Monday, November 01, 2004

If you haven't made your mind up...

If you are reading this and you can vote in the US election, and you have yet to make up your mind, please read this. George W. Bush must go. I will avoid taking a position on the culture war issues, and simply concentrate on performance. Both as a domestic politician and as Commander in Chief, he has failed. I'm sure the airwaves are filled with details of the monster twin deficits, the soaring oil price, unemployment and the like. I'm sure the latest Bin Laden tape is being spun for all it's worth. Consider this.

If there is a war on terrorism, the government has been getting it wrong for so long it is inexcusable. Terrorism, like other forms of political violence, requires a triad of resources like a fire does. Those are men, material and ideology. What has Bush done to deny al-Qa'ida recruits? What has he done to deny it its crucial material, money? What has he done to discredit its ideas? Very little. In the vital field of attacking terrorist logistics, preventing them from getting cash and armaments, the US lags. More US Treasury agents work on enforcing the embargo against Cuba than on investigating al-Qa'ida's money. A simple plan could have been launched to strangle the Viktor Bout network, a curious arms-trading and transport mafia that has provided the material for most of the last 10 years' worst wars. For a start, a total ban on any federal agency using aircraft associated with Bout would have been nice, as would pressure on certain small states - Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, the United Arab Emirates - to clean out their aircraft registries. Where simple, concrete, unglamourous steps could have achieved much, though, nothing was done. Instead, Viktor Bout became a subcontractor for the United States. We still don't know what for. What we can be fairly certain of, though, is that as always in his career, he is working for the other side too.

Again, far too little was done about the al-Qa'ida diamonds connection in West Africa. Even though the US has considerable influence, nothing. The conduct of the war on terrorism has been marked from the beginning by an obsessive focus on the dramatic and spectacular - the tedious and bureaucratic work of investigation and negotiation that is necessary to end the activities of such as Bout and Abdul Qadeer Khan is not sufficiently sexy, it seems, for the administration to care about. Instead we had the war with Iraq, perhaps the single greatest political mistake we have known.

If you think that John Kerry will not be different enough from Bush, recall this: the Left has always been able, at the moment of greatest need, to lose by indulging in senseless sectarian warfare. Even if you don't think that - say - the Kyoto Protocol goes far enough, you cannot deny that with Bush there will not be a better option, but no option. You may think both are mindless corporate placemen, but there is no hope of changing the system that made them that way whilst Bush and his followers are in charge. Very simply, a government that claims to fight for your security but fails to deal with the real terrorists and the real threats, that claims to fight evil but holds disappeared prisoners, that distributes fake letters threatening voters with arrest like this one, that claims to be conservative but is addicted to debt, that officially disbelieves in the principle of reality itself, has no place in a civilised society.

Oh yeah, and if you don't give George the push, we haven't got a chance of getting rid of Tony.

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