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
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
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
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.