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The Prince: Machiavelli, the Bushes and the Reformation
October 4, 2002
By Christian Dewar

"Behind every great fortune is a crime." - Honore de Balsac

Most people have probably heard of the political philosopher, Machiavelli, and know that his name is synonymous with the cynical, amoral and deceitful manipulation of people and events to gain political power. Perhaps less people know that his book, The Prince, was written about the quest for power by the Borgias of Italy. Although patrons of the arts, the Borgias are most remembered as the family that used sinister means for acquiring and wielding power. Enemies and rivals were betrayed and murdered. Rumors of incest between the patriarch and his daughter circulated widely. It seems that one member of this family even resorted to fratricide to further his political aims. Their name became synonymous with treachery, promiscuity, decadence and depravity.

The patriarch of the family was Alexander. He was a master strategist and tactician when it came to acquiring power. Through the use of bribes and various machinations, he was appointed as a cardinal and then as Pope Alexander the Sixth. Papal infallibility notwithstanding, he was not the most pious of men. Alexander used his position to achieve more political clout. He was implicated in selling church offices to the highest bidder and other forms of cronyism. Not unlike many in the clergy today, he never let his station in the church interfere with his fondness for sex. He had children by numerous mistresses.

Alexander was able to conquer and unify the disparate collection of Italian states through wars, treaties and the marriage of his daughter to the sons of other influential families. When he married his daughter Lucrezia to her first husband, it was thought that this union kindled Alexander's jealousy and possessiveness. The Pope managed to annul the marriage. The husband was wisely concerned for his well being and fled the town, but not before circulating rumors, stories and accusations about the Borgia's plethora of sins including incest and the use of poisons to assassinate rivals. It was said that Lucrezia wore a ring in which she secreted arsenic.

With the marriage of Lucrezia to her first husband was finally annulled, Alexander was now free to marry Lucrezia to Alfonso, Duke of Bisceglie. Although an arranged marriage, the two are thought to have immediately fallen deeply in love. This marriage, too, apparently sparked her father's jealousy and he sought to dissolve that marriage, as well. Alfonso wisely fled in fear for his life. Lucrezia pleaded with her father to spare him and he was coaxed back with the Pope's assurances. One evening, he went for a stroll and was assassinated. It was widely believed that he had been killed on the orders of Lucrezia's brother, Cesare.

Alexander chose his son, Giovanni, to lead his armies in the conquest of his rivals. It is thought that Giovanni's brother, Cesare, who had been chosen to serve in the clergy, became jealous of his sibling's powerful position. One evening, after dining together, the two brothers went for a walk. The next day, fishermen pulled the mangled body of Juan from the Tiber River. Most people assumed Cesare had committed the crime.

By the time Alexander died in 1503, (the condition of his body suggesting that he may have also met his fate after being poisoned), the excesses of the Borgias had become legendary. It was to be expected that this family would have it's detractors. One monk who was appalled by their conduct made the injudicious accusation that the pope was a "monster" and an "abomination". For his lack of subtlety and political correctness, Alexander had the monk whipped, hung and set on fire. The Borgias never let the scriptures interfere with their quest for power.

Cesare fought his father's wars and eventually died in battle. It was the study of this despot that inspired Machiavelli to write his book, The Prince. The author wished to portray the nature of politics as they actually existed in the world and not as conceived in a utopian pipe dream. In this treatise he wrote, "A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good. Therefore, it is necessary for a prince who wishes to maintain himself to learn how not to be good." He concluded that is was safer to be feared than loved. He detailed the use of deceit and treachery by the Borgias as a means of acquiring power. None of the writings of Machiavelli bode well for democratic governments.

It would seem that the Borgias have nothing on the Bushes when it comes to amoral, unethical tactics to gain political power. Bush Senior managed through pure brute force to avoid indictment for crimes related to Iran-Contra. For anyone who read the book Fire Wall, by Republican Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh who investigated this sordid chapter of American history, there can be little doubt that Bush was "in the loop". Weapons were sold to Iranian terrorists and Reagan/Bush did an end run around Congress's Boland Amendment to illegally ship arms to the Contras. Profits were skimmed by insiders. The CIA's own inspector general confirmed CIA complicity in the smuggling of cocaine into the U.S. by Contra figures.

Several prominent international figures have verified accounts of the "October Surprise" which thwarted Jimmy Carter's re-election. Republican operatives, including former CIA director William Casey and George H.W. Bush, met in Europe with Iranian extremists in order to block the release of American hostages. Criminality and ethics lapses were the rule, not the exception during his tenure. The Reagan/Bush administration had almost thirty convictions for various crimes and ethical lapses. (The Clinton administration saw one conviction).

The Bush senior administration also succeeded in demonizing their former ally Saddam Hussein, and fabricated a war out of whole cloth. Officials in this administration assured Saddam that his feud with Kuwait was of no interest to them and that they would not interfere if he planned to instigate hostilities. He invaded and the rest his history.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis were massacred, including many innocent civilians. Iraqi soldiers could not surrender fast enough; some even gave themselves up to reporters. Sanctions put in place after this monumental victory killed thousands more civilians through illness and malnutrition. These sanctions did not keep Cheney's Halliburton from doing millions of dollars of business with Iraq, Iran (part of the 'axis of evil') and Libya to whom they sold pulse nuclear generators. With his war proclaimed an enormous victory, Bush hoped to ride his wave of popularity to re-election.

The Bushes armed Iraq and backed them in their murderous war with Iran. This insured that the two enemies would bloody one another, keeping them both weak. It was also lucrative for U.S. defense industries. The Bush administration was responsible for allowing the Iraqi tyrant to buy "double-use" technology which allowed him to manufacture chemical and biological weapons. Thousands of U.S. Gulf War vets suffer and die from the mysterious "Gulf War Syndrome". There is speculation that these troops were exposed to Saddam's weapons. It is more likely that these deaths and illnesses are the side effects of vaccines administered to our soldiers to protect against anthrax and other agents. Only our French allies reported no similar illnesses, most likely because they were the only ones not to receive these vaccinations. With an administration like this killing our troops, who needs Hussein?

Manuel Noriega was on the CIA's payroll long after his links to the drug trade and money laundering were known. When he became too autonomous and independent from the United States, Bush invaded Panama in order to capture him. As many as 4000 innocent civilians may have been killed by our soldiers. Bush had no qualms about cooperating with despots like Noriega and Hussein when it suited him and no reservations about betraying them when that furthered his goals. Under Bush/Reagan, our military also invaded Grenada in order to depose a some what left-of-center leader. His son also coddles dictators and tyrants in his vague, nebulous 'War on Terrorism'.

Bush Senior has had many strange bedfellows including Reverend Moon of the Unification Church. He is well known for marrying hundreds of his followers to other Moonies, most of whom were total strangers. He considers himself the Messiah. Moon has had close links to far-right juntas in Latin America. It is also widely suspected that he has had links to drug cartels. Moon has been quoted as saying, "You must realize America has become the Kingdom of Satan." He has also been quoted as saying "Americans who continue to maintain their privacy and extreme individualism are foolish people." What do Bush's fundamentalist evangelicals followers think of this? Moon once bailed out Jerry Falwell's faltering university and plans strategy with other right wing Christian groups.

Moon's paper, the Washington Times, has been a close ally of Bush. Editorials have consistently supported his administration's policies. He has given the former president lavish speaking fees and donated a million dollars to his presidential library.

Now George Bush Junior wants to repeat his father's great success in Iraq even though there have been no links established between the horrific World Trade Center attacks and Iraqi agents. Having dodged the draft during the Vietnam War along with Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Gaffney, Bennett, Ken Starr, Limbaugh (he received a deferment for anal cysts) and other chicken hawks, Bush has the opportunity to put our sons and daughters in harms way without having his objectivity tainted by exposure to the carnage and murder of war. Even republicans like Hagel snidely observe that these warmongers never served in the jungles of Vietnam, witnessing their friend's heads being blown off. The only insider in the Bush junta who has seen combat, Colin Powell, is also the only dove. We can probably expect this unprovoked onslaught to begin shortly before the elections in November. In the last Gulf War, only two children of members of Congress served there in the military. Observers do not believe that Jenna and Barbara Bush, or Cheney's daughters, or Scalia's son will enlist.

Bush Junior's "malfe-ance" at Harkin and his dubious land grab that made him rich with the Texas Rangers boondoggle have finally appeared in the main stream media thanks to Paul Krugman. Both Bush and Cheney's corporations maintained off-shore fronts to avoid taxes. Perhaps other scandals such as the SCI funeral home will now see the light of day. Maybe the corporate media will re-examine the the privatization of investments for the University of Texas which provided an immense trough for Bush supporters to graze at. The scandals rocking Wall Street such as the melt down of Enron, Adelphia, Tyco, WorldCom and others are directly related to the deregulation put into place as a result of republican administrations.

Other Bush family members resemble the Borgia family members. Dubya's grandfather, Prescott Bush collaborated with the Nazis, helped them launder their money and fronted for corporations involved in propaganda and espionage. The U.S. government confiscated many of his assets for trading with the enemy. Dutch intelligence agents leaked information that suggests Prescott benefited from slave labor.

Dubya's brother, Neil is considered the poster boy for corporate "malfe-ance," having corruptly mismanaged the Silverado Savings and Loan. The cost to American taxpayers was over a billion dollars.

Brother Jeb may now be forced to give a deposition for suspicious business activities in a scheme to sell pumps to Nigeria. Perhaps the mainstream press will now also re-examine Jeb's ties to a mob-linked confidence man who scammed the U.S. government out of millions before fleeing the country.

Jeb shares his values with his family. One son, George, was arrested for stalking a girlfriend and destroying her family's lawn by doing donuts with his SUV. Another son was discover nude in a car with a similarly unclothed young woman. Jeb's wife tried to smuggle thousands of dollars in jewelry and luxury items past U.S. Customs. Daughter Noelle was arrested for forging prescriptions for Xanax and then failed to abide by the rules of her probation, never mind that the Bush brothers have backed tough criminal penalties and prison time for even small amounts of illegal drugs. She was found recently to have cocaine in her possession at the treatment center. And then there is the matter of a stolen election in Florida. Some historians theorized that lead in the drinking water of ancient Rome resulted in the insanity of rulers such as Caligula. Perhaps there is something in the water at Kennebunkport.

If there was an upside to the egregious conduct of the Borgias it was that their excesses lead to the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther's crusade against the corruption in the church. Perhaps the pendulum has now begun to reverse course for the Bushes also. Maybe Americans will awaken to the loss of their civil rights, the destruction of the wall between government and religion, the wholesale plundering of the life savings of investors and workers by greedy CEOs, the dismantling of enviromental protections, the unilateralist approach towards our allies and other behavior that has weakened America and undermined democracy. Perhaps it is time for another Reformation. Like Martin Luther, we need someone to nail the Constitution on the door of the White House and the Department of Justice.

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