The Big Press Conference: Bush and Blair

From a young age, children in America are told that the President of the United States is The Leader of The Free World. How much freedom has actually been brought to (or taken from) the world by the holder of that position in recent years is debatable. However, the implication that the U.S. Presidency is a position of much responsibility and power, for good or for bad, is understandably accepted.

It is no surprise then that when this "Leader" holds a live press conference with that position's historical predecessor, the leader of Britain, that statements made therein would be paid attention to quite closely by news organisations and the international community in general.

Conspicuously lacking in this discussion, however, is an attention to facts rather than an uncritical acceptance of the statements made. I have noticed that, while their assertions are still being continually referenced, their blatant inaccuracies are being wholeheartedly ignored. Here are just a few of the lies I took most exception to.

The Invasion of Iraq was a Mistake
The "main idea" that most news agencies in the west took away from the news conference was a concession made by both leaders that "mistakes were made" in the handling of Iraq (for expediency's sake, henceforth when referring to the situation I'll do so with that one word, as has been done by the media and governments involved since the beginning). Such a statement has been heralded in the western (primarily American based or American centered) media as a grand and somber and heartfelt concession to those affected by the tragedy that has become Iraq. Some have even gone so far as to proclaim that "the anti-war movement" (such as it is) has indeed been noticed by these leaders, as evidenced by this "somber concession."

This grand and somber concession that has been so heralded in the media was really nothing more than a rare truthful statement from the President and or the prime minister. It is not the heartfelt display of humanity that some are attempting to portray it as. It was not made for any reason more altruistic than a basic acknowledgement of the threats they perceive to their own personally important idea of political self--preservation. It was not a signal that policies would be changing in the future. It was a rare truthful statement. Nothing more.

What's well understood, yet seldom discussed, is that the only impotus that has led to Bush and Blair finally admitting that "mistakes were made" is the fact that both currently have absolutely dismal approval ratings. This is due primarily to the Iraq war. If it is understood that the aim of a politician is to maintain power, then having a vast majority of those who theoreticially control your fate not having faith in your ability, you are failing at your job. If one believes in the concept that the job of a democratically elected official is to actually serve the will of their population (rather than create that will, alter that will, or ignore that will altogether), then an approval rating is an indicication that they are failing when it is so drastically abysmal as that of Bush and Blair at the moment. This failure finally has the effect of eliciting the concession that "mistakes were made" but the reaction to this is to hail the statement as some huge concession, rather than pointing to the concept of "too little too late." I genuinely don't understand how the acknowledgement of a blatantly obvious fact could possibly be construed as some huge concession.

Blame the Victim
Far from being the "heartfelt display of humanity" (towards those "liberated" souls who fear for their lives on a daily basis in Iraq) that some have tried to portray it as, the points reiterated throughout the statements by these two leaders were more akin to a phenomenon common in the perpetrators of crimes: blame the victim. Quite often the perpetrators of heinus crimes such as thieves, rapists, and murderers blame the victims for the crimes, as a way for the criminal to justify their actions to themselves and to the (stunned) public.

The first phase of blaming the victim is to manufacture excuses to justify one's actions. To put aside the WMD claim, or the claim that Saddam presented an imminent danger to the U.S. (laughable to the informed publics of nearly every nation in the world, save America), or the "freedom and democracy" thing they've latched on to in recent years (I'll get back to that later), or even the atrocities and oppression brought about by Saddam (with the help of the then-and-now incumbents in the U.S. government), lets just have a look at the proportions of the duo in this major news conference. GW himself grabbed the ball for this particular play, making one baseless claim after another.

One such claim was that Saddam was abusing the U.N. Oil for Food program, usurping the supplies that were meant to be feeding the Iraqi Population. When G.W. made this statement I was quite curious as to what his basis for such a remark was. I wondered this because the chief U.N. Humanitarian Coordinators who were in charge of providing that food for oil would beg to differ with his characterisation. Dennis Halliday, Hans von Sponeck, and Tun Myat all have asserted that the food was distributed in the best manner possible under the circumstances, given the "genocidal" nature (Halliday's word, not mine) of the sanctions regime. The Iraqi end of the oil for food program, in the words of Tun Myat, was "the best distribution system that [he] had ever seen in [his] life, as a World Food Program official." The WFP conducted over ONE MILLION inspections of the system, and "uncovered no significant evidence of fraud or favoritism." But somehow this was offered as an excuse.

Some of the other excuses given for the invasion, well known in the public record, were re-iterated in the press conference. An "unabashed desire to spread freedom," and a supposed "altruistic quest" (CNN reporter) to "rid the world of tyranny" in the words of Bush. If memory serves me, these excuses were only first produced once it became apparent that the originial pretext for the invasion, flimsy from the beginning, would completely fall through: "We did not find the WMDs we all thought were there." (Bush) I guess that "we all" must refer to Bush and Blair, as most viewers (outside of the controlled information structure that stifles independent thought in the U.S.) were not convinced of the existence of any WMDs in Iraq at all.

But what of this supposed freedom-spreading and tyranny-crushing altruism that Bush and Blair are claiming now, upon the collapse of their original fabricated pretext. Even American opponents of the war (Sen Murtha, for one) genuinely believe the propaganda that the war is spreading freedom and democracy. But what is freedom? Webster.com defines freedom as "the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action" or "liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another." The absence of constraint in choice of action is almost nonexistent in Iraq, a direct result of the decamation of all systems that maintained any semblence of order (by the coalition forces). The security situation has deteriorated to such an extent that Iraqi citizens are afraid of leaving their houses, afraid of having the sanctity of their homes violated by armed gangs or U.S. soldiers invading private residences and executing the inhabitants. The Haditha massacre is just one of countless examples, but living in fear for your safety is not freedom.

"No Excuses"
In the most disturbing example of the phenomenon of "blame the victim" in use by the western regimes responsible for the carnage in Iraq, this supposed "somber concession" was accompanied by a virtual torrent of laying blame everywhere except upon those responsible for the invasion.

The most stark example of this was Mr. Blair's assertions that there were "no excuses" for the continued resistence in Iraq. His excuses for their being "no excuses" for resisting the occupation included the second half of the much-repeated assertion of "freedom and democracy" being brought to the Iraqi people. This also brings us back to the definition of freedom.

Part of freedom is "liberation from the power of another" according to Merriam-Webster. Democracy is, by definition, a government chosen by the people to represent their wishes. Mr. Blair asserted that Iraq had one of the most modern constitutions on the planet, and had a "democratically elected" government; they have democracy, and as such have a voice, thus their is no reason for them to take up arms against the occupying forces. This, however, is wholly inaccurate. While there were elections in Iraq, the part of the elections that made them un-democratic has been completely ignored in the west. The individuals that the Iraqi people had to choose between in their elections were all hand picked by the coalition. They could not choose who they would like to vote for, their only choice was between individuals who had already been picked for them by the occupying power, or the "power of another." That is, by definition, un-democratic and un-free.
They also ignore the concept that Iraqi people are being interned without crime and without trial by the Coalition forces, that Coalition forces are slaughtering (and have been slaughtering) civilians on a major scale since the beginning (carpet-bombing entire cities wipes out populations, not just military installations). The Iraqis have no freedom, no true democracy, and they are living under the thumb of a murderous occupation force that has no respect for basic human rights. Is Mr. Blair completely ignorant of these facts, or has he taken to the Bush line of Lie Until They Believe It. I wonder.

Some other disturbing topics they covered included Bush trying to assert that he was willing to compromise on anything; his example was that to drive down spiraling health care costs in the U.S. they should do away with "frivolous" malpractice lawsuits. Basically that means that doctors would get Carte Blanche to do as they pleased, without having to worry about getting sued for accidentally chopping someone's arm off, or injecting a child with a high dose of adrenaline instead of a sedatative. Does he not realise that the cost of the Iraq War could have paid for EVERY CHILD IN AMERICA UNDER THE AGE OF FIFTEEN TO HAVE HAD FULL HEALTH COVERAGE FOR THE ENTIRE DURATION OF THE WAR (to this date) FOR NO COST TO THEM. Instead he's suggesting taking away a doctors liability for medical malpractice (ex. practicing medicine without a licence). Smart.
They also discussed making major changes to the U.N., such as to "make it legal to act pre-emptively." The sad thing is that it is legal by international law to act pre-emptively, to take action when there is a direct and credible threat to the safety or soverignty of any given nation. That right is enshrined in Article 51 of the U.N. charter. However, it is not legal to act "preventively," wherein you take action against a country that you perceive could become a threat sometime in the future. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was (in the words of Bush himself, but then not now) a "preventive" attack, which is against international law. Nearly any nation in the world could perceive that there could be a future possibility of a threat from nearly any other nation, hence the reason "pre-emptive" attacks are legal (direct, credible, immediate threat, as in their army is on the way here as we speak) and "preventive" attacks (maybe someday they'll figure out how to throw a grenade from a helicopter across our border, so we should go take them out before that could ever possibly happen) are not.
Bush also asserted that, with Iran, "the issue at hand is wether they're going to continue to press for a nuclear weapon." That is, again, not true. As I have mentioned on countless occasions in this blog, the IAEA and the UN Security Council have, ON COUNTLESS OCCASIONS, stated that there is no evidence that Iran is pressing for a nuclear weapon. They have also stated that, in opposition to Bush's statement in this press conference that " the issue is will the Iranians suspend" uranium enrichment, the issue is actually greater transparency from Iran about their program; such transparency (Iran offering the IAEA inspectors un-inhibited access to Iranian sites) was flatly rejected by Condi Rice just last month. Again, I must re-iterate: Suspention is not the main issue.

I find it distressing, to say the least, when these men string together alot of sentences, because in doing so they paint a very bleak portrait of what our future might be like. It seems to be a future of danger, despair, and deception. Are these the men who are meant to shape our future?

1 comment:

misneach said...

I neglected to mention in my discussion of Democratic elections in this post the fact that many Iraqis were afraid for their lives to go and vote, also a direct result of the U.S. invasion. This is a similar scenario to the elections in El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s, wherein the citizens were to afraid to go and vote, and as such the elections were viewed as fraudulent by all international observers... except those from the U.S. The United States (then under the first run of the current incumbants, under the leadership of Reagan) heralded the elections as democratic, specifically because those who won (because the population, under fear from U.S.-sponsored armed militias roaming those countries) were the ones that the U.S. wanted in power, since they were the "most receptive" to american wishes. That was not democracy. This (Iraq, now) is not democracy either.