By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Energy: The U.S. imports well over half its oil, with most of it coming from the Middle East. Iraq in particular sells half its oil exports to the U.S. Iraq provides about 10 percent of all American imports. As our intake of foreign fuel has grown, so has the demand for it, epitomized by gas-guzzling SUVs. To get more oil, we are trying to turn from the Middle East to the Russians and their pipelines into the Caspian basin. Even so, we are totally socked into the Middle East for the near future.
Economy: Even without threats from overseas, the economy remains dead in the water, with no new jobs, only a slight increase in wages, and unemployment near 6 percent. At the onset of the Bush presidency, we were looking at a budget surplus of $405 billion. Halfway through his term, the surplus had become a $157 billion deficit. Foreign investors are pulling back. The S&P 500 has fallen 37 percent from its peak in early 2000. As mutual funds tank, 401(k) pensions have disappeared.
Corporations: The functions of government have steadily been taken over by corporate robber barons. Over the last decade, we have re-created the business structures and atmosphere of J.P. Morgan. Each administration since Reagan's has cut away at regulation. The market, not the government, is left to sort out the mess.
Personal Freedom: Civil liberties have been steadily reduced under the rubric of the war on terror. About 1200 people were taken into custody after 9-11, some 752 of them on immigration charges. Many of these people never had a hearing and never had a charge lodged against them. Some were subjected to secret trials. Eighty-five percent were deported. Some two dozen men are still being held as material witnesses, indefinitely, and in complete secrecy. If a prisoner were lucky enough to speak to an attorney, the government could routinely wiretap those conversations. For any reason at all the government can now designate people as "enemy combatants" and hold them in solitary, without the right to counsel.
Meanwhile the government has gained new powers. The FBI can demand your library records and school transcripts. Agents can meander through e-mail accounts at will. As always, the feds infiltrate public meetings; the mere taking of a pamphlet has led to arrest and months in prison.
Leadership: Foreigners don't know what to make of America. To an outsider, Bush looks like a puppet run by VP Dick Cheney, who last weekend single-handedly created a new foreign policy concept, the doctrine of the "preemptive strike," to rationalize an attack on Saddam Hussein. But what happens if China were to take up the preemptive strike doctrine and attack us?
And then there are always Bush's cuckoo utterances. "The world must understand . . . that its credibility is at stake," he said after a recent Cabinet Room meeting with 18 Democratic and Republican congressional leaders. Notwithstanding their guitar-playing cocker spaniel chief, Brits polled lately held Bush as the third greatest threat to peace, trailing only Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
American Ideals: These sorts of cracks in American society might be remedied by opening up debate and changing direction. Instead, politics has devolved into a nonstop talk show, paving the way for Bush to prosecute a war for oil in the name of God.
Muslims act as a "fifth column in this country," says William Lind in Why Islam Is a Threat to America and the West. Ann Coulter, the cold-blooded conservative columnist, has said of Muslims, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." The former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, Reverend Jerry Vines, also minced no words. For him, Muhammad was "a demon-obsessed pedophile."
The Reverend Franklin Graham, son of the Reverend Billy Graham and an evangelist preacher in his own right, said: "The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion."
The problem for America is that evil and wicked are exactly what the world thinks of us.
Research: Gabrielle Jackson and Cassandra Lewis