By now, all of us --- fans and critics alike --- have learned to pay attention to what George Bush says. He is indeed a man who says what he means and means what he says.
Even before September 11, you could see the signs of a pending Iraq war. And now --- in his stunningly eloquent inaugural address --- we see the signs of... what? Read for yourself:
• "For a half-century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders."
• "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."
• "America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause."
• "From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to this cause?"
• Renewed in our strength, tested but not weary, we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."
I could dismiss all this as idealistic rhetoric, if Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz weren't there. And if I thought that Bush was stupid. But they are there. And he isn't stupid.
And aside from the sheer bankrupting folly sending this country out to rid the entire world of oppression and oppressors, there is reality: of the Bush team, and of US history.
This administration has no intention of launching a freedom crusade in every corner of the earth. It will do what this country has always done: act selectively, cozying up to some oppressors, moving to overthrow others. "Bring credit to the cause" indeed.
What I've read
You won't find all the news in mainstream dailies. Among the little tidbits I've seen recently:
In the January 24 New Yorker,Seymour Hersh's latest exposé, this time on the Bush administration's plans for Iran --- among other countries. "The president," writes Hersh, "has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia."
"The president's decision," says Hersh, "enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books --- free from legal restrictions imposed on the CIA." Among other things, says Hersh, this would mean that the operations would be free from Congressional oversight.
(Send me your own "What I've Read" contributions, and I'll try to pass them along: email@example.com; 150 words maximum, please, and cite the source.)