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15.Jan.2003 The United States of America Has Gone Mad




The author has also contributed to an openDemocracy debate on Iraq at



America has entered one of its periods of historical madness,

but this is the worst I can remember:

worse than McCarthyism,

worse than the Bay of Pigs

and in the long term


more disastrous than

the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11

is beyond anything

Osama bin Laden

could have hoped for

in his nastiest dreams.

As in McCarthy times,

the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world

are being systematically eroded.

The combination of

compliant US media


vested corporate interests

is once more ensuring


a debate


should be ringing out

in every town square

is confined

to the loftier columns

of the East Coast press.

The imminent war

was planned

years before

bin Laden struck,

but it was he

who made it possible.

Without bin Laden,

the Bush junta

would still be trying to explain

such tricky matters



it came to be elected

in the first place;


its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich;

its reckless disregard for the world’s poor,

the ecology


a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties.

They might also have to be telling us


they support Israel

in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.


bin Laden


swept all that under the carpet.

The Bushies are riding high.


88 per cent of Americans want the war,

we are told.

The US defence budget

has been raised

by another $60 billion

to around $360 billion.

A splendid new generation

of nuclear weapons

is in the pipeline,

so we can all breathe easy.

Quite what war

88 per cent of Americans think

they are supporting

is a lot less clear.

A war for how long, please?

At what cost in American lives?

At what cost to the American taxpayer’s pocket?

At what cost

— because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people —

in Iraqi lives?


Bush and his junta


in deflecting

America’s anger

from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein

is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history.

But they swung it.

A recent poll tells us that

one in two Americans

now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre.

But the American public is not merely being misled.

It is being browbeaten


kept in a state of ignorance and fear.

The carefully orchestrated neurosis

should carry

Bush and his fellow conspirators

nicely into the next „election“.

Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him.


they are with the enemy.

Which is odd,

because I’m dead against Bush,

but I would love to see Saddam’s downfall —

just not on Bush’s terms and not by his methods.

And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.

The religious cant

that will send American troops into battle

is perhaps the most sickening aspect

of this surreal war-to-be.

Bush has an arm-lock on God.

And God has very particular political opinions.


appointed America to save the world

in any way that suits America.


appointed Israel

to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy,

and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is

a) anti-Semitic,

b) anti-American,

c) with the enemy +

d) a terrorist.


also has pretty scary connections.

In America,

where all men are equal

in His sight,

if not in one another’s,

the Bush family numbers

one President,

one ex-President,

one ex-head of the CIA,

the Governor of Florida and

the ex-Governor of Texas.

Care for a few pointers?

George W. Bush,


senior executive,

Arbusto Energy/Bush Exploration, an oil company;


senior executive of the Harken oil company.

Dick Cheney,


chief executive of the Halliburton oil company.

Condoleezza Rice,


senior executive with the Chevron oil company,

which named an oil tanker after her.

And so on.

But none of these trifling associations affects the integrity of God’s work.

In 1993,

while ex-President George H. Bush was visiting the ever-democratic Kingdom of Kuwait

to receive thanks for liberating them, somebody tried to kill him.

The CIA believes that “somebody” was Saddam.

Hence Bush Jr’s cry:

“That man tried to kill my Daddy.”

But it’s still not personal, this war.

It’s still necessary.

It’s still God’s work.

It’s still about

„bringing freedom and democracy

to oppressed Iraqi people“.

To be a member of the team

you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil,

and Bush,

with a lot of help from his friends,

family and God,

is there to tell us which is which.

What Bush won’t tell us is

the truth about why we’re going to war.

What is at stake is not an Axis of Evil —

but oil,

money and

people’s lives.

Saddam’s misfortune is

to sit on the second biggest oilfield in the world.

Bush wants it,

and who helps him get it

will receive a piece of the cake.

And who doesn’t, won’t.

If Saddam didn’t have the oil,

he could torture his citizens to his heart’s content.

Other leaders do it every day —

think Saudi Arabia,

think Pakistan,

think Turkey,

think Syria,

think Egypt,


Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours,

and none to the US or Britain.

Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction,

if he’s still got them,

will be peanuts

by comparison

with the stuff Israel or America

could hurl at him

at five minutes’ notice.

What is at stake

is not

an imminent military or terrorist threat,

but the economic imperative of US-KAPITAL-growth.

What is at stake

is America’s need

to demonstrate its military power to all of us —

to Europe and Russia and China,

and poor mad little North Korea,

as well as the Middle East;

to show who rules America at home,

and who is to be ruled by America abroad.

The most charitable interpretation of

Tony Blair’s part in all this is

that he believed that,

by riding the tiger,

he could steer it.

He can’t.


he gave it a phoney legitimacy,

and a smooth voice.

Now I fear,

the same tiger has him penned into a corner,

and he can’t get out.

It is utterly laughable that,

at a time

when Blair has talked himself against the ropes,

neither of Britain’s opposition leaders

can lay a glove on him.

But that’s Britain’s tragedy,

as it is America’s:

as our Governments




lose their credibility,

the electorate

simply shrugs



the other way.

Blair’s best chance of personal survival must be that,

at the eleventh hour,

world protest


an improbably emboldened UN

will force Bush to put his gun back in his holster unfired.


what happens

when the world’s greatest cowboy

rides back into town


a tyrant’s head to wave at the boys?

Blair’s worst chance is

that, with or without the UN,

he will drag us into a war


if the will to negotiate energetically

had ever been there,

could have been avoided;

a war


has been no more democratically debated

in Britain than

it has in America


at the UN.

By doing so,

Blair will have set back our relations with Europe and the Middle East for decades to come.

He will have helped to provoke unforeseeable retaliation,

great domestic unrest,

and regional chaos in the Middle East.

Welcome to the party of the

„ethical foreign policy“.

There is a middle way,


it’s a tough one:

Bush dives in without UN approval


Blair stays on the bank.

Goodbye to the special relationship.

I cringe when I hear

my Prime Minister

lend his head prefect’s sophistries

to this colonialist adventure.

His very real anxieties about terror

are shared by all sane men.

What he can’t explain is


he reconciles

a global assault on al-Qaeda

with a territorial assault on Iraq.

We are in this war,

if it takes place,

to secure

the fig leaf

of our special relationship,

to grab our share

of the oil pot,

and because,

after all the public hand-holding in Washington and Camp David,

Blair has to show up at the altar.

“But will we win, Daddy?”

“Of course, child.

It will all be over

while you’re still in bed.”


“Because otherwise

Mr Bush’s voters

will get terribly impatient

and may decide

not to vote for him.”

“But will people be killed, Daddy?”

“Nobody you know, darling.

Just foreign people.”

“Can I watch it on television?”

“Only if Mr Bush says you can.”

“And afterwards, will everything be normal again?

Nobody will do anything horrid any more?”

“Hush child + go to sleep.”

Last Friday a friend of mine in California

drove to his local supermarket

with a sticker on his car saying:

“Peace is also Patriotic”.

It was gone by the time he’d finished shopping.


15.Jan.2003 The United States of America has gone mad -John le Carré- Times Online