Girgenti: The state of which union?

R. Colin Fly

This past Tuesday night, President Bush gave his State of the Union address, broadcasted on all the major television and radio stations. In this speech, Bush outlined a number of his plans for dealing with such issues as the environment and medicare.

A large portion of the speech also allowed him to once again make a case for war against Iraq. However, Bush’s speech revealed yet again the degree to which our government would not dream of applying the same standards to America as it applies to the rest of the world. In fact, the American government is even willing to exempt some of its allies from the harsher standards by which it judges countries like Iraq, Iran and most African nations.

“Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks, to build and keep weapons of mass destruction – but why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate or attack,” Bush said in the speech.

That is a very interesting comment because it could just as easily be applied to the United States or to Israel. America has spent “enormous sums” of money to build more advanced and more dangerous weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons. Israel has put quite a bit of effort into building and keeping weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear missiles. Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, yet Bush is not demanding inspections of Israel’s nuclear facilities. Israel has extremely tense relations with the Palestinians and, for the last 50 years or so, has been using various advanced weapons and tactics to “dominate, intimidate, [and] attack” the Palestinian people. Yet Bush does not think it is necessary to attack Israel.

President Bush also noted that “statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists.” Again, this statement is true of the United States. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, our government supported the actions of an illegal military regime in El Salvador which murdered thousands of people, including Archbishop Oscar Romero and four churchwomen.

The perpetrators of these crimes now live happily in Florida. After World War II, the United States helped a number of Nazi scientists to escape from Germany to the United States, despite some of the terrible things they had done. It was more important that they could help us develop more lethal weapons than treatment of Jews as lab animals, using their living bodies for truly terrible experiments.

Bush also expressed anger and disgust at the way in which the Iraqi government obtains confessions from criminals: “electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.”

He added, “If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.”

Interestingly, the United States has historically taught these methods for obtaining confessions to some of the most brutal governments of the world. Amnesty International has spoken out against the use of torture in American police departments in order to obtain confessions to crimes.

There have also been allegations of the use of torture to gather information from Afghani detainees held in Cuba. Yet, when these same methods are used in a foreign country with whom the U.S. government is not friendly, they are then considered pure evil.

Lastly, with regard to his coming war in Iraq, Bush said that, “as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food, and medicines, and supplies … and freedom.”

However, according to the United States Committee for Refugees, many relief groups felt that the food supplies dropped in Afghanistan were primarily a public relations ploy, as the amount of food dropped was insignificant relative to the severity of the situation, and was often unusable by the population.

If the plan is to drop just enough food in Iraq to make the United States look good, without having any impact on the severe starvation that will be caused by an American attack, then it will be just like the action taken in Afghanistan.

Sadly, we live in a country whose government is mired in hypocrisy. The President neglected to mention in his speech that the war on Iraq is expected to cost $200 billion above and beyond the military budget.

Bush would rather woo us with tax cuts that will not help us and the language of freedom for all as he tries to deny freedom to many. Quite simply, Bush’s speech, though pretty, was empty of meaning.