it’s 2003, what prospects for 2004?

I didn’t vote for George W. Bush, so it’s hardly a surprise that I’m not his biggest fan. Mind you, I don’t dislike the man himself so much. I’m sure he’s a nice fellow and a fun guy to meet at a party, but he stands for everything I disagree with, and I am hard pressed to think of anything positive he’s done for this country since being selected for the office of President. For example, in the last three years, he has:

  • Unilaterally withdrawn out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missiles treaty, a move that some in Congress said pushed the limits of the Constitution , and one that will certainly increase the chances that arms races will continue.
  • Lifted restrictions on logging of national forests, at a time when we are already using and abusing natural resources.
  • Wants to allow drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Failed to do much of anything to stop corporate malfeasance (Enron, WorldCom et cetera) though he managed to distance himself from the crooks.
  • Allowed his Attorney-General and other members of his Administration to mount an unprecedented war on civil liberties, including:
    a) the detention of approximately 1,200 Arabs and Muslims (no exact number has been released) indefinitely and with no access to legal counsel. None of the detainees were proved to have any real connection to the events of September 11.
    b) the implementation of special registration, which requires non-immigrants males from only a handful of Mid-Eastern countries to register with INS and be fingerprinted, all the while absolving nationals of other countries from the inconvenience.
    c) the empowerment of federal agents to wire tap, obtain library records, and detain people if there is any suspicion of terrorism or terrorism-related activities. The agents are allowed full discretion as to what they consider “suspect” actions.
    d) the launch of Total Information Awareness, a system that essentially violates the privacy of citizens and spies on them for the government, and in a wonderful twist of irony, the choice of a convicted liar to head this DARPA program.

  • Started a “War on Terror” but has failed to capture Ossama Bin Laden or Mullah Omar or Ayman Al-Zawahiri or indeed any Al-Qaeda “big fish”. In addition, Bush has done nothing to stop his Saudi acquaintances from funding terrorism in his own backyard.
  • On the world front, Bush has refused to deal with Yasser Arafat (a man he has never once met personally, whereas he has often heard Ariel Sharon’s views in person). He has thus painted his State Department into a corner, and indefinitely postponed any mediations by the U.S. in the decades-old conflict.
  • Declared that Iraq represents a clear and present danger to the United States, and that he intends to go to war, thus mounting an unprovoked attack against a sovereign nation, despite all evidence pointing to the fact that Iraq does not represent a viable threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. When criticized for his zeal on war, he has sought the seal of the United Nations, only to de-legitimize this international organization by making it clear he intends to go it alone if the UN disagrees with his assessments on Iraq. Meanwhile, North Korea, which has nuclear weapons (a tad more dangerous than chemical or biological weapons, one might point out), is being courted via diplomatic channels.
  • Fostered an atmosphere in which dissent is regarded with suspicion. His spokesman Ari Fleischer tells people that they “must watch what they say and watch what they do.” Bush has even criticized the Senate, saying that its members are “not interested in the security of the American people”, prompting an emotional response from Tom Daschle (who was in fact intimidated enough to then vote for what the President asked for)
  • Sought to change the language of facts, in pure Animal Farm fashion. In his idiom, you are “either with us or against us.” Countries are deemed to belong to “an axis of evil.” We are not attacking Iraq but launching “a pre-emptive strike”. We are not “conquerors” of Iraq, but its “liberators”, etc.

    Given all this, I’ve been quite curious about what the rest of the political class is doing. But I am not very optimistic because on the issue of Iraq, for example, the House and the Senate both gave the President the right to attack without so much as a debate, and they look likely to follow the leader all the way. And now that Gore has (thankfully) dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, is there anyone who might offer an alternative? What is needed is someone who can actually stand his ground and dare to disagree with Bush, not someone who can say “my policies will do the same,” like Al Gore.
    So far, the names of Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and Tom Daschle of South Dakota have been mentioned. Yet, all of these Senators voted “Yes” for the war on Iraq. One surmises that they are too afraid to disagree, afraid to be called unpatriotic for questioning the direction that the country is taking, even though that is precisely their role.
    It’s clearly too early to tell, and there could yet be others who jump into the race later in 2003. And there is also Vermont Governor Howard Dean. But I’ll be interested to see whom the Democrats will choose. Otherwise it’s back to the Greens again in 2004.

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