Way beyond contempt

Take a solid pound of hypocrisy, add a good portion of cynicism, sprinkle generously with brazenness, then top everything off with as much hubris as your heart desires (in the style of Emeril Agassi’s overdosing on garlic), and then have a stand-in chef who truly believes that such a concoction is not only a tasty meal, but more importantly, a healthy dish to be eaten in gusto, no questions asked — and there you have in a nutshell the Bush administration’s style of government: government by outright bamboozlement.

The supply of examples illustrating the growing contempt from our executive for the most basic principles of transparency and the rule of law is not only embarassingly – – and alarmingly – plentiful: in fact, it continues to grow, daily, heedlessly, just as a chorus of anger and outrage is at last beginning to rise.

Here are but a few gem examples:

Vice President Dick Cheney refuses to share any information about his energy task force meetings with Enron and other energy execs. Why? Because, president Bush explained, he and his people ought to be able to freely seek and get advice from anyone they please, without the burdensome chore of having report to the American people who those advisors are or what kind of advice he may be receiving. Mr. President, how about doing it right once and for all: just fire Ari Fleicher and his inflated staff — or better yet, issue an executive order to abolish the press secretary’s job, then restore it in case your successor is a Democrat) so that you and your crack men and women can concentrate, fully, one hundred percent, on the war against terror and on taking care of the people’s business without having to worry about the pesky, messy task of explaining yourself. That would save you a lot time, the tax payers a lots of money, and would deprive the hopelessly biased media of any opportunities to take cheap shots at you. (Am I exaggerating? You be the judge: back in November, president bush overturned — by unilateral fiat — the 1978 presidential Records Act. Reason given: the need to re-establish an “orderly process” in sharing information. A couple more of such moves to insulate the president from accountability, and Ari Fleicher’s job is out the window.)

More gems: while hundreds of Arabs and Muslims (citizens, permanent residents, student, as well as illegal aliens) were rounded up and jailed with callous disregard for their most basic civil rights, and as President Bush moved to suspend attorney client privileges for suspected (not convicted) terrorists and to set up military tribunals, a move by the FBI to establish mechanisms for obtaining more efficiently information about firearm holders was blocked by the White House. Reason: the federal government cannot, in good conscience, even if the nation is supposedly at grave peril, infringe on the right of its citizens to carry lethal weapons.

Another gem: as soon as George Bush took office, one of the first things he directed his people to do was to abandon his predecessor’s efforts for a multilateral crackdown on the very types of overseas tax havens that have allowed Enron to engage in its mind-boggling shenanigans. Reason given, as Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil put it: the Administration will not “interfere with the internal tax policy decisions of sovereign nations”.

And speaking of sovereignty and non-interference: as Argentina teeters on the edge of total economic and social collapse (the political collapse has already taken place), President Bush still manages to argue, without a hint of embarrassment, that nations going through economic hard times must first “make themselves more attractive to foreign investors” — a code phrase for the very IMF policies that have wrecked havoc in Argentina and much of the Third World — before the industrialized world should come to their rescue. And to prove that he was not just mouthing bromides, the President directed his administration to torpedo European efforts to double their development aid to countries in crisis. And this took place the very day before the president’s State of the Union, where he enunciated America’s long-haul commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan and paying more attention to trouble spots around the world before they careen out of control.

More: asked why journalists are not allowed nearer than a few hundred feet to the Al-Qaeda “detainees” at Guantanamo base, and why they are not being allowed to photograph their faces, Defense Secretary DOnald Rumslfeld explained that doing so would violate the rights of the “detainees” under the Geneva Conventions. This is the very same Donald Rumsfeld who has not tired of telling us that the “detainees” are not prisoners of war, that they are not entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions, and that the United States has every right to treat them as it damn pleases.

But here is my favorite: asked about what, if anything, was planned in anticipation of the smoldering heat at Guantanamo come summertime, Donald Rumsfels explained, not missing a beat: “To be in an eight-by-eight cell in beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not a — inhumane treatment. And it has a roof.”

The level of bald faced, shameless duplicity of president Bush and his men, their brazen flouting of international law, their “we-will-do-as-we-please” approach to government, are outpaced only by the extent to which they have gone out of its way to insult the intelligence of the American people. The American people may, sadly enough, tolerate many evils, but they will not for long accept a president that does worse than deceive them behind their backs: he lies and deceives them straight to their faces.

Mr. Ahmed Bouzid is President of Palestine Media Watch.


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