Election 2004: Blood on the Dancefloor
by Shelton Hull
I count myself as a beneficiary of early voting. By the time the polls had opened to start the “official” election day, I had washed my hands of the process. Having covered most local and regional campaigns since 1998, I have witnessed the deterioration of collective thought first-hand. To whatever extent my own work has contributed to that deterioration, by spinning pre-Dean variants on “You’ve got the power!”, I can only apologize to the many who didn’t get it. Those who did, I think, are better off, but so what? America and its interests have now passed the point at which value- judgments have any real value.
The lesson I draw is this: “The nail that sticks out will be hammered back into place.” It was a maxim of China’s “cultural revolution,” which their internal documents assert was a success, as evidenced by their recent unprecedented prosperity. Tiananmen Square was their 9/11– it changed everything. They moved toward capitalism so aggressively that it compromised America’s national security, while exploiting the symbols of Communism like they were runaways in Catholic schoolgirl outfits.
History may record that Bush’s adventure in Iraq exposed the shadiness of our “allies” years in advance. The unprecedented “goodwill” that followed the 9/11 tragedy was an expression of condolences for what they believed was a crippled nation. Neither Bush nor anyone else should have been surprised that we would lose such support in fall 2002. As the only member of the UN Security Council that was not already turning a brisk profit in black-market dealings with Iraq, we tried to muscle in on their action, so of course our allies turned on us. Europe has never given a damn about human rights except in theory. In practice, though, Europe’s history of genocide surpasses even 19th-century America’s, and they’re never far away from doing it again.
As the buffalo drops to its knees, the vultures circle. Bush’s first-term failure was in not understanding that 1,000 dead US troops trumps a million dead Iraqis, even in the international community. Sanctions, embargoes and Oil-for-Food were all just blocks in the pyramid scheme that Bush memorably referenced as “the bubble of the 1990s.” Had he been willing to call globalization for what it was, there might be fewer domestic and international media praising the “moderate tones” of the newest OBL video. “Your security is not in the hands of Bush or Kerry or al-Qaeda,” he said, “but in your own hands.” In other words, you have the power! Maybe.
The fact is that America’s relationship with Saddam in the 1980s– where he ruled an oil-rich nation with an iron fist, sold us the oil at reasonable prices and invaded nations that refused to do business with us– was the ideal. Saddam trusted the US more than any Arab leader ever had or ever will again, if they are smart. The Duelfer report held that Hussein never viewed the US as a real threat to his regime, even after the first Gulf War, even after a bipartisan consensus emerged that “the price” of starving 500,000 Iraqi children “was worth it.” Now, the whole world, it seems, is united around the idea that George W. Bush is not the man Saddam Hussein was.
It gives me no pleasure to have been right about virtually everything I’ve put in print during the “GWB” era. It certainly did nothing for my wallet or my personal life. The conservatives who inveighed against “Islamofascists” and called me a traitor for predicting terrorism in 2001 (via the power vacuum theory) couldn’t even save their children from MTV. They cling to Bush because he is their last chance for sovereignty.
The poison rhetoric that has flowed through fiber-optic lines and across our air was too little, too late. Stopping the invasion of Iraq was, for liberals, leftists and the like, the great moral and strategic challenge of our time, and we failed so badly that no result will ever erase the perception that America has now entered a post-Democratic era in which power, and power only, equates to leadership.
Where the opposition was driven by hatred of self and fear of power, the President was driven by an irrational idealism based on his personal salvation and his brush with death on 9/11. Bush’s problem was that he thought the American people would be wiling to sacrifice temporal hedonistic pleasures for the health and prosperity of future generations, which is simply not true. No doubt that he and Senator Kerry now see the folly of populism, and no doubt also that, having been chosen to “lead” our perverse, bankrupt nation for four more eventful years, Mr. Bush may be the biggest loser of all. ◼