by Eric Margolis
NEW YORK - `The world now thinks the US has lost its mind.' This response to President George Bush's bombastic state of the union address did not come from `axis of evil' Iraq, Iran, or North Korea, but from former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She is dead right.
America's allies and friends were initially reluctant to openly criticize Bush's Philippic, but in recent days the president's aggressive, triumphalist policies have come under fierce attack around the world, and particularly so in Europe.
France's normally cautious foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, called Bush's views on terrorism `simplistic.' He warned about Bush policy that `reduces all problems in the world to the struggle against terrorism,' predicting Europe would go its own way if the US maintained its policy of unilateralism.
More sharp criticism came from Germany, Italy, Spain, the EU, Asia and US Mideast allies. Even Britain, America's most faithful satrap, warned against attacking Iraq or Iran. South Korea's government angrily blasted Washington for derailing efforts to promote better relations with North Korea.
European leaders also took aim at American-Israeli efforts to eclipse Yasser Arafat and crush Palestinian resistance. `European countries do not agree with the White House Middle East policy and think it is a mistake to support Ariel Sharon's purely repressive policies,' said Vedrine, speaking for the entire European Union.
Bush Administration spokesmen reject all foreign criticism. Secretary of State Colin Powell increased war fever by blasting Iran for `meddling' in Afghanistan. This is rich, coming from the US, which just invaded Afghanistan, overthrew its government, installed a client regime in Kabul, and is setting up permanent military bases there. Threatening war against Iran for seeking to advance its interests in neighboring Afghanistan shows just how irrational and imperially arrogant the Bush Administration is becoming. India and Russia are also deeply involved in Afghanistan; in fact, Russia has virtually taken over the north. Yet there was not a peep from Washington about these interlopers.
As part of the growing merging of policy between Washington and Jerusalem, the Bush Administration's super-haws have adopted two longstanding Israeli arguments to justify aggressive actions. First, `we have suffered enormously. This gives us the absolute right to attack anyone we deem a threat, including assassinating potentially dangerous individuals.'
Second, `we are faced by a mortal threat from terrorists. To hell with world, we'll do precisely as we see fit. The UN, the EU, the Geneva Convention, international law - all of them be damned.'
Fifty years of painful efforts to build a framework of international law are being swept away by the Bush crusaders, who seem to have convinced themselves that they are re-fighting World War II rather than dealing with a dangerous criminal conspiracy made up of a few thousand individuals.
Listening to the Bush people preach about the need to liberate Iranians and Iraqis from oppression is Olympic-class hypocrisy. If Bush really wanted to promote justice and human rights abroad, he should begin with those nations that are American protectorates: Morocco, a medieval police state with a frightful record of poverty, torture, and abuse; Tunisia and Egypt, both military dictatorships with odious human rights records; Turkey, another military state disguised as a democracy, where torture and murder of political opponents are the norm; Arabia's oil monarchies, which are propped up by US troops. And last, but certainly not least, Palestine, where an entire people are being crushed by a brutal army using US-made tanks, and US-made helicoptere gunships, financed by US taxpayer's dollars, and sheltered from worldwide condemnation by America's oft-used UN veto.
While most Americans continue to cheer Bush's bellicose, adolescent rhetoric and crusading zeal, quiet opposition is developing, particularly among the thinking classes. But given the current climate of war fever, hysteria, fear, and anti-Muslim paranoia being whipped up by the Administration and parts of the media, few Americans are ready to criticize government actions.
Liberals, moderate Democrats, and their powerful media, who would normally be flaying the Republican Dr. Strangeloves now directing US foreign policy, are absolutely silent. Many liberals are ardent supporters of Israel. The Bush White House is perceived to be smashing Israel's enemies, so liberals are mum.
This loud silence and war fever has unbalanced the US political system, allowing a coterie of ideological super-hawks to monopolize policy and drive the US towards highly irrational behavior. Congress and the media have become mere cheerleaders for the so-called war. Critical analysis is urgently needed: recall the disastrous consequences caused by lack of public challenge to America's entry into the Vietnam War. America has suffered mightily and grievously; but pain and suffering are no excuse for acting foolishly, dangerously, or dictatorially.
Wiser heads abroad are cautioning their American friends. Europe and Japan do not intend to become spear carriers in Bush's anti-Muslim crusade. Canada had better start thinking about this, as well.
To many foreign governments, the real danger is not Bush's preposterous `axis of evil,' nor `rogue states' like Iran, Iraq, or North Korea. They are far more worried about a `rogue' America running amok and igniting conflicts around the world.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster, and
author of War at the Top of
the World - The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet which was reviewed in
The Economist, May 13, 2000]
Copyright © 2002 Eric Margolis - All Rights