November 20 / 21, 2004Storm Clouds from Heaven
Apocalypse SoonBy DAVE LINDORFF
T he allegedly pious George Bush, champion of the saved, is said to be a believer in Armageddon.
He may indeed live to see the apocalypse in his final term of office, but it will not be the one he had read to him in from the Bible. It is likely to be rather more secular in nature, though perhaps nearly as cataclysmic.
As he heads towards his second inauguration, Bush's handlers and new neo-con cabinet will be looking at storm clouds gathering all around.
First, of course, there's the war in Iraq, which is getting nastier by the day for the U.S. Hungary is the latest to leave the coalition of the willing, and Poland, the third largest "ally" after Great Britain, with its 2000 troops, won't be far behind. Soon it will just be stop-loss indentured American troops doing the fighting and dying, with a few British soldiers standing near the gangplank in the port city of Basra, ready to beat a hasty retreat.
The election, in which the administration professes to place such stock, will be a sham exercise, with Sunni Iraqis either boycotting, or unable to vote because their polling places have been flattened by American bombs. If the remaining balloting is honest, a fundamentalist Shi'ia coalition will triumph and order the U.S. out of the country.
Alternatively, in the more likely event that the January plebiscite is orchestrated by the same folks who brought us the 2000 and 2004 election charades in the U.S., we'll see the victory going to a U.S. puppet who will have no popular support, thus further empowering the insurgency. Any way you cut it, it's only going to get worse and bloodier and more costly.
Then there's the U.S. dollar. In case you haven't noticed, it's been sinking like a rock, trading at roughly 100 Japanese yen to the dollar and $1.30 to the Euro. Today, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, who in the run-up to the election was pooh-poohing any concern about the U.S. dollar and the ballooning trade deficit, told European bankers that he is worried that foreign investors, who have been propping up the greenback for decades, are finally showing signs of giving it up for dead. Should that happen, we can expect to see in short order a major economic disaster here in the U.S.
The first thing that would likely happen is that the big oil exporting nations--Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela and Iran--would, along with the rest of the producing countries, switch their pricing away from dollars to Euros, or perhaps a basket of currencies. That would have the effect of undercutting all support for the dollar, while causing energy prices in the U.S. to go through not just the roof but also the stratosphere. The impact on the U.S. economy would be immediate and drastic--akin to your SUV runing out of gas on the freeway.
Yet another storm cloud on the horizon is the U.S. budget deficit. As long as the economy stays marginally healthy, this is a problem deferred, as incomes and tax revenues keep rising or at least holding steady, and as the stock market keeps attracting foreign investment (necessary to keep the dollar afloat and interest rates low). But should the economy founder, as it already shows signs of doing, and as it surely will do over the course of the next four years, government revenues will plummet, leading to deficits that will dwarf anything seen in history, even relative to the gross domestic product. (With the dollar in collapse, there would be no option to lower interest rates. In fact, interest rates will soar.) Such a crisis would lead to demands for massive cuts in social programs and government services--everything from highway repair to postal services, from school funding to veterans' care. Nor would state and local governments be able to pick up the slack--they're all cutting back services and raising taxes already.
Little wonder that over the last four years the administration spent so much of its time undermining civil liberties and packing the courts. The protests against these disasters, as the raindrops from these darkening clouds start to pelt down on the voters of red and blue states alike (perhaps more on red states than on blue, given that the red states have long been the net beneficiaries of federal largesse), will be huge and widespread. Maybe that's what the rumored prison camps being constructed in the California desert and elsewhere are all about.
The Rovian campaign machine has proven itself brilliant at diverting public attention from the real issues of war and economy, and at focusing the attention of voters instead on such trivia as gay marriage laws and flag burning. As the deluge begins, this sleight of hand will become much harder to pull off, even with the unflagging help of the Foxed media.
Bush may be surrounding himself this term with an amen chorus cabinet, but the amens from the public will not be very loud or inspired as these storms begin to hit.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can't be Happening!" to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org