John le Carre – The United States of America has gone mad

February 4, 2003 at 11:32 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,
This is so well said, I won’t say anything
else.
–C




Opinion

January 15,
2003
The United States of America has gone mad
John le
Carre

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but
this
is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the
Bay
of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than
the
Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin
Laden could have
hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the
freedoms
that have made America the envy of the world are being
systematically
eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested
corporate
interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be
ringing
out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the
East
Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden
struck, but it was
he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta
would still
be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be
elected
in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of
the
already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor,
the
ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international
treaties.
They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in
its
continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

But bin Laden
conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies
are riding high.
Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are
told. The US defence budget
has been raised by another $60 billion to
around $360 billion. A splendid new
generation of nuclear weapons is in
the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy.
Quite what war 88 per cent of
Americans think they are supporting is a lot
less clear. A war for how
long, please? At what cost in American lives? At
what cost to the
American taxpayer’s pocket? At what cost – because most of
those 88 per
cent are thoroughly decent and humane people – in Iraqi
lives?

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger
from bin
Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations
conjuring
tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that
one
in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack
on
the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely
being
misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance
and
fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and
his
fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

Those who are
not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are with
the enemy. Which is
odd, because I’m dead against Bush, but I would
love to see Saddam’s downfall
- just not on Bush’s terms and not by his
methods. And not under the banner
of such outrageous hypocrisy.

The religious cant that will send American
troops into battle is
perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal
war-to-be. Bush has
an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political
opinions. God
appointed America to save the world in any way that suits
America. God
appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern
policy,
and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic,
b)
anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.

God also has
pretty scary connections. In America, where all men are
equal in His sight,
if not in one another’s, the Bush family numbers
one President, one
ex-President, one ex-head of the CIA, the Governor
of Florida and the
ex-Governor of Texas.

Care for a few pointers? George W. Bush, 1978-84:
senior executive,
Arbusto Energy/Bush Exploration, an oil company; 1986-90:
senior
executive of the Harken oil company. Dick Cheney, 1995-2000:
chief
executive of the Halliburton oil company. Condoleezza Rice,
1991-2000:
senior executive with the Chevron oil company, which named an
oil
tanker after her. And so on. But none of these trifling
associations
affects the integrity of God’s work.

In 1993, while
ex-President George Bush was visiting the
ever-democratic Kingdom of Kuwait
to receive thanks for liberating
them, somebody tried to kill him. The CIA
believes that “somebody” was
Saddam. Hence Bush Jr’s cry: “That man tried to
kill my Daddy.” But
it’s still not personal, this war. It’s still necessary.
It’s still
God’s work. It’s still about bringing freedom and democracy
to
oppressed Iraqi people.

To be a member of the team you must also
believe in Absolute Good and
Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from
his friends, family
and God, is there to tell us which is which. What Bush
won’t tell us is
the truth about why we’re going to war. What is at stake is
not an Axis
of Evil – but oil, money and people’s lives. Saddam’s misfortune
is to
sit on the second biggest oilfield in the world. Bush wants it, and
who
helps him get it will receive a piece of the cake. And who
doesn’t,
won’t.

If Saddam didn’t have the oil, he could torture his
citizens to his
heart’s content. Other leaders do it every day – think Saudi
Arabia,
think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think
Egypt.

Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours,
and
none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction,
if
he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the
stuff
Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes’ notice. What is
at
stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the
economic
imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America’s need
to
demonstrate its military power to all of us – to Europe and Russia
and
China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East;
to
show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by
America
abroad.

The most charitable interpretation of Tony Blair’s
part in all this is
that he believed that, by riding the tiger, he could
steer it. He
can’t. Instead, he gave it a phoney legitimacy, and a smooth
voice. Now
I fear, the same tiger has him penned into a corner, and he can’t
get
out.

It is utterly laughable that, at a time when Blair has talked
himself
against the ropes, neither of Britain’s opposition leaders can lay
a
glove on him. But that’s Britain’s tragedy, as it is America’s: as
our
Governments spin, lie and lose their credibility, the electorate
simply
shrugs and looks the other way. Blair’s best chance of
personal
survival must be that, at the eleventh hour, world protest and
an
improbably emboldened UN will force Bush to put his gun back in
his
holster unfired. But what happens when the world’s greatest
cowboy
rides back into town without a tyrant’s head to wave at the
boys?

Blair’s worst chance is that, with or without the UN, he will drag
us
into a war that, if the will to negotiate energetically had ever
been
there, could have been avoided; a war that has been no
more
democratically debated in Britain than it has in America or at the
UN.
By doing so, Blair will have set back our relations with Europe and
the
Middle East for decades to come. He will have helped to
provoke
unforeseeable retaliation, great domestic unrest, and regional chaos
in
the Middle East. Welcome to the party of the ethical foreign
policy.

There is a middle way, but it’s a tough one: Bush dives in
without UN
approval and Blair stays on the bank. Goodbye to the
special
relationship.

I cringe when I hear my Prime Minister lend his
head prefect’s
sophistries to this colonialist adventure. His very real
anxieties
about terror are shared by all sane men. What he can’t explain is
how
he reconciles a global assault on al-Qaeda with a territorial
assault
on Iraq. We are in this war, if it takes place, to secure the fig
leaf
of our special relationship, to grab our share of the oil pot,
and
because, after all the public hand-holding in Washington and
Camp
David, Blair has to show up at the altar.

“But will we win,
Daddy?”

“Of course, child. It will all be over while you’re still in
bed.”

“Why?”

“Because otherwise Mr Bush’s voters will get terribly
impatient and may
decide not to vote for him.”

“But will people be
killed, Daddy?”

“Nobody you know, darling. Just foreign
people.”

“Can I watch it on television?”

“Only if Mr Bush says you
can.”

“And afterwards, will everything be normal again? Nobody will
do
anything horrid any more?”

“Hush child, and go to
sleep.”

Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his
local
supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: “Peace is
also
Patriotic”. It was gone by the time he’d finished
shopping.


The author has also contributed to an openDemocracy debate
on Iraq at
www.openDemocracy.net


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