President George Bush Jr. was not “swiftboated” — his Democratic opponent in the Presidential election of 2004, Senator John Kerry, was. Kerry was a Vietnam combat veteran who received three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star.
Bush Jr. had served stateside in a National Guard unit, and was later accused of failing to report for duty or take his required physical for more than a year.
To counter the possible impact of the contrast between the military record of the two candidates, a group of prominent Republican supporters helped to organize and provided most of the funding for an organization critical of Kerry’s war record called, “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” (SBVT). According to wikipedia:
“SBVT characterized itself as a non-partisan group both in the legal sense and in spirit, yet several prominent individuals who assisted SBVT also have had close ties to the Republican Party. According to information released by the IRS on February 22, 2005, more than half of the group’s reported contributions came from just three sources, all prominent Texas Republican donors: Houston builder Bob J. Perry, a longtime supporter of George W. Bush, donated $4.45 million, Harold Simmons’ Contrans donated $3 million, and T. Boone Pickens, Jr. donated $2 million. Other major contributors included Bush fundraiser Carl Lindner ($300,000), Robert Lindner ($260,000), GOP contributor Aubrey McClendon ($250,000), George Matthews Jr. ($250,000), and Crow Holdings ($100,000).”
Copyright © 2010 Henry Edward Hardy
The Book that Got the Bro Tazed
I’m with you in Rockland
where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul
is innocent and immortal it should never die
ungodly in an armed madhouse
Allen Ginsberg, Howl (1955)
Greg Palast is an angry man, a funny man, a brilliant man, and an unapologetic egoist. You might say he’s like Sy Hersh and Mike Moore and Ed Murrow and Milton Friedman rolled into one. His book, Armed Madhouse, has been released in several editions, with various Swiftian subtitles, since 2006. This reviewer used the English Dutton edition from the Ann Arbor Public Library, which, bless them, has four copies.
The book is like a volcanic eruption. Where to start? Most anywhere, since Palast has dispensed with conventional narrative, chronological progression, and logical argumentation in favor of a thematic and topical approach which is much like his blog at gregpalast.com. Palast says, “I like to read in the loo, so this book, like my last [The Best Democracy Money Can Buy] can be read in short spurts, in any order. To that end, I’ve eliminated the consistency and continuity I despise in other books.” A pity, that.
I first became interested in Armed Madhouse during the infamous “Don’t Taze Me, Bro” incident at the University of Florida on September 17, 2007. A young man spent 90 seconds attempting to ask former Presidential candidate John Kerry a series of questions based on Palast’s book. The unfortunate young man, Andrew Meyer, was dragged to the back of the auditorium by campus police. While Meyer was waving a yellow trade paper edition of Armed Madhouse, he was pinned to the ground and “drive stunned” with a Taser while pleading “What did I do?… Don’t Taze Me, Bro!”
Public interest in the Andrew Meyer case has subsided since Meyer, on the advice of counsel, wrote a letter of apology exonerating the police who had taken him down, drive stunned him and arrested him for taking 90 seconds to ask an argumentative question. Meyer reportedly is to complete a “voluntary” 18 month probation, which if successful, will result in him not facing charges over the incident. Video of the incident was a YouTube phenom, with more than 2 million viewings to date. Interest in Palast’s book, which had reached the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list in May 2007, has resurged since the Tazing of the Bro.
Palast is savage in his treatment of President Bush Jr’s defining “Mission Accomplished” moment:
On Thursday, May 1, 2003, President Bush landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. Forgetting to undo the parachute clips around his gonads, our President walked bowlegged on the ship’s deck in a green jumpsuit looking astonishingly like Ham, first chimp in space.
It is really quite disgraceful of Palast to make such a comparison to Ham, a perfectly respectable hero-chimp-astronaut.
Beyond his bombast, Palast clearly has excellent investigative instincts and deep national security sources. His investigations of Exxon and Enron helped blow the whistle on major scandals of the 1990’s. His analysis of the Bin Laden’s and Bush’s as motivated by the same oil-baron class interests is similar to the thesis of fellow BBC contributor Adam Curtis’ documentary The Power of Nightmares which we reviewed in Current in January, 2006. Palast says:
Fear is the sales pitch for many products…Better than toothpaste that makes your teeth whiter than white, this stuff will make us safer than safe… Real security for life’s dangers–from a national health insurance program to ending oil sheiks’ funding of bomb-loving “charities”–would take a slice of the profits of the owning classes, the Lockheeds, the ChoicePoints and the tiny-town big shot who owns the ferry company. The War on Terror has become class war by other means.
Palast’s investigation of ChoicePoint alleges this organization grew out of the now-officially-defunct “Total Information Awareness Office” at DARPA. He associates ChoicePoint with the database techniques used to “suppress” votes by millions of legally registered Democratic voters in the 2004 election.
Palast ties the war in Iraq to oil–not to an attempt to sell the oil but rather, to prevent it from being sold in order to drive up prices. He points out that there is no oil shortage geologically–world proven reserves, he says, top 1.189 trillion barrels. That’s 49,938,000,000,000 gallons of oil remaining by my calculation. He quotes Mobil Oil heir Lewis Lapham of Harper’s as saying that “we have been ‘running out of oil’ since the days when we drained it from whales”. Palast later refutes, or refines, his own theory in an afterword called “Return to Hubbert’s Peak: Why Palast is Wrong”.
Greg Palast’s website may be found at http://www.gregpalast.com/
Armed Madhouse is a work to taste, chew, and enjoy. A troubling work by a troubled man, and wicked funny. But I repeat myself.
You be the judge!
Copyright © 2007, 2008 Henry Edward Hardy
A version of this article has previously appeared in Current.
George W. Bush made one of his most bizarre pronouncements yet at his news conference yesterday, outdoing even Miss Teen South Carolina in his seeming lack of knowledge of what she called “The Iraq” and South Africa. This has to be seen to be believed, if even then:
I thought an interesting comment was made, somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, now where’s Man-deh-la — well, Mandela’s dead. Because–Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas [Bush makes a weird grin, grimace or smile]. He-he-he-he was was a brutal tyrant–that divided people up–and split families and people recovering from this. So there’s a psychological recovery that is taking place. It is hard work for ’em and I understand its hard work for ’em. Having said that I’m not going to give them a pass when it comes to the central the central government’s reconciliation efforts.
I also said in my speech that local politics will drive national politics, and I believe that. I believe as more reconciliation takes place at the local level you’ll see a more responsive government.
Scanlyze: From the context it seems that Bush was talking figuratively, meaning that all the Nelson Mandela-like figures had been eliminated by Saddam. But he discusses it in such a strange abstracted way. It really makes one wonder as to Mr. Bush’s state of mind. Best wishes to him, for all of our sakes.
After Bush Remark, Mandela Foundation Says Former President Still Alive (Voice of America)
Mandela still alive after embarrassing Bush remark (Reuters)
Bush’s News Conference Almost Makes News (Washington Post)
Mandela condemns US stance on Iraq (BBC–from 2003)
Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy
“The security situation is changing,” Bush told reporters during the visit [to Australia]. “There’s more work to be done. But reconciliation is taking place.”
But according to the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia, the president gave a more-to-the-point assessment to Australia Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile.
“We’re kicking ass,” Bush said to Vaile Tuesday, according the Herald, after the deputy prime minister inquired about his trip to Iraq.
Scanlyze: Another dramatic turn of phrase from the begetter of “Mission Accomplished“, “The Smoking Gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud” and, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job“. How shallow, and callow, and cruel can this man be? In a speech in Philadelphia on December 15, 2005, Bush estimated Iraqi deaths to be “30,000, more or less”. (Speech audio | Video).
Is killing tens of thousands of civilians “kicking ass”?
US Army suicides are the highest in 26 years, according to a recent Army report. Is that “kicking ass”?
Colin Powell, the former 4-star General and your own former Secretary of State says the US Army is “about broken“, Mr. Bush. Is that “kicking ass?”
The Pew Global Attitudes Project reported in 2006 that, “America’s global image has again slipped and support for the war on terrorism has declined even among close U.S. allies like Japan. The war in Iraq is a continuing drag on opinions of the United States, not only in predominantly Muslim countries but in Europe and Asia as well. And despite growing concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the U.S. presence in Iraq is cited at least as often as Iran – and in many countries much more often – as a danger to world peace.” Is that “kicking ass?”
President Bush told the author of a new book on his presidency that “I try not to wear my worries on my sleeve” or show anything less than steadfastness in public, especially in a time of war.
“I fully understand that the enemy watches me, the Iraqis are watching me, the troops watch me, and the people watch me,” he said. Yet, he said, “I do tears.”
“I’ve got God’s shoulder to cry on. And I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job. I’ll bet I’ve shed more tears than you can count, as president. I’ll shed some tomorrow.”
Bush tells biographer: ‘I do tears’
A tear runs down President Bush’s cheek as he takes part in a Medal of Honor Ceremony for Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
article and photo removed from Charlotte Observer site 2007-09-20, google cache (w/out photo)
Cropped version of the photo which was above:
Yarg! Elusive image. . Another cropped version, from Salon.
Are you really “kicking ass”, Mr. Bush? Are you proud? Are you very happy now? Despite the “enemy” you say who “watches” you?
Think about it sir, please think.
Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy