A review of James Bovard's The Bush Betrayal - By Claire Wolfe -Price of Liberty

A review of James Bovard's The Bush Betrayal
By Claire Wolfe

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July 19, 2004

This book is bound to be banned. It obviously violates several federal statutes. It's rapid-fire, high-capacity, equipped with bayonet-sharp wit, and loaded with politician-piercing ammo.

Never mind that the ammo is merely words. We already know how terrified the Bush administration is of opponents who fire verbs and nouns.

Well, if the Bushfolk worry about the spray & pray innacuracies of a Michael Moore or the small-caliber pops-pops of protest tee-shirt wearers and sign holders, James Bovard has just given the administration real reason to duck and tremble.

Bovard's new book The Bush Betrayal is one of his personal best. But it's more than good; it's a revelation. Through rapid bursts of well-documented facts it reveals an administration whose incompetence is equalled only by its messianic conviction of utter rightness.

The picture that emerges (particularly of G.W. Bush himself and Attorney General John Ashcroft) is that of Josef Stalin morphed into the Marx Brothers, Torquemada twinned with Bud Abbott. All wrapped up in the Stars & Stripes as designed by Buzz Windrip.

If you already believed the Bush administration was a bit scary, perhaps even a bit mad, you'll have more evidence than you ever imagined after finishing The Bush Betrayal. If (like me) you believe you already know everything you need to know about the administration's ways, I can assure you that you'll learn more and - this is the kicker - enjoy the process of discovering the facts.

The book is an engaging read partly because of Bovard's wit, which is at its sharpest here. It's a quick read because it's well written and because it's structured in easy-to-handle chapters that prevent its message from weighing too heavy on the soul. At 330 pages, The Bush Betrayal is also shorter than Jim's other recent books. That's a good thing in an election season in an era of sound bites. But every page gives full value. The book is loaded to capacity with facts you might not have known.

For example (in Bovard's words):

  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimated in 1994 that males born between 1980 and 1992 will have to surrender over half their lifetime earnings to tax collectors. The average male born in 1967 will be forced to pay over
    $200,000 more in taxes than he receives from the government.
  • Since George W. Bush became president, five million people have been arrested in the United States for drug violations, including more than two million for marijuana possession.
  • [After Congress overrode the Bush administration and passed a law allowing airline pilots to be armed] TSA scorned the law. ... TSA declared that any pilot who wishes to be a "federal flight deck officer" (FFDO) ... must attend a week-long training session, among other hoops and hurdles. The only place the TSA offers the training is in Artesia, New Mexico, four hours from the nearest airport in El Paso, Texas. ... Though pilots are prohibited from packing heat if they step out to the john, agents from more than a hundred federal agencies - including the Peace Corps and the Library of Congress - are permitted to keep their guns with them during a flight.

At moments that you might be tempted to despair of such brutal folly, Bovard will suddenly give you a quirky way of looking at things that might make you smile instead.

Again in his own words:

  • AmeriCorps has always been grossly mismanaged. It is like a religious miracle that is continually exposed as a fake and a fraud - and yet people continue to make pilgramages to the site and worship it - or at least urge Congress to seize and spend other people's money for site maintenance.
  • The feds offer some bizarre rationales for hog-tying protestors. Secret Service agent Brain Marr explained to National Public Radio: "These individuals may be so involved with trying to show their support or non-support that inadvertently they may walk out into the motorcade route and be injured. And that is really the reason why we set these ['free-speech zones'] up, ... to be sure that they are able to go home at the end of the evening and not be injured in any way." Except for having their constitutional rights shredded. Somehow, after George Bush became president, people became so stupid that federal agents have to cage them to prevent them from walking out in front of speeding vehicles.
  • [In announcing a plan for taxpayers to pay downpayments for would-be home owners who haven't saved any money] Bush proclaimed ... "Homeownership is more than just a symbol of the American Dream; it is an important part of our way of life. Core American values of individuality, thrift, responsibility, and self-reliance are embodied in homeownership." In Bush's eyes, self-reliance is so wonderful that the government should subsidize it.

One thing that stands out in Bovard's slashing, impeccably researched prose is how many of Bush's policies and proclamations are not merely "wrapped in the flag," but wrapped in a mantle of sanctity. If Bush believes himself to be the arm of God, as he has claimed, then those who disagree are not merely inaccurate, but irreverent, perhaps even heretical.

Commenting on several remarks by Bush about how "dictatorship would be ... easier," Bovard notes, "Bush has always seemed oblivious to why dictatorships drag nations to ruin. Instead, all that matters is prompt obedience and the reverence, enforced or otherwise, for the leader."

Often, as I read The Bush Betrayal, I was reminded of another, very different, book, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times by Sheila Fitzpatrick.

The more I read, the more I felt Bovard's book - or rather, the Bush administration - was haunted by the ghost of Stalin. Not Stalin in his monstrous manifestation as a master of genocide or paranoid mass murderer of his rivals. But "Uncle Joe," that benenevolent image of the wise leader who will provide for every aspect of the little people's lives - as long as they keep their mouths shut, obey, and never raise any questions.

Uncle Joe was to be loved - no matter what cruelties he inflicted. Uncle Joe could be trusted with everyone's welfare - no matter how poor his policies made them. Uncle Joe could be trusted to run the economy - no matter how distorted the Soviet empire's economic life became. Uncle Joe glorified the power and greatness of his nation - even as he laid the course toward its destruction.

"Uncle Joe" was, of course, a pernicious illusion, designed to inspire unquestioning loyalty and trust in the omnipotent - and often omni-petulant - state. So is the image George W.Bush and his flappers eagerly promote.

While calling himself a conservative, he presides over unprecedented government expansion. While calling himself compassionate he jails millions of nonviolent Americans and indiscriminately slaughters Iraqis and Afghanis. While praising freedom, he wipes rights off the map. While touting the virtues of self-reliance, he subsidizes everything - using other people's money. While effusing about volunteerism, he expands programs to pay incompetent "volunteers" handsomely. While praising free-market economics, he uses subsidy and regulation, carrot and stick, to turn the U.S. business world toward economic fascism. To get his way, he lies about anything while proclaiming the virtues of honesty. He promotes himself as our savior from terrorism, while constantly striving to keep us terrified. He enthuses about spreading the glory of American values while subverting those values at home and sowing hatred and fear of America abroad.

It is this picture - the Benevolent Bush of his own words contrasted with the utter destruction he wreaks on both American institutions and foreign nations - that Bovard brings out most clearly.

You may have already glimpsed the frightening visage of the Bush administration. When you read The Bush Betrayal you'll stare right into its glassy, half-mad, power-craving eyes - and, with a wealth of fascinating information, be better able to oppose it.

The Bush Betrayal is available now through Amazon.com. It's scheduled to be in bookstores in August. Buy it now and be in the information vanguard. Published by Palgrave Macmillan, July 2004 $26.95 hardcover ($18.86 at Amazon.com)

(c) 2004 by Claire Wolfe (http://www.clairewolfe.com). You may reprint this article as long as you reproduce it in full, without changes, complete with this copyright notice.


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