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National Catholic Reporter, September 3, 2004

The case against George W. Bush


By ROSEMARY RADFORD RUETHER

There are critical, urgent reasons why George W. Bush should be defeated in the 2004 presidential election and his team removed from national political power. The trajectory of global crisis in terms of poverty, environmental degradation and monopolization of dominating power and wealth by a small, mostly Western elite has grown alarmingly in the last few decades. There is a growing world consensus about the direction that needs to be taken to ameliorate this crisis, manifest in assemblies such as the World Social Forum, which has met yearly since 2001. Humans must convert their economic systems toward more sustainable ways of living together with each other and the earth.

The Bush administration, however, represents a reactionary set of policies that opposes every aspect of what needs to be done to lessen this global crisis and begin to turn it around. They seek to set in stone a global imperial regime that will exacerbate the crisis and thereby assure violent inter-human conflict and environmental degradation. I will lay out five dimensions of this clash between two different directions of the human trajectory, the one represented by enlightened world opinion and the other by reactionary imperialism, represented by the Bush administration.

Corporate wealth and world poverty: Since the 1970s, there has been increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a corporate elite at the expense of most humans and the environment. Eighty-six percent of the world’s resources are in the hands of 20 percent of the world’s people, mostly concentrated in the top 1 percent. This is a formula for extreme global conflict. The Bush administration determinedly bends its domestic and foreign policy toward reinforcing this concentration of wealth by giving tax cuts to the rich and by using the U.S. military to control world resources.

Environment: There is an urgent need to reverse the trends toward global warming, air and water pollution, deforestation, the disappearance of species and the accumulation of toxic waste that erodes the fertility of the land. The Bush administration, however, has withdrawn from the Kyoto climate treaty and continually undermines the laws that have been developed in the United States and worldwide to ameliorate this danger to the environment.

Militarism: There is also an urgent need to stop the arms race that developed during the Cold War and to convert the world political community toward negotiated settlements of conflicts. The Bush administration represents a determined escalation of militarism, doubling the American military budget from its Cold War high, reaching almost half of all world military expenditures. It seeks to use an expanded U.S. military for global political and economic dominance.

Civil liberties: In spite of its claims to champion “democracy,” the Bush administration has contempt for public opinion and self-determination. Under the guise of an endless war on terrorism, it seeks to undermine basic safeguards of human rights at home and worldwide. The Bush administration has worked continually to expand the powers of the president at the expense of other branches of government, for example, arrogating from the legislature the right to declare war. It has also claimed the right to strip those accused of being “terrorists” of their constitutional rights and to spy on citizens in many areas of private life.

Sexual and reproductive rights: Women and sexual minorities have been gradually gaining the right to control their own bodies and reproductive choices worldwide. But the Bush administration has sided with the most reactionary forces of Christian fundamentalism and the Catholic right to oppose legal abortion, emergency contraception, sex education, same-sex rights and AIDS prevention through the use of condoms in the United States and worldwide.

In his powerful book The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic, published in 2004, China specialist Chalmers Johnson speaks of the “sorrows of empire,” which are already plaguing the United States as a result of the unilateral quest for global power that has greatly expanded under the current presidency. The four key areas he cites here are: endless warfare; the erosion of democratic civil liberties; the further undermining of any principle of truthfulness in public communication by the government by propaganda, disinformation and glorification of war and power; and national bankruptcy.

A system of imperialist militarism, begun over a century ago, has turned into an effort to control the entire globe through our military power, with U.S. military bases in more than 153 of the 189 member countries of the United Nations. While claiming that our primary motivation for this vast empire is the promotion of “democracy” around the world, the federal government is systematically eroding civil liberties at home. Misleading information and outright lies as the normal pattern of statements by public officials undermine one of the most basic rights in a democracy: the right to be truthfully informed about public events. This corrupts everything from our intelligence agencies, which are charged to produce “evidence” to justify invasions, rather than accurate information, to the public media, which generally repeat the misleading claims of the government.

Finally this vast over-expansion of militarized power threatens to beggar the United States, despite its great wealth. Military defense takes the lion’s share of the national budget, while funds for basic human needs, education, health care, social services and infrastructure are depleted. Federal deficits over the next five years are projected at $1.08 trillion, on top of the present 2003 deficit of $6.4 trillion. A vast military-industrial system wedded to the permanent war economy endlessly wastes money to the tune of billions of dollars while the poor get poorer in our own country as well as the rest of the world.

It is critical that Americans seek to take back control of Congress, reform the corrupted laws, including the election laws that have made the federal government a forum for special interests, and cut off the huge money flow to the Pentagon and the secret intelligence agencies. This may still be possible today, but it is becoming increasingly difficult as the present autocracy cements its hold on power. Another four years of this administration could be a disaster for human life, both in our own country and the world, making much more difficult the turnaround that is necessary and urgent.

Rosemary Radford Ruether is the Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. She is also a Participating Scholar in The Religious Consultation.

National Catholic Reporter, September 3, 2004

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