On Thursday, January 20, 2005, George W. Bush swore to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” by placing his left hand on a family Bible. He became the first president reelected with his party increasing its hold over both the Senate and the Congress since FDR’s first reelection in 1936. Yet his approval rating stands lower than any reelected president in modern times.
The presidential inauguration captured the mood of a nation – sharply divided between red and blue states, and that of the capital – wary of terrorism. Nearly 13,000 soldiers and cops cordoned off hundred square blocks of downtown Washington D.C. as sharpshooters stood on rooftops, bomb-sniffing dogs checked cars, and helicopter and fighter jets patrolled the sky. Along the parade route demonstrators unfurled antiwar banners bearing signs like “Guilty of War Crimes -” Impeach Bush.”
President Bush began the day with his parents in the White House where he read from the Bible. Then he went to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a 9 a.m. prayer service. For the swearing-in ceremony, he arrived at the White House in an armored limousine, surrounded by dozens of Secret Service agents.
The inauguration speech is an important matter for all presidents: they like to be remembered for what they spoke about and not for how successful they were to put their vision into practice. This year’s inauguration came at a time, when America is at war on terror – with unprecedented lack of credibility around the world. Like many citizens of this planet, I was curious to learn President Bush’s priorities for the next four years. Would they be any different or the same old stuff?
In his speech, Bush, with his penchant for arrogant and hypocritical rhetoric, outlined a philosophy that combined loftiness of goal with a concomitant ambiguity in execution. He declared, “it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” One should not forget that it was his administration that collaborated with tyrannical and not-so-democratic regimes in Russia, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, China and Israel. Is Bush willing to undertake a global crusade to implement his vision vis-Ã -vis a variety of states with which America has diplomatic relationship?
Bush said, “We will clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. -¦ We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require decent treatment of their own people. -¦ All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” I’m not sure if I could take Bush seriously when I reflect upon the fact that there is hardly a system in the 21st century that is more oppressive than the current Zionist regime when it comes to treatment of the ‘other’ people. Israel has been the last practitioner of apartheid-like policies in our planet treating her Palestinian population worse than what the apartheid regime (that once ruled South Africa) did to her Black South African majority. Will Bush stand with the Palestinian David against the Israeli Goliath?
For the past 57 years, the Palestinian people have been waiting and literally bleeding for an independent Palestinian state, where they could live as a free people. Bush’s administration, on the other hand, has been the loudest cheerleader for Sharon’s marauding actions. Bush didn’t talk to Arafat, in spite of the latter being an elected leader in a free election, something that is a rarity in many Arab states. Now that Abu Mazen (Abbas) – the person Bush wanted to win – has been elected in another free election, how serious is he about an independent Palestine within the pre-1967 border? Assuming that he is sincere, how much leverage does Bush have with the Christian Zionists within his own party, let alone the neocon advisers at the White House and the Pentagon, to make that happen? Well, Palestine may be a tough litmus test for Bush to pass.
How about other territories? Will Bush be willing to push for independence of Tibet, Sinkiang (East Turkmenistan), Chechnya, Kosovo, Mindanao, Rohingya, Kashmir, Nagaland, Khalistan and Kurdistan, just to name a few aspiring candidates? Will he penalize China, Russia, Serbia, Philippines, Myanmar, India, Israel, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey for their tyranny against minorities? The Moro Muslims have been waiting since 1521; the Chechens since 1860; the Kosovar Albanians since 1918; the Kashmiris since 1947; the Rohingyas since 1948; the Uighurs since 1949; and the Tibetans since 1951. No cluster bombs or artillery fires have deterred these brave, freedom-loving people from their resolve to live as free citizens of this planet. How much more sacrifice do these people have to make before our world recognizes their right to live as free nations, the same recognition which was not denied to the people of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia? What is the basis for a nation’s claim to independence? Must a people wander in the wilderness for two millennia and suffer repeated persecution, humiliation and genocide to qualify? Would Bush take that historical initiative to make a difference in their lives?
My guess for Bush’s answer to all these questions on national liberation movements (except probably for Palestine minus Jerusalem and West Bank settlements) is: NO. Those utterances are empty words and nothing more. That is why, as I write this essay, the United States has once again agreed to back President Gloria Arroyo in the fight against breakaway Muslim militant groups in the southern Philippines.
Bush said, “And our country must abandon all the habits of racism.” Such preaching words sound good. But the reality of what is being practiced within the USA is quite different. It was not too long ago that his Homeland Security department racially/ethnically profiled many Muslim Americans while they were returning from Toronto.
Bush declared, “America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.” If Bush’s declaration is a change of heart, it is welcome news. But I am skeptical. It was not too long ago that his administration tried to dictate the form of government for the Iraqis and the Iranians. What is the guarantee that Bush won’t intervene again if the Iraqis opt for an Islamocracy in the January 30 election?  Will his forces leave Iraq, if asked to by the newly elected parliament?
If I have learned anything about decoding political statements, I must say that I am not too enthused with Bush’s message. The next four years will not be any better than the last four years. What Bush truly means by freedom is not national liberation, but personal freedom, something that his own administration has been guilty of trying to limit within America (through Patriot Act and whole bunch of other measures). (Even during his inauguration, security personnel dragged away several peaceful protesters.) By democratic movement or institutions, he means something that is acceptable unto his administration, not what the people in Iraq or Iran would like or choose. He will not do anything for stopping tyranny or oppression against minority communities around the world. As a Christian-Zionist, his venue will be focused around the Middle East. There, for cheap oil and Israel, he will try to cement American hegemony from Pakistan all the way west to Lebanon. Iran and Syria are two nations that are in his immediate radar screen. (On the same day of inauguration, Vice President Dick Cheney threatened Iran by encouraging Israel to attack.) With Condoleeza Rice, as the new Secretary of State, he will push for destabilizing these regimes. All these are disturbing signs in an already volatile region. His administration’s overt and clandestine actions will only destabilize the entire region, bringing more harm to its populace. However, Iran is neither Iraq nor Afghanistan, something that he ought to ruminate before embarking on a foolish and possibly illegal adventure.
The world is quite different today than it was a mere four years ago when Bush was first sworn in. With the birth of Arab satellite televisions -” al Arabiya and al Jazeera, and CNN and BBC news programs around the globe, America cannot hide its crimes against humanity any more. Nor can she afford to be viewed either as an empire or as being controlled from Jerusalem. Until America accepts the reality of the world, the way it is, and admits to its mistakes, she, sadly, will continue to send troops to kill and/or be killed, and will commit actions that will be perceived as criminal.
I wish Bush had learned from his mistakes not to repeat them. But from his appointments of people like Rice and Gonzales, I am not sure if he has learned anything positive. Truly, with his neocon advisers who seem to be living in a fact-free environment, there are ample reasons to be concerned about global politics.
Vision requires a deep-seated belief that is backed up by short-term tactics and long-term strategy, with a full assessment of capabilities, and cooperation from affected parties. However, a deep-seated belief in itself is not sufficient. Bush has neither the higher moral ground nor the needed capability to implement his vision. The speech only unmasks the hypocrisy that has become the hallmark of his administration. As a sermon, the speech was nice, but it was vacuous and vague in its content.
. See: http://www.seeingred.com/Copy/2.3_milt_kosovo_inde.html
. See “US to back crackdown on Philippine Muslim separatists” (Agence France Presse, Jan. 24, 2005) – http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20050124/wl_asia_afp/philippinesusmuslim
. For an explanation on Islamocracy, see Prof. Ali Mazrui’s lecture: Islamocracy: In Search of a Muslim Path to Democracy, http://www.islam-democracy.org/4th_Annual_Conference-Mazrui_address.asp