31 October 2004

River Come Down!

Common Sense
John Maxwell

IT will be 50 years ago next January 12. I remember standing with a huge crowd on Vineyard Road listening to Norman Manley, with everybody in the crowd, it seemed, waving a broom.

The PNP slogan was "Sweep Them Out", after a cartoon in Public Opinion which called on Jamaicans to get rid of the corrupt and scandal-ridden government of Alexander Bustamante.

Norman Manley couldn't be heard for minutes after he reported what he had seen all over Jamaica and ended with the line: "The river come down - from bank to bank!!!"It had indeed, as the next day's election results proved - a rout despite the fact that constituency demarcation favoured the JLP.

I am reminded of this by what is happening right now in the United States of America, where the ground is shifting under the feet of the Bush Administration which is displaying unmistakable signs of increasing desperation and panic. In Jamaica, we say "Bad luck wuss dan obeah" and Mr Bush's luck is running out. Why would Osama bin Laden choose this moment to resurface?

Mr Bush, I kid you not, has recently been talking about 'principle'. His declared principle after 9/11 was to hunt down and "smoke out from their holes" the authors of the outrage and murderers of 3,000 Americans.

Yet, here is bin Laden, as large as life, or larger, offering to talk with Bush about disengagement!!! For most of the last 12 months Bush's basic principle has been to attack the character and integrity of his opponent, to hit below the belt whenever possible, throwing pile-drivers at Kerry's gut, just as George Foreman threw them at Muhammad Ali in Zaire, 30 years ago.
And with the same result.

Bush and his campaign are now, as Foreman was then, tired and demoralised. After Tuesday, the Bush Administration will have loads of time to attend Grand Jury hearings and similar proceedings. Somebody else will have to deal with bin Laden.

For the river to come down - Lavalas, as they say in Haiti - there must be a lot of rain. And the rain-makers of the Bush Administration have made damn sure that the rain falls only on their Just Men. The trouble is that the water doesn't stop there. Injustice is a trickle-down process, and those at the bottom of the hill get lots of filthy, contaminated water. My expectation of a Kerry victory rests on several observations and some hunches.

A great many people are resolved not to take the cynical colour-coded manipulation of their fears any longer, and they have enthusiastically heeded the call of those who believe that Americans give away their rights when they don't vote.

They watched the process last time round, when George Bush was appointed president by the Supreme Court. Millions of people were disfranchised and they are paying for it in unemployment, deficient education, expensive health care, and record budget and trade deficits. Count in here a majority of the young, the new voters, the foreign-born, Hispanics, Haitians, Jamaicans, some of whom won't be nationally significant but crucial in local contests.

Over the last week, the Bush spinmeisters have been producing some of the most elaborate excuses and alternative theories to explain away the inexplicable loss of more than 377 tons of extremely high-explosive material from a sealed bunker at Al Qaqaa in Iraq. Casting a doubt here, scouting a rumour there, fiddling with the facts wherever possible was a game that lasted until Friday, when a Minnesota TV station unearthed footage taken by their news team 18 months ago.

The US chief weapons inspector, Dr David Kay, and most other people appear to believe that the video footage proves beyond reasonable doubt that the missing explosives had been found by American soldiers on April 18, three weeks after the war started and at least three weeks after Field Marshal von Rumsfeld thought the explosives might have been spirited away by Saddam Hussein. If not conclusive, the circumstantial evidence proves beyond doubt that the American soldiers in Iraq had not been properly prepared for the war, another major blunder by the Bush-Rumsfeld axis. Then, late Friday night, it turned out that a French journalist had reported a year ago exactly who had looted the munitions store and how and when it happened.

If 'Bad luck wuss dan obeah', an FBI investigation is probably even worse than bad luck, and Mr Bush's frightener-in-chief and left-hand man extraordinaire Dick Cheney may soon find himself before a grand jury to explain why his old company, Halliburton, was awarded, against the rules, a 'no-bid' five-year contract worth billions. He won't be able to claim executive privilege this time.

A complaint, filed on behalf of the Army Corps of Engineers Chief Contracting Officer, alleges that the $7-billion contract undermines the integrity of the federal contracts process. The complaint alleges that the award of contracts to KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, to restore Iraq's oil industry and to supply and feed US troops in the Balkans puts at risk "the integrity of the federal contracting programme as it relates to a major defence contractor".

Bunnatine Greenhouse
The complaint also asks protection from retaliation for the whistle-blower, Bunnatine Greenhouse, an African-American woman with a strong resemblance to Portia Simpson Miller. African-Americans are expected to vote overwhelmingly (more than 90 per cent) for John Kerry. According to Internet journalist/editor Marc Ash, who is NOT an African-American, if American democracy is to be rescued, it will probably have to depend on African-Americans: "For whatever reason, African-Americans won't vote against their own best interests. No matter how much you try to convince them, it's like trying to get a cat to take a bath. We often hear that "our nation is deeply divided". Whose nation? Not the African-American nation - they know perfectly well who to vote for. They will vote for freedom and liberty and they'll kick down the door to do it if necessary."

The Republican party obviously understands this. The Internal Revenue Service is to investigate the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) with a view to withdrawing its tax-exempt status, effectively bankrupting the NAACP. The reason? In July the NAACP president, Julian Bond, said: "The election this fall is a contest between two widely disparate views of who we are and what we believe. One view wants to march us backward through history - surrendering control of government to special interests, weakening democracy, giving religion veto power over science, curtailing civil liberties, despoiling the environment.

"The other view promises expanded democracy and giving the people, not plutocrats, control over their government." Count in Arab/Americans and most Muslims, Indians, non-Zionist Jews, and others, including some moderate Republicans and others who want to restore their country's reputation for decency.

Bush, like George Foreman, had his plan. Play the strong, silent, immovable John Wayne character and push the flip-flopping Kerry around until he collapsed like a rag doll. But, in the debates, Kerry wiped the floor with the president. While Kerry concentrated on the issues that burn Americans, in the background was always the injustice of a war in which hundreds of thousands of poor Americans are sent to a foreign country to kill hundreds of thousands of poor people with whom they had no quarrel.

Count here young people afraid of being drafted for Iraq but, more important, medicare recipients and the poor generally. Soldiers' feedback is powerful stuff, and as it percolates through the American consciousness, more and more people are reverting to their pre-war position, when a majority was anti-war. Abu Ghraib has done nothing to reassure them.

"Vote or Die" is one of the slogans used by an NGO supported by Sean "P Diddy" Coombs, and he happens to be on the same side as another of the world's richest men, George Soros. Both believe that George Bush is bad for America and the world. And the work of NGOs like MOVEON and Michael Moore's powerful documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, have also changed many minds. The irruption of Osama bin Laden into the campaign will remind many that while the Iraqi city of Fallujah is being obliterated, bin Laden is somewhere else, home, dry and still rich.

The Bushies are trying to get Kerry to be a gentleman, to get him to avoid drawing attention to Osama's freedom and liberty while Americans labour under the Patriot Act and other disabilities. For the Bushies, Osama is the invisible 800-pound gorilla on the bow of a boat rapidly shipping water.

Americans know Bush lies when he says that his troops are "shrinking the space for terrorists to operate" when they know that even the super-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad is not immune to insurgent attack.

Meanwhile, the invasion has converted Iraq into what it emphatically was not before the war: a haven for terrorists as well as resistance fighters. Huge areas of Iraq are now no-go areas for the US troops, and an assault on Fallujah may be as much of a trap as Khe San was during General Giap's Tet offensive in 1968. Count in here all those who couldn't care less about Iraq, the unemployed, the single mothers with school-age children, soldiers' families.

No pollster has factored in the millions of new voters, nearly a million in Florida and more than half-a-million in Ohio alone. Bush was having things his own way early on, coasting on the publicity platform of the presidency until the debates, when, Surprise! Viewers rated John Kerry, the 'aloof patrician', as more likeable. That's a hard one to recover from.

Kerry has simply seemed more 'presidential' and certainly more mature than Bush and, however stupid Karl Rove thinks the US electorate is, I believe that they are more likely to go for someone who seems more level-headed and balanced than the grimacing, posturing 'Mission Accomplished' president. Count in surprising numbers of well-to-do Americans, who don't see the Bush fantasies or tax giveaways as everlasting and who may be scared of popular retribution, perhaps civil war, plus all those other scared voters who lie or conceal their intentions.

And then there are the men surrounding Bush: Ashcroft, the fundamentalist prude with an appetite for shutting up and locking down people outside of the law, the constitution and the country; Rumsfeld, the dashing fly boy on leave from a Douglas Fairbanks war film who thought looting was good clean fun; Colin Powell, the designated adult in the Cabinet, whose patina of credibility has corroded to grimy verdigris; Dick Cheney, who - I have on good authority - is definitely not related to Lon Chaney, the ghoul of early horror movies; (Lon Chaney needed LOTS of make-up to frighten people) and, of course, the Ayatollah, Karl Rove, a spoiled brat with Napoleonic fantasies, the man who brought you the George Bush show originally; the main architect of the electoral skulduggery, the gerrymandering in Texas, the vote-stealing and intimidation in Florida and elsewhere. Will Kerry win?

As Sherlock Holmes told Dr Watson: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is likely to be the truth".


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