capture of Saddam Hussein is a perfect illustration of the way relatively
unimportant events are turned into seemingly spectacular public stunts
attracting very wide attention and obscuring relevant facts in other areas.
The way an illusionist might use a cascade of colourful scarves or flowers
to draw attention away from his last mistake. But Saddam's importance is
long gone and there is no reasonable proportion between the inflated media
interest and the real significance of the capture. Saddam Hussein was
definitely not "coordinating resistance" when living like a "rat in a hole"
as the American military described it, and his symbolic value for the
resistance must have been very small if not even a deterrent for some to
join the resistance. That American soldiers finally managed to catch the
same man that American politics once created, is blown up into a success
story overshadowing budget and trade deficits, exclusive coalition rights to
Iraqi contracts and continuing deaths of American soldiers. Only in a
country governed on the principles of illusion and misdirection is this
possible. Conjuring is the operative word!
And let's not forget that Saddam was not the amalgamation of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Vlad the Impaler that US propaganda made him up to be. He was just the run of the mill dictator so often supported by American administrations and, brutal though he may have been, the blood on his hands is nothing compared to that of the presidents ruling the US in the same period.
Conjuring tricks are not by any means limited to American politics. Most modern leaders are aware of and use such ways to divert public attention away from embarrassing facts and towards unimportant but flashy events. The difference is that American leaders are making this their basic method of governing. Hollywood and the experienced PR-industry gives American leaders an advantage in deluding the public that it shames the feeble tries of the old Soviet Union and the crude efforts of Joseph Goebbels. When conjuring is not enough, secrecy and denial are added to the list of tricks.
When trying to asses the rule of the Bush administration it's impossible not to be reminded of a dishonest magician at a county fair asking the audience to carefully watch the rabbit in his right hand while he palms wallets and watches with his left. It's called misdirection - making the observers concentrate on spectacular but insignificant developments in one place while the really important and sometimes less honorable developments take place in a completely different area. When a magician uses devices like misdirection and other illusionist tricks it can be entertaining (as long as the wallets and watches are returned after the show), but when the same modus operandi are employed by a government trying to manipulate public opinion, it turns into a deeply sinister exercise. The wallets and watches are not returned by Bush & Co! And the show stinks!
9-11 was probably not of the administration's doing though whether it could have been prevented is another less clear cut matter - the many suspicious and heretofore unexplained coincidences indicate the possibility of at least staggering incompetence somewhere and, as the perfect pretext for realizing the administration's agenda, it happened just a leetle bit too conveniently. Whatever, we'll probably never know for sure. But after 9-11 the US junta was on a roll, never looking back, and the magnitude of the disaster was such that it will serve as a pretext for a long time to come. It is just a matter of sleight of hand. The mileage squeezed out of 9-11 is truly amazing.
Congress gave a green light for all and any action Bush & Co wanted to take. It was enough to point, misdirect the attention, to 9-11 and play on fear, suspicion and paranoia. Attacking Afghanistan came easy after that. Iraq was just slightly less controversial. Point to those terrible weapons of mass destruction that Bush & Co just knew that Saddam had and a new war was on. Proof? Evidence? Divert the concentration to 9-11 and refer to what beastly crimes Saddam was guilty of in the 80s and the public is misdirected in both time and place and accepts the inconsistencies.
The Bush administration actually has gone far beyond the magician's routines and sometimes doesn't even try to pretend there is a right hand to concentrate on. When the audience notes a deft move by the left hand and brings it to public attention, the administration simply flatly denies it or offers some mindboggling explanation. "There was no Enron influence in our energy policy!! Halliburton doesn't even know who Dick Cheney is!! Guantanamo Bay is on Cuba! We have no jurisdiction in case we torture prisoners!! We had to kill those Iraqis to save them from Saddam!! The new leaders of Afghanistan might be butchers, but they're OUR butchers!! Never mind that the five and half billion in the "old world" hate us. Poland and Marshall Islands love us!!"
The allegation that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Nigeria was used in Bush's State of the Union address and in Powell's speech to the UN General Assembly long after both American and foreign intelligence services had exposed it as a forgery. Doesn't matter. Just repeat it with some variations and claim it comes from Britain and remember to paint the picture of a mushroom cloud over NYC and refer to 9-11. "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't have anything in my left hand. The knife you think you see is an illusion. Now watch those non-existing WMD in my right hand!"
New illusion stunts followed. When no WMD were found, the war was suddenly about toppling a brutal regime, not a word about how good a friend that brutal regime had been years earlier or how many of them now are in Coalition employ. Now it was all about bringing Iraq freedom and democracy and when the promised kisses and flowers from the Iraqis didn't materialize it was not the fault of the war planners but refusal from old regime-fedayeens to follow the magician's script. If the occupation is turning to a minor war it is the fault of Islamists and criminals and thugs, and Iraq shall have freedom and democracy under American puppets if the country has to be nuked to understand it. When too many helicopters fall out of the sky Michael Jackson can always be trusted to attract the headlines. When the public thinks that the war perhaps wasn't such a brilliant idea after all, send Mr. Bush to Iraq for a few hours and let him serve the hormone-stuffed turkey to the troops and, voila, suddenly the war was the right thing to do. The popularity ratings turned sharply upwards again and Bush & Co can prepare the next act as if serving turkey somehow brings some thousand Iraqis and some hundred Americans back to life. The only prerequisite for a lousy magician is a gullible audience that is easy to convince.
Forgotten now, after a pathetic old and bewildered Santa Claus has been filling the TV-screens of the world, is that the man whose mouth was humiliatingly searched for all to see was a friend of the US for years. Mr. Hussein was warmly greeted by Donald Rumsfeld 20 years ago, was allowed to buy the chemicals from the US and Britain that made it possible to shell Iranians with mustard gas and kill 5000 Kurds in Halabja and was backed from his rise to power until he took the wrong cue and attacked Kuwait. Public attention is directed to images of a hobo caught thanks to a relative who sold him out for $25m and for some time the sinking dollar and miserable state of the union is forgotten. The Iraqi people now can concentrate on throwing out the occupiers without having to fear that Saddam will come back and the world and US can concentrate on the reelection of Mr. Bush allowing him to have four more years of conjuring, illusions and denials.
We might be forgiven for questioning our own sanity but even Orwell didn't foresee an administration that so totally stonewalls in all areas if not verifiably lying or trying to convince the public that black is actually white and increased danger really means enhanced security. Unfortunately we are not in a position to just quit the show and leave the pitiful magician to his destiny. This time the magicians have the power to make us stay - with force if necessary.
Nobody could imagine a government which, confronted with documented evidence and demonstrated events, just denies the existence of it, perhaps by referring to 9-11, or making a speech about something not even remotely connected - if not hotfooting over to lunch with the British queen or inflating the importance of capturing a has-been dictator, thereby misdirecting attention by thousands of miles.
Considering all the international agreements that the present administration has sabotaged, reneged on or refused to take part in, the international laws it has violated and the belligerent arrogance it demonstrates in all areas, the direction it's heading in is away from civilization and towards barbarism. Perhaps the best summary that can be done of the machinations of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Karl Rove, George Tenet, John Negroponte et al since coming to power, is done by paraphrasing Winston Churchill's famous words after the battle of Britain (no doubt written by a clever PR-man):
"Never before, in the history of modern man, have so many had so few to blame for so much!"
Real magicians have talent, dedication and spend years practicing and perfecting their performances. What Bush & Co has is unlimited military and economical resources, a never ending line of opportunists willing to assist in the conjuring and panhandling of the audience and a dangerously unfailing trust in its own infallibility. The sinister Houdinis can see no limits to their power.
The acts they perform lead all of us into a very uncertain future. And most of the exits seem to be blocked by dollars or machine guns!
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