“War on Terrorism” Update:
Bush Administration Causes Damage on Many Fronts
The Bush administration’s alleged “War on Terrorism” is a continual distraction from damage done to collective life on every front. Every day it seems there is something new. Latest to emerge are examples from the fields of health and equal rights.
January 21, 2003 was the thirtieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s legalized abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, and a reminder that the administration has continued its inroads on this right to choice, not only at home but everywhere, by denying health aid to other countries whenever such aid would include abortion. Every year more women die worldwide because safe abortion was unavailable to them than all who died in the World Trade Center, or in the US’s revenge war against Afghanistan. George W. Bush would like to criminalize abortion in the United States, and has already seriously undermined abortion’s availability both here and abroad. In another action that has cost many lives, the Bush administration until recently drastically cut back US contributions to the international battle against AIDS. (Like so many of his programs, Bush’s recent promise of increased international AIDS funding is likely to mask an ultra-conservative agenda.)
In addition the administration has recently been taking steps to further weaken affirmative action by opposing the University of Michigan’s admissions policies, and the corporate media has followed suit by taking up the now familiar refrain, “Is affirmative action still necessary?” Conservatives seem to remain forever blind to the real meaning of a “level playing field” in education and jobs for disadvantaged groups, and particularly for African Americans. The irony of this is well known. The President himself lacked the grades to get into Yale, but was given preference because of his father’s alumni status. Like his close staff members, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, George W. Bush is a beneficiary of affirmative action.
An essential element of Bush policies is continually distracting public attention from one questionable action by shifting each subsequent day’s focus to another. The media’s short memory aids in this. So multi-faceted are the areas of damage that it is hard for any one person to keep track of them. But let’s attempt a general list.
First and foremost is the threat to world peace. Bush is responsible for continual international threats and provocations; for conducting war against Afghanistan, bombing Iraq, and threatening war there. This involves an assault on international laws that forbid “wars of aggression,”, which the war on Afghanistan was and the war on Iraq will be if it too fails to receive UN sanction. Disregard for the UN and international law is the most dangerous aspect of Bush’s foreign policy, and is just what he accuses Saddam Hussein of the use of torture on prisoners of war who are held indefinitely cut off from communication at Guantanamo and elsewhere is a war crime and a grave danger to US moral credibility in the world, as well as to the safety of US soldiers: if we do not follow the Geneva Convention, who will? The administration’s actions have not reduced the threat of terrorism, if any hostile actions could do so. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech and the follow-ups have undermined international stability. Nothing has been done by the US to alter the unjust conditions that may have led men to support Al-Qa’ida’s nefarious projects. (For the blunt truth about Bush’s war plans and what’s going on in the Middle East, it’s still best to review Robert Fisk’s latest articles. There is certainly no justification for Bush’s Iraq war plans to be found in the evidence that North Korea is closer to nuclear production with Pakistani help. Ironically it’s US anti-terrorism ally Pakistan that most threatens international security by aiding nuclear proliferation. Israel remains the US’s major aid recipient and yet it is an enormous source of regional suffering and unrest.
At home the “War on Terrorism” has meant severe damage to civil rights. The US Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Agency and Operation T.I.P.S. are the three major ways in which Attorney General Ashcroft and the Bush administration are successfully undermining the US Constitution and encouraging racism, indifference to immigrant rights, and spying on our neighbors. Racist policies against Middle Easterners and Muslims continue to be stepped up. The latest such actions are the FBI directives to all local bureaus to follow a regional quota system and make lists of mosques in seeking out profiled people and “terrorists.” The State of the Union address promises a new intelligence umbrella agency headed by the CIA called the “Terrorist Threat Integration Center” that would threaten to bring CIA dirty tricks home to us and bring us closer to a police state.
Administration policies have adversely affected an already declining economy. The US government went from surplus to deficit in a single year under George W. Bush. Instead of a stimulus to the economy such as the creation of new jobs, he will provide only additional tax cuts that are only significant for the wealthy. There may be those who sincerely believe that such tax cuts stimulate the economy, but all you can be really sure of is that they will drain billions of dollars from public funds. Thus they will worsen the conditions of the already suffering poor and unemployed. And by leaving strapped local governments high and dry and causing more problems for schools, libraries, mass transportation, and so on, they will make things harder for people in general. Eventually, if not now, such cuts will definitely help to further enrich the already very rich and increase the disparity between rich and poor that has grown enormously in the US over recent years. Bush’s Treasury Secretary and his chief economic advisor both resigned last month, obviously due to differences over how to set things right. Secretary O’Neill did not approve of Bush’s stimulus package.
Unemployment is at a nine-year high; the deficit grows; prospects for the US economy are not good. There will not be much federal money available in 2003 for anything new outside of domestic security and the military. The fake stimulus package, typically, is only a distraction from this truth.
Social services are continually being undermined. Waging war itself undermines social services by diverting available funds, but it is a Bush administration policy to cut services, as shown by such gestures as allowing unemployment benefits to lapse and forcing welfare mothers to work at no-future jobs without child care. If local governments are already being left high and dry, a war-drained economy will leave them higher and drier.
Efforts to improve world health have suffered a serious setback. As mentioned, the Bush administration has exacerbated the AIDS pandemic by drastically cutting US contributions to the international fight against the disease. Conservative policies against abortion and against genetic research are other examples. Maintaining and increasing biological warfare supplies and dangerous small pox vaccination are other threats to national and world health. We can only guess how many civilians will die in Iraq if Bush initiates an all-out war there. If bombs don’t kill them, disease and dysentery will.
The Bush administration is waging continual war on the environment at home and abroad. Modern warfare is itself an ecological disaster, as the Gulf War conducted by Bush Senior dramatically demonstrated. But the current administration has also made it a policy to boycott or walk out on international environmental conferences; deny global warming; encourage increased acts that plunder national parks and other public lands such as clear-cutting virgin forests; side with the snowmobile and off-road vehicle industries; promote offshore and onshore oil drilling; gut the clean air act and clean water acts; and block the development of safe energy sources. When you get down to basics, the Bush administration is all about oil, and such a priority is disastrous for ecology worldwide.
Bush’s State of the Union Address was forcefully delivered but offered little that was new. The President all but declared war against Iraq, but provided no further hard evidence to justify it. The world would welcome such proof. If it exists, why is the administration holding it back for later? International reaction to the address was mostly unfavorable. People in the Middle East see Bush’s Iraq adventure as a dangerous distraction to any real war on terrorism as well as a source of more instability in the region.
Those few items that were new in Bush’s speech are spin-doctoring and promise more than they deliver. The belated prospect of more international AIDS money from the wealthiest nation is welcome—though it may not be as great as it sounds. At $15 billion over five years, it’s less than the annual US aid to Israel, and Bush’s link with the ultra right’s anti-contraception views may render it ineffective. The “faith-based” initiatives for health will lead to downgrading medical care for the poor behind the mask of “compassion.” Providing further funding for projects to develop a gas-free automobile is more spin-doctoring. The project already existed. Adding a new name to it allowed Bush to show it off to counter the administration’s oil-obsessed image. It will have little other effect in the short run. Iraq’s huge oil reserves will still look pretty appetizing to the world’s biggest oil consuming nation.
Recent events make clear that George W. Bush wants to go ahead with an Iraq war whatever the UN inspectors or anybody else says. They also show that the corporate media in America and Britain are ready to ride along with him.
Fear is a justification of war and war generates yet more fear. Bush is a fear-monger. His State of the Union address was designed to increase our fear and justify a war that many do not want. The entire Bush administration program is fear-based, and is a plan for empire, not for growth.
If the President and his ultra conservative cronies get this war, damage in other areas will be stepped up, but the public will be further distracted from the setbacks in civil rights, social services, the economy, health, and the environment. People will further lose their grasp on all the possibilities such a rich and powerful country as the United States could achieve if only it turned its aims in a positive direction.
For Bush, that’s just fine. For the rest of us, it’s a disaster.
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This story was published on February 10, 2003.