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     Volume 6 Issue 43 | November 9, 2007 |

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Food for Thought

Humpty Dumpty and All the President's Men

Farah Ghuznavi

Since the recent furore over the leaking of a CIA agent's name from a senior source within the Bush administration began, there have been a number of casualties in the White House. But perhaps none as stunning as the resignation of Karl Rove, who was seen by many as the Rasputin of the White House, steering Mr. Bush from one victory to another using any tactic at hand, however sleazy (or in some cases, even illegal).

He narrowly escaped being indicted in the CIA leak case, and among other things was infamous for helping to design scurrilous and offensive television ads attacking opposition candidates, and using a cast of “bogey men” (liberals, terrorists and trade unions, to name just a few!) to manipulate a credulous electorate into voting for conservative Republican candidates.

Rove's history of using the dirtiest of tactics is well established. In 1970, he pretended to volunteer for a Democrat who was running for office and stole some letter headed stationery from the campaign headquarters. He then used that stationery to print handouts promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing", distributing these at a number of venues including a rock concert and a soup kitchen, as well as to homeless people on the street. The aim of course was to totally disrupt the Democrat candidate's campaign by ensuring that an unruly crowd turned up at his headquarters demanding the various "goodies" promised on the leaflets.

Nor has he worked much on his finesse since. His style remains very much both crude and based on appealing to the worst instincts of the electorate. It is widely believed that he was behind the rumours circulated about John McCain at the time when McCain was challenging George Bush for the post of Republican Party presidential candidate.

Among other things, the rumour mongering focused on allegations that John McCain was mentally unstable and the father of a mixed-race child - the latter accusation in particular indicating just how shamelessly low Rove can be in his approach. And the sum total of what Mr Rove has achieved through his use of such unspeakable methods was described by one observer as follows: "Rove's legacy is that he has been an architect of one of the worst administrations in our history, one where short term political objectives dominated"!

Rove, Rove, Rasputin

Yet as his departure was announced, this is the man about whom the current US president emotionally said, "We've been friends for a long time, and we' re still going to be friends... I would call Karl Rove a dear friend. We've known each other as youngsters interested in serving our state... We worked together so we could be in a position to serve this country. And so I thank my friend. I'll be on the road behind you here in a little bit."

For some of us, that "little bit" cannot come soon enough! But Bush probably has good reason to show such public gratitude and attachment to the spin master Rove. After all, the debt that he owes Karl Rove is evident in the observation made by one political commentator that “It was Rove who made a once implausible governor of Texas into the President of the United States.” (UK Independent)

It was only last year's mid-term elections which saw the Republicans lose control over Congress, that finally ended Rove's reign of terror. The man known as “Bush's Brain” resigned in August this year, with the spin on his departure being the claim that he wanted to spend “more time with his family”. But as one blogger sarcastically pointed out, “If he wanted to spend time with his family, he surely would have done it before his son went to college”…!

Shortly thereafter, the US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a close friend of the President, became the latest of the president's men to resign abruptly without a satisfactory explanation. Mr. Gonzales' achievements included the dubious distinction of placing detainees and terror suspects beyond the protection of any law, thereby in the view of many creating the circumstances that led to brutality against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, as well as other secret prisons in hidden “black sites” worldwide. He was also responsible for the controversial presidential order setting up military tribunals to try terror suspects, rather than using civilian courts. Interestingly, the tribunals have failed to achieve a single conviction so far, making the continued existence of Guantanamo Bay a live issue for human rights activists and opponents of Bush administration policies.

In line with the well-established pattern of this administration, the Attorney General's downfall came about when he was accused of lying under oath to Congress over the (politically-motivated) firing of nine US attorneys and

for ordering the FBI to spy on American citizens without court warrants! For many however, Mr. Gonzales will remain immortal for his assertion that the Geneva Conventions were outdated and therefore did not apply to terror suspects and captured enemy fighters in the so-called “war on terror”. It is likely that these are the things that Gonzales will be remembered for, rather than the distinction of being the first Hispanic Attorney General.

Despite all these casualties however, the man who is perhaps the worst culprit behind the policy of misinformation and blatant lies practiced by this administration still retains his seat in the White House; he also appears to be unrepentant about continuing to use those tactics for as long as possible. Vice-President Dick Cheney's “adventures with the truth” range from his continued insistence that Al-Qaida had close ties with Iraq before the 2003 US-led invasion (contrary to repeated publication of evidence that makes it clear that Saddam Hussein had no links to Al-Qaida) to Cheney's assertions that the war on terrorism meant having to work “sort of on the dark side… We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world.”

After the first suspected terrorists reached Guantanamo Bay it was Cheney who shattered the limits on torturing prisoners by obtaining an executive order that would allow the US to keep suspects in detention indefinitely without rights; this, despite the reported outrage of both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. But that was just the beginning of a process that gave a green light for the US to torture suspects to the point of “organ failure…or even death” (UK Independent).

Nor did minor details like objective truth hold Cheney back from making some of his wilder assertions. During an interview by the infamously aggressive right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, Cheney asserted that the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaida commander killed in 2006, had been active in Iraq well before 2003, claiming "He took up residence before we ever launched into Iraq, organised the Al-Qaida operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene." This despite any number of think-tank reports that have clearly stated that prior to the American invasion of Iraq, there was no Al-Qaida presence in that country!

The biggest charge against Cheney is that “he has transformed the executive office into one of unlimited and unaccountable power”. Indeed his lack of any sense of accountability is revealed by the fact that (according to the Washington Post) he has a “man-sized” safe in his office in order to keep ordinary working papers out of the reach of the National Archives and Records, as required by federal law. When the archives demanded access to these papers, Cheney actually tried to abolish the agency for daring to demand access to his documents! (UK Independent)

Nor does he seem to consider himself accountable to the American electorate. In June 2007, he told Fox News, “We didn't get elected to be popular. We didn't get elected to worry about the fate of the Republican Party.” This might understandably lead one to wonder why they did seek election was it in fact to take over the world (or the strategically interesting or oil-producing bits of it) by whatever means necessary, as many believe? For those who consider this to be a paranoid question, it might be worth reading the blueprint document that lays out the hard-line neo-conservative objectives promoting global American hegemony entitled “Project for the New American Century”…

With an increasingly isolated President Bush serving out his term accompanied by a Vice-President who appears grimly determined to achieve as many of his “dark side” objectives as possible in the remaining time left to this administration, both its essential policy objectives and its preferred tactics remain unchanged. But then, why change a recipe of “lies, more lies, and damned lies” that has worked so effectively for so long, simply because a few heads have had to roll in the process? After all, to give just one example, before the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney fostered claims of the fictional links between Al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein's Iraq so effectively that at one point, polls indicated that two-thirds of Americans believed that the Iraqi dictator was implicated in the attacks on 11 September (UK Independent)!

Hardened cynics might argue that people get the government that they deserve. Sadly, not only do I believe that this is not necessarily true (as those of us in this part of the world are all too aware!), that fact remains that the rest of the world the slaves of the American Empire, as identified by Arundhati Roy neither deserved nor had any say in choosing this particular set of rulers…


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