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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 upside down.

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 Zone.

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 Justice Department.

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.

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