Bush's Weird Tour: A Letter to European Friends
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
Dear Wolfgang and Jacqueline:
You write that having Bush welcomed in your home countries on his European tour
made you "feel dirty," and that you can't understand why your leaders,
who stood up to him before, would feel obliged to "bow before him"
now, "as if he was a more humble President, with wise policies."
I know your leaders' behavior doesn't seem to make moral sense -- I, too, wish
they had been willing once again to take on Bush directly -- but it certainly
makes practical sense.
Consider: For four years, your leaders felt they could denounce Bush's
unconscionable imperial war in Iraq, and parry his various foreign-policy
thrusts, because it seemed possible, and then certain, that Bush/Cheney would be
a one-term disaster and there would be a much more rational, reasonable American
administration in 2005.
But when Bush was inaugurated in January -- whether he won honestly is a
separate question, still to be sorted out definitively -- your European leaders
had to face up to reality: They would be dealing with this arrogant dolt for
four more years, and they'd better make the best of it -- or, at the least, put
on a good show.
And so, without giving away much, they made nice with the guy, had him over for
dinner, shook hands and laughed with him for the photographers -- all the while
mentally glancing at their watches for Bush's longed-for departure time.
GIVING BUSH POLITICAL COVER
Bush ignored the tens of thousands protesting his policies in the streets of
Belgium and Germany (those loud, angry demonstrations were barely mentioned in
the mainstream U.S. media, by the way), and in the formal meetings got enough of
what he wanted: a seeming breakout of his isolation from the Continent, NATO on
board at least tangentially with regard to Iraq, and strong words from European
spokesmen about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Bush is trying to turn all that to more momentum with which to peddle his
international adventurism to the American and world public.
However, as usual, Bush&Co. are operating as if spin is fact and
self-delusion is reality.
The European tour gained the Bush Administration very little. Though Bush tried
to tamp down his bullying, I-know-best persona by smiling (or smirking) a lot,
and saying halfway reasonable things, the American leader continued to come
across -- and you know this better than I do -- as a tantrum-prone little
emperor who wants what he wants when he wants it, and you'd better not cross
WHO EXACTLY IS "CIVILIZED"?
Bush exhibited his usual monarchical behavior: his cortege driving through miles
and miles of deserted streets (residents were forbidden to get anywhere near
him), granting the assembled leaders only five minutes of his time each, and
abruptly bowing out of a town-hall meeting when he learned that the public would
be permitted to question him directly. Add to that this assertion by Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld: that China is a country "we hope and pray enters the
civilized world in an orderly way." Obviously, in Asia as well as in
Europe, which countries and civilizations qualify as being "civilized"
are to be decided by the White House.
Likewise, Bush's lecturing Putin about the damage the Russian president is doing
to democracy seemed to a good many Europeans as so much hypocritical posturing,
given what the Administration of Rove/Bush/Cheney/Gonzales
/Rumsfeld is doing in America to decimate democratic institutions.
Many European intellectuals saw through the "charm-offensive" tour and
honed in on what really was going on, despite Bush's description of the chasm
between America and Europe as amounting to little more than "temporary
Germany’s Der Spiegel Online wrote that "despite the candy-coatings,
differences continue to separate Europeans from Americans, and when it comes to
Iraq, Iran and China, everyone’s hidden daggers are unsheathed.” France's Le
Monde said the Bush approach would work only if "he agrees to a partnership
of equals, rather than a relationship of dependence between the American
superpower and its European vassals.”
THE IRAQ/IRAN OBSTACLE COURSE
In practice, the European leaders permitted themselves to be bullied by the
White House into agreeing to train Iraqi security forces and judicial
administrators. But they did so with no enthusiasm and often for show-purposes
only; several countries allocated but one or two trainers to the effort, and not
much money to speak of. In short, the European leaders made clear by their
grudging acceptance of the U.S. training program that they continue to believe
the U.S. was dead wrong in invading Iraq in the first place, is still wrong in
its Occupation policies, but they will help in minor ways in giving Iraqis the
tools to help themselves stabilize their country.
Your European leaders joined the U.S. in recognizing the potential danger of
having a nuclear-armed Iran in the region -- with, at some point, missiles that
could reach Europe as well -- but are not belligerently threatening Iran, as is
the Bush Administration.
They prefer, through diplomacy and blandishments, to lead Iran out of the
nuclear corner in which it's painting itself. At first, Bush was mightily
opposed to such negotiations, but has come to believe that it looks better for
the U.S. to approve such talks. But Bush appears still to be sticking to his
June deadline for EU success -- and, according to military sources who've
confided to former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, is preparing to bomb
Iran early this summer.
WE'VE SEEN THIS FILM PLOT UNFOLD BEFORE
The European leaders have watched this movie before. The U.S. permits an
international group to try to convince the target nation to do this or that;
then, when the U.S.-imposed deadline is reached, and regardless of whether
success is achieved, the Bush Administration says it tried the internationalist
route ("we went the last mile to avoid war") and now is
"forced" to take unilateral action because of this or that infraction.
It doesn't matter that there are no weapons of mass destruction, that the target
nation may be years away from assembling a nuclear weapon. The Bush
Administration moves quickly, "pre-emptively," before effective
opposition can subvert their already worked-out military plans.
The Bush Administration, mesmerized by America's technological might and the
ivory-tower beliefs of its neo-conservative theoreticians, believes that once
the U.S. attacks another country, the downtrodden masses will throw flowers and
kisses at its "liberators" and overthrow their autocratic leaders.
That was the assumed Bush&Co. scenario when the U.S. invaded Iraq -- which,
of course, didn't happen -- but they truly believe it will happen this way when
the U.S. (perhaps in tandem with the Israelis) bombs Iran: The young,
reformist-minded Iranians will take mass action to bring down the rule of the
reigning fundamentalist mullahs, and install a democratic, secular system in its
Of course that kind of thinking is crazy -- especially since the Iranian
reformers have made plain what their position is -- but the Bush neo-cons
operate out of such fantasy. Again and again, they ignore the power of
nationalism and patriotism; it's difficult for them to believe that in some
cases a people might not wish to be "liberated" by and dictated to by
a foreign invader. But it doesn't really matter for the neo-cons because the
bombs will have been released and the boots will be on the ground: Mission
But in those attacked countries, instead of kisses and flowers many reformers
choose instead to join, or tacitly support, the nationalist forces in opposition
to American rule; a caught-off-guard White House quickly sends in the Marines
and National Guard; and the U.S. is enmeshed yet again in a quagmire that will
drain its military, its treasury, its sense of itself as a moral nation. It's
happened in Iraq, and it's likely to happen if and when the U.S. attacks Iran.
DEALING WITH THE BIG LIE TECHNIQUE
Believe me, we Americans -- at least half of our population, and, in the
post-election period, probably more -- understand why you in Europe are so
upset. We have to live each day with these guys, their bullyboy tactics, their
mendacity, and the ramifications of their reckless policies.
We spend much of our time and effort these days in trying to convince the
Democrats to become a true Opposition Party against the worst of Bush&Co.
adventures, both abroad and at home. It's not easy, since politicians do not
wish to put themselves in positions where they can be smeared as "unpatriotic,"with
the corporate mass-media more or less serving as the propaganda arm of the Bush
It's scary. Karl Rove, Bush's senior adviser, is moving America quickly toward
one-party rule, by marginalizing and threatening those who dissent too loudly,
and by shredding even more of our Constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties.
You won't believe their latest move to stifle opposition. America's seniors, an
important voting bloc, are much opposed to Bush's plan to re-cast (and
ultimately destroy) our Social Security pension system. So one of the
Republican's dirty-tricks outfits took out ads against AARP, the leading
seniors' organization, accusing them of hating the U.S. military and supporting
gay marriage. The Bushies do anything to win; it's the Big Lie technique writ
Can a kind of native American fascism come to our society? You better believe
it, just as, decadesago, such a movement based on Big Lies and aiming its venom
at a vulnerable minority swept much of your continent into a militarist,
delusional system of thought. Sixty million men, women and children died in the
world war that followed.
BUILDING AN OPPOSITIONAL MOMENTUM
I would suggest that you and your European friends who are worried about
America's direction spend your time and energy convincing your elected officials
to re-assert OPENLY their opposition to Bush policies in a wide variety of
areas, from further wars in the Middle East (and covert wars elsewhere) to
denial of global warming, to the over-reliance on fossil fuels.
Working together -- "old Europe" over there and "new liberal
resurgence" over here -- we can create the only kind of force capable of
slowing or perhaps even stopping Bush&Co.'s political juggernaut in its
tracks: a united opposition of immense popular power that will force them to
back away from their more extreme positions, thus saving countless lives in the
This struggle is not going to be easy, and we're all going to suffer painful
defeats in the process. But hang in there. We WILL bring the light back to our
world of political darkness.
Stay in touch, Jacqueline and Wolfgang. See you next month.
Your friend, Bernie#
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D, has taught government & international relations at
various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco
Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org)