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USA - An analysis - Where is the Bush administration taking the

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World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org
WSWS : News & Analysis : North America

Where is the Bush administration taking the American people?

By the WSWS Editorial Board
22 September 2001

One unmistakable message emerged from the speech delivered by President
George W. Bush to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night: the
United States is being propelled onto a course of global violence and
domestic repression unprecedented in the nation's history.

In the name of a "war against terrorism," the Bush administration is
demanding and being granted unspecified and unlimited powers to employ
military force all over the world.

The siege-like setting for Bush's speech with the Capitol ringed by
troops and the sound of military helicopters seeping into the chamber
was in keeping with the administration's posture since the terrorist
attacks on New York and Washington. The government has gone out of its
way, not to reassure the American people, but rather to create an
atmosphere of panic. It is encouraging a mood of hysteria combined with
flag-waving chauvinism in order to stampede the public into accepting
not only the unrestrained use of American military power, but also a
far-reaching attack on basic democratic rights within the United States

Hence the absence of Vice President Cheney and the announcement that he
had been taken to an undisclosed secure venue. The administration wants
the American people to
believe that the immense power of the US military could not guarantee
the safety of government leaders in the Capitol building. If Bush and
company really believe this
preposterous idea, then it must be said they have completely lost their
heads. The more likely explanation is that they want to fortify their
incessant claim that America is at war, and accustom the population to
war-time measures and a government that carries out its major functions
behind the backs of the public.

In his speech Bush employed apocalyptic terms to convince the American
people that they must acquiesce in a global war of indefinite duration,
against a host of as yet unnamed enemies, with no limit on the death and

destruction to be meted out to people outside the US, or the toll in
body bags containing the remains of American soldiers.

"Our response," he declared, "involves far more than instant retaliation

and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a
lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen." It would not be a
short and decisive war against a single country, as in Iraq, he
continued, or an air war with no US casualties, as in Yugoslavia. He
called his war for the "defeat of the global terror network" a
"task that does not end." Pointedly refusing to rule out the use of
nuclear weapons, he added, "We will direct every resource at our
command...and every necessary weapon of war."

Laying down a rationale to attack any nation deemed now or in the future

to be an obstacle to the global ambitions of the United States, Bush
declared, "Every nation in every region now has a decision to make:
Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Any nation that

refuses to obey Washington's dictates "will be regarded by the United
States as a hostile regime."

At the heart of the scenario presented by Bush was an anomaly that he
made no attempt to explain. On the one hand he described the enemy as a
"fringe" element of Islamic
fundamentalists, amounting to some "thousands" of terrorists spread out
among 60 countries. Yet this relative handful of loosely connected
terrorist groups posed a dire and direct threat to America and the
entire "civilized world" of such dimensions that only the most massive
and sustained use of military force would suffice to defeat it.

The immediate purpose of Bush's speech was to take the country into war
against Afghanistan. Bush listed a set of demands he knew would mean
political suicide for the Taliban regime, and which they could not meet
even if they wanted to. He demanded that the Taliban deliver into
American hands "all the leaders" of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network,
that they immediately close every al-Qaida installation, and
that they give the US "full access to terrorist training camps."

In effect, the Bush administration is demanding that the Taliban regime
accede to the transformation of Afghanistan into a military protectorate

of the United States. This
ultimatum, Bush declared, is "not open to negotiation or discussion." If

the leaders of the regime do not surrender to US demands, Bush warned,
they will share the terrorists' fate, i.e., they will be killed.

There was no formal demand for Osama bin Laden's extradition. Indeed,
there is no convention under international law for what Bush demanded.
Washington's demands have been formulated to provide a pretext for a war

that had already been decided upon.

Bush charged bin Laden and his Taliban protectors with direct
responsibility for the September 11 atrocities. These are, without
question, reactionary forces who may very well have played a role, but
Bush provided no evidence to back up his indictment. Even the Wall
Street Journal, whose editorial pages have been clamoring for war
not only against Afghanistan, but also against Iraq, acknowledged in a
news article on September 19 that US officials have been unable to
assemble sufficient evidence
to prove their case against bin Laden.

"But by 21st-century Western standards of law and international
relations,"the Journal wrote, "how much actual evidence do investigators

have of Mr. bin Laden's
involvement? The answer so far based on what can be gleaned from public
statements and US officials willing to discuss the matter is not

Bush further sought to justify war on Afghanistan by pointing to the
repressive and totalitarian character of the Taliban regime. But the
Taliban regime is the direct product of earlier American policies, and
its dictatorial methods of rule and religious intolerance are not all
that different from the United States' closest allies in the Middle
East, such as the oil sheikdoms in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other
Persian Gulf states.

As the Bush administration embarks upon war, it is giving little thought

to the far-reaching and even incalculable consequences of its actions.
Intervening in the most unstable region in the world, where a host of
great powers vie for control of strategic resources and geo-political
influence amidst the unspeakable poverty of hundreds of millions of
people, the United States is embarked upon a course of action whose
outcome may prove catastrophic for the entire planet.

It is worthwhile to compare the methods of the Bush administration to
those employed by Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis. That was
certainly one of the greatest
confrontations of the Cold War, in which the US government faced, from
its standpoint, a clear military threat. At that time the American
government went to the United Nations and presented detailed evidence
with documents and photographs to make its case. It proceeded, moreover,

with a degree of caution that stands in glaring contrast to the actions
of the Bush administration.

Today the US government makes the most sweeping claims, but presents no
evidence, either to the world or to the American public, to back them
up. The historical comparison demonstrates that the actions of the US
government today are determined less by the magnitude of the threat than

by the magnitude of the opportunities it perceives for turning a
disaster into a pretext for implementing a far-reaching, but
unstated, military, political and economic agenda.

This is confirmed by a New York Times report on a split within the Bush
administration between those, led by Secretary of State Colin Powell,
who want to proceed with a modicum of caution for fear of destabilizing
the Middle East and other vast regions of the world, and those, led by
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who see the September 11
tragedy as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to
overthrow the regime in Iraq and establish a whole series of puppet
governments. The aim of this faction is to implement, in rapid order,
plans long on the drawing boards for tightening America's grip on the
oil-rich Persian Gulf and Caspian basin and extending America's military

presence across the Eurasian continent.

In his speech, Bush provided no explanation of the political and
historical background to the September 11 disaster. With the complicity
of the media, the administration is seeking to bury the fact that those
whom it has singled out as the
perpetrators of the terrorist atrocity were trained and financed by the
United States. The Islamic fundamentalists excoriated by Bush, including

bin Laden, got their start as CIA "assets" in Washington's covert
campaign to oust Soviet-backed regimes in Afghanistan in the 1980s an
operation that was carried out while Bush the elder, formerly the CIA
director, held the post of vice president under Ronald Reagan.

Only a few years ago the US tacitly endorsed the accession to power of
its old Taliban allies. The Taliban thus become the latest in a long
line of one-time American allies who ran afoul of the US and found
themselves being denounced as
warlords and modern-day Hitlers and targeted for destruction, a list
that includes Manuel Noriega of Panama, Farrah Aidid of Somalia, Saddam
Hussein of Iraq and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia.

The media establishment is well aware of this history.
Indeed, some twenty years ago CBS news anchor Dan Rather traveled to
Afghanistan and posed for the TV cameras in Mujahaddin robes in order to

build support for the Islamic fundamentalist forces.

This history is being suppressed because it demonstrates that those who
are today leading the American people into war, with all of the
disastrous consequences it will entail, are politically implicated in
the tragedy that took the lives of thousands of Americans in New York
and Washington.

The ominous implications for democratic rights of the war drive were
underscored by Bush's announcement of a new Cabinet-level position, the
Office of Homeland Security, to coordinate all domestic intelligence and

security operations.

The operations of the CIA, previously limited by law to external
targets, will now be coordinated under a top-level federal agency with
those of the FBI and other police
agencies to wire-tap and spy on people within the US. This alone
constitutes a huge breach of civil liberties.

But it is only one part of a broader assault on democratic rights, which

includes the indefinite detention of legal aliens, deportations without
judicial review and a vast expansion of the government's powers to tap
phones and intercept electronic communications.

No section of the political establishment has questioned Bush's demand
for a blank check to wage war abroad and crack down on civil liberties
at home. At the very outset of the military crusade, both parties have
disavowed all expressions of dissent.

The Democratic Party demonstrated its abandonment of any pretext of
opposition by foregoing the traditional response of the minority party
to a presidential address to Congress.
Instead the Democratic Senate majority leader, Thomas Daschle, made a
joint appearance with Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, in which the
latter summed up the state of American politics with the remark, "There
is no opposition party."

The media, which universally lauded Bush's address, was silent on the
contradiction between the democratic rhetoric that filled the Capitol
and the de facto establishment of a one-party state. Nor did the pundits

care to point out that Bush's explanation for the terrorists' hostility
toward the United States "They hate what they see right here in this
chamber: a democratically elected government" was given
by a man who was installed in the White House by anti-democratic and
illegitimate means.

It is both ironic and menacing that the launching of a war in the name
of freedom is accompanied by the disintegration of the most elementary
principles of democracy and the dismantling of basic constitutional
safeguards. Bush's injunction, "Either you
are with us, or you are with the terrorists," is not only a formula for
waging war and toppling governments overseas, it is a rallying cry for a

McCarthyite witch-hunt against political dissent within the US.

The effective collapse of any opposition serves an additional political
function. It means there can be no examination of the staggering
security failures that made the attacks on the World Trade Center and
the Pentagon possible.

The atmosphere of fear and panic allows the government to escape any
accounting for what was, at the very least, a case of criminal
negligence, and then turn around and insist that the people's security
and well-being require that they accept the abrogation of their
democratic rights.

Bush's speech was also significant for what it lacked. Reflecting the
extremely privileged and narrow class interests he represents, Bush
called for a bail out of the airline companies at taxpayer expense, but
had nothing to say to the millions of workers, small businessmen and
retirees whose livelihoods are threatened by the collapse of the stock
market, the plunge in consumer spending and the mass layoffs that have
followed the September 11 disaster.

Neither Bush nor the Democrats are proposing any serious measures to
provide for the families of air industry employees who are being thrown
onto the street in colossal
numbers. Nor are they proposing a safety net for shop owners in New York

who have been wiped out by the destruction of an entire section of the
city. As for small investors and retirees whose life savings and
retirement nest eggs are being gutted, they can expect no help from

The terrible loss of life on September 11 was, in the final analysis, a
product of the reckless, irresponsible and reactionary international
policies pursued for decades by American governments that represent, not

the American people, but rather a financial and corporate elite. Now
this same elite is seizing on the tragic events in New York and
Washington to drag the population without democratic debate or
discussion and in an environment characterized by hysteria and political

intimidation into a "war unlike any other" that can only produce new
disasters and tragedies, both abroad and at home.

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