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Bush lies, they die
Bush lies, they die
Thoughts on Iraq, its very bad constitution, and a cowardly press
President George W. Bush did something remarkable several days ago. He actually mentioned the number of Americans who have died in Iraq — 1864 and climbing.
Bush’s reference to the dead comes at a time when his standing in opinion polls is lower even than Richard Nixon’s during the depths of Watergate. In those days of constitutional crisis Nixon mustered an approval rating of 39 percent. Today, Bush scores 36 percent.
Bush spoke in a context intended to bolster support for the Iraqi constitution, a seriously flawed document that is a recipe for intensifying the low-level civil war now being waged by that gang of out-of-nation Islamic terrorists and in-state die-hard supporters of Saddam Hussein who have come to be known collectively as insurgents.
Rather than promote a Western-style pluralistic democracy, the existing Iraqi constitution contains more loopholes than the US tax code. The worst of these loopholes can be used to deny women liberties and rights while simultaneously opening the door for religious courts to review and overturn civil, secular legislation.
So much for democracy in Iraq, the latest reason Bush cites as justification for his war and the death and dismemberment of our soldiers, not to mention the even greater number of casualties suffered by Iraqi civilians.
Just as Bush lied about the threat posed by nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and just as he lied about the direct threat Iraq posed to the United States as a staging ground for international terror, so he lies now about the virtues of the Iraqi constitution.
Bush wants his war to appear antiseptic, relatively bloodless and bodiless. A complicit and cowardly mainstream press passively collaborates with a cold and calculating White House to keep the images of carnage out of the sight of a squeamish — if not any longer docile — public. The rest of the world may be free to see and know the truth. Americans, in the Bush scheme of things, are free to be ignorant.
But, as the polls show, even ignorance is not infinitely elastic. It appears to have a hard limit, and Bush seems to have hit it. More than two years of lies and hollow optimism have finally caught up with the president.
Perhaps that is why the story of Cindy Sheehan has had such resonance. As a mother who lost her son in this dubious adventure, Sheehan has a claim on the hearts and minds of the Middle America from which Bush — like Nixon before him — draws his support. He and his henchman, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, may bar access to images of the coffins coming home, but the reality that these men and women died for their lies is just too powerful to deny any longer.
The day after Bush spoke, Greg Mitchell, the editor of the newspaper trade’s flagship publication, Editor & Publisher, called on the nation’s newspapers to advocate US disengagement and departure from Iraq. It’s time, Mitchell said, for daily newspapers, which did so much to ease the nation into war, to call for a phased withdrawal. Once a few do so, he argued, "they will show it is safe for others to stick their toes in the water."
While Mitchell’s words are welcome, they are disturbing just the same. The press doesn’t have the courage to say what the people already know: Iraq was a terrible mistake.
That truth may be why President Bush has failed to attend the funeral of a single uniformed man or woman killed in Iraq. Could it be that in his heart he knows he was wrong?
ASO is not exactly a household acronym. It stands for an arts-service organization. What’s that? It is an outfit — sometimes small, sometimes not, and usually strapped for cash — which helps arts groups or individual artists achieve their goals. There are more than 30 operating in Massachusetts. They range from the mainstream, such as Arts Boston (dedicated to — among other things — helping performance and presenting organizations like the Museum of Fine Arts or the Huntington Theatre build audiences), to the academic, such as the BU-based Photographic Resource Center. A recent study by the Boston Foundation called ASOs "unacknowledged gems of the cultural ecosystem." Their role is to work behind the scenes and help deliver the arts to a larger public.
The reason this particular Boston Foundation report is so important is that it is the third in a series of studies laying out a blueprint for how the arts community can leverage existing strengths and address shortcomings in order to thrive — or at least survive — in an unwelcoming and even hostile economic environment.
The Boston Foundation found that "[t]here is great, if unrealized potential within Metro Boston’s arts service organizations. But this potential can only be reached if a select few of these agencies choose to combine their assets to create organizations with greater capacity, stronger impact, and higher visibility through mergers, alliances, or the sharing of back office operations." The message is clear: innovate.
The two previous Boston Foundation studies led in a very real way to House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s bold and innovative proposal now pending for state investment of $250 million over the next 10 years in culture and arts at no cost to taxpayers. This new study is a call for the sometimes fractious, often (paradoxically) innovation-shy, arts world to join their political representatives and step up to the plate. It’s an opportunity not to be squandered.