I am grateful to President Bush for his stirring words last week in his inauguration address. We are going to spread freedom to every part of the world, and the world will rise up as one and shower us with affection, just as the people of Iraq have done. (Editor’s note to copy desk: Before this goes in the paper, tell Henry to come up with a better example.)
I am particularly flattered that I should be singled out for special mention.
“After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet,” Bush said, “years of repose, years of sabbatical _ and then there came a day of fire.” This is clearly a reference to my career, although I suppose, not to be egocentric, the description could apply to other people as well.
Certainly, those were the days of wine and roses when we just kicked back, twiddled our thumbs and did not think about exporting freedom to anyone who hadn’t thought of it themselves.
But some of us worried that we had lost the steel in our souls and were becoming soft. Our relationships with foreign nations were so chummy that even the French did not have a serious complaint with us (need I say more?).
At home, a budget surplus meant that defense contractors had to make do with smaller cigars and the streets of Washington were filled with Halliburton representatives with pathetic signs that read: “Will work for an invasion.” The president of the United States at the time was so bored that he made special friends with an intern.
How we missed the Cold War! Of course, it was a great thing that President Ronald Reagan had single-handedly won it, but what the heck were we supposed to do after that? Once Russia established freedom, raising up Vladimir Putin, the greatest lover of democracy and freedom since the czars, the curse of peace descended on our land.
Then al Qaeda struck its blow, as Bush reminded us. It was a terrible one to be sure, but it nevertheless had the unintended consequence of fulfilling our deep national need for a convincing set of villains to focus upon. America, after all, was made by the Maker of Heaven and Earth to stride through the world like a colossus telling folks how they must live, not to sit at home on sabbatical. This is the very reason foreigners love us so.
These new evildoers wore beards instead of fur hats, and they were fewer in number, but no matter _ they would serve the same purpose. For one thing, they made Bush a war president, which was very convenient, as fiscal-restraint president was only going to go so far.
Fortunately, the president’s worldview was framed in his daring days as a fighter pilot defending Texas from communist attack. He had absorbed the essential point of the Cold War that he now so nobly revives: that our freedom at home depends on spreading freedom abroad, whether those ingrates like it or not.
Another important lesson of the Cold War was that all communists are the same. Thus all terrorists are the same, too. So don’t tell me that Saddam Hussein wasn’t the instigator of 9/11, especially because it’s true. Doesn’t matter. An evildoer is an evildoer.
Fortunately, more freedom comes to Iraq on Sunday when they hold an election. If things don’t work out, of course, it will be the Iraqis’ fault. In the long run, the main thing is that we turn things over to the folks who live there so that we can declare victory and get the heck out and go and bring freedom to some other country.
In this new era of freedom spreading, no doubt one of the first candidates for our intervention will be Saudi Arabia, where we will emancipate the women held as virtual slaves and install a democracy in the land that gave birth to Osama bin Laden.
What’s that? Not Saudi Arabia? No worries! China, with its slave labor and iron fist, will do just as well. What? They are talking now about invading Iran?
That’s swell. Of course, they have elections in Iran, but they don’t elect the people we want them to elect _ so to heck with them, because they obviously don’t love freedom.
Me, I love freedom, and that is why I am glad that the neo-conservatives have retooled the War on Terror by imitating the Cold War. As you know, “neo” is the Latin prefix for “nuts,” but divine madness is in their plan.
This will be a faith-based foreign policy in which we will praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, although Bush did say that “this is not primarily the task of arms.” What a great sense of humor he has!
Hurrah for Mr. Bush! Our path will be strewn with rose petals if not hand grenades.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)