Americaca: the bullies of Bushworld
Why on earth did the Bush administration nominate John Bolton for the job of top U.S. diplomat at the United Nations?
He’s no diplomat, that’s for sure. One official summed him up perfectly as “the quintessential kiss-up kick-down guy.” And that’s why they wanted Bolton. They’re still sore at the U.N. They want to bully them.
More important, the Bush administration actually likes bullies. Why? Because they’re bullies themselves.
The minute bully number one, Cheney, made himself Vice-President, the bully fix was in. Cheney is the perfect backroom bully: a paranoid warrior from the cold war days, when the world was ruled by the two biggest bullies in the schoolyard, Russia and America. Cheney is so paranoid and sore at the world, he wanted Mandela to stay in jail.
President Bush, the man who had said the U.S. should be humble in its international posture, was soon brought on board and bully-schooled. Let’s face it, the only reason Bush said the U.S. should be humble, was because he was clueless at the time. Heck, he’d only been out of the US once before, back when his father was the Chinese ambassador. It’s quite understandable and proper to say you should be humble when you're ignorant.
Big question: why did the Bush administration squander the goodwill and worldwide sympathy that 9/11 gave us? Because it brought out the bully in them, of which they have plenty, instead of the moral leadership, of which they have none.
For a start, they’re morality-challenged. They lie to get their way. When they wanted to go to war with Iraq, they bullied U.S. intelligence to supply them with the information they needed to pick a fight with Saddam Hussein. Then, when this intelligence proved to be faulty, did they say sorry? No, like true bullies, they blamed their victim, U.S. intelligence, for providing them with faulty intelligence, when all the poor bastards did was try to give them the intelligence they demanded.
The fact that the Bush administration squandered all our 9/11 goodwill has become such a mantra that nobody has ever explored what might have been.
Say we had leaders capable of moral leadership. Say we had Nelson Mandela. Heck, let’s lower our sights. Say Colin Powell was driving our foreign policy instead of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Bush. (Unlike those four, Powell is not a bully, which is why he stood out like a sore thumb in the Bush administration.)
Or say we had Gore. Would he have been able to seize his Mandela moment? Or would he have turned into a bully like Bush? Gore has actually shown true moral leadership, over the environment. Bush’s moral leadership goes no further than cutting taxes for his rich cronies. Clinton, on the other hand, might’ve faltered; he’s essentially a good-hearted opportunist bullshitter. Today our truest Clinton type is, strangely enough, Arnold Schwarzenegger -- the best candidate for president the Republicans have. (We shall see if Bill Frist allows his party to change the law that forbids a foreign-born to run for President, or stops it so he can have the field to himself.)
A man capable of moral leadership like Gore might have said right after 9/11: we will find the people who did this, and we will punish them. But this is also a wake-up call. We need some self-examination. We must ask ourselves why we’ve backed so many dictatorships, and whether this has really been in our own best interest, let alone in the interest of the people suffering under those dictatorships. We have here a battle between those who stand for freedom and those who want to impose their will violently on others.
See the difference? Instead of framing it as a battle between good and evil, like Bush did, reframe it as a battle between freedom and dictatorship, and honestly self-critique our backing of dictatorships. If we had done this, the world would’ve gladly lauded us as its moral leader. We might not have needed a war to bring Saddam down; we might’ve done it by isolating him morally.
It’s rather funny that, after running out of other reasons to invade Iraq, Bush finally found a moral reason: bringing them freedom. He bullied Saddam out of existence all right, but he couldn’t bully Iraq into becoming a U.S. military base ruled by our oil companies. Al Sistani stopped him with a great march of his people to demand elections. Cheney’s plan of installing Ahmed Chalabi as our puppet was foiled by the very Shiites who were betrayed by Bush’s father.
So, after 9/11, with bullies in charge instead of moral leaders, it was easy for us to become the bullies of the world. We avoided the fights that were worth fighting – against the Saudis and Israel’s Sharon. Bullies don’t like to pick fights with strong opponents. We bullied the weak ones: Pakistan and Iraq. Musharraf folded like the bully he is. Saddam didn’t, so we crushed him, which was what Cheney wanted to do all along. Bush the elder stopped him, but Bush the younger couldn’t.
Bullies get sore when they can’t get their way, so we got very sore at France and Germany. But what did we expect? The French are master bullies. They’ve got a bigger bully role model than we’ll ever have in Napoleon. As for Germany’s Schroder, he found our bullying quite useful. He was going to lose his re-election as Chancellor until he ran against it.
Bullies not only get sore, they stay sore. That’s why the Bush administration wants to sic Bolton on the U.N. Will they succeed? Let’s hope not. Otherwise there’ll be no end to the bullying. Already another arch bully, Tom DeLay, is trying to bully our judiciary. Nobody ever tried that before, but the bullies of Bushworld have emboldened all bullies.
Where are the Democrats in all this? Cowed. In the election, Karl Rowe told the country it needed a strong leader against the terrorists. The Republicans are meaner than Democrats; they make better bullies. True. So they won.
Only one Democrat has had the guts to stand up to the bullies: Howard Dean. Unfortunately, Kerry only learned Dean’s lesson halfway. Instead of blasting the Republicans at the Democratic Convention, he decided to fight clean. Not the best way to confront a bully. The Republicans buried him with the Swift boat veterans smear. But Dean refuses to give up. A smart man, he got himself elected party leader to teach his party how to fight.
It’s something all Democrats should realize: they, and our country, are up against bullies. As a nation, the biggest question of self-examination we need to ask ourselves is this: how do we want to run the world – as bullies or moral leaders?