We’ve Been Warned
The state of our union:
perpetual war

The State of the Union was, in many ways, a reiteration of the president’s second inaugural address: the look on that chimpy little face as he repeated “the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world” was at once self-satisfied and defiant, as if he were telling Peggy Noonan, Mark Helprin, and all the other conservative skeptics to stuff it. Laced with explicit threats, pumped up with hubris, shameless in its exploitation of the American war dead, this speech was a warning to us all – get ready for more wars, more death, more neocon lies in the service of a foreign policy founded on madness.

“Our third responsibility to future generations is to leave them an America that is safe from danger, and protected by peace. We will pass along to our children all the freedoms we enjoy – and chief among them is freedom from fear.”

Fear has been this administration’s leitmotif, its stock-in-trade, its signature theme. Remember this gem from Dick Cheney?:

“It’s absolutely essential …on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”

If you don’t elect us, you’re going to get nuked: what could be clearer? There won’t be any freedom from fear as long as this crew of ghouls is in the White House. The foreign policy part of the president’s speech was permeated with the fear his policies have done nothing to allay, and everything to exacerbate:

“In the three and a half years since September 11th, 2001, we have taken unprecedented actions to protect Americans. We have created a new department of government to defend our homeland, focused the FBI on preventing terrorism, begun to reform our intelligence agencies, broken up terror cells across the country, expanded research on defenses against biological and chemical attack, improved border security, and trained more than a half million first responders. Police and firefighters, air marshals, researchers, and so many others are working every day to make our homeland safer, and we thank them all.”

Is the creation of yet another government agency really “unprecedented”? Hyperbole comes naturally to this hopped-up White House, drunk as it is on self-regard instead of alcohol. We haven’t reformed our intelligence agencies: instead, we’ve purged them of every honest analyst. If you resisted the neocons and debunked the phony intelligence they planted in collusion with Ahmed Chalabi that falsely pointed to nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, then you’re outta there.

(Oh, but I forgot: in Washington these days, when you say you’re going to “reform” this or that agency or institution, it means you’re going to kick out all contrarians and eliminate any independent voices in the government. The vow to “reform,” in today’s parlance, is equivalent to what the Stalinists meant when they used to refer to “the liquidation of the kulaks.”)

As for all those terror cells “across the country” that we’ve supposedly “broken up” – what’s been broken up is the Constitution, and that’s about it. What was the White House thinking when it put out a claim so easily disproved? The record – the legal record – tells the whole story. As Salon’s David Cole wrote when John Ashcroft threw in the towel:

“Of the more than 5,000 foreign nationals detained in anti-terrorism measures, not a single one stands convicted of any terrorist offense. … Nor did he find a single terrorist among the 80,000 Arabs and Muslims called in for registration, or the 8,000 sought out for FBI interviews. … He also claims that his terrorism investigations led to 368 criminal indictments and 194 convictions. What he doesn’t say is that all but a handful of the convictions were for petty offenses, not terrorism charges. A Syracuse University study found that the median sentence actually handed down in cases labeled ‘terrorist’ by the Justice Department in the first two years after 9/11 was 14 days – not the kind of sentence you’d expect for a terrorist.

“And where are the al-Qaeda sleeper cells that prompted the aggressive sweeps in the first place? The closest thing Ashcroft can point to are six young men from Lackawanna, N.Y., who followed a charismatic religious leader to an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, but returned to the United States showing no interest in terrorism and undertook no activity whatsoever in furtherance of even a petty crime, much less a terrorist plot.

“The only criminal conviction involving an actual terrorist incident that Ashcroft can cite is that of shoe bomber Richard Reid, and he was captured not by anything the government did but simply because an alert flight attendant noticed a strange-looking man trying to light his shoe.”

We captured the Shoe-na-bomber – a half-retarded lone nut – and that is it: after the expenditure of how many billions of taxpayer dollars on “anti-terrorist” programs? And George W. Bush is boasting about it. That’s what the American people have got to find galling: their president brags about nonachievements while the author of 9/11 taunts us from his cave.

What the president does in his speech isn’t really lying: it’s what Orwell called “doublespeak” – a corruption of language that inverts the true meaning of words and allows the speaker to create his own reality. That’s how our Glorious Leader can bring himself to utter the following nontruths:

“Our nation, working with allies and friends, has also confronted the enemy abroad, with measures that are determined, successful, and continuing. The al-Qaeda terror network that attacked our country still has leaders – but many of its top commanders have been removed.”

Here Bush takes credit for Pakistan’s tenacious and relatively successful effort to capture important al-Qaeda operatives, another easily checkable fib. But such is this administration’s contempt for the American people that the White House could care less about getting caught in an obvious lie: they really believe we’re that easily fooled.

“There are still governments that sponsor and harbor terrorists – but their number has declined.”

State terrorism doesn’t count, and that lets the U.S. government off the hook. But is the president’s statement true even on its own terms? Hardly. Leaving aside Seymour Hersh‘s exposure of the Pentagon’s secret program to recruit for and engage in terrorist activities – in the name of combating terrorism – there is our sheltering of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK). This neo-Marxist cult was formerly sponsored and succored by Saddam: MEK helped him crush a Shi’ite rebellion, and they were a weapon in Iraq’s arsenal in the long war against Iran and are officially deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State, on account of the murder of several American citizens and Iranians. Isn’t it odd, however, that they enjoy the hospitality of the American occupiers, who have kept the well-funded group intact and ensconced at their compound, Camp Ashraf [.pdf]? If we aren’t already using them against the Iranians, then surely Bush’s singling out of Iran as a candidate for regime change will elevate the Rajavi nut-cult to Chalabi-esque status.

I won’t plough through this miasma of deception in its entirety – most of it self-deception on the part of our president and his non-reality-based advisors – at the risk of losing my audience and what’s left of my sanity after years of having to listen to and comment on this sort of nonsense.

I would note, however, that there is a new, aggressively ideological tone to the president’s remarks, in the sense that the State of the Union address turned out to be a continuation of his inaugural speech, even unto the repetition of a certain key phrase:

“In the long term, the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder. If whole regions of the world remain in despair and grow in hatred, they will be the recruiting grounds for terror, and that terror will stalk America and other free nations for decades. The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom. Our enemies know this, and that is why the terrorist Zarqawi recently declared war on what he called the ‘evil principle’ of democracy. And we have declared our own intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

The main condition that feeds radicalism and breeds an ideology of murder is American foreign policy, and, most immediately, the U.S. military presence in Iraq. A war of choice that never served our own interests has done more to swell the ranks of Osama bin Laden’s Middle East fan club than any single factor. This administration was lying when it told the American people that Saddam Hussein was sheltering and collaborating with the human monsters responsible for 9/11: but their actions have created what never existed before – a cell of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists operating in Iraq, now engaged in target practice on our soldiers.

But what about Bush’s social engineering project, launched on the premise that “in the long term” we have to democratize the entire region? While our brainless Republican congressional “conservatives” cheered mindlessly, Jim Pinkerton rooted out the leftist origins – and consequences – of this transformative impulse:

“George W. Bush and Tony Blair are out to change the world. If they have their way, the future will be more democratic but also more big-spending statist – including, inevitably, here in the US. The president has announced that his ultimate goal is ‘ending tyranny’ around the world. But the prime minister, reflecting his own leftist views, insists that the world’s peoples can’t be truly free unless they also enjoy material minimums. So the emerging division of labor between the two leaders becomes clear: Bush will be in charge of the tough talk and the tough action – nailing not only Saddam Hussein, but also, hopefully, other nogoodniks, including Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And for his part, Blair will back up Bush on foreign policy, even as he, Blair, prods Bush to spend more and regulate more – a lot more. Blair hopes that this Anglo-American alliance will put an end to poverty in Africa, as well as global warming. But it’s more likely that political effects aside, this joint crusade for ‘planet change’ will prove to be an economically disastrous global boondoggle.”

It is an application of a popular ideological bromide – “globalization” – to the neocons’ war-crazed dogma of “democracy” imposed by force. Oh, but our president denies it:

“The United States has no right, no desire, and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else. That is one of the main differences between us and our enemies. They seek to impose and expand an empire of oppression, in which a tiny group of brutal, self-appointed rulers control every aspect of every life. Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace.”

More doublespeak. What about the “interim constitution” imposed by force of arms on Iraq? It was never approved by an elected assembly of Iraqis, yet it has the force of law. And what sort of law have we imposed? A weird, Bizarro World version of the American system, in which the National Assembly cannot act without a two-thirds majority, and where the prime minister is elected by an arcane, complicated process that is very far removed from a recognizably “democratic” procedure.

The most telling part of the speech was when Bush took credit for the “landmark” elections in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Ukraine – and pledged that “in the coming years we will add to that story.” So much for all those cheerleaders for the “orange revolution” who indignantly protested when I and a few others, like John Laughland, pointed out that the Ukrainian template had “made in Washington” stamped all over it. How dare I impugn the integrity of the Ukrainians, they yelped, who don’t need American guidance (or tax dollars) to bring about regime-change in their own country. Well, here is the president taking credit for it – and promising more. What else do we need to know?

In the case of the Palestinian elections, however, I have to give this president – or somebody in his administration – credit. This is a step forward, as well as being the exception that proves the rule. Here is where the neocons have lost out, big-time, and only the gods know how Bush pushed this on the Israelis: bribery? Blackmail? Or perhaps even sterner methods

Let us count the levels of hypocrisy in the following:

“The United States will work with our friends in the region to fight the common threat of terror, while we encourage a higher standard of freedom. Hopeful reform is already taking hold in an arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain. The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.”

What, exactly, does “reform” amount to in Morocco? Jordan locks up dissidents who dare to criticize the United States. Bahrain is an absolute monarchy with an atrocious human rights record. As for the government of Saudi Arabia – let’s not even go there. The great nation of Egypt has nothing to be “proud” about when it comes to democracy and human rights: the only way Hosni Mubarak manages to stay in power is by employing the talents of his secret police, who relentlessly track down any and all opposition. These states get a nearly free pass, because they cooperate with the U.S. But others are held to a different standard:

“To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act – and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom.”

It isn’t enough that Syria has provided vital intelligence to the Americans in the fight to hunt down and destroy al-Qaeda: its support to Hezbollah and other Palestinian factions is enough to ensure that it is in America’s sights – in my view, probably Bush’s next target – in our highly selective crusade to transform the Middle East into a “democratic” utopia. Only countries that either border or pose a potential threat to Israel seem to qualify, including Iran:

“Today, Iran remains the world’s primary state sponsor of terror – pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium re-processing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.”

I have news for the president: Iranian students may wear blue jeans and think Western music is the bomb – but that doesn’t mean they don’t want Iran to have The Bomb. Iran’s right to pursue the nuclear power option, and provide some kind of nuclear deterrent against Israeli nukes, is a matter of national pride that transcends the generational and political divide. No “democratic” alternative to the mullahs is going to make any headway if its main platform plank is disarmament in the face of Western aggression and Israeli provocations.

The president is right that our crazed policy of transformation through coercion is being “tested” in Iraq – and it is so far a spectacular failure. The elections will only underscore that failure, as a full-scale religious-ethnic civil war breaks out. Bush avers that his war of “liberation” will “inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran,” but all it’s inspiring is revulsion throughout the region – emboldening our enemies, and providing them with plenty of targets. It is a lie that this war will “lift a terrible threat from the lives of our children and grandchildren.” It is taking the lives of our children, and those of the Iraqis, even as it threatens to cast its long shadow over the world in which our grandchildren must live, mortgaging their future and driving our nation into moral and material bankruptcy.

It’s nonsense to believe that Bush is preparing to gradually vacate Iraq, as he claims. To him, all timetables for withdrawal are “artificial,” as he puts it, because the only “natural” thing to do is to spread his Jacobin “revolution” westward into Syria, eastward into Iran, and beyond. U.S. troops will leave Baghdad only when they set out on the road to Damascus.

This president loves to cite the most statist president in American history, and he doesn’t fail us this time:

“As Franklin Roosevelt once reminded Americans, ‘each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth.'”

The dream that is dying is that of our forefathers, who thought they were creating a republic, and warned against the temptations of empire. It isn’t a dream but a nightmare that is coming to birth: one that is an affliction to us and a threat to the rest of the world.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].