Ochenski: The great unraveling 

While America gets its war on, crisis at home

By the time you read this, a movie actor named Arnold Schwarzenegger may well be governor of California; Israel may have decided, with President Bush’s blessing, to attack yet another Arab nation under the rubric of “defense”; and Bush himself may have fallen a few more points in the polls as he struggles to keep from going under the tidal wave of death, expense, and negative reaction his own preemptive wars have spawned. Meanwhile, our country speeds down the road in a cloud of smoke, going nowhere as fast as we can, while all around us society’s hopeful tapestry of peace abroad and a brighter future at home unravels into a series of dangling, ever-more-frayed threads.

“So what?” you might be thinking. Why should anyone in Montana care if Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor of California? And you’re probably right. Very few Montanans care much at all about California or what goes on there. After all, doesn’t Arnold always terminate the bad guys and get the pretty girls in his movies? And besides, after our own unbelievably embarrassing term with a lapdog in the governor’s office, how could we possibly criticize anyone’s gubernatorial choice? I mean, could he do any worse?

While Arnold most likely cannot and will not do any worse than Judy Martz, the fact that we really don’t care simply illustrates the analogy that the considerable number of strands that are California’s contribution to the union have already been plucked from the nation’s tapestry and are blowing in the wind. Concerned more and more every day with our own immediate future, like most Americans, we have little time to be concerned about the affairs of our sister states.

The greater global tapestry is unraveling as well. Take Bush’s “Road Map to Peace” in the Middle East. By launching an offensive strike for the first time in decades deep into the middle of Syria, Israel has now used “homeland defense”—Bush’s own reasoning for America’s pre-emptive strikes on Afghanistan and Iraq—as justification for its aggressive military action against other sovereign nations.

That President Bush would defend Israel’s actions should come as no surprise. Remember, it was Bush and his coterie of war hawks who called the U.N. “obsolete,” insulted this country’s longtime allies, and then rushed headlong into not one, but two, conflagrations that now have us sinking into the muck of “nation building” on the other side of the globe while our own society crumbles around us.

Were there many who, with somewhat longer vision than the cowboy in the White House, warned that the policy of aggressive, preemptive, military strikes would lead us on the road to perdition? Of course there were. And not just here, where more people rallied against the wars than at any time since Vietnam, but around the globe. Time, it seems, has justified their opposition to the conflagrations.

Bush’s wars, like all the others, boil down in the end to clubbing each other into bloody pulps and crawling “victorious” upon the heap of crushed humanity. And, like wars throughout history, Bush’s wars will not bring an end to conflict, nor stop “the evildoers,” nor bring peace to an increasingly troubled world. If anything, the Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes sets a dangerous precedent, and now spurs others to ignore world opinion and strike out with equal fury at those they fear. And the fabric of peace unravels further, tattered by the bullets of war.

But our dilemma does not stop there. Massive spending disparities, as country after country diverts vital revenue into the machinery of war, are having long-term effects on the global fabric. We can already see it right here in America, as billions per week are drained off to the miasmas of Afghanistan, Iraq and the global military presence we foolishly think we can somehow maintain, despite very real evidence that Bush’s age of American Imperialism is already crumbling to its end.

While every state in the union enacts cutbacks of social, educational and health services, our children, our elderly and our infirm are being swept aside like crumbs on a cutting board. As the fat slices go to Halliburton and Dick Cheney’s band of conscience-free corporate cohorts, money is concentrated in fewer hands and the needs of the many grow more desperate. We know the social fabric of our nation is unraveling—the evidence is all around us in broken homes, illiterate children and suffering adults. But Congress, it seems, is too busy funneling hundreds of billions to a small group of defense contractors to notice the condition of America.

In the end, it will be our children and their children who pay for these horrendous mistakes. Bush’s foolish dreams of global domination, like so many foolish dreams of conquest before, will vanish in the red mist of war. Left behind will be a crushing debt burden and, as in the wake of all such tragedies, the cries of the bereaved.

It would be great to believe the fairy tale that, no matter what, everything is going to be OK. But the evidence all around us says that everything is not going to be OK. The Bush White House is unraveling before our very eyes. Globalization and free trade are likewise coming apart faster than anyone could have predicted, hastened by the Bush Crusades.

No one can weave with a sword. Now more than at any time in recent memory, we desperately need real leaders who can pick up the tattered threads left blowing in the winds of war, appreciate them for the diversity and strength they can bring, and reconstruct a sound, equitable and cohesive national and global fabric.

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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