Evidently the president's trip to India created
an option too perfect to pass up: The man who has led the world in violence
during the first years of the 21st century could pay homage to the world's leading
practitioner of nonviolence during the first half of the 20th century. So the
White House announced plans for George W. Bush to lay a wreath at the Mahatma
Gandhi memorial in New Delhi this week.
While audacious in its shameless and extreme hypocrisy, this PR
gambit is in character for the world's only superpower. One of the
main purposes of the Bush regime's media spin is to depict reality as
its opposite. And Karl Rove obviously figured that mainstream U.S.
media outlets, with few exceptions, wouldn't react with anywhere near
the appropriate levels of derision or outrage.
Presidential rhetoric aside, Gandhi's enthusiasm for nonviolence is
nearly matched by Bush's enthusiasm for violence. The commander in
chief regularly proclaims his misty-eyed pride in U.S. military
actions that destroy countless human lives with massive and continual
techno-violence. But the Bushian isn't quite 180 degrees from the
Gandhian. The president of the United States is not exactly committed
to violence; what he wants is an end to resistance.
"A conqueror is always a lover of peace," the Prussian general Karl
von Clausewitz observed. Yearning for Uncle Sam to fulfill his
increasingly farfetched promise of victory in Iraq, the U.S.
president is an evangelist for peace on his terms.
Almost two years ago, in early April 2004, the icy cerebral pundit George
Will engaged in a burst of candor when he wrote a column about the widening
bloodshed inside Iraq:
"In the war against the militias, every door American troops crash
through, every civilian bystander shot there will be many will
make matters worse, for a while. Nevertheless, the first task of the occupation
remains the first task of government: to establish a monopoly on violence."
The column headlined "A
War President's Job" in the Washington Post diagnosed
the problem and prescribed more violence. Lots more: "Now Americans must
steel themselves for administering the violence necessary to disarm or defeat
Iraq's urban militias, which replicate the problem of modern terrorism
violence that has slipped the leash of states." For unleashing the Pentagon's
violence, the rationales are inexhaustible.
In an important sense, it's plausible to envision Bush as a lover of
peace and even an apostle of nonviolence but, in context, those
sterling invocations of virtues are plated with sadism in the service
of empire. The president of the United States is urging "peace" as
synonym for getting his way in Iraq. From Washington, the most
exalted vision of peace is a scenario where the occupied no longer
resist the American occupiers or their allies.
The world has seen many such leaders, eager to unleash as much
violence as necessary to get what they want, and glad to praise
nonviolence whenever convenient. But no photo-op can change the
current reality that the world's most powerful government is also, by
far, the most violent and the most dangerous.