By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Tuesday 30 August 2005
If the thunder don't get you
Then the lightning will ...
-- Robert Hunter
Try this madness on for size.
Here we have Pat Robertson, ostensibly a Christian, judging by the number of crosses he surrounds himself with, calling for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Parsing the gibberish that pours forth from this fraud of a holy man has been a parlor game in my home for a while now. My favorite remains the statement made by Robertson in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when he said the attack was God's judgment on America for our tolerance of gays, feminists and the ACLU.
After you get past the immediate disgust that comes whenever you hear something so vile, you are left with the Robertson pretzel-logic. Think about it: If the attacks of 9/11 were the righteous judgment of the Lord, as the false priest told us, then the terrorists were acting on behalf of and to the purposes of God. In other words, they were doing holy and important work, and are therefore above reproach. Call off the War on Terra, folks, and let's bring the troops home. We're waging war on a bunch of dudes who were only seeking to follow Jesus' direct orders.
Yes, such is life in the la-la land of Pat Robertson. This newest one, the call to put a bag on Hugo Chavez, verges into equally bizarre territory. This televangelist is supposed to be a Christian leader, and the last I'd heard, Christ was the guy they called the Prince of Peace. I have this image of Robertson's version of Jesus, however, being an Aramaic rendering of the Max Fischer character from the movie "Rushmore," contemplating the murder of Chavez while walking around Nazareth muttering, "He just made my list of things to do today. I'm gonna pop a cap in his ass."
Some talking head on Fox News the other day coughed up the names and home address of two guys who live in La Habra, California. He released this information live over the network while claiming the two were tied to a man named Iyad Halal, whose group is allegedly connected to the London bombings. The two guys from La Habra, who of course have no terrorism ties whatsoever, now have police protection outside their home, because a whole mob of loyal Fox watchers have been accosting them, screaming profanities at them and spray-painting their house with the word "terrorist." But here's the funny part: Whoever tagged their house with that graffiti did great honor to the intellectual reputation of Fox viewers by spelling the word "terrist." Thus fell Lord Perth, and the earth did shake with that thunder.
Sometimes you just have to laugh when an entire nation takes seeming leave of its senses, when the appalling becomes the mundane, when normally level-headed people lose the capacity to be shocked. The problem, of course, is that there is nothing funny about any of this. The top leadership of this nation has gone barking mad, has enwombed itself in a fantasy world where dead people don't hit the ground and where no plan is the best plan, and that madness has trickled down over the rest of us.
George W. Bush coughed up his latest rationale for continuing the Iraq war - I think this is the fourth or fifth one of these to this point - by saying that because so many American soldiers have been killed, we have to keep sending American soldiers to get killed as a means of honoring the American soldiers who have been killed. Big talk from a guy who spends more time on vacation than a French aristocrat.
Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother who lost her son in Iraq and who has spent the last month perched outside the Crawford ranch like Poe's raven, almost sounds like she pities George in her latest dispatch from Camp Casey. "Since the Freedom and Democracy thing is not going so well," writes Sheehan, "and the Iraqi parliament is having such a hard time writing their constitution, since violence is mounting against Iraqis and Americans and since his poll numbers are going down every day, he had to come up with something."
Oh yeah, about that Iraqi constitution? It's a blueprint for civil war. The Sunnis, who make up about 30% of the population, were completely cut out of the thing and do not accept the version that has been decided on. The Arab League has rejected the document as incomplete and overly solicitous of Iraqi Kurds. The Shi'ite majority, who crafted the document, want to take nine Shi'ite territories and amalgamate them into one autonomous region that would umbilically connect itself to Iran. Those nine territories, it should be noted, have the richest oil reserves in that country. Welcome to Balkanized Iraq, a nation whose quasi-constitution, by the way, basically eviscerates any and all rights for women.
Bush is rocking a 40% approval rating right now, a number that Charles Manson would find embarrassing. The war in Iraq, the rising casualty numbers, the disastrous constitutional thrashing about, not to mention gas prices that are beating consumer confidence to death, are pig-piling all over his sunnily deranged view of things. The hurricane that threatened to annihilate New Orleans caused oil prices to bang above $70 a barrel on Monday, and the storm itself will likely do damage to the petroleum infrastructure in that region, which will further boost gas prices all across the country.
The hurricane itself, at least, isn't George's fault, though one can imagine Karl Rove on the roof of the Crawford ranch summoning the storm like Saruman in order to change, at least for a little while, the subject. Yet the hurricane is a pretty decent example of how Bush priorities do lethal damage to ordinary people, both here and abroad. 3,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard's 256th Brigade, who serve as the front-line saviors when natural disasters strike their home state, sit today in Iraq and can only watch helplessly as the storm batters their neighbors and friends.
Back in June, the New Orleans district of the US Army Corps of Engineers absorbed a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding. This was an epic reduction for one fiscal year. A story from the Dolan Media news wire reported at the time that, "The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now."
But whatever. It's just people, right? The geometry of public discourse, of priorities and the public good, has been perverted almost beyond comprehension. So-called holy men call for assassinations, national television stations put the finger on innocent citizens and open the door for poorly-spelled harassment, soldiers have to keep dying because soldiers have been dying, the Iraqi Founding Fathers drafted a constitution that would have excluded everything north of Virginia had it been written here a couple hundred years ago, and a bad storm is going to be worse because George didn't think keeping New Orleans safe was an important budget item.
You want to know the really funny part, the over-the-moon wacky part? Pat Buchanan has called for the impeachment of George W. Bush in his latest column. It seems Pat is put out by Bush's immigration policies. "Some courageous Republican, to get the attention of this White House," writes Pat, "should drop into the hopper a bill of impeachment, charging Bush with a conscious refusal to uphold his oath and defend the states of the Union against 'invasion.'"
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.