Juan Cole: Bush Sounds More and More Like Mao
Juan Cole, at his blog (Oct. 17, 2004):
Suskind's profile of George W. Bush reminded me eerily of Mao Zedong, the
leader of the Chinese Communist Party. Suskind portrays Bush as filled with
unwarranted certainty, sure that God is speaking and working through him, and
convinced that decisive action shapes reality in ways that make it unnecessary
to first study reality.
This approach to policy-making, it seems to me, should be called Right Maoism. The History Learning Site reminds us that in 1958 Mao initiated what he called the"Great Leap Forward" with the aim of boosting both Chinese industry and agriculture, through the reorganization of China into over 25,000 communes.
' Mao had introduced the Great Leap Forward with the phrase"it is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever." By the end of 1958, it seemed as if his claim was true . . . However, in 1959, things started to go wrong. Political decisions/beliefs took precedence over commonsense and communes faced the task of doing things which they were incapable of achieving. Party officials would order the impossible and commune leaders, who knew what their commune was capable of doing or not, could be charged with being a"bourgeois reactionary" if he complained. Such a charge would lead to prison.
Quickly produced farm machinery produced in factories fell to pieces when used. Many thousands of workers were injured after working long hours and falling asleep at their jobs. Steel produced by the backyard furnaces was frequently too weak to be of any use and could not be used in construction – it’s original purpose. Buildings constructed by this substandard steel did not last long.
Also the backyard production method had taken many workers away from their fields – so desperately needed food was not being harvested. Ironically, one of the key factors in food production in China was the weather and 1958 had particularly good weather for growing food. Party leaders claimed that the harvest for 1958 was a record 260 million tons – which was not true. '
In 1960 alone, as a result of Mao's faith-based initiative, 9 million persons starved to death. The total toll from famine, hunger, and illness in 1959-1962 was around 20 million dead.
The above description of the way in which China fell apart under Mao sounds eerily like contemporary Iraq under Bush, since both situations were produced by the same mantra. Reality doesn't matter. Power creates reality. Suskind says that a senior Bush official told him,"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." This official may as well have been quoting Mao's Little Red Book:""it is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever."
Let's look at other areas on which Bush's"we're an empire now and we make the reality" doctrine has been a miserable failure.
The news from Bush's major project, Iraq, on Saturday and Sunday continued to be disastrous:"Saturday, the U.S. command said four more American troops and an Iraqi interpreter were killed the day before by car bombs in the west and north of the country." In addition, five churches were blown up Iraq's Christian community, 2-3% of the population, is in danger of disappearing through migrations spurred by fear of Muslim fundamentalism. It is ironic that a fanatical Christian like Bush overthrew the secular nationalist Saddam Hussein, unleashing Muslim fundamentalists who then went on to endanger and target Iraq's Christians. Bush's evangelical friends in the"we make the reality" school of thought once dreamed of converting all the Iraqis into Protestants, and had revved up to deliver millions of Bibles last year. I could have told them that this Ann Coulter vibrator fantasy for evangelicals was doomed from the beginning. The days when colonized and enslaved peoples meekly accept the religion of their conquerors are long gone. And, besides, the Muslim Middle East was resistant to Christian mission even in the heyday of British colonialism, which was rather stronger than the current American version.
It turns out that the idea to let the Israeli-Palestinian issue just drift and fester, and to let Ariel Sharon commit crimes against humanity in Gaza and the West Bank, was also Bush's:
' at the Bush administration's first National Security Council meeting, Bush asked if anyone had ever met Ariel Sharon. Some were uncertain if it was a joke. It wasn't: Bush launched into a riff about briefly meeting Sharon two years before, how he wouldn't ''go by past reputations when it comes to Sharon. . . . I'm going to take him at face value,'' and how the United States should pull out of the Arab-Israeli conflict because ''I don't see much we can do over there at this point.'' Colin Powell, for one, seemed startled. This would reverse 30 years of policy -- since the Nixon administration -- of American engagement. Such a move would unleash Sharon, Powell countered, and tear the delicate fabric of the Mideast in ways that might be irreparable. Bush brushed aside Powell's concerns impatiently. ''Sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things." '
So I guess"things" have been" clarified" in the Mideast, after three years of shows of force on both sides. What is now clear is that there is not going to be a Palestinian state, and that the Israeli"democracy" now owns three million Palestinian plantation slaves indefinitely. It is to the point where a major Israeli newspaper runs a piece today on how killing children is no longer a big deal for the Israeli military. This disastrous outcome, which harms Israel, devastates the Palestinians, and makes America hated, is in large part the result of a deliberate policy decision to disengage taken by George W. Bush
I was talking to an Arab-American friend recently about what Bush would do in a second term, and I mentioned that I thought Syria and Iran were on a White House hit list. He said,"Don't forget the third." I said,"What third?" He said,"Saudi Arabia." He may well have been right. At a recent luncheon Bush expressed concern about the possibility that al-Qaeda might make a coup in Riyadh. Suskind says,
"According to notes provided to me, and according to several guests at the lunch who agreed to speak about what they heard, he said that ''Osama bin Laden would like to overthrow the Saudis . . . then we're in trouble. Because they have a weapon. They have the oil."
But what would Bush do about this threat? I can only think there are now even more detailed contingency plans for a US invasion of the Saudi oil fields than were drawn up in the 1970s at James Schlesinger's insistence.
The rest of the Bush agenda reported by Suskind is domestic, and it is chilling:
" He said that there will be an opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice shortly after his inauguration, and perhaps three more high-court vacancies during his second term.
Bush said: ''I'm going to push nuclear energy, drilling in Alaska and clean coal. Some nuclear-fusion technologies are interesting.'' He mentions energy from ''processing corn . . . Do you realize that ANWR [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] is the size of South Carolina, and where we want to drill is the size of the Columbia airport?''
The questions came from many directions -- respectful, but clearly reality-based. About the deficits, he said he'd ''spend whatever it takes to protect our kids in Iraq,'' that ''homeland security cost more than I originally thought . . .''
''I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in,'' Bush said, ''with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security.''
Bush's America will in the next four years foment more war in the Middle East and more violence in Palestine and Israel. At home, social security will be destroyed by being privatized and the phenomenon of vast numbers of the elderly poor, last seen in the 1930s, will return. Government monies will be given away to conservative religious organizations, including cults like the Moonies. Citizens will see their right to sue a company for damages abolished. The right of a woman to choose to have an abortion will be deeply curtailed and possibly abolished. I shudder to think what further tax reform Bush has in mind. Perhaps it will be that the rate on people making a million a year or more will go down to zero (Note to the humorless: This is sarcasm). As for promoting nuclear energy, Bush doesn't seem to realize that nuclear plants produce as waste material that can be used by terrorists to make dirty bombs. He wants more nuclear plants.
Right Maoism could not ordinarily succeed in the US. But at the moment the US has a one-party state, with Republicans controlling all three branches of the Federal government along with a majority of statehouses. And the trauma of 9/11 has left the American public more willing than usual to turn power over to an imperial presidency.
The consequences will not be, as in China, a great famine. But the downstream consequences could be disastrous in their own way, and likely many lives will be lost or ruined one way or another.
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