The ostentatious corporate binge passing itself off as the Bush Inauguration is nothing if not a sign of the times. Our nation is deep in record debt and getting deeper every day. The government is so corrupt at the highest levels and so poorly run at the lowest that even the most basic necessities, such as supplying its citizens with flu vaccine, are beyond the reach of the administration. Meanwhile, in the single incident that has transformed America the Beautiful into the most hated and feared nation on Earth, our soldiers continue to die like flies in the sands of Iraq. What would you do if you were George W. Bush? Why, dance, of course.
So far, corporate interests, many of which are feeding directly from the federal trough, have “donated” more than $40 million for a three-day orgy of lavish dinners, formal balls and gala affairs. If, perhaps, you were living in a cave and didn’t know what was going on in America, you’d think everything was just peachy.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Only weeks ago, one soldier had the guts to confront Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with the truth about conditions on the ground in Iraq, where soldiers are scrounging through dumps to find enough scrap metal to armor their vehicles against daily attacks by increasingly more powerful explosive devices.
Rumsfeld, in a reflection of this administration’s two-faced posture of “supporting the troops” while doing just the opposite, told the soldier that “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wished you had.” Of course Rumsfeld is spending his time in Washington, D.C., agonizing over which tuxedo to wear to which inaugural event, not crawling through the sand waiting to be blown up or shot every minute of the day.
Meanwhile, President Bush is once again rattling what’s left of the nation’s depleted sabers, and is now openly threatening to bomb Iran (we knew it wouldn’t take long) over yet another “threat.” Apparently, Mr. Bush didn’t like it when Seymour Hersh, the award-winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker, spilled the beans this week that Bush had already authorized clandestine military operations in Iran. Deciding that the best defense was a good offense, Bush leaped right in like Dr. Strangelove, totally oblivious to the fact that our nation cannot afford the hundreds of billions of dollars or the massive human suffering of the wars in which we are already engaged.
But don’t worry, you grunts in the sand, freezing in the Hindu Kush mountains or waiting to be shipped out, our good president will be honoring you with a special Salute to Service and the Commander-in-Chief Ball. According to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, the events will “celebrate freedom” and “pay tribute to our men and women in uniform.” Amid the champagne, caviar and low-cut gowns, more than one toast will be lifted to your efforts to make the world safe—so Halliburton and its clan of corporate raiders can continue to prosper obscenely through no-bid contracts and outright exploitation of the world’s resources. After all, when you add up your take in billions with a capital “B,” you have a lot to celebrate. That such profits come at the cost a few thousand American lives, well, that’s just the price you pay for freedom, right?
The icing on this gross cake is that the Bush administration told the city of Washington, D.C., that it will have to pick up the security costs out of federal Homeland Security funds. The unprecedented security levels necessary for the inauguration of the most hated man on the planet are estimated to surpass $17 million. But hey, it’s a three-day party, so buck up, D.C., and fork out the dough…let’s keep those choppers flying overhead, snipers on the roof, and the streets closed to traffic while the elite eat crudités from silver platters carried, of course, by the servant class.
Needless to say, the lavish excesses of the Bushies are drawing criticism from a variety of sources. One New York congressman wrote Bush that “precedent suggests that inaugural festivities should be muted—if not canceled—in wartime.” Pointing out that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt celebrated his second inaugural with cold chicken salad and pound cake during World War II, Rep. Anthony Weiner estimates the Bush inaugural could pay for 690 Humvees and a $290 bonus for every soldier serving in Iraq.
It should be noted, however, that Roosevelt was a real “war president,” not just a chickenhawk in a borrowed flight suit strutting across an aircraft carrier crowing “Mission Accomplished.” Oh, and FDR also happened to be the president who established the Social Security system to ensure retirement income to all Americans; Bush wants us to believe the system is in such dire straits that the only way to “save” it is to turn it over to Wall Street profiteers.
Under Bush’s presidency, the U.S. dollar has now lost a full third of its value against the euro. Not to worry, Bush’s economic spinmeisters told us, a weak dollar would enhance the American export market. But lo and behold, only last week the trade deficit—the difference between what we import and what we export—grew to what analysts were calling “Grand Canyon” proportions. When you have a president who has no problem telling outright lies, it should come as no surprise to find he’s smeared a little lipstick on the corpse of the once-mighty greenback.
It’s hard to believe we have come to this as a country. Blustering around the world, threatening sovereign nations with destruction, bankrupting our own treasury, polluting at will and then irresponsibly foisting the whole mess off on our own kids to deal with as best they may in some future generation.
The world is burning, but our feckless leaders choose to fiddle, dance and feast.
When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.