frontline 18.

An ill wind for George Bush

Things haven’t been going too well for George Bush in these last few months. Having been elected for a second term he has had his eye on posterity and his place in the history books. But it looks like the history books will be recording a tale of a Presidential fall from grace. Bush’s opinion poll ratings have reached new lows. There are two main reasons for this. One is largely natural, the other entirely man-made. The source of George W. Bush’s current problems are hurricanes and Iraq.

Hurricane Katrina has exposed some of the realities of life in the worlds richest and most powerful nation. That is a reality of racism and poverty, it is a reality of a shunned and abandoned black population in the inner cities of the United States. Many commentators refer to a ‘black underclass’. This term should be rejected by socialists, it is a term which attempts to portray poor working class people as being outside of society and beyond help, as being inherently criminal and wrought with problems of drugs and alcohol.

The reality in New Orleans was that poor people, the elderly, children and the disabled were unable to leave the city. They had no cars. Most had no insurance and some hoped to stay and save what they could of their homes. They were taken to venues like the superdome and conference centre and promised public transport to take them out of the city. Then they were abandoned. No buses came. Hundreds died while the world looked on and President George W. Bush did nothing.

Many citizens of the United States and people around the world came to the same conclusion that rapper Kanye West bluntly stated during a live telethon appeal for the victims of the hurricane: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”.

The strategists of capitalism in the USA have been exposed. The neo-liberal visionaries have proved to be rather short-sighted. Under pressure from the oil industry, who after all put them where they are, they refused to recognise global warming as a serious problem which could cause havoc with the worlds weather systems. They refused to sign the Kyoto agreement which would have begun to reduce emissions and tackle the causes of global warming. It is quite likely that the resulting higher water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico has caused the devastating hurricanes seen in the region. Billions of dollars worth of damage has been done. The oil industry is badly hit and oil prices have gone up. Ironically making the USA more dependent on imported oil from countries like Venezuela.

The other cause of President Bush’s problems is Iraq. One obvious point that no one could miss was that thousands of national guard troops who normally would help out in emergencies were unable to help with Hurricane Katrina because they were serving in Iraq.

It was just one more factor contributing to the growing feeling amongst many US citizens that it is time to get out of Iraq. Throughout the summer that feeling has grown. American losses have increased steadily with incidents like the death of twenty marines in a car-bomb in August causing particular shock. The resistance in Iraq has not been extinguished as Bush and the military promised. Rather it has grown and the situation has become less rather than more stable.

Polls show that 60% are in favour of withdrawing troops, approval of Mr Bush’s handling of Iraq has dropped to a new low of 38%.

This growing opposition found focus in Cyndi Sheehan, the mother of a young solder who was killed in Iraq. She set up camp outside George Bush’s ranch in Crawford Texas and drew massive attention from the media. It seemed that George Bush was under siege as he vacationed (Hugo Chavez memorably called him the ‘king of vacations’.) Cyndi was seeking a meeting with the President, she said “I want to ask him why did my son die? What was this noble cause you talk about? And if the cause is so noble, when are you going to send your daughters over there and let somebody else’s son come home?”

There is no easy answer for Bush or his allies like Tony Blair. They don’t want to bring the troops out, and it will undoubtedly be seen as a political defeat if they do. Both men are in their final terms of office and are keen to cover themselves in political glory. On the other hand public opinion could mean that staying in Iraq is not an option either.

It is the job of the international anti-war movement to keep up the pressure on Bush and Blair to get the troops out.

Here in Britain, in the aftermath of the July 7th bombings in London there is a need to defend civil liberties and minority communities.

The G8 events in Scotland, which we look at in some detail in this issue of Frontline, illustrate that the state will not hesitate to use repressive legislation to clamp down on democratic protest. Legislation which is now being prepared will allow the state to hold “terrorism” suspects for 60 days without charge. It will even allow those “glorifying terrorism” to be charged. In effect that could mean anyone who defends the use of arms outside of standing armies could be prosecuted. The term “terrorist” is highly subjective.

Socialists reject such repressive measures. They alienate and victimise minority communities, they are ineffective and politically driven and they can be used against the labour movement and progressive campaigners.

In this issue of Frontline we are looking at how the SSP can contribute to that defence of our rights and how it can position itself to defend the muslim community here in Scotland.