"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
It"s the Policies, Stupid
As Americans gather to exercise their god-given right to pick the leader of the free world, that world huddles anxiously in the far-flung corners of the planet to see what comes next. This has all been posited as good news for John Kerry, who is poised today to take control of the massive house of cards left behind by one of the most criminal organizations since the Nixon White House.
But even if the Republicans manage to fall short in their racist and anti-democratic quest to steal enough votes to cling to power, a new president can't expect a free pass. Whoever takes the oath in January'giving the current administration, by the way, another two months of Rump Parliament leeway to ruin everything even further'whoever wins the Big Prize will inherit a free world so angry and fed up with US policies that no amount of finesse, charm or tweaking can force the genie back in the bottle. Score one for the people of the world.
The one thing George Bush has done right is to unmask the darker side of US imperial dreams. For this, he is routinely excoriated even by 'true' conservatives, stalwarts of his own party, by liberals, moderates and blind, left-handed pipewelders'in short, everyone'all who decry the loss of US 'influence' in the world at large. Please allow me to thank God. [Note: this is not a Grammy acceptance speech.] In an earlier piece before the US invasion, I wrote, 'Mark my words: this war signals the beginning of the end of the US as a world power.' [Fair Warning, March 2003.] Following the axiom that only a pompous jackass quotes himself (those who know me well can opine, both friend and foe) let me elaborate further:
There is not a single war in history where the aggressor does not claim to have been provoked. Nobody cares what kind of forged documents we can cook up, or how many Americans the government can dupe. All the childish, macho, swaggering crap, all the "freedom fries" and "liberty toast" in the world won't wash the bad taste it leaves it the mouths of world opinion . . . . Over the next few decades, our standard of living will slide as the world community recoils. Why should it be otherwise? As Paul Simon sang of a different war a generation ago, "You can't expect to be bright and bon-vivant so far away from home/so far away from home."
The right wing, of course, is desperate to hold on to power, trotting out all the tricks they can muster to intimidate, obfuscate, bluster and steal their way to a second wave of unmitigated destruction. They are well on their way to succeeding, as 200 million bucks buys a lot of neat stuff. [See Palast's expose, An Election Spoiled Rotten] But despite the ouija board polling industry, the phenomenally uninterested and incompetent press, and a largely comatose US population, it seems obvious that Bush is also hated by his own people, though certainly not by the margins seen in the rest of the world. There's enough mistrust to ignite a civil war and fuel a new axiom, 'if he wins, they stole it.'
The problem is what happens next. If Bush is booted today, there are precious few safeguards (fewer than ever, thanks to the work of this administration) against the US war machine. The trouble is that in the Ponzi scheme of US politics, voters are asked to choose between shapeshifters, magicians, sound bites and teams of spinmeisters equally prepared to argue that their man did and did not mean whatever it is that he did or did not say. Hey diddle-diddle, she's the one in the middle. Absent enormous political courage, it leaves little room for a mandate; the winner simply sits at the helm of a huge, unwieldy ship that dangerously steers itself, its rudders fixed and sails rigged by corporate interests unresponsive to anything but their own power.
The antiwar movement, the vestige of the US 'left,' has promised a sort of November 3 Movement, aimed at sustaining the opposition to US policies that victimize the world's people. However, it has been an outgrowth of the stampede toward Anybody But Bush; the logic was that it is so essential to get rid of Bush that these forces should hold their fire against Kerry until Satan is safely out of the way. The trouble, of course, is that the myriad variables that make this avenue appealing to a certain crowd will also conspire in the same and different ways to make it essential to hold off in the future. Tomorrow is when the November 3 movement will begin to break down, its collapse fueled by the internal contradictions that have brought it about.
The clock is ticking on US empire. What the world needs is a sustained, vigorous, coherent and unyielding opposition to the policies that have brought us to this point. None of that will come from any new administration. It will be forced on it by challenge from below and from without. The US left can get on board if it chooses; for much of the world, however, it seems that the train is already leaving the station.