Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Fiddle and Burn

I have always loved the image I have in my mind of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned. It's one of my favorite descriptions of bad leadership.

When the current American president was planning his inauguration, I assumed that (like other wartime presidents), a scaled-down, tasteful celebration of victory would be enjoyed, and impressed-upon, by all.

I didn't bother discussing it at the time, because I know that any criticism of the current administration is considered petty sour-grapes, and thoughtful analyses are truly unpatriotic. So, I said nothing and I analyzed nothing (I want to be a good American).

Then yesterday, I received an email from my friend Jim that included an article by a columnist named Mike Carlton who writes for the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald. I was thrilled by Mr. Carlton's depiction of our most recent inauguration as 'vulgar' because I (after assuming it would be toned-down) was appalled by the display of wealth and power by those living in safety while young men and women are sacrificing life and limb.

We have not had many wars since WWII, but during wartime it has been customary for leaders to tone-down their partying. (Keep in mind that neither Korea nor VietNam were actually wars.)

Mr. Carlton made points much more humorously and succinctly than I could, so I encourage you to read his piece. In particular, I thought these points salient:

  • "George Bush's second inaugural extravaganza was every bit as repugnant as I had expected, a vulgar orgy of triumphalism probably unmatched since Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French . . .

  • "Difficult to know what was more repellent: the estimated $US40 million cost of this jamboree (most of it stumped up by Republican fat-cats buying future presidential favours), or the sheer crassness of its excess when American boys are dying in the quagmire of Bush's very own Iraq war.

  • "But restraint is not a Dubya word. Learning nothing, the dumbest and nastiest president since the scandalous Warren Harding died in 1923, Bush is now intent on expanding the Iraq war to neighbouring Iran.

  • "[Seymour] Hersh [investigative writer for The New Yorker magazine] reported this week that clandestine US special forces have been on the ground [in Iran], targeting nuclear facilities to be bombed whenever Bush feels the time is ripe.

  • "Naturally, Pentagon flacks rushed out to deny all. But then they did that when Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968, and again when he revealed the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. A tussle for the truth between Hersh and the Pentagon is no contest.

  • ". . . Douglas Feith, a mad-eyed Zionist largely responsible for the post-invasion collapse of order in Iraq, a civilian bureaucrat memorably described by the former Centcom commander, General Tommy Franks, as 'the f---ing stupidest guy on the face of the Earth.'

  • "Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin . . . is a born-again Christian evangelical, a three-star bigot who, in his spare time, stumps the country in full uniform, preaching that America's enemy is Satan, Allah is a false idol, and that George Bush has been ordained by the Lord to rout evil."
Wrong wingers can defend the current president's policies and this president himself as much as they like; but, they are wrong when they do so. The myth that current policy is a good plan for America is fallacy. Never has a single president proffered so much negativity and undermined the civility of our nation; and never has one fiddled so crassly whilst Rome burned.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Because, when he is done convincing American television viewers that more war, not less, is in our best interest, he will get back to dismantling civil rights, gutting government services, and subsidizing the conglomeration of our once-great free market.

The emperor of vulgarity, by Mike Carlton, at the Sydney Morning Herald site

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by Forrest Church

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