The Hopscotch Of Freedom
You know what? We were proved fucking right. That’s what happened. People who disagreed with us were saying, ‘There they go again.’ But we were proved fucking right.
The thing that always bothered me about the overall idea of being lied to repeatedly by the leader of the free world in a manner so blatant that only the American press corps could overlook it was that they never really tried to obscure the lie in a way that actually reflected the magnitude of the enterprise.
Whenever a private company tries to repair or promote their image, they’ll generally do a variety of charitable activities (a 5K here, a day of litter pickup there) that create the impression, if not the reality, of them being a vitally beneficial part of the community. It can be better from a PR perspective to have fifty kids receiving fifty small scholarships than it is to have five kids receiving five large scholarships, because the generosity, although exactly the same financially, is spread out among many more people who in turn spread word of your generosity to an exponential number of others.
With Iraq, the Bush Administration decided that they’d give one kid one giant fucking scholarship, and that kid was going to be a Nobel winner when they were done with him. If you questioned them, it was because you didn’t believe the kid was smart enough to tie his own shoes, let alone finish college. If you pointed out that the scholarship was only good at Crazy Pete’s House of Mufflers and Molecular Biology, it was because you were against alternative forms of education. And if you dared – dared – point out that the case for giving the kid the scholarship was based on forged paperwork and a plagiarized essay, it was probably because you were secretly a pedophile who was sad the kid was going to be spirited away from the local NAMBLA meeting.
From the time we went into Iraq, and seeing the resulting mess five years later, I’ve always wondered – how much better would it have been had the Bush administration had made at least some token serious steps towards promoting freedom and democracy anywhere else, even if it was only as a mask for the Iraq debacle?
What comes chiefly to mind is Zimbabwe – a country that, for years, has been in a hideous downward spiral of blatant oppression. It’s gotten so bad that Mugabe simply can’t (and won’t) hide it anymore:
The American ambassador to Zimbabwe, James D. McGee, said the police tried to run the American diplomats off the road during a six-mile chase, then slashed the tires of their SUV at a roadblock. War veterans, the often-violent agents of the state, subsequently threatened to set fire to their vehicle with them inside, and tried to bash in the windows with their rifle butts. A Zimbabwean driver who brought the embassy’s security officer to the scene was hauled from the car, beaten and tossed in a ditch, Mr. McGee said.
This isn’t to say that a military invasion of Zimbabwe should have been tossed on the pile – exactly the opposite. But it is to say that the gross abuse of the world’s trust might have been ameliorated, ever so slightly, had Bush actually attempted to obscure the massive fuckup he was about to embark on by engaging other spots around the world where the direct intervention of an American president with what was, at that time, large-scale support and sympathy could have truly done some good.
Instead, he wasted that opportunity. And now, it just gets worse.
The list of targets for state-sponsored intimidation in Zimbabwe just keeps getting longer. First and foremost, it includes opposition officials and supporters, but also takes aim at civic leaders, trade unionists, election monitors, journalists, human rights lawyers, teachers, churchgoers — and now aid workers and diplomats.
Opposition officials have voiced deep disappointment that regional intervention to halt the violence before the runoff, now only three weeks away, has been weak and tardy.