Living

An Embarrassing Display of Riches

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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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