Some years ago, the Saturday Night Live show included a hilarious sketch featuring a defensive character (portraying an attorney for the tobacco industry, I think). The skit consisted of the attorney sitting in front of the camera for an interview, during which the interviewer reminded him of some obvious fact the attorney had gotten wrong or had “misrepresented.” The punch line, and the most memorable part, would come just then, as the camera trained on him, nervously puffing at his cigarette and sweating profusely in his suit and tie: “I knew that! What makes you think I didn’t know that? You think I didn’t know that?”
So, you can imagine how hard it was for me not to laugh when I heard those words from George W. Bush during the Thursday night debate. Kerry stated that Bush’s remarks revealed that he didn’t know it was Osama bin Laden who had attacked America, not Saddam Hussein. Bush barked back: “Of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that!”
Of course, just to concentrate on this reaction wouldn’t be fair. I mean it wouldn’t be fair to leave out the rest of the string of funny remarks. Such gems included the statement that “we are modernizing our borders.” How do you exactly modernize the borders? Well, you can re-draw them to reflect the territory you would like to occupy. Or, you can bring some modern amenities to the poor, devastated communities that are strewn along the borders from Texas to California. But, I doubt that’s what was meant by, “modernizing our borders.” I suspect what is meant is that a more high-tech barrier would be erected between U.S. and Mexico. More surly guards will be added, who can better humiliate illegal immigrants (Preference will be given to those with Abu Ghraib experience).
Or, consider the depth of the empathy George W. Bush feels for all the victims of the war when he declares, “I see on the TV screen how hard it is.” Wow! I didn’t know all I had to do to understand the misery of war was to watch TV. Now, the audience of Schindler’ List can finally claim to know what it is to be a victim of the holocaust. Those who are not watching the war on the TV screen, however, have a slight problem. They can’t turn off the war after a few seconds. They get blown to pieces when bombs drop on them. They lose hands, arms, legs, skin, eyes, beloved child, elderly mother, brother, friend, their senses, and hope. These things don’t happen “on the TV screen.” They only happen if war happens to you.
Was there a miscalculation in the decision to attack Iraq, or the execution of that attack, the invasion, and the subsequent occupation? Well, yes. But, when asked about it, Bush responded that he had hoped to kill more Iraqis. “I thought they would stay and fight, but they didn't,” he said. If they had stayed to be bombed by the U.S., according to Bush, it would have made it easier for the U.S. On the other hand, it’s never too late to start. The indiscriminate bombings of Falluja, Najaf, Ramadi, and Samarra, among countless other places are already helping to achieve Bush’s original objective of maximum casualties.
Kamyar Arasteh is a writer and psychologist. He is the author of The American Reichstag: A Psychopolitical Analysis of 9/11 and Its Aftermaths. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
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