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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

A Rogue America on rampage

By Karamatullah K. Ghori

How should one describe a nation of 285 million people, with a majority of them suffering from amnesia?

How should one determine the mental level and aptitude of this majority proven ready to overlook the shenanigans and antics of a cavalier President who doesn't believe in the sanctity of international law or convention? What would one say about this majority that has apparently shut its eyes, as if it were purblind, to all moral and legal violations committed by this president and re-elects him for another four years?

What would you say about the quality of journalism in a country that boasts of itself as the global bastion of free speech and expression, but its media behaves as a law unto itself and cares two hoots for global sensitivities and angst about its blatant conduct?

Time Magazine's selection of George W. Bush as its 'man of the year' should be the proverbial last straw on a camel's back for those still inclined to give the American majority and its establishment media the benefit of doubt. Time had last year selected 'the American soldier' at its man of the year, manifesting its appreciation of the illegal war imposed on the Iraqis to subjugate them. Bush's succession to this title should put all doubts to rest that the mainstream U.S. news media is continually proud of its role as the cheer- leader of Bush's warmongering and militarism, and doesn't mind flaunting this pride.

Following the World War II, the charge that the German people were also complicit in Hitler's crimes against humanity-because they cheered him on and lent him moral sustenance-was made most stridently in the U.S. American historians and media pundits were in the forefront of an intellectual tirade to rope in the German nation, en masse, in whatever guilt could be pinned on Hitler. One wonders if the same charge of 'complicity' of the American people in Bush's horrendous militarism abroad wouldn't be justified at the bar of history?

In naming Bush its 'man of the year', Time magazine has made one paltry concession to global sensitivities and reservations about Bush by qualifying his nomination with the proviso, " for better or for worse." One might still elect to be charitable to Time and say, 'Thank you for your gesture. What could we have done if you had blandly said Bush's nomination was for the best of humanity?'

Bush's scant regard for global sensitivities, if not outright contempt, was in the spotlight recently when he decorated as 'heroes' three principal rogues of the Iraqi war: General Tommy Franks, CIA's disgraced former Chief George Tenet, and 'viceroy' Paul Bremmer. To rub salt into the wounds of those conscious of the crimes of these rogues, Bush eulogized them for their service to America and the 'cause of freedom'.

With more and more evidence surfacing by the day about the rogue, if not outright criminal, behaviour of the U.S. servicemen and intelligence paraphernalia, vis--vis the hapless victims of their trigger-happy arrogance, one cannot miss the conclusion that Bush's dominance of American presidency is for worse, not good, of mankind, and even that of Americans.

The latest disclosure of torture regularly, and massively, employed against the prisoners of Guantanamo, and of Abu Ghuraib in Iraq, once again proves the point of highest level complicity in brutalizing of the people captured on mere suspicion of being 'high value' intelligence material.

The American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U) has managed to extract documentary evidence from the Pentagon archives under the 'Freedom of Information Act' and made it public through news sources. The evidence, compiled by FBI agents, is based on eye- witness accounts of bestial treatment and rampant torture of prisoners, with FBI agents present and watching.

Some of the narratives are so graphic as to rattle the conscience of any normal human being, except those who see nothing wrong in whatever methods the Bush minions are employing to make 'America safe.'

The evidence speaks of prisoners chained so viciously as to make them virtual piles of human flesh. Stripped of any clothing, they were left to shiver to near death on bare floors with the air conditioning turned to maximum. Some of them urinated and defecated in that condition on themselves.

In other cases, prisoners were left, for hours on end, in cells with the air conditioning turned off in 100 F temperature. No water or food was allowed to them. They were literally roasted on coals in those suffocating cells. They were routinely denied sleep and forced to stay awake with blinding lights and high- pitched rock music.

FBI sources have talked because of fear that Pentagon, in a crunch situation, would pass all the blame for torture on them. According to A.C.L.U, there is evidence that these barbarous methods of torture had the approval of the highest sources in the Pentagon. In some cases, even the White House approved of use of physical force to ferret out 'high valued' intelligence.

Pentagon's highest- level complicity in the torture of prisoners had become amply established earlier this year when the Abu Ghuraib scandal hit the news headlines. The chain of command that approved of all those bestial and brutal methods of handling the prisoners seemed to go right up to the office of Secretary Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. 

There were demands, then, from both Democratic and Republican sides of Congress and Senate for Rumsfeld to step down and accept responsibility. But Rumsfeld has such a thick skin that all criticism deflects off him like he was made of Teflon. He held, shamelessly, to his guns and was duly rewarded for his loyalty by Bush when he asked him to stay on the job in the second term.

Rumsfeld's insensitivity to the value of lives of his own soldiers, what to talk of the Iraqi or other victims of his Machiavellian policy, came into full evidence recently when he went out to Kuwait to give a pep talk to U.S. service men stationed there. He was made to put up with some prickly questions from irate soldiers grumbling about the inadequacy of the equipment and armor, given to them, to ensure their safety. A stunned Rumsfeld had no answer to satisfy the soldiers' legitimate grievances. 

But Rumsfeld's cold heartedness was put into an even sharper relief when parents and relatives of the soldiers killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan disclosed that Rumsfeld didn't personally sign the letters of condolences sent to them. Instead, he used a machine to sign those letters. Even Bush personally signs all such letters and was, visibly, taken aback when confronted with Rumsfeld's petrifying practice at a news conference in the White House, just before Christmas holidays.

But Bush bears as much responsibility for the regime of inhumane methods of treating the prisoners of U.S. aggression that Rumsfeld has, obviously, blessed with a relish. Any president sensitive to the call of human dignity and decency would have fired Rumsfeld when the Abu Ghuraib scandal had hit the news. But Bush announced his complicity with Rumsfeld to the whole world when he retained him in the job for his second term.

The world is free to draw its own conclusions. Rumsfeld and Bush are one of a kind, and both complement each other. In fact, between the three of them-Bush, Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney-they make a terrible triumvirate of warmongers and imperialists out to terrorise the world.

Any man with a grain of self- respect and decency would have resigned, himself, when so much evidence of his personal involvement in the brutal treatment of helpless prisoners was laid at his door. But no such pang of conscience or morality bothered Rumsfeld. Even Machiavelli, had he been alive today, would have bowed to Rumsfeld and admired his wizardry with inventive methods of having his way, and that of his expansionist policies.

Far from being repentant in the least, Rumsfeld, assured of another innings, is working on an innovative, though highly diabolical, scheme of disinformation and mis-information at a global scale under the auspices of the Pentagon.

The New York Times, of December 13, splashed on its front page in banner headlines Rumsfeld's latest macabre innovation at the Pentagon. The scheme envisages disinformation at a massive scale about the battlefield and Pentagon's own strategy in order to confuse 'the enemy' and drive it in the wrong directions. However, critics of this latest brainwave of Rumsfeld argue that, in this age of cyber communications and Internet, such disinformation couldn't remain confined to the 'enemy' and may end up confusing the Americans themselves. 

This criticism is apart from the moral and ethical aspect of a policy steeped in deception, fabrication and outright lies-obviously anathema to some who still cherish core American values of truth and openness.

But Rumsfeld has never been stuck on ethics or morality issues. To him it would be part of his 'psy-war' and targeted to sow confusion in the 'enemy' about American strategy and tactics. This is not the first time that he is up to such dirty tricks. Three years ago, Rumsfeld was forced to draw the curtain on his 'Office of Strategic Influence' geared to providing false stories to foreign journalists and media designed to influence opinions, perceptions and policies abroad about U.S.

But in this latest instance, Rumsfeld is out to target the Arab and Muslim world in particular. The NY Times story spoke of a grand plan to create false documents, and even websites, to implant concocted stories, translated into Arabic and other languages, for maximum impact. The targets in sight are mosques and madressahs suspected of feeding their followers and pupils on anti-American propaganda. Rumsfeld wants to undercut the influence of these institutions by knocking out their credibility through false and misleading propaganda of his own.

What Rumsfeld, re-anointed by his mentor Bush for another stint, aims to do could put to shame both Machiavelli and Goebbels and make them look like amateurs who could learn a lot from this outspoken champion of U.S. military supremacy over the world, especially the Arab and Islamic world.
Bush and Rumsfeld seem still determined to make Iraq into a forward base for their dream of an American Empire coming true, despite the Iraqis determinedly telling them, through their sacrifice in blood, that they don't want this. 

Fallujah has been turned into a huge pile of rubble for standing up to brute American militarism. However, the razing of their city to ground doesn't seem to have bulldozed the will of the people of Fallujah, or of any other part of Iraq. This is despite a sinister campaign to desperately seek to divide the Iraqis along sectarian lines. 

The latest acts of violence in Nejaf and Karbala, which had been relatively quiet since the uprising by Moqtada Al Sadr, several months ago, is a pointer to a deadly campaign to create a sectarian divide and pose a grave challenge to the unity of Iraq. But the religious leadership and the clergy in both the Shiia and Sunni camps have refused to get excited or give a call to their followers to girdle up. 

The restraint and sagacity of the Iraqi clergy is a good omen, in particular, for the future harmony of Iraq, if and when the country rids itself of the baneful American presence. The daring suicidal attack at the largest U.S. military base in Iraq, at Mosul, on December 21 amply underlined the steely resolve of the Iraqis to make its military occupation as painful and costly for U.S. as possible. At least 19 American servicemen were killed in the explosion at the base's dining facility.

Knowing the die- hard nature of Bush and Rumsfeld, and legions of neo cons to pander to their whims, it is not inconceivable that they would be plotting, in the White House and the Pentagon, about how to steal the Iraqi election, just the way they did in Afghanistan. The 3000-strong American Embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world, has an ambassador who is a past master at that kind of dirty meddling in other states' affairs. John Negroponte came to fame in Central America in that role and, no doubt, has been chosen for the mission in Baghdad on those credentials.

However, the Iraqi determination to make the best of a bad situation might still confound Negroponte and his masters in Washington. Iraqis are aware of the heavy responsibility on their shoulders in the January 30 elections. It would be a test for them not only of their gritty resolve to stay united in the face of an imperial onslaught but also to make their example a model for other oppressed people resisting American imperialism. Bush and Rumsfeld didn't take that into account when they plotted to impose an unprovoked war on Iraq.

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