Greg Palast is a national treasure. A hidden, an exiled, an ignored national treasure, but a national treasure, nevertheless.
In his latest book "Armed Madhouse" he continues the dissection of the way America is governed that he had exposed in his earlier New York Times bestseller The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His latest book is replete with humor, probably on the grounds that in a situation where the choice is laughter or tears, well, go with the former.
The book opens with future dystopia of Jeb Bush presiding over a country with Wal-Mart churches and Texans illegally crossing the Mexican border looking for work. "Iraq is safer and more prosperous today than at any time in Iraq's history" the Iraqi president claims to the sounds of incoming mortars. Sheer madness, of course, but then Palast starts amassing real, not fictional madness, such as the small New England town where the mayor has posted a machine-gun armed SUV to guard the ferry. I was most gratified to read that the alert security system at Dulles International airport identified a certain Zapolsky (an obvious Muslim name here) as being on the TERRORIST WATCH LIST and this set off the airport alarms. Z was an accomplished terrorist indeed, being precisely eleven months old.
Palast's book was written long before our corporation owned Supreme Court of "Oral" Roberts, "Uncle Tom" Clarence, and "original intent" mafioso Scalia delivered some of their recent well-planned broadsides restricting citizen's freedoms and empowering the corporations, our new super-citizens.
I was particularly enamored with the CAVIPs (just in case you didn't know this basic acronym it stands for Critical Asset and Vulnerability Infrastructure Point - wow !! I bet you feel safer now.) Our town has a fine statue of Mahatma Gandhi. The eight foot statue of this Hindu preacher of tolerance is an obvious CAVIP considering his religiously inflammatory statement "I am a Hindu. I am a Christian. I am a Muslim. I am a Jew. I am a Buddhist." And I am afraid that this article makes Gandhi even more of a CAVIP. But, on further consideration I see that Homeland Security dollars will now flow to my hometown to protect us and our Indian CAVIP.
I particularly liked Palast's trenchant way of dealing with the terrorist scare peddled by Bush, Cheney and Blair: "America is not under attack. There is no war on terror because, except for one day five years ago, there has been no terror attack. This isn't Lebanon or Israel or Chechnya. We don't go to a pizza parlor wondering if we will get our keisters blown off before the last slice" (for the non-cognoscenti of slang among my readers I should state that "keisters" are the part of the human anatomy wherein resides GWB's brain). One year later this extract of Palast still safely stands and Bush's brain has not been relocated.
My heart welled with patriotic pride as an American citizen when I read that from all the exclusive sweetheart deals with the US government the annual profits of General Dynamics, Lockheed, and Northrop Grumman's all exceeded a billion dollars (the latter pair's being $1.5 or more). And Palast notes that in 2004, the Bushies reduced the tax on war profits to an effective 7% compared to the 21% paid by most U.S. manufacturers. Yankee Doodle Dandy!!!!
Th part of the book that most interested me and that I have not seen elsewhere concerns the fight between the neocons and the big oil group over Iraq. There is a great pictorial representation and timeline on this on the inside cover of the book. The neocons want a century long American hegemony over the middle east, and, hence, the world and want low oil prices to blow the Saudis out of the water. The big oil guys want high profits for Big Oil, friendship with the Saudis, and high oil prices. The former group was the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) gang of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Leedeen, Kristol etc. and Cheney. The latter group is the Carlyle group, big oil, Baker, Rice, and Cheney. Only such a master of mendacity and doctor of duplicity such as arrogant Dick could be a key member of both such unsavory groups. Given the departure of the PNAC group, the high oil prices and the loss of Iraq, big oil has clearly won.
Palast has a long section on the two presidential elections that Bush lost and how he lost. Palast then explains how our thoroughly corrupted system declared him the winner. I, like nearly all Americans do not like to deal with this manifest filth at the heart of our system. So I won't.
Palast's enthusiasm. anger, vivacity, and humor occasionally let his statistics go awry e.g. P. 318 "In India, very highly skilled workers account for one million jobs - about 2% of the workforce" A country of over one billion must have a workforce of more than 50 million. And while on this topic, let me state that Palast lambastes Thomas Friedman and his Pollyanna Globalization Jihad. For me, personally, Palast's attack came at a good time since I have been increasingly weary of Friedman's paeans of praise for India and its very thin crust of entrepreneurs and its highly paid (for India) computer people. His standard one sentence throwaway of the form "sure, there's millions pf poor people in India" hides the drop in manufacturing wages in India and the prolonged suffering of a billion poor Indians.
To sum up the book I close in Palast's own words:
"You want to say that George Bush is an evil sonofabitch: I'd go further: he's UN-AMERICAN. And that's why he lost the election TWICE. So, I'm asking you again. What are you going to do about it?"
And so, what are you going to do about it?