Newman’s ditty coming to pass, but it’s not funny
Thirty-one years have passed since musician Randy Newman revealed his satirical and prescient take on U.S. foreign policy in the lyrics of one of his first popular songs, “Political Science.” For the benefit of those sentimental Nevada County fans who warmly remember his insights, I will reproduce a few of his lines:
“No one likes us. I don’t know why. We may not be perfect. But heaven knows we try. All around – even our old friends put us down. Let’s drop the big one, and see what happens. We given them money. But are they grateful? No they’re spiteful, and they’re hateful. They don’t respect us. So let’s surprise ’em. We’ll drop the big one, and pulverize ’em.”
It reflects a baldly cynical and ignorant attitude, which, at the time, was preposterously amusing.
Today, however, our commander and chief submitted a bill to Congress in which he’s asked for permission to override the Constitution and obtain absolute authority to make pre-emptive strikes against other countries without warning or consultation. The moral defense being that, after 9/11, we no longer need to engage in moral posturing; any country whose commitment to U.S. political and economic interests is less than total is a fair target for invasion. Or, if you prefer, any country whose citizens or leaders are antagonistic toward America should be invaded and occupied before someone in their midst decides to attack us. But then, why aren’t we invading Saudi Arabia?
In any case, the proposed policy reiterates Randy Newman’s candid arguments: “Asia’s crowded, and Europe’s too old. Africa is far too hot, and Canada’s too cold. And South America stole our name. Let’s drop the big one, there’ll be no one left to blame us.” It’s an old theme for America with new political force.
Ultra-conservative House majority leader Dick Armey had this to say about Bush’s invasion plans: “I don’t believe that America will justifiably make un unprovoked attack on another nation. It would be inconsistent with what we have been as a nation, or what we should be as a nation.” I don’t entirely agree. We have, in the past, made and tried to justify unprovoked attacks on other countries, under the guise of making the world safe for democracy. But never has an administration advocated it with such brazen self-righteousness. Not surprisingly, this new call to arms in defense of whatever terms Washington prefers to impose on other countries, complete with covert-cum-overt regime-change policies, hasn’t met with universal acceptance.
What’s the Bush/Cheney strategy for dealing with opposition? Well, in the absence of any substantive allied support for an invasion of Iraq – to squelch all criticism and draft unilateral war plans with the help of an obedient Congress. And in related global concerns: Rioting in the streets, bank closures and mass protests against the United States-backed policies in South America have been answered with a $30 billion U.S. taxpayer bailout for Brazil’s financiers, public repudiation for leaders who oppose IMF economic restructuring proposals, and increased funding for troop deployment in Colombia.
On the home front, deregulation and privatization continue to be hailed as a viable alternative to repressive government rule, vis-a-vis overt corporate price manipulation and racketeering. Social Security is still being roundly criticized as a failed socialist program, even as a diving stock market evaporates retirement security and bankruptcies and layoffs skyrocket. Still, with Jesus in his heart, G.W. Means to redefine the compassionate conservative agenda with an adamant denial of all its failures and augment it with repressive, unyielding, militaristic solutions for all who refuse to, in Bush Senior’s words, “… stay the course.”
I keep hearing complaints from political pundits that G.W. has yet to make his case for war in Iraq to the American people. As if to say: Please feed us more propaganda! But he’s made an excellent case for a regime change in Washington. In his own words: “A regime which has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.”
His statements and policies are marching in lockstep with the Randy Newman’s original theme, but the humor is long gone: “Boom goes London, and boom, Paree. More room for you and more room for me. And every city, the whole world ’round, will just be another American town. Oh, how peaceful it’ll be. We’ll set everybody free. You wear a Japanese kimono, babe, there’ll be Italian shoes for me. They all hate us, anyhow. So let’s drop the big one now. Let’s drop the big one now.”
Greg Loper lives in Cedar Ridge and writes an occasional column.
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