By Jason Miller
How does he sleep at night?
What is it that enables George Bush to sleep at night when his avarice and iniquity as a ruler exceed that of Marie Antoinette? Could it be that he slept through his history lectures about the French Revolution while he was at Yale? Perhaps his capacity to sleep soundly stems from having the most powerful military in the history of humanity at his disposal. Being a member of a dynasty dating back to the 1930's would also tend to endow one with a sense of serenity as one plundered a nation's resources, shredded the US Constitution, initiated illegal wars, bullied most of the world, slaughtered innocents in the name of "spreading freedom", starved the poor to feed the rich, and allowed tens of thousands to suffer or die in New Orleans simply because they are poor and black.
The power of psychological manipulation
While there could be many reasons for Bush's smug self-assurance as he gives the finger to most of the world's citizenry, I theorize that his sense of security stems from the level of protection he derives from America's Propaganda Matrix, the propaganda machine which enables the American Nightmare to masquerade as the American Dream. A friend recently commented to me that Orwell had written "1984" as a warning, but that the Bush administration had adopted it as a blue-print. Free and constant access to the mainstream media (to spread their sugar-coated versions of Pax Americana), genuflecting pundits like Michelle Malkin and Charles Krauthammer,corporate ownership of mainstream media, textbook companies and schools which portray a white-washed version of US history, heavily funded "think tanks" like the Hoover Institution, and the perpetuation of the myth of the United States as the "good guys" in many mindless Hollywood blockbusters unite to provide US leaders a powerful yet subtle means to manipulate their subjects. Why would Bush worry about the consequences of his actions when the propaganda machine at his disposal, like his military machine, is unparalleled in human history?
Not unlike the program the machines created in the movie called the Matrix, America's Propaganda Matrix manipulates the poor and working class by lulling them into an illusory sense of joy over being so "free". While wealthy dynasties (like the Bush clan), their sycophants, and their corporate cronies pillage the US treasury and employ foreign policies (like the Bush Doctrine) to seek world domination, an apathetic American public joyfully slaps magnetic ribbons supporting the Iraqi invasion onto its gas-guzzling SUV's, smiles and nods its assent at federal budgets calling for increases in an insanely bloated defense budget and cuts in spending for social programs, lightheartedly surrenders its civil liberties, and blithely watches the wealth gap widen to monumental proportions. The brilliance of the American Propaganda Matrix is that it enables a covert nobility to rule behind the guise of a "federal republic". With virtually no open acts of violence or totalitarian measures, a small fraction of the population in the United States maintains a vast majority of the world's wealth and power by ensuring that "their people" are elected and appointed to the key positions in the US government. Living in the delusory American Propaganda Matrix, many poor and working class Americans contentedly go about their lives as the "freest people in the world" enjoying the fruits of "sublime capitalism". In the American Propaganda Matrix, the American Way is The Way, and there is no room for critical evaluation. Those beguiled by the American Propaganda Matrix will tenaciously adhere to their delusions, regardless of who suffers or dies as a result.
Your computer has a virus, Mr. Rove
Unfortunately for those in power in the United States, the American Propaganda Matrix has a "virus". In fact, as a free lance writer publishing on the Internet, and as a proponent of social justice, I am a part of that "virus". The "virus" consists of activists for peace and social justice who are attacking the "program" which manipulates Americans into believing in the false construct of the US as a benevolent world power with political and economic systems which the world “must” embrace. I know from the many emails (and comments on my blog) which I receive that more people are escaping the psychological clutches of this Matrix each day as they awaken to the harsh light of reality. As Americans examine their leaders and history more closely, they see the depth of the corruption, the pervasiveness of the lies, the extreme hubris, the insatiable avarice, the objective of global domination (regardless of the human cost), the white patriarchy, and the exploitation of the poor and working class. Propaganda does not hold up well under the scrutiny of critical examination. The Iraqi occupation, events in New Orleans, cuts in assistance to the poor, a rapid decline in the number of decent paying jobs, tax cuts for the rich, spiraling federal deficits, sky-rocketing gas prices, corporate plundering, and weakening environmental protections are coalescing to form a battering ram of truth which is shattering the delusions created by the American Propaganda Matrix. When reality bites, the pain is real, but as my wrestling coach said on many occasions:
"No pain, no gain!"
As the "virus" of activism for peace and social justice spreads like wild-fire, Karl Rove and his staff desperately seek to patch the highly vulnerable American Propaganda Matrix "program". Their efforts are in vain. Noam Chomsky posits the theory that the world has two remaining superpowers, the United States and public opinion. The "virus" has ignited public opinion to mobilize against the miscreants operating behind the veil of the failing American Propaganda Matrix. Bush's rapidly descending approval ratings provide the statistical evidence, but there are also more concrete indicators.
Cindy Sheehan symbolizes a turning point
Consider Cindy Sheehan. One woman standing in a ditch in front of George Bush's ranch in Crawford came to symbolize the national movement against the war in Iraq, and galvanized a growing number of dissidents in the United States to demand peace and social justice from a country whose leaders are sorely lacking in desire to allow either.
Ms. Sheehan's determination and willingness to live in a tent while George Bush vacationed comfortably on his ranch for five weeks has evolved into a cross country tour of anti-war demonstrations. Now that Bush has finally gone back to work, many of the Sheehan supporters from Camp Casey, including other military family members and war veterans have begun the Bring Them Home Now Tour. This three bus tour will hit 42 cities in 26 states. Their ultimate goal is to converge on the White House with hundreds of thousands of other activists on 9/24 to demand that the Bush administration end the war in Iraq, bring home the troops, defend civil rights, and end racism. Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Vets against the War, and Veterans for Peace are working together on this national tour to garner public support for opposition to the Iraqi invasion. They are also promoting the peace and social justice march on 9/24, which will culminate with the delivery of petitions and demands to George Bush, who needs a strong reminder that he is a mere servant of the American people, not a monarch.
Activism in my neck of the woods
Yesterday evening, I left work and headed for the Plaza area of my hometown of Kansas City, anticipating the arrival of one of the Bus Tours from Camp Casey. My excitement was justified. Three to four hundred anti-war demonstrators gathered to show their support for Cindy Sheehan's group. The caravan from Crawford was a little late, but people found plenty to do as they waited. Petitions circulated. People met, mingled and discussed their disgust with the Bush administration and its imperialistic policies. Ira Harritt, a local peace activist who is heavily involved with American Friends Service Committee, and Nancy Carry, co-chair of the KC Iraq Task Force, took turns speaking to the group about local efforts to end the Iraqi occupation. Many of the demonstrators admired the enormous collage assembled with ribbons bearing the names of each US soldier who has died in Iraq since the illegal occupation began.
Having participated in local anti-war demonstrations before, I was used to getting the finger and hearing insults. Yesterday, I felt awe-struck by the virtually over-whelming support of passers-by. The assembly was situated in a park on the corner of a busy intersection and took place during rush hour. I noticed many people honking, waving, gesturing and smiling with approval. I heard no cursing and saw no vulgar gestures. Bush's supporters are obviously dwindling and feeling less inclined to express their views publicly.
As I waited, I had an opportunity to speak with two of Kansas City's stalwart anti-war demonstrators, Carol Huhs and Bob Rowe. They are members of a group of twenty die-hards who call themselves the 63rd Street Patriots. Determined to make a difference, regardless of weather extremes or abuse from Bush supporters, they have held demonstrations opposing the Iraqi occupation for 132 consecutive weeks. The commitment of people like Bob and Carol form the backbone of the movement for peace and social justice, which by its very nature dissents against the Bush administration.
Morrigan Phillips, the media coordinator for the Bring Them Home Now Tour told me that the goal of the tour is to build momentum for the 9/24 march on Washington. She added that another objective is to find members of Congress who have the moral courage to introduce or support legislation to bring the troops home immediately. They have set high goals, but they are worth pursuing, and this group has the resolve to persevere.
I visited briefly with Kansas City Star columnist Lewis Diuguid, one of the few mainstream journalists in Kansas City with the courage to write columns supporting social justice, peace, civil liberties, civil rights, and social welfare programs. I thanked him for his efforts and for expressing his opposition to many of the grossly misguided policies of the Bush administration.
Camp Casey comes to KC
As the RV from Camp Casey arrived, it occurred to me that I was witnessing (and was a part of) an activism which had not occurred in the United States on such a large scale during my adult years. I could feel the awesome power of America's Propaganda Matrix waning as the energized crowd of "de-programmed" Americans cheered the appearance of Tammara Rosenleaf and Cody Camacho, who had both spent several weeks with Cindy Sheehan in Crawford.
Deeply tanned by her stint in the hot Texas sun, Tammara gratified her eager listeners with her brief bio, news of Camp Casey, anecdotes, and information about the Iraqi occupation. I felt the elation moving amongst my fellow activists from Kansas City as an element of Cindy Sheehan's group made direct contact with us. For that hour, we were direct participants in the national movement against the Iraqi debacle.
As she started speaking, Tammara reminded us that Camp Casey had evolved from the courage of one woman standing in a ditch alongside the road in front of the ranch where Bush cowered. Within a few days, Sheehan had been joined by about thirty supporters. Initially they feared they would be arrested, but the local sheriff allowed their vigil to continue in the interest of their First Amendment rights. By the end of the first week, they had 50 people and one tent. 10,000 people visited Camp Casey over the course of its existence. It ended with a rally attended by 2,500 people who helped dismantle the 71 tents that had been erected over the course of 5 weeks.
Tammara told us that her husband is stationed at Ft. Hood. His Army unit is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in November. He supports Tammara's involvement with Military Families Speak Out and the peace movement. Tammara told us that her husband's captain and chaplain also support her efforts.
Pool of tears and the raging torrent of public opinion
George Bush needs to realize that the Iraqi occupation has created a pool of grief created by the tears of mothers and wives of dead military personnel. Tammara reminded us that Cindy Sheehan's tears caused this pool to over-flow. What started as a trickle, grew to a river, and has now gained the momentum of a raging torrent headed for Washington. Perhaps Mr. Bush will pay attention to the pool of tears on 9/24 when he is confronted with the power of public opinion which it has inspired.
Bring Them Home Now left Crawford with an RV and $450.00. In the tradition of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, this is a grass roots movement relying on support and participation from people across the United States who are waking up to the malevolence of the Bush administration. Tammara asked for donations as she spoke, and it appeared that many in the group responded.
Tammara emphasized to her audience that the Iraqi occupation also affects many facets of life stateside, for both returning veterans and other working class or poor Americans. In New Orleans, 3,000 National Guardsmen who would have been helping during Katrina are busy occupying Iraq instead. Military helicopters which could have been used to air-lift people out of the city and to help repair the dikes are also in Iraq. How many will suffer or die in the wealthiest nation on Earth before the New Orleans crisis is resolved? As many veterans prepare to come home from their tours in Iraq, the Bush administration is closing several VA hospitals, limiting medical and psychiatric care for those suffering physical and psychological wounds. Tammara reminded us that in Baghdad alone, JAG Corps officers have received 2600 petitions for divorce since the beginning of the occupation. It would appear there is no limit to the human cost George Bush and his so-called Neocons are willing to expend using other peoples' lives in their quest for global domination.
A veteran speaks
Following Tammara's inspiring and heartfelt talk, Cody Camacho took the microphone. He served as an Army specialist in Iraq from March 2003 to March 2004 before he was honorably discharged in October of 2004. Cody asked several poignant questions as he spoke:
1. Who is the "boss" in the United States? Excellent question, Cody. With a slim margin of victory in the last presidential election and support for his illegal Iraqi occupation well below 50%, why is Bush defying his "boss", the American people, and insisting on "staying the course" in Iraq?
2. Why do people continue to support corporate media? Another question more Americans need to ponder deeply. Why support a corporate media which often ignores or waters down the truth if it casts even a hint of negative light on the United States?
3. What is the noble cause in Iraq? Cody answered that question for us since Bush would not. The illegal Iraqi occupation is a "nobility cause" to benefit the wealthy.
4. Why are we showering Halliburton (via its subsidiary, KBR) with billions of dollars in Iraq-related contracts when our soldiers are not equipped with effective body armor or properly armored vehicles?
Cody informed us of the lack of efforts toward reconstruction of infrastructure for the people of Iraq. Based on his observations during his deployment, many US resources were funneling into the construction of permanent US military bases in Iraq. (A nation can't have a "true democracy" without US military oversight, now can they?) To further nauseate the crowd, Cody told us that his job in Iraq was to protect Halliburton contractors, one of whom bragged to him that he was making over $100,000.00 per year (tax free). Given the fact that he was talking about Halliburton, it was not surprising to learn that many of those contractors were performing jobs US soldiers could have been doing. Disgusting to hear, but not surprising.
One of Cody's greatest fears as a veteran relates to the issue of depleted uranium. Depleted uranium (or DU) is the residual left after natural uranium has been enriched to make reactor fuel or weapons. Its radioactivity is mild, but DU is very heavy and is almost twice as dense as lead. The military places it in the cores or tips of weapons in order to pierce armor. When DU does pierce armor, it becomes a cloud of vapor which then forms a poisonous and radioactive dust. Many veterans of the Gulf War believe that exposure to DU left them with chronic and serious health problems and killed some of their fellow veterans. While the US military acknowledges that DU dust is dangerous if inhaled, they claim that its effects are short-term. There is no hard evidence to prove either contention. However, Cody, and many other veterans, fear what the long term effects of their exposure to DU might be.
As Cody finished speaking, he dispelled one of the common rumors about Camp Casey. According to several accountings, the pro-Iraq occupation demonstrators in Crawford out-numbered the contingency at Camp Casey. Cody and Tammara both confirmed that on a given day throughout the vigil, the number of Bush supporters only averaged about 30. Not only were they much fewer in number than the Sheehan supporters, they also went home at night.
How long can he ignore the “Second Superpower”?
I left the Bring Them Home Now Tour with a renewed sense of hope and a stronger faith in the power and magnitude of the grass roots, spiritual movement toward a better America. The "virus" of activism for humanity is spreading rapidly throughout the "hard drive" supporting America's Propaganda Matrix. As more people become acquainted with the reality behind the veneer of lies, the Bush administration, large corporations, the wealthy elite, and powerful lobbying groups are slowly losing their grip on power as the tide of public opinion rises against them, here and abroad. The non-violent movement for peace and social justice is growing, and hundreds of thousands of us will be knocking on Mr. Bush's door on 9/24.
Jason Miller is a 38 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. He works in the transportation industry, and is a husband and a father to three boys. His affiliations include Amnesty International, the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org or comments on his blog at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.