Saint George, Strange Bush

George Bush strikes me as the world's dorkiest president, running one of the damn good democracies in the world. That impression was reinforced last week after I read about "Plan of Attack", the latest book by Bob Woodward, one of the two journalists from The Washington Post, who unravelled the Watergate Scandal. In two lengthy on-the-record interviews with Woodward, the U.S. President talked about his conviction that he was a servant of God and history, who was chosen to liberate Iraq, bring democracy to the Middle East and make sure the United States was safe from terrorism. My reaction: Come on George Bush, you haven't fully recovered from your drinking problem.

I haven't read Woodward's book, but I have read about it in essays in The Washington Post. The rest of the book mainly talks about how the itchy hands of George Bush planned to attack Iraq with or without Saddam's now elusive WMDs, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and other people in his administration, being in cahoots.

But you don't need to read the whole book to know what is common knowledge. The saints get divination, while the sick minds get delusion. I don't know which of the two George Bush has got, but his claim certainly reeked the smell of a zealot. Osama bin Laden also believes in the same thing, that he has the God's mandate to destroy the infidels.

Let us digress a bit, and talk about George Bush's primetime news conference on 13 April 2004. Bush, according to one analyst, gave the longest monologue ever given by a US president in a press conference, and he had lots of hectoring from the members of the press. One journalist asked him why he repeated the same phrases, making it hard for others to tell his one speech from another. If you ever faced distraught parents questioning your poor grades, you would know the answer. You run out of excuses and then keep repeating the same ones.

George Bush, of course, was unfazed, and he quipped that he should have learned to be a better communicator. He re-iterated that he would stay the course in Iraq and claimed that he still believed the WMDs were hidden somewhere. We pretty much used the same line to convince our gullible parents. We claimed that the right answer was there although the teachers never got it.

Most of us didn't get it when the US President talked about democracy, freedom, terrorism and homeland security in the press conference. Those were the right ingredients for an incumbent President to prime up his constituency for re-election. But he also came across impatient and insolent, when criticizing the Iraqi insurgents. After all, 71 per cent of the Iraqis said in a recent survey showed by CNN that they thought the United States was an occupying force, not a liberator. Then what did George Bush expect the Iraqis to do, the likes of Moqtada Sadr, and the Baath Party residuals who joined in their common cause against the United States? They also believe they are the servants of God and history, who must liberate their country from an occupying force.

George Bush doesn't seem to care for their side of the story, because he has a one-track mind. He likes to see the world through his own eyes, and he drives democracy like a dictator. It has been one year since the occupation of Iraq. There are 130,000 U.S. troops, 77,000 Iraqi police trained by the Americans, soldiers, contractors, builders and whatnots from 22 coalition countries. The Coalition Provisional Authority headed by an American, rule Iraq, which is followed by an Iraqi Governing Council like a lapdog. The sons of Saddam Hussein are dead, most of the 55 most wanted Iraqis are either captured or killed, and Saddam Hussein himself is held in Qatar.

But the cycle of violence keeps widening from Moscow to Madrid, and Bush doesn't tell us how that happened. He occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, crushed the hornet's nests of terrorism as he would like to believe. Then who are fighting the occupation forces in both countries, specially the escalating resistance coming in the Iraqi cities of Basra, Najaf and Fallujah? Well, may be foreign militants are infiltrating Iraq to join forces with the Iraqis. To us, what does it matter? It is one coalition fighting another. The insurgents are fighting the invaders.

It's amazing how the U.S. President shows so little understanding of history, how he fails to fathom that the spirit of freedom is the soul of democracy. Iraqis were oppressed under Saddam Hussein for more than two decades, but there was no resistance to his regime like we see against the coalition forces. Why? Because oppression is more dignified, than subjugation. That is why, more than 40 per cent of the Iraqi soldiers trained by the Americans refused to fight against their countrymen, another 10 per cent fled the scene and yet another 10 per cent actually cooperated with the insurgents.

George Bush, the servant of God and history, perhaps needs another revelation before he understands that if the Iraqis hated Saddam, they never loved Bush. Perhaps it never came to him that people couldn't be held against their will, and empires crumbled because vaunted rulers defied the simple lessons of history. The blood of a martyr is a potent potion, each drop sprouting thousand seeds of defiant voices, which multiply and create a chorus of freedom that shattered many citadels of tyranny.

The longing for freedom is death conquering, and the suicide bombers proclaimed it time and again in their desperate ritual to liberate the soul by exploding the body. The irony of George Bush is that he never got it, instead the so-called leader of the free world conspired to undermine the freedom of another country. One columnist of The Washington Post recently compared Iraq to Vietnam, the difference being that one is a desert and another is a jungle.

George Bush has repeated the mistake of the past. He has usurped the freedom of another country on the pretext of being its keeper. That contradiction rang hollow in the ultimate moral analysis when Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz confirmed what Bob Woodward wrote in his book. Wolfowitz made it clear in his recent interview with Vanity Fair magazine that Saddam's weapon wasn't the prime reason why George Bush went to war in Iraq. The real reason, once again, was his conviction to fight against evil and seize the historic opportunity to reorganise the Middle East.

"I say freedom is not America's gift to the world," George Bush told Bob Woodward. "Freedom is God's gift to everybody in the world", he added. Saint George is right up to here, and he sounds like a visionary leader. But he turns into Strange Bush when he plays the role of God to bring that gift of freedom to the rest of the world.

Let me contest George Bush as a servant of God and history. I am writing this column to caution that Iraq will be George Bush's Vietnam or worse unless he pulled out of that country sooner than later. You could be a servant of God and history too, if you quickly believed what I said.

Mohammad Badrul Ahsan is a banker.