Everything But the Plastic Turkey
by Mary Lyon
The "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" is bravely and boldly at it again. To show his mettle as the purported most powerful man in the world, George W. Bush has once again done what any self-righteous, universally revered, and all-invincible overlord would do: sneak into his latest conquered territory under extreme cover, with no advanced warning whatsoever. Not even those who were expected to greet him as a liberator and shower his entourage with flowers and sweets got any heads-up. You'd think after all he's done for Iraq, and how marvelous he's made things for the people there, the local Welcome Wagon would at least get a little early notice.
So it is for the self-anointed "Cowboy King." So appreciated and welcomed is he, so earnestly is his presence longed for, that he has to be protected by
phalanxes of the toughest security operation on earth, with a traveling road show whose population outnumbers that of many small towns. The snipers, the sharpshooters, the hovering helicopter gunships, the hundreds of armed guards, vigilant sentries by the score at every checkpoint, roof, and corner. All this is needed, you understand, because the adoring throngs just want at him so badly. He's won so many hearts and minds with his international tough-love anti-terror campaign that the never-ending hoards simply have to be kept from their heart's desire of touching the hem of his garment. Yeah, that's it. That's why Bush has to be almost literally hermetically sealed in order to venture outside the safety of his many luxury imperial compounds. You've got to hand it to Young George - he sure knows how to make an entrance, even if it involves more sleight-of-hand than you get from Criss Angel and Penn & Teller combined.
You'd think by now something along these lines might have gotten through to him. The verbal embroidery above is probably what his handlers are feeding him every day. They know better than to try to show him some truth, or talk any sense into him. He wouldn't take delivery anyway. So it'll continue to be - "they LOVE you, Dubya. You're the ultimate Man of the People and their veritable messiah. The new-and-improved Saddam!" Well, they're on their knees alright.
George W. Bush slithered back over to Iraq over Labor Day in a similar fashion to his other visits: like a thief in the night. If he's so proud of what he's accomplished over there, why does he have to tiptoe in through the shadows? Why isn't he proudly parading down the main streets in full conquistador regalia? Since he constantly brags about all the marvelous "progress" that his surge is making, shouldn't he be able to meet any random subject out in the open, to accept their gratitude and flattery? Why does he have to arrive in some of these places under cover of night with all the lights turned off? And shouldn't he be able to go wherever he wants in his newly acquired fiefdom? Why is he ushered into small, selectively sanitized walk-abouts with carefully screened and cherry-picked handfuls of fawning "supporters" (usually those vestiges of the military who've sold out to the baloney as opposed to those who aren't buying anymore)? His meetings with the troops are still the same as any fixed town meeting he ever attended - where never is heard a discouraging word or heaven forbid, a dissenting voice. His privileged audiences exclusively include the lucky few soldiers who either continue to believe his lies and irrational soothsaying, know better than to start asking questions, or feel compelled to put up, shut up, and just follow orders. Besides, it photographs better when he's shown in a sea of smileys in chocolate-chip camouflage.
On one of Junior's earlier jaunts, timed to surprise the troops on another American holiday, he thoughtfully paraded around the mess hall with a lavish tray of Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings. He looked like the grandma in that Norman Rockwell painting, setting her heavily-laden platter of festive treats before her eagerly hungry extended family. It made a great photo-op, until the truth got out - that what he carried was as phony as he and his
policies are - complete with a turkey made of plastic. The only troops allowed to partake in that feast, or even to get close enough to be photographed with that plastic turkey display were those who obediently stuck to the script. Any dissenters hoping to press for a little truth were left outside in the heat, making do with MREs. As long as the cosmetics are there, who cares what's really underneath? Little did Young George realize how painfully accurate that visual metaphor was.
Bush visited Anbar Province because it's evidently the location of all that delightful, much-vaunted "good news coming out of Iraq" - the "good news" that the press never gets around to covering for some reason. He didn't dare try flying into Baghdad again. That simply wasn't an option this time. Plastic and cosmetics and play-acting are what it's all about and you can't pretend very well surrounded by uncontrollable carnage and chaos. After all, the highly-anticipated General Petraeus report (that isn't really going to be written by General Petraeus) is about to be released. There are wary Congressmembers to arm-twist, bully, and intimidate into submission, and hesitant constituents to lull back to sleep. It's time to cue Kevin Bacon's hapless ROTC character in "Animal House" in that scene where all hell is breaking loose all over town and he alone is desperately trying to calm the rampaging rabble by screeching "All is WELL!!!" You don't dare roll out a bad product in September. We must market only the upbeat stuff. Accentuate the positive! After all, we've got a war to sell to the folks at home.
Surprisingly, we have had a glimpse of the harsh truth that so far has been sanitized for your protection (or maybe Bush's). The Washington Post actually covered the visit of several Congressmembers who described being "Slimed in the Green Zone" by soldier escorts who were armed not just with fire power but extensive notes of where each representative stood on the war (AND any critical remarks they'd made) - the better to "manage" what they might be seeing, and to make sure local contrarians with conflicting stories to share were safely shooed away.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky had her own first-hand view from the inside - also for the most part the kind of insight you're not likely to find covered in depth in the mainstream media:
"Later, while dining on lobster tortellini in the air-conditioned elegance of Ambassador Ryan Crockers home in the Green Zone, General David Petraeus, commander of our forces in Iraq, made the case with charts and pointer that the security situation had improved somewhat during the surge. And yet while we were choosing between coffee, tea, or espresso to go with our dessert, outside in the 120 degree heat on that very day, August 6, four U.S. soldiers were killed by an IED blast in Diyala, one British soldier was shot in Basra, six street cleaners were blown up, 33 Iraqis were killed in a residential neighborhood in Tal Afar, and 17 bodies killed by death squads were discovered.
"Outside in the scorching air, our young men and woman in uniform were sweating under their body armor during, what is in fact, the bloodiest summer of the war, driving on roads that our delegation flew over in Blackhawk helicopters because the driving was too dangerous for us. There they were, doing their valiant best to carry out a misguided mission, risking and too often losing their lives, while we looked at a chart telling us that in one place, in one month, after four and a half years, there had been a slight drop in violence. There was no chart showing that overall sectarian attacks around the country had nearly doubled from last year. And there was no chart that measured the more than 3,700 of our troops that have been killed and the more than 27,660 wounded, many profoundly and for life."
The Petraeus report will be coming out in some fashion, even though highly modified, tweezered, and antisepticized by other interpreters. We'll be served huge helpings of yummy-sounding happy meals that reveal only what we're supposed to see and consume. It's the way Bush does things, after all, so we must be consistent. He won't tolerate any downbeats in his drive to keeping his war alive (and increasing numbers of American troops and Iraqi civilians dead). He won't even allow himself to be shown the truth when he's there in the neighborhood, in all his glory. So why should you get any? It will merely be another phonied-up plate of photo-friendly fixings. And, by the way, YOU'll be the turkey.
And then go DO something about it.