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"Changed" for the Worse 

Published September 11, 2002 at 1:00 a.m.

Through some miserable twist of calendars and fate, this column is scheduled to run on the very anniversary of the day everyone now calls 9/11, without elaboration. No elaboration is needed, which is why we're getting so much of it, I expect.

The papers are all talking about how the world in general and the U.S. in particular have "changed" in the last 12 months. Last year it was "A Nation Challenged." This year it's "A Nation Changed," "everything has changed," "the biggest life-changing event" in American history, etc.

If this is true — and I don't think it is — the "change" has been only for the worse. The United States has begun a military build-up in the Middle East on a scale not seen since the so-called Gulf War of 1991. A gigantic, authoritarian, unsupervised, un-American police apparatus is under construction in the nation's capital. Congress has "relaxed" its oversight of the FBI and the CIA — not to mention the new Department of Homeland Security — with the appalling excuse that "this is not a good time to put pressure on the FBI to behave itself."

Even the thieves on Wall Street are getting a free ride this week. It's being taken as common wisdom that the recently deflated bubble of greed and usury got its start — I quote The New York Times — "when a jumbo jet smashed into 2 World Trade Center," leaving a lot of fat-cat executives too "misty-eyed" to function properly. "Wall Street is a different place today — emotionally, financially and physically. Richard A. Grasso, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, calls the last 12 months ‘far and away the darkest year in our history.'"

Pardon me for saying it, but this is an insult to the dead. And all of it plays right into the hands of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and the most disgusting opportunist on the international scene, Tony Blair. The British Prime Minister defies his own party, his own country, all of Europe, all intelligence, all advice and all morality in his eagerness to brown-nose Bush.

Well, maybe I've got that wrong. The most disgusting opportunist on the scene right now is probably Karl Rove, Dubya's "chief strategist," a Texas swine who previously advised the most disgusting senator in Washington, Phil Gramm, and who recently had the audacity to rip off Abraham Lincoln by sticking Lincoln's words into Pipsqueak's mouth: "I am a patient man." If you didn't know those words were Lincoln's — taken from a letter explaining his position in the American Civil War — it's because you don't know your own history, which is just what these thugs are counting on.

Note to letter-writers: Is "thugs" a better word to describe the Bush administration than "fascists?" Do we need a definition of fascism? I think we do. From the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: "A philosophy or system of government that advocates or exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merger of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of belligerent nationalism."

I know of no regime in the Middle East that fits this description apart from the current government of Israel, which, according to its own ministers, is about to go broke from crushing Arabs under its boot — another compelling reason, no doubt, for the Bushmen's plan to annex both Saudi and Iraqi oilfields. Don't imagine that the war we may have any second is about anything else. And please note that I say "the current government" of Israel and spare me your accusations of anti-Semitism. I'm no more critical of Israel as a nation than I am of the U.S. as a nation, which is to say, at the moment, that I'm extremely critical of both.

It's also true that I expect more and better of Israel, a democracy, than I do of the theo-cracies, autocracies and monarchies that surround and threaten it. But I can't and won't condone the recent declaration of Israeli chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon that this threat is "internal" and "invisible, like a cancer," that all Palestinians, individually, pose "an existential threat," and that "there are all kinds of solutions to cancerous manifestations. Some will say it is necessary to amputate organs. But at the moment, I am applying chemotherapy."

If you need to ask whose words these sound exactly like, please see "history," above.

Second note to letter-writers: I have "visited the Middle East." Indeed, I've lived in the Middle East. In fact, I've got a "Middle Eastern" stepmother and two "Middle Eastern" half-sisters, and I've heard my stepmother, at least, describe the late king of Morocco as "a stupid old man." Granted, these words were spoken in the safety of the home and under a dictatorship that's, well, mild compared to some. It's rather like the dictatorship we're going to get when Bush & Company are through, and if you keep your voice down and play your cards right, you'll probably come out OK. You just won't be American anymore.

Third note to letter-writers: I don't believe that "Satan's beauty is as beautiful as God's," which — in theory, at least — is non-violent. I never thought I'd be quoting the Pope with approval, but when His Holiness remarks, as he did last week, that "injustice and oppression can lead desperate people into terrorism" and asks the world to address the "underlying causes" of violence and hatred, I'm on the Church's side, never mind what it's done to some little boys. It hasn't done enough to the little boys in Washington, and I hope, God willing, that it does. Soon.

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Peter Kurth


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