Ochenski: Glimmers of hope 

Time to wake up from the Bush nightmare?

There is now more cause to realistically hope for a better future than we’ve seen in a long time. When George W. Bush returns from his month-long ranch vacation, he might wonder what happened to his presidency while he was gone. Recent national polls show large majorities of Americans are increasingly wary of a protracted, expensive and deadly involvement in Iraq, not to mention the record deficits required to pay for Bush’s global militarism. As a result, fewer than half say they would support a second term for Bush. Like rains damping down fires and cleaning the air we breathe, this is definitely good news.

Perhaps it was predictable that the Bush-Cheney regime, initiated in political controversy and conducted in absolute secrecy behind closed doors, should one day collapse of its own weight. What wasn’t predictable, however, was how Bush’s unscrupulous political machine would manipulate a terror attack to benefit its visions of global empire. Yet, as we are finding out every day, facts and fears both were manipulated, throwing Americans into a paroxysm of fear and suspicion.

In the land of the free, a rough burlap sack was pulled over the light of liberty while the dark work of Bush, Cheney, and Ashcroft got done in the shadows. Too many heads in Washington’s Congressional chambers nodded far too quickly—and much too quietly. Perhaps their paranoia was understandable, for even the nation’s top decision-makers had been forced from their offices by thin envelopes filled with white powder. In their fear, they traded liberty for security—or so they thought.

But now that some members of Congress have actually read the massive and grossly mis-named Patriot Act, they are finding out just what they gave away in their fear. Conservatives—at least those who still hold true to the conservative view of government they held before they “owned” it—are finding the loss of personal freedoms incompatible with their core beliefs.

It’s so bad that Attorney General Ashcroft has launched a national road show to defend the Act, but the reality is that if true conservatives are joining already-concerned progressives, the Patriot Act is going to see some serious revision. It is very good news for the nation that those revisions will likely restore some of our lost rights to privacy from being spied on by our own government.

The foundations of this dark presidency are crumbling as the web of lies on which it was built comes to light. The Iraqi “drone” plane that the Bush administration told us was ready to fly over America spreading toxins and biological warfare agents has been debunked by international experts, who say the plane was incapable of performing any such feats and was just another false threat in Bush’s rush to war.

Despite reams of slick, desperate political rhetoric, the mayhem Bush loosed upon the world is getting worse, not better, as time goes by. Every day it gets harder to justify the record national debt, the obvious neglect of urgent domestic needs, or the sending of troops to die on the other side of the globe.

That President Bush continues to use the military for “nation building” is undeniable, despite his campaign promise never to engage in such activities. Instead of taking care of our schools, hospitals, social programs and infrastructure needs, he wants to spend billions rebuilding Afghanistan from top to bottom. The Taliban, however, now appear to have taken back control of just about everything except the American outpost and our puppet government in Kabul. So for whom, exactly, are we rebuilding this nation?

It’s much the same story in Iraq—only maybe worse, since we dumped much more money and many more troops into Iraq. At the enormous expense of more than a billion dollars a week, we nonetheless continue to suffer daily casualties on the streets of Baghdad as the people who were supposed to welcome us as liberators fight us as occupiers. When the tank pulled down the statue of Saddam months ago, it was a “big moment” in the war. But now television stations have returned to their mind-numbing, commercial programming; America, it would seem, has grown tired of deadly conflicts that go nowhere and cost so much in dollars, troops and material.

If the polls are accurate, Americans strapped with their own skyrocketing gas, utility, and college costs are wondering where the hell all the money Bush is spending is coming from. The answer, which becomes more obvious every day, is that everything else is suffering to pay for the Bush war machine. But as the impacts of Bush’s crazy foreign policy and domestic neglect grow, so do the hordes of those critical of his destructive administration. Slowly but surely, we are returning to a semblance of sanity, confronting the reality of what Bush is doing to our country and questioning the acts of this out-of-control administration.

As Bush’s outmoded colonial ambitions crumble abroad, the widespread rejection of his aimless and brutal policies are likely to grow. Perhaps Bush, like Gov. Judy Martz, will eventually realize that he no longer has a political future either. That, like Martz, he had his chance to lead and he blew it. Instead of developing stable long-term policies to benefit our people, he marched roughly across the globe while neglecting conditions at home.

When Bush called the recent East Coast blackout a “wake-up call,” he may have been right. Only it might be a different kind of “wake-up” than Bush envisioned. America, it appears, is waking up to the paranoid hypnosis to which the Bush administration has subjected us. We are “waking up” to the mounting failures of Bush’s social, health, education, environmental, economic and foreign policies—and their long-term costs to our country.

Make no mistake, Bush continues to push his plans to ravage our country, our environment, and the globe. But he is faltering, failing, losing credibility at home and abroad—and that brings glimmers of hope for a better future.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.

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