My friend Henry writes: "Here is an interesting editorial. At a time when our own press has become timid and loathe to call a spade a spade, it is both startling and refreshing to read an editorial that says exactly what the writer thinks."
THE EMPIRE OF VULGARITY by Mike Carlton (Sydney Morning Herald)
George Bush's second inaugural extravaganza was every bit as repugnant as I had expected, a vulgar orgy of triumphalism probably unmatched since Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French in Notre Dame in 1804.
The little Corsican corporal had a few decent victories to his escutcheon. Lodi, Marengo, that sort of thing. Not so this strutting Texan mountebank, with his chimpanzee smirk and his born-again banalities delivered in that constipated syntax that sounds the way cold cheeseburgers look, and his grinning plastic wife, and his scheming junta of neo-con spivs, shamans, flatterers and armchair warmongers, and his sinuous evasions and his brazen lies, and his sleight of hand theft from the American poor, and his rape of the environment, and his lethal conviction that the world must submit to his Pax Americana or be bombed into charcoal.
Difficult to know what was more repellent: the estimated $40m cost of this jamboree (most of it stumped up by Republican fat-cats buying future presidential favours), or the sheer crassness of its excess when American boys are dying in the quagmire of Bush's very own Iraq war.
Other wartime presidents sought restraint. Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address in 1865 - "with malice toward none, with charity for all" - is the shortest ever. And he had pretty much won the Civil War by that time.
In 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened his fourth-term speech with the "wish that the form of this inauguration be simple and its words brief". He spoke for a couple of eloquent minutes, then went off to a light lunch, his wartime victory almost complete as well.
But restraint is not a Dubya word. Learning nothing, the dumbest and nastiest president since the scandalous Warren Harding died in 1923, Bush is now intent on expanding the Iraq war to neighbouring Iran.
Condoleezza Rice did admit to the US Senate this week that there had been some "not so good" decisions. But the more I see of her gleaming teeth and her fibreglass helmet of hair and her perky confidence, the more I am convinced that back in the '60s she used to be Cindy Birdsong, up there beside Diana Ross as one of the Supremes of Motown fame. I don't think it's a good idea to let her make a comeback as Secretary of State.
The war in Iran is under way already, if we believe Seymour Hersh, the distinguished investigative writer for The New Yorker magazine. Hersh reported this week that clandestine US special forces have been on the ground there, targeting nuclear facilities to be bombed whenever Bush feels the time is ripe.
"The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran's ability to go nuclear," he wrote, quoting reliable intelligence sources. "But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of th religious leadership."
Naturally, Pentagon flacks rushed out to deny all. But then they did that when Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968, and again when he revealed the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. A tussle for the truth between Hersh and the Pentagon is no contest.
What terrifies me most is the people planning this new war. The CIA professionals have been frozen out: too weak and wimpy for the Bushies.
The Defense Secretary, the incompetent Donald Rumsfeld, has seized control, aided by two Pentagon under-secretaries. One is Douglas Feith, largely responsible for the post-invasion collapse of order in Iraq, a civilian bureaucrat memorably described by the former Centcom commander, General Tommy Franks, as "the f---ing stupidest guy on the face of the Earth".
The other is army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, whose name also rings a bell. Jerry is a born-again Christian evangelical, a three-star bigot who, in his spare time, stumps the country in full uniform, preaching that America's enemy is Satan, Allah is a false idol, and that George Bush has been ordained by the Lord to rout evil.
"He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this," Jerry told a prayer meetin' in Oregon just a while back.
Be very afraid.