January 31, 2005


America's Jihad: the chilling rhetoric of George W Bush's inaugural speech (Hassan Nafaa, 1/27/05, Al-Ahram)

George W Bush's inaugural address was unlike that of any of his predecessors. Whereas they attempted to strike a conciliatory mood as they laid out their domestic and foreign policy programmes his was nothing less than a neo-conservative manifesto that came perilously close to declaring holy war.

The speech must have come as a shock to the many who had hoped that Bush had learned from the mistakes his administration made during his first term. Certainly four years in office should have furnished the experience necessary to lead the world towards greater security and stability. It hasn't -- there was nothing in his speech to give comfort, not one hint of an admission that he may have made some mistakes, not a single sign that he has absorbed the lessons of the consequences of his actions. He made no reference to the wars he declared during his first term or to a timeframe for withdrawal from the Iraqi quagmire in which American forces have sunk up to their ears. There was no indication that he has begun to fathom the limits of recourse to force or the value of diplomacy in resolving international problems. As for the events of 11 September, 2001 which handed him the opportunity to metamorphose from a presidential novice who scraped into power through a dubious process into a latter day Alexander the Great, as his admires would have it, he did not refer to them by name. Instead he spoke of the "day of the conflagration".

It would be a great mistake to dismiss Bush's inaugural address on the grounds that it was merely a formality in which ideological platitudes were spouted with a rhetorical fervour suited to the occasion. This was a very significant speech, and it was drafted carefully. Michael Girson, Bush's favourite speechwriter, wrote it and Bush read and revised it 21 times before settling on the final version delivered to Congress on 20 January. The speech serves as an outline of the agenda of the American ultra-right.

Bush wasted no time in getting down to what his administration has identified as the primary threat to US national security. The most frequently repeated word in his address in this regard was not terrorism, as has been the case in so many of his speeches since 11 September, but dictatorship. It would be foolish, though, to assume that the change in terminology heralds a shift in US foreign policy. There may be some change in means and tactics but not in general strategies and objectives. The neo-conservatives whom Bush represents still believe terrorism is the major peril, but they have also come to realise that the phenomenon is an offshoot of despotism and that their objectives would be better served by treating the ailment and not just its symptoms. I have no doubt whatsoever that America's ultra-conservatives, who now hold the reins of power in the US, are convinced that the terrorism that struck New York and Washington in September 2001 was a product of dictatorial regimes and of nothing else.

It follows that uprooting terrorism requires the destruction of the soil in which it breeds. If Bush's inaugural address was clear about anything it was about the nature of that soil -- dictatorial regimes that whip their people into subjugation and fetter their will. These have to be done away with and replaced by democratic governments with established mechanisms for the peaceful rotation of power.

When you compare the hyperbolic rhetoric to obviously desirable ends he depicts, you're forced to wonder if he didn't just pull a fast one on the censors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 31, 2005 3:22 PM

Throw in anything with a hyphen before the word "conservative" nowadays, use it in a seemingly derogatory manner and you can just about bamboozle the political and media elites anywhere. The censors probably stopped reading somwhere around the "ultra-conservative" part, and never bothered checking the rest of the essay.

Posted by: John at January 31, 2005 4:00 PM

Here's a mistake (though Bush will never admit it): we didn't move hard enough, and we didn't move fast enough.

Want to see it rectified?

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 31, 2005 4:09 PM

I got whiplash around the 5th paragraph. The first ones were just standard hate-Bush boilerplate, the 4th and 5th were sheer genius.

"By Jove, I think he's got it!"

Posted by: ray at January 31, 2005 6:49 PM

Being put in a catagory w/Alexander the Great isn't too shabby for a gun toting cowboy.

Posted by: Phil at January 31, 2005 8:42 PM

If you want to write in Egypt you must learn the art of indirection.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 1, 2005 3:10 AM