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Bombing and building for a brighter tomorrow

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
February 6, 2002


"It costs a lot to fight this war. We have spent more than a billion dollars a month — over 30 million dollars a day — and we must be prepared for future operations." — George W. Bush

In the honor of complete disclosure, I must admit that I was in no mood to watch the live broadcast of President Bush's State of the Union Address. Instead I opted for a cinematic bloodbath, in which American soldiers failed in their attempt to capture a Somali warlord. Usually I'm not one for war films, but considering the choice between fact presented as fiction, and fiction presented as fact, I went to the movies. Dubya's speech could wait.

Thanks to a press not yet controlled by John Ashcroft, a transcript of the speech was waiting for me on the driveway the next morning. As always President Bush did not disappoint, neither his critics, nor his supporters . More like a war rally than a State of the Union Address, Mr. Bush served up was a heaping dose of rhetoric. Rousing propaganda to be sure, his performance had little to with America and everything to do with his war with the world.

What I liked most about the state of the union address was George being very honest about where he was taking America. Mr. Bush let us know that we would be at war for the foreseeable future because, "History has called America and our allies to action, and it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom's fight."

He also made sure to mention his definition of freedom included free markets and free trade. In his call for volunteerism and service Mr. Bush pledged to double the number of Peace Corp members while asking the Peace Corp "to join a new effort to encourage development, education, and opportunity in the Islamic world." Now that I think of it Kabul could probably use a Starbucks.

If I wanted to quibble with our commander in chief, I could point out that history is usually dictated by the one with the bigger bombs, but not exclusively. I could also point out that the history he heard calling involves American support for the corrupt monarchy currently controlling the oil beneath the Arabian Peninsula, as well as U.S. troops being stationed within striking distance of Mecca.

Although he spoke a lot about terrorist camps in Afghanistan, he failed to mention that fifteen of the September 11th bombers were from Saudi Arabia. And when he listed the Philippines, Bosnia, Somalia, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as new and future fronts in the war against terrorism, he once again forgot to mention Saudi Arabia as having any role in the growing war.

I also noticed that rhetoric can be a powerful mirror. As Mr. Bush painted a picture of "Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs — set to go off without warning." It seemed to me he was not only describing bin Laden's al Qaeda network, but the American Armed forces as well.

I had the same sense of clarity when he vowed to prevent "regimes who seek chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world." Notice how he didn't say he would prevent the creation of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Only that he would prevent other regimes from threatening the United States. Every country Bush threatens knows America has those very same weapons in magnitude.

This speech was also a shopping list for the military industrial complex. As Enron was to Bush energy policy, the war on terror is to the people building the bombs. Or to quote George himself, "My budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades... because while the price of freedom and security is high, it is never too high — whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay." I guess a war time economy is better than no economy at all.

Besides the complete lack of environmental consciousness associated with this war over fossil fuels, what irritates me the most is that this is only the beginning. George W. Bush has heard history calling, which means he's going to go looking for it, while making sure it doesn't find him at home. For a war rally, the State of the Union Address was nice, it's a shame he only skimmed the surface.

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