March to War
By B. Rehak
It's one of those little things Mr. Bush says that crosses
the news wires, and unless you're looking really close your
eyes might miss it, or more probably, your brain simply rejects
The folks who wind him up and send him out are depending
It's very difficult to get Mr. Bush to go on the record
about anything, and access to him by the working press is
more restricted than any leader in American history. By this
time in Bush 41's Presidency, he'd staged 61 full press conferences,
and Bill Clinton had done 33 in the same period during his
President George W. Bush, after a disputed election, the
worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, a growing economic
and employment disaster, and two unfinished wars (Afghanistan,
Iraq) has given a grand total of just nine.
In that ninth press conference on Wednesday, July 30, Mr.
Bush engaged in the following exchange with a reporter, as
recounted in the official White House transcript:
Q: "Thank you, sir. Since taking office you signed into
law three major tax cuts - two of which have had plenty of
time to take effect, the third of which, as you pointed out
earlier, is taking effect now. Yet, the unemployment rate
has continued rising. We now have more evidence of a massive
budget deficit that taxpayers are going to be paying off for
years or decades to come; the economy continues to shed jobs.
What evidence can you point to that tax cuts, at least of
the variety that you have supported, are really working to
help this economy? And do you need to be thinking about some
THE PRESIDENT: "Yes. No, to answer the last part of your
question. First of all, let me - just a quick history, recent
history. The stock market started to decline in March of 2000.
Then the first quarter of 2001 was a recession. And then we
got attacked in 9/11. And then corporate scandals started
to bubble up to the surface, which created a - a lack of confidence
in the system. And then we had the drumbeat to war. Remember
on our TV screens - I'm not suggesting which network did this
- but it said, 'March to War,' every day from last summer
until the spring - 'March to War, March to War.' That's not
a very conducive environment for people to take risk, when
they hear, 'March to War' all the time."
Drumbeat to war? The media?
He gave an almost identical by-rote response to another
reporter after the Cabinet meeting last Friday, according
to the official White House transcript, just a day before
he was scheduled to depart for a month off at his ranch in
Q: "Mr. President, sir, are you surprised, and can you explain
why three huge tax cuts and 12 rate cuts by the Fed have not
done more in creating jobs to this point? And do you think
that we're in a jobless recovery?"
The President restated his rosy view of the country's economic
problems, then said:
THE PRESIDENT: "...And then we discovered some of our corporate
CEOs forgot to tell the truth, and that affected confidence.
And then as you may remember, Tom, we had the steady drumbeat
to war. As I mentioned in my press conference the other day,
on our TV screens there was a - on some TV screens - there
was a constant reminder for the American people, 'march to
war.' War is not a very pleasant subject in people's minds,
it's not conducive for the investment of capital."
Forgetful CEOs? March to war? Next day he split for Texas.
The "forgetful CEO" that did the most damage to
America is probably Ken Lay, late of Enron, a lifelong Bush
family friend and primary contributor, who seems impervious
to the usual vicissitudes of Federal Law, living in something
of a Bush-devised protectorate at his posh place in Houston.
Mr. Bush's carefully recited comments about the 'true' cause
of America's economic grief are pretty amazing - even for
Mr. Bush - after he, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, all the President's
men, and Condi Rice spent the entire year before the
Iraq war carefully and progressively ramping up public panic
over the mountain of hard evidence they assured us they had
about the deadly Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction."
Even Tony Blair was convinced, and it may cost him his job.
One could have deduced that Saddam Hussein was about to nuke
us all. America had to act, even if the wimps at the
UN wouldn't. The danger was that great. One could almost feel
the fallout from those damned Iraqi nukes sapping our precious
The Bush Administration's fixation on the elusive WMD as
an excuse to go to war is particularly remarkable when you
consider that four months before the start of Operation Iraqi
Freedom, the Washington Post and other media reported
new details in US documents about the Reagan-Bush Administration's
then special Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld (yes, the
same guy), who went to Iraq in December 1983, to assist in
its ongoing war with Iran, where Iraq was said to use chemical
weapons "almost daily." There's a dandy news photo of Rummy
making nice with Saddam.
The Republicans then reportedly allowed the export to Iraq
of additional biological agents, including anthrax; key ingredients
for chemical weapons; and cluster bombs sold by a CIA front
organization in Chile. The press reports went on to say that
a 1994 congressional inquiry also found that dozens of biological
agents, including anthrax, were shipped to Iraq by US companies,
under licence from the Reagan-Bush Commerce Department.
The Republican-approved American WMD supplier's list reads
like a Wall Street "Who's Who" (24 major companies),
reportedly including Honeywell, Unisys, Sperry, Tektronix,
Rockwell, Hewlett-Packard, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, Carl Zeiss-US,
and Bechtel. That's the same Bechtel now working to "rebuild"
War is big business and big business is power in today's
Washington. Big money buys a lot of press, and it also buys
a lot of silence and politicians.
Almost at the same hour Mr. Bush was giving his rare Washington
press conference last Wednesday, his war in Iraq, which has
produced no solid WMD evidence at all, killed US Army Pfc.
Michael J. Deutsch, 21, of Dubuque, Iowa; assigned to Troop
C, 1-1 Cavalry. AP reported he died in Baghdad when his APC
was hit, according to the Iowa National Guard. The Dubuque
Telegraph Herald reports he graduated from Dubuque Senior
High in 2000 and entered the Army in 2002. The paper says
three other Iowa men have also died in the Iraq war: Marine
Sgt. Bradley S. Korthaus, 28, of Davenport, Army Pvt. Kenneth
A. Nalley, 19, of Hamburg, and Jeffrey E. Bohr, Jr., 39, of
As of Sunday, August 3, 2003, a total of 249 US soldiers
and 43 British troops have died in Iraq. According to the
Pentagon, Pfc. Deutsch was the 113th American solider killed
since May 1, when Mr. Bush dramatically flew out to the carrier
Abraham Lincoln for the Mother of All Photo Ops and thankfully
declared that major combat operations had ended.
The "big" Iraq story on AP Sunday was that for
two entire days there had been no new US combat deaths.
The news about Private Deutsch's untimely death only gets
nine hits on Google News as I write this. The routine AP story
didn't play wide, but one can suppose it's pretty big news
in Dubuque. The Bush Administration is counting on the press
totally missing the gooey stuff and buying Mr. Bush's pre-programmed
answers that never quite seem to address anything directly.
Mr. Bush's handlers have made 'vague' a vital arm of neo-con
statecraft, and it's apparently working for them.
Mr. Bush, who holds a Yale B.A. and a Harvard M.B.A., has
a unique way with the English language for a college man.
If you're ever depressed late on a Saturday night, run "Bushisms"
on Google and among the 16,500 hits you'll find some of the
greatest unintended comedy ever produced by an American politician,
sort of Inverse Churchill.
That Iraq "cakewalk" which neo-cons promised would
bring lasting peace to the area has instead created a raging
Islamic insurgency, a holy war of perpetual proportions, fueled
by the frustrations of the Iraqi people and their suspicion
that they've just traded one tyranny for another. Keep in
mind that the followers of Islam consider even the most devoutly
religious Christians sent to "save" them as Infidels.
The fact that Mr. Bush and his handlers have convinced themselves
that major ongoing US economic problems stem from loose media
talk is probably the greatest Bushism of all. It was their
war, based on their reading of the intelligence tea
leaves, and they think the US economy is in the tank not because
Mr. Bush gave the budget surplus away to his rich friends
via tax cuts, but because of media hype?
Ah, to be George W. Bush, wealthy beyond his talents, connected
beyond all reason, and insulated beyond all caring; living
in a fine free public house, and safe inside his simplistic
world view, a Zeitgeist combining Norman Rockwell's art with
the sure knowledge that you can sell anything wrapped in the
flag and the Lord.
It was a tough week for the other Bush folks though. Tom
Ridge, Homeland Security Czar, presides over an uberagency
so big it cut both airport screeners and sky marshals the
same time it was warning Americans that al-Qaida was up to
no good again. Imagine the Keystone Cops with unlimited government
money and power.
MSNBC reports that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called
the cuts "nonsensical" and urged the DHS to "immediately reverse
reported plans to cut air marshals in light of intelligence
indicating that al-Qaida and other terrorist groups may have
stepped up plans" to launch attacks on airlines. Schumer said
that the "proposed cuts...come in response to a $900 million
budget hole at the agency." War on the cheap has begat Homeland
Defense on the cheap. This fact is probably not lost within
the dark caves of the Pakistan frontier. Count on it.
For all the tough talk from the Bush people, almost half
the airport screeners lack full security background checks,
and in the 98 weeks and 3 days since the 9/11 attacks, the
Administration only just closed a loophole allowing in-transit
non-visa foreigners to board international flights passing
through US cities unchecked. Add to this the fact that almost
all air cargo and ship-borne containers still come in and
out of the country uninspected, and you have a prime recipe
for further disaster. The radical enemies of the United States
watch us closely and have a knack for hitting us where we
It's interesting that every time the Administration comes
under tough press and political scrutiny they suddenly warn
us of new dangers. One suspects the alert level will only
go to the top (Red) if the Democrats pull within four percentage
points next October. For the far right, terrorism has become
the new communism, and thus allows wide violation of due process
and previously accepted privacy rights. The Reverend Mr. Ashcroft
appeared on the White House's own network, Fox News, and predicted
both success and failure. Fear works wonders, and it gets
people to contribute.
One of al-Qaida's own top men, Ayman al-Zawahir, has reportedly
released a new tape promising more terror attacks in the US.
For all the neo-con chest pounding and the money and blood
we spent in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's odd that the leaders
of al-Qaida (and even Saddam Hussein) seem to have no trouble
getting access to audio gear and getting the word out to their
The Bush folks also took great pleasure in what at first
seemed like a reduction in the nation's chronic unemployment
problems. The LA Times reports that the jobless rate dropped
0.2 percentage points to 6.2 percent, but only because more
than a half million people quit looking for work and dropped
out of the labor force. The way the system works, they now
aren't counted as unemployed. Nifty.
Employers also cut payrolls by another 44,000 in July, the
sixth consecutive month of such losses, making this the longest
stretch of "jobless recovery" in the past half century. It's
the worst job market in living memory.
The half million jobless people that just quit looking are
about the same number that voted for Mr. Gore over Mr. Bush.
Imagine if the 540,520 people who put Mr. Gore over the top
(but didn't quite get him actually elected) were to join up
with the half million who gave up looking. and each of them
got ten new people who didn't vote in 2000 to register and
vote in 65 weeks in the general election. Do you suppose the
Republicans, with all their friends and midnight powers, could
hide TEN MILLION extra votes? Time will tell.
Kenneth B. Mehlman, the fast-talking manager of the Bush
re-election campaign predicts a close race in 2004. Considering
Mr. Bush lost and still won in 2000, that's an interesting
assessment. Would it be "close" if he got less votes
or more than the Democratic candidate?
Sadly, Admiral John M. Poindexter of DARPA will soon be
among the unemployed, as he announced his pending resignation
after the terror futures market debacle of last week. He'll
doubtless land at a far-right think tank, or even migrate
to Talk Radio, that popular work release program for Republican
The Bush Administration's one actual combat veteran, Secretary
of State Colin Powell, has indicated he'll also be leaving,
even if Mr. Bush wins re-election. As the one reasonable,
if seldom heeded, voice at the top of this government, he
will be missed.
One suspects as the war and the economy continue their downward
slides, a lot more people will decide that their good work
in Washington is done. Condi Rice may be the first to walk
A bright spot, Mr. Bush and his people have been a true
Godsend to the bankruptcy and repo industries. Business has
never been better.
Most of all this news apparently missed the general public
because Mr. Bush's handlers were careful to insert a key bonding
item in last Wednesday's press conference. The issue of gay
marriage, a sure fire winner for the far right, was planted
in the mix, and is all any of the folks on the right (and
Fox News) are talking about.
The Republicans use fear and ignorance better than anybody
ever has in the history of politics.
All they have to do is yell QUEER to the faithful and the
re-election money pours in. Amazing.
So, to the roster of famous harbingers shouting of impending
doom, like Chicken Little, and the Boy who Cried Wolf, we
must now add the rich man's son who cried havoc and let loose
the lies of war.
It's hot in Crawford in August, but not as hot as it is
in Baghdad - and not as hot as it's going to get in Washington
as all this plays out.
B. Rehak is a writer in California, and is at email@example.com