Le Monde a L'Envers
September 22, 2004
By David P. Leaf
Day after day, like many people that I know, I am overwhelmed
by the hubris, arrogance, and mendacity of the Bush administration.
They are leading this country to certain disaster economically,
environmentally, legally, and civilly. The French have a term to
describe what we are feeling: le monde a l'envers - the world
Ever since George W. Bush was appointed as President of the United
States, and to a greater extent since 9/11, I have been trying to
understand why so many in this country believe there is any justification
for defending his presidency. The Bush administration has appealed
to the basest instincts of our citizens. If he is permitted to worm
his way into a second term the acrimony and hate that will be engendered
will tear this country apart unlike anything we have experienced
since the Civil War.
According to the media the most important issue in this campaign
is the Iraq war. Nonetheess, we find both campaigns constantly arguing
back and forth about Viet Nam. Many who did not serve in that war
find it strange and somewhat annoying that so much time has been
spent on a war that was fought 35 years ago. Part of the reason
Viet Nam won't go away is because for many of us who served in that
war the similarities between Iraq and Viet Nam have brought up too
many issues we thought we had finally put behind us.
I received my commission in 1967 from ROTC which was voluntary.
I spent 13 months in Viet Nam as both a platoon leader and a company
commander in the Army. I volunteered for duty in Viet Nam and I
voluntarily extended my tour by a month so I could take over command
of my company, the 544th Medium Boat Company. For anyone who was
not in Viet Nam, a month may not seem like a long time, but a month
is an eternity when they are shooting at you.
I returned from Viet Nam totally opposed to the war because I
felt that I was lied about the reasons we were sent. I was asked
to put myself in harm's way for a total lie. I went to Viet Nam
to serve my country and to save the brave people of South Viet Nam.
But what we did to South Viet Nam was unconscionable. We contaminated
the country with Agent Orange, we left thousands of illegitimate
Amerasian children, we emasculated their men, we destroyed their
fragile economy, and we killed as many as 3 million Vietnamese.
The major combat in Viet Nam came as a result the Bay of Tonkin
incident which was later proven to be a lie. We were ignorant of
the Vietnamese culture and the needs of the population. We assumed
that they viewed the world as we did. We knew what was best for
them. They resented our presence in their country because we insisted
on dictating our policies to them. Most people seem not to understand
that in the end we won all our military battles but we lost the
war. We lost because in the end the resentment generated by our
presence insured that the Vietnamese would fight us to their last
breath. We were in there country and they had to fight because they
had nowhere else to go. The only way we would have beaten them was
to kill every one of them.
If you look at the numbers and compare them we killed 3 million
and they killed 58,000. When the administration realized they could
not win the war, by 1965, they tried to tell the people of the United
States that we were winning based on body counts of the dead. Because
we killed so many of them we were obviously winning.
We couldn't tell who was a friend and who was the enemy. Many
of the American Troops ended up feeling they were all the enemy.
Some lost control and committed atrocities against innocent people.
They may have felt that they were somehow making up for the deaths
and agonies of their comrades. Welcome to an asymmetric war.
We were told that if we did not succeed in Viet Nam, the rest
of Asia would become Communist based on the Domino Theory. However,
we lost that war and all of Asia did not become Communist.
What is it about the preceding paragraphs that you don't see happening
in Iraq? One of the reasons Viet Nam won't go away is because so
many veterans are suffering from déjà vu all over again.
The similarities were really easy for us to see and the pain from
the past has been brought back like it was yesterday.
George W. Bush is telling us that we are winning the war. The
truth is that the casualties are going up and the enemy has gotten
more sophisticated. They have adjusted to our tactics and they are
taking advantage of their home territory. Meanwhile Halliburton's
stock is going up and Dick Cheney is getting wealthier. The defense
companies are making out like bandits and American soldiers are
dying and losing limbs, eyes, and their mental health. We can't
enter Fallujah and Najaf and Baghdad is unsafe outside the Green
George W. Bush's own intelligence says that we are only left with
least-bad solutions and yet he struts around the country telling
us that we are winning the war. Terrorism has gone up around the
world, we are warned that we will be attacked again soon, and Iraq
has become a breeding ground for terrorists as a result of his policies.
And it's not just Iraq. Most of Afghanistan is back under the control
of the war lords who ruled before the Taliban took over and the
production of opium for heroine is at record highs. Osama Bin Laden
has not been caught and polls show that the populations of 34 countries
around the world hate George W. Bush and are opposed to American
policies at an overwhelming rate. A poll taken recently shows we
are now isolated from the rest of the world because unlike the members
of the "coalition of the willing," the 34 countries polled include
the largest countries in the world.
Meanwhile, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth spent half-a-million
dollars to run their false trash ad against Kerry in three states.
The mainstream media ran their ads in news programs repeatedly hour
after hour, day after day. It was on every hour on CNN for days.
At first they didn't bother to debunk them as false and when they
did it was only an opportunity to play them over and over again.
But when information showing that Bush violated a direct order
to take a flight physical and then went missing from duty in Alabama
was released, the chorus on every show was "talking about Viet Nam
35 years later is trivial" and they wished everyone would deal with
today's current topics. They also pointed out that since Kerry had
highlighted his war record it was fair game for attack, apparently
even if the attacks are false.
The fantasies George W. Bush projects are as unreal as his concern
for the working poor. The Bush Administration, and their corporate
cronies, are looting our treasury and leading this country toward
Third World status. George W. Bush talks about record home ownership
although the truth is that since home ownership has gone up every
year since records have been kept, we have always had record
home ownership. Yet he neglects to mention that we also have record
foreclosures, record personal bankruptcies, and record family debt.
Personal debt is at an all time high and credit card debt is enormous
while interest rates are going up. In 2000 when the Euro first came
out it was worth .92. It now takes $1.21 to buy a Euro. Our budget
deficit and Trade Deficit are at an all time highs and growing monthly.
Health care costs have risen 50% since Bush took office. In the
last three years people under the poverty line increased by 1.5
million and Americans without health insurance has increased by
5 million. Corporate profits are up to record levels while workers
wages are going down. The price of gas is at record highs to go
along with the drop in wages. Tax credits are available to those
buy Hummers that get 9 miles to the gallons but Congress refuses
to pass a bill increasing the MPG on any vehicle.
The judges Bush has appointed are right-wing reactionary ideologues
and their decisions on civil liberties and civil rights are further
to the right than any previous president. Attorney General John
Ashcroft would be the most perfect chief legal officer if we wanted
to live in a recreation of the Third Reich. He is not only oblivious
to the provisions of our Constitution, he is totally incompetent.
The few terrorists he has prosecuted have not been convicted, at
least partially due to prosecutorial misconduct on behalf of the
The status of the environment is a disaster and the Bush administration
is removing all the existing regulations protecting our air, water,
and soil. Virtually every regulatory agency is headed by a lobbyist
or a member of the industry they are regulating. In every instance
where there has between been a conflict between corporate interest
and the public good the Bush Administration has supported the corporate
interest. For the first time since the creation of the EPA the air,
water, and soil quality is worse than it was the year before.
The Bush Administration has even been responsible for reducing
the safety of our food supply. They have cut the number of food
inspectors and changed the rules on food production lines so that
inspectors have little authority to inspect the food. The lack of
enforcement of environmental standards for coal-burning plants has
increased levels of mercury in rivers and lakes across the country
so that fish from these bodies of water are expressly dangerous
to children and pregnant women. When we eat we now get a choice
between ecoli virus, salmonella, or mercury poisoning.
If Bush is re-elected this country can look forward to even more
extremes in all these areas. As a lame duck president there would
be even less accountability to the public than there is now.
In the face of all of this it is hard to understand why Bush is
even in the presidential race. Somehow we have got to get the attention
of the American public before we go over the abyss. There has been
discussion about wedge issues and why people are so willing to vote
against their own best economic interest. The fact is that it is
not simply a matter of economics. We are now talking about the survival
of the entire planet.
We are in a struggle between our ability to adapt to the future
and policies that are both irrelevant and lethal to all the principles
on which our country was founded. It is a struggle for the rule
of reason vs. the rule of fear and superstition. It is a struggle
between those who want to grow and expand their minds and those
who would bring us back to the ignorance of the past. It is a struggle
between those that would make us serfs and those of us who want
to reach to the stars and maximize our potential. If as human beings
we have free will then it is up to us to take the challenge and
save both our country and the planet from the disaster that would
be a Bush second term.