An Embarrassing Display of Riches

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Hiding like some huge animal in a cage of steel, Bush and his red state cadres are getting down to serious partying—at $2,500 a head—amid a gathering snowstorm that promises to further agitate the already exasperated citizenry which has been banned from the Bush 100-block green zone.

People are either staying home or rushing to get out of the way before guarded convoys of the rich and super rich start flitting about the city to their pre-inaugural balls. Since the streets are being shut off and the city closed down this afternoon, there is the making of a huge traffic jam.

The inauguration is an exclusive affair and hasn't got anything to do with the ordinary people, which is just as well since it is an embarrassing display of riches and makes America look like it is run by a bunch of rich fools.

Going back to the Second World War, Washington has never looked like this, nor have its people been treated like this. During WWII,the city was full of soldiers and sailors. Everyday life was governed by nightly blackouts; air raid wardens patrolled every block. But never under FDR or Truman was there the feeling of fear and anxiety that Bush has created. And never has the capital been so alienated from its leaders—not under FDR or Truman or Eisenhower. Jack Kennedy was open and embracing. At his funeral, an outpouring of world leaders and ordinary people mingled together in the streets.

To top off the celebratory balls there's Condoleeza Rice, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While the mainstream U.S. press played up what they took to be Rice's conciliatory approach to world affairs, the foreign media, such as the BBC, saw her statements as an ominous sign—a possible replay of Bush's original axis of evil which brought us Iraq. With Seymour Hersh's recent report of American commandos scouting targets in Iran and elsewhere, could it be possible that Bush's neo-con inner circle is getting ready to repeat Iraq somewhere else in the world?

"We must use American diplomacy to help create a balance of power in the world that favors freedom," Rice told the committee yesterday,adding, "The time for diplomacy is now."

That statement might be taken as a doff of the hat to Reagan's aging inner circle who have been vociferous in attacking Bush's unilateralism and demanding diplomatic initiatives, not more gunboats.

But having said that, Rice reverted to business as usual, telling the Senators, "To be sure, in our world, there remain outposts of tyranny, and America stands with oppressed people on every continent, in Cuba and Burma, and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe." This is Bush's old "axis of evil" minus Iraq, which Bush thinks he has liberated.

The new axis of evil, in thumbnail sketch with the help of the BBC:

  • Cuba
  • Bush has tightened trade and travel regulations. "The United States condemns the Cuban regime's abuse of advocates of peaceful change and reform. We call on the regime to cease its repression and release all political prisoners," said state department spokesman Richard Boucher shortly after Bush's re-election.

  • Belarus
  • The U.S. is supporting opposition groups here, but President Alexander Lukashenko is the last of the Soviet Union's old guard, a ruthless figure who has made the country into about as bleak a place as is imaginable—"quite far from reality," as Rice diplomatically put it. "False stereotypes and prejudices are a poor basis for the formation of effective policy in the sphere of foreign relations," Andrei Savinykh, foreign ministry spokesman,told the Associated Press.

  • Zimbabwe
  • The U.S. has trade sanctions against the dreadful President Robert Mugabe, who has shut down newspapers,kicked white people off their farms and ostensibly redistributed land to blacks while in fact he handed it out to his cronies. Mugabe blaims the U.S. and the U.K. for his problems.

  • Iran
  • The U.S. accuses Iraq's neighbor,which has a large army, of terrorism and speeding nuclear development.It wants sanctions,while Europe wants to negotiate. Iranians "suffer under a regime that has been completely unwilling to deal with their aspirations and that has an appalling human rights record," Rice told the senators.

  • Burma
  • Run by a repressive military junta, the country now known as Myanmar is another horror show.Human rights abuses, house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the banning of her National League for Democracy make the place a nightmare.Along with Afghanistan,it is one of the world's largest heroin producers.The U.S. bans trade and aid.

  • North Korea
  • Here you'll find human rights abuses on a grand scale, off and on development of nuclear power, and a bizarre leader. "We must remain united in insisting that Iran and North Korea abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions and choose instead the path of peace," Rice said.

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