October 24, 2003
Reagan and the Cold WarThe Times is always good for a laugh. On this morning's front page the big center photo shows an army vehicle going up in flames, brilliant red and yellow flames against a grassy background. The Times headline says "New Spy Gear Aims to Thwart Attacks in Iraq." Right.
Like the Holy Grail, the answer to everything is always the next technological advance. It will turn the world into a utopia. All these attacks will be stopped when we just find the right technology. Technology holds the answer to all problems.
Reagan professed to believe that a giant missile defense system, or star wars system would make the U.S. invulnerable to attack. Obviously no missile defense system is going to prevent the kinds of attacks we saw September 11, 2001. And this new spy gear is not going to solve the U.S.' problems, which George W. is creating faster than any technological advance can keep up with.
Speaking of Reagan, I saw some controversy over a new television movie that Reagan lovers fear will downplay his legacy, the good part of it anyway. And in the article in the New York Times about it, it says that Reagan "ended the cold war" and said as if it requires no proof. It's a self evident truth.
The conventional wisdom is that Reagan lured the Soviets into an arms race that eventually brought down the Soviet regime. That's the story we have heard. But think about it. According to that theory, the theory of the Reagan lovers themselves, all he did is launch the U.S. into a huge arms race, spending money that did no one good except the weapons manufacturers. He didn't force the Soviet Union to do the same, any more than the U.S.' mad spending of $400 billion a year now forces other countries to do the same. But the Soviets were stupid enough to try to match Reagan, it helped to destroy them fiscally and their empire finally collapsed. Luckily for Americans that the Soviet Union collapsed before Reagan's arms race destroyed America as well.
Reagan's arms race was stupid, infantile. A troglodyte view of the world. And that's how Reagan got credit for ending the Cold War. It's ridiculous.
This fantasy that Reagan ended the Cold War doesn't take in all sorts of other aspects of the fall of the Soviet Union. Osama bin Laden thinks he brought it down by similarly draining the Soviets of their resources in their ill-fated war in Afghanistan. Bin Laden thinks he will bring down the U.S. the same way, and it's definitely something to think about, the way the Bushies are pissing away U.S. fiscal integrity for their wars.
The Soviet Union was a repressive, regressive bureaucracy that required control of information to maintain its position. The old regime couldn't withstand the information revolution. Once Russians could listen to the Beatles and read Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the days of the Soviet Union were numbered. One thing about the Russians, they were ruled by tyrants, but at least they knew it. Many Americans think their country is a democracy.
The Bush administration has many of the same weaknesses and faults of the Soviet regime. It wants to rule tyrannically, under the terms of the Patriot Act, by which the government has nearly absolute power. It wants to rule the country through fear and dominate the world by force. It is inherently anti-democratic, though it pretends otherwise, and it cannot withstand freedom of information. It will not withstand the American urge for freedom and justice. In its own mythology, the radical right places itself as opposite to the Soviet regime, but in actuality it is almost a twin. And it is likely to meet the same fate. I can hear creaking.
The Times has another funny article on the front page. "Congress strikes a tentative deal on drug benefits -- Medical Bill Bolstered -- House-Senate Agreement Would Assist Millions, but Hurdles Remain." Hurdles, one little hurdle. It's called money. Bush has broken the bank. The idea is to dismantle Social Security and Medicare. One of Bush's favorite tricks is to pretend to support something, then make sure there's no money for it. Remember he promised to be "the education president"? What a joke? Tuitions are jumping up again this year. What did he ever do for education, except read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" while the World Trade Center and the Pentagon burned. His education plan was to institute more standardized testing and if schools did badly on their tests, take their money away. Great way to improve education. Another funny Times article on A12, the headline says "Bush urges Indonesia to bolster democracy." What does he mean? He's the most antidemocratic man to ever occupy the White House and he's urging other countries to be democratic. But there are good things going on, too. Rickie Lee Jones just came out with a new album that doesn't mince words but just comes right out and talks about how creepy Bush is. "He's an ugly man. He always was an ugly man. He grew up to be like his father... He'll look at you and tell you lies..." See the Guardian John and Elaine Mellencamp have also raised their voices on Commondreams with a piece called "Time to take back our country." Here's a little part: "As the echo of the war drums fades away and the angry masses calling for blood slowly disperse, we, as a nation must now confront the truth. We face the unpleasant reality of an uncertain future, compromised safety, a failing economy, and the question of how a society of otherwise reasonable citizens was systematically lied to and manipulated into backing the political 'hijacking' of Iraq. Have a nice day, George, the heat is on back home. See the Sydney Morning Herald. This war may end the age of superpower, the war that could destroy both armies, says Henry C. K. Liu in Asia Times "The undeclared US war on Iraq ended some six months ago in a matter of weeks, mostly through bribery of an Iraqi high command infiltrated by US special operations that had been embedded during years of better relations in the Iran-Iraq War and military cooperation with its US counterpart, making treasonous plots possible. That may explain why the US high command had been so confident of a quick victory in defiance of mainstream military logic." Take back your day -- According to commondreams, "Come Friday, if our country's work load were on a par with the rest of the industrialized world, you would have the rest of 2003 off. When compared with workers in Western Europe, the average American will work 350 hours more per year, the equivalent of nine extra weeks. Furthermore, a study by the International Labor Organization reports that in 2000, the average U.S. worker put in 199 more hours than in 1973. Despite working hard, many people are barely staying afloat in the modern economy. Our days are filled with stress. Our meals are rushed. And, as much as it saves time, technology creates more clutter and more burdens. We have less time to spend with our families; less time to invest in our communities; less time to relax."