Bush's Weird Tour: A Letter to European
March 2, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The
Wolfgang and Jacqueline:
You write that having Bush welcomed in your home countries on
his European tour made you "feel dirty," and that you can't understand
why your leaders, who stood up to him before, would feel obliged
to "bow before him" now, "as if he was a more humble President,
with wise policies."
I know your leaders' behavior doesn't seem to make moral sense
- I, too, wish they had been willing once again to take on Bush
directly - but it certainly makes practical sense.
Consider: For four years, your leaders felt they could denounce
Bush's unconscionable imperial war in Iraq, and parry his various
foreign-policy thrusts, because it seemed possible, and then certain,
that Bush/Cheney would be a one-term disaster and there would be
a much more rational, reasonable American administration in 2005.
But when Bush was inaugurated in January - whether he won honestly
is a separate question, still to be sorted out definitively - your
European leaders had to face up to reality: They would be dealing
with this arrogant dolt for four more years, and they'd better make
the best of it - or, at the least, put on a good show.
And so, without giving away much, they made nice with the guy,
had him over for dinner, shook hands and laughed with him for the
photographers - all the while mentally glancing at their watches
for Bush's longed-for departure time.
GIVING BUSH POLITICAL COVER
Bush ignored the tens of thousands protesting his policies in
the streets of Belgium and Germany (those loud, angry demonstrations
were barely mentioned in the mainstream U.S. media, by the way),
and in the formal meetings got enough of what he wanted: a seeming
breakout of his isolation from the Continent, NATO on board at least
tangentially with regard to Iraq, and strong words from European
spokesmen about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Bush is trying to turn all that to more momentum with which to
peddle his international adventurism to the American and world public.
However, as usual, Bush & Co. are operating as if spin is fact and
self-delusion is reality.
The European tour gained the Bush Administration very little.
Though Bush tried to tamp down his bullying, I-know-best persona
by smiling (or smirking) a lot, and saying halfway reasonable things,
the American leader continued to come across - and you know this
better than I do - as a tantrum-prone little emperor who wants what
he wants when he wants it, and you'd better not cross him.
WHO EXACTLY IS "CIVILIZED"?
Bush exhibited his usual monarchical behavior: his cortege driving
through miles and miles of deserted streets (residents were forbidden
to get anywhere near him), granting the assembled leaders only five
minutes of his time each, and abruptly bowing out of a town-hall
meeting when he learned that the public would be permitted to question
him directly. Add to that this assertion by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld:
that China is a country "we hope and pray enters the civilized world
in an orderly way." Obviously, in Asia as well as in Europe, which
countries and civilizations qualify as being "civilized" are to
be decided by the White House.
Likewise, Bush's lecturing Putin about the damage the Russian
president is doing to democracy seemed to a good many Europeans
as so much hypocritical posturing, given what the Administration
of Rove/Bush/Cheney/Gonzales/Rumsfeld is doing in America to decimate
Many European intellectuals saw through the "charm-offensive"
tour and honed in on what really was going on, despite Bush's description
of the chasm between America and Europe as amounting to little more
than "temporary debate."
Germany's Der Spiegel Online wrote that "despite the candy-coatings,
differences continue to separate Europeans from Americans, and when
it comes to Iraq, Iran and China, everyone’s hidden daggers are
unsheathed." France's Le Monde said the Bush approach
would work only if "he agrees to a partnership of equals, rather
than a relationship of dependence between the American superpower
and its European vassals."
THE IRAQ/IRAN OBSTACLE COURSE
In practice, the European leaders permitted themselves to be bullied
by the White House into agreeing to train Iraqi security forces
and judicial administrators. But they did so with no enthusiasm
and often for show-purposes only; several countries allocated but
one or two trainers to the effort, and not much money to speak of.
In short, the European leaders made clear by their grudging acceptance
of the U.S. training program that they continue to believe the U.S.
was dead wrong in invading Iraq in the first place, is still wrong
in its Occupation policies, but they will help in minor ways in
giving Iraqis the tools to help themselves stabilize their country.
Your European leaders joined the U.S. in recognizing the potential
danger of having a nuclear-armed Iran in the region - with, at some
point, missiles that could reach Europe as well - but are not belligerently
threatening Iran, as is the Bush Administration.
They prefer, through diplomacy and blandishments, to lead Iran
out of the nuclear corner in which it's painting itself. At first,
Bush was mightily opposed to such negotiations, but has come to
believe that it looks better for the U.S. to approve such talks.
But Bush appears still to be sticking to his June deadline for EU
success - and, according to military sources who've confided to
former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, is preparing to bomb
Iran early this summer.
WE'VE SEEN THIS FILM PLOT UNFOLD BEFORE
The European leaders have watched this movie before. The U.S.
permits an international group to try to convince the target nation
to do this or that; then, when the U.S.-imposed deadline is reached,
and regardless of whether success is achieved, the Bush Administration
says it tried the internationalist route ("we went the last mile
to avoid war") and now is "forced" to take unilateral action because
of this or that infraction.
It doesn't matter that there are no weapons of mass destruction,
that the target nation may be years away from assembling a nuclear
weapon. The Bush Administration moves quickly, "pre-emptively,"
before effective opposition can subvert their already worked-out
The Bush Administration, mesmerized by America's technological
might and the ivory-tower beliefs of its neo-conservative theoreticians,
believes that once the U.S. attacks another country, the downtrodden
masses will throw flowers and kisses at its "liberators" and overthrow
their autocratic leaders.
That was the assumed Bush & Co. scenario when the U.S. invaded
Iraq - which, of course, didn't happen - but they truly believe
it will happen this way when the U.S. (perhaps in tandem with the
Israelis) bombs Iran: The young, reformist-minded Iranians will
take mass action to bring down the rule of the reigning fundamentalist
mullahs, and install a democratic, secular system in its place.
Of course that kind of thinking is crazy - especially since the
Iranian reformers have made plain what their position is - but the
Bush neo-cons operate out of such fantasy. Again and again, they
ignore the power of nationalism and patriotism; it's difficult for
them to believe that in some cases a people might not wish to be
"liberated" by and dictated to by a foreign invader. But it doesn't
really matter for the neo-cons because the bombs will have been
released and the boots will be on the ground: Mission accomplished.
But in those attacked countries, instead of kisses and flowers
many reformers choose instead to join, or tacitly support, the nationalist
forces in opposition to American rule; a caught-off-guard White
House quickly sends in the Marines and National Guard; and the U.S.
is enmeshed yet again in a quagmire that will drain its military,
its treasury, its sense of itself as a moral nation. It's happened
in Iraq, and it's likely to happen if and when the U.S. attacks
DEALING WITH THE BIG LIE TECHNIQUE
Believe me, we Americans - at least half of our population, and,
in the post-election period, probably more - understand why you
in Europe are so upset. We have to live each day with these guys,
their bullyboy tactics, their mendacity, and the ramifications of
their reckless policies.
We spend much of our time and effort these days in trying to convince
the Democrats to become a true Opposition Party against the worst
of Bush & Co. adventures, both abroad and at home. It's not easy,
since politicians do not wish to put themselves in positions where
they can be smeared as "unpatriotic," with the corporate mass-media
more or less serving as the propaganda arm of the Bush Administration.
It's scary. Karl Rove, Bush's senior adviser, is moving America
quickly toward one-party rule, by marginalizing and threatening
those who dissent too loudly, and by shredding even more of our
Constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties.
You won't believe their latest move to stifle opposition. America's
seniors, an important voting bloc, are much opposed to Bush's plan
to re-cast (and ultimately destroy) our Social Security pension
system. So one of the Republican's dirty-tricks outfits took out
ads against AARP, the leading seniors' organization, accusing them
of hating the U.S. military and supporting gay marriage. The Bushies
do anything to win; it's the Big Lie technique writ large.
Can a kind of native American fascism come to our society? You
better believe it, just as, decades ago, such a movement based on
Big Lies and aiming its venom at a vulnerable minority swept much
of your continent into a militarist, delusional system of thought.
Sixty million men, women and children died in the world war that
BUILDING AN OPPOSITIONAL MOMENTUM
I would suggest that you and your European friends who are worried
about America's direction spend your time and energy convincing
your elected officials to re-assert OPENLY their opposition to Bush
policies in a wide variety of areas, from further wars in the Middle
East (and covert wars elsewhere) to denial of global warming, to
the over-reliance on fossil fuels.
Working together - "old Europe" over there and "new liberal resurgence"
over here - we can create the only kind of force capable of slowing
or perhaps even stopping Bush & Co.'s political juggernaut in its
tracks: a united opposition of immense popular power that will force
them to back away from their more extreme positions, thus saving
countless lives in the process.
This struggle is not going to be easy, and we're all going to
suffer painful defeats in the process. But hang in there. We WILL
bring the light back to our world of political darkness.
Stay in touch, Jacqueline and Wolfgang. See you next month.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught politics and international
relations at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with
the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The