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It wasn't only the way he spoke or what he said that betokened an inner crisis for George W Bush, it was the befuddlement that dulled his eyes. Everything he held dear was falling apart. The most powerful man in the world was telling his people to limit the use of their cars. Even as he mouthed the words, Bush looked like he wanted to eat them. At Brazil's environmental summit in '92, his father had famously issued a stern warning to Earth: "The American way of life is not negotiable", and now the White House was waving the white flag.

It was not the option he favoured. You can imagine the scenes at the Oval Office, the President in a flight suit pounding the table: "Let's declare a war on the weather!"

Who dared to tell him? "You already have!" From his first days as President, Bush and his friends at Big Oil had doctored the data on Global Warming, cut funds for climate mitigation and bribed journalists to fling mud at environmentalists. <> So successful was this strategy, that it was adapted to pump up support for the conquest of Iraq - spread lies, embed the media, fling mud. Securing the oil was part of the plan.

Now that the chickens have come home to roost, what do the chicken hawks do? While over a 100,000 peace protesters converged on the White House last weekend, the chicken-hawk-in-chief took flight. "I don't want to get in the way of relief efforts", he said, as he proceeded to get in the way. Among images of Rita flashing onscreen, was one of a battered oil plant emblazoned with the slogan: "EXXON, fuelling America's dreams". Exactly. The dream that oil will last forever, that our lifestyle is not negotiable, that the killing over a 100,000 Iraqis is worth it, that God's on our side.

The dazed look on the face of Bush is that of someone who has woken from a wonderful dream to find himself in a prison, a prison of his own construction. It turns out that climate change is not a figment of green paranoia, but a wrecker of oil rigs, communities and Presidential repute. Instead of boosting the flow of oil from Iraq, his illegal invasion has slashed the country's output by three quarters of a million barrels a day. <>
Instead of a hero, he is a scoundrel.

And that's not all. Something more important than the supply of oil has been diminished by his actions in Iraq. (And by the actions of his ally, John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia, from where I write). Dare I say it? Perhaps you're thinking, "reputation", but this is about something even more vital than Brand America, also in a tailspin. We're talking about a nation's soul

Not that of its citizens, who possess soul and spirit in abundance, but of its public persona, its governing ethos, its aura. A similar decline is happening in Australian, unaccompanied by robust dissent, so this is not a sneer from higher ground. (As I write, our politicians compete with each other to peel away civil rights. Instead of a terrorist attack, we're suffering a panic attack). In Iraq, the collapse of honour and moral courage is blatant. Human Rights Watch reports that soldiers in the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division systematically tortured Iraqi detainees for a whole year, breaking limbs with metal baseball bats and dousing eyes with chemicals. This is on top of depriving prisoners of sleep, food and water, subjecting them to extreme heat and cold, stacking prisoners in human pyramids and kicking them in the face. Officers often instructed the soldiers to "smoke" detainees, meaning to abuse them until they lost consciousness. The motive was not always to gain "intelligence", according to one sergeant, it was "a sport". <>

Drawing on similar reports of systemic brutality, most of the victims had probably committed no crime, unlike most of the troops of the 82nd Airborne Division, who turned up in New Orleans and also behaved like thugs.

One of its soldiers warned media reps that if they took pictures or wrote about the body recovery process, their press credentials would be shredded and they would be "kicked out of the state", an improvement on being kicked in the face. (Source: Kevin Zeese, candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland,

This week at the American University in Washington, Mr Viges, who also served with the 82nd Airborne Division, offered an "extraordinary insight" into the dehumanising impact of war. Viges revealed that indiscriminate fire from US troops is likely to have killed an untold number of Iraqi civilians and that he was still haunted by the memories: "I had days that I don't want to remember". His battalion was ordered to open fire on all taxis in the city of Samawa because it was believed they "might be" transporting Iraqi forces. Of course no soldier will be charged. Medals will glitter on chests.

A new generation is learning that fellow humans who are under suspicion, despite being citizens of a country the Coalition is supposedly "liberating", can be brutalized at will, even exterminated, with absolute impunity, both moral and legal. The stench of this degradation is starting to percolate in the homeland. American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan have long been taking snaps of the enemy dead, many of them "horribly mutilated or blown to pieces", and sending them to a web site administrator. In exchange for permission to post these images, the soldiers are granted free access to porno planet. <>

While the death shots are vomitous, it is not their circulation that curdles the blood. In fact, I believe the exclusion of such images from the mass media advances the cause of the warmongers. It shields the public from the horrors of what's been unleashed in their name. No, what is truly terrifying, is the attitude of soldiers towards the people they've killed.

A picture of a victim lying in a pool of his own brains and entrails is captioned, "What every Iraqi should look like." A corpse whose jaw has rotted away, is mocked with the phrase, "bad day for this dude."
A group of young Marines in fatigues laugh and smile for the camera while pointing at a burned, charcoal-black body: "cooked Iraqi". And so it goes on. To be fair, the website warns, "if you have a problem with dead terrorists please don't look here". But what if we have a problem with deadened soldiers? First, bring the troops back home. Second, treat their incipient psychopathology. Third, impeach their commanders in chief.
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Richard Neville has been a practicing futurist since 1963, when he launched the countercultural magazine, Oz, which widened the boundaries of free speech on two continents. He has written several books, including Playpower (71), the bio of a global (more...)
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