I met a man who knows Paul Wolfowitz.
It was at Passover dinner last April in the New Jersey home of the Yiddish Sopranos. Their Early-Gothic-Ranch-Manor appeared to have been dropped fully assembled onto a street of mansions morphed from every architectural style in history. My hosts, their extended family and friends were assembled for the annual exodus out of Egypt.
As tradition requires, Passover food is all but inedible. In NY, Jews and gentiles alike suffer symbolic deprivations of bondage as supermarket shelves convert to pareve, restaurants close and even Coke is made from a secret kosher recipe as it was in biblical times.
In New Jersey, the table groaned with dairyfree, flourless, flavourless food while the Family conversation revealed seriously unorthodox politico/business practices. I groaned because I was seated next to the man who knows Paul Wolfowitz. The scion of a heavy-machinery empire, he had donated an obscene amount of money to the Republican campaign. On my other flank was his friend, a recent Republican prize in Bush’s growing power base of wealthy industrialists.
They spoke around me, over me and in front of me in neo-Con dialect about Wolfie’s recent calling to lead the World Bank, of his vision for a safe world controlled by the US and powered by Persian Gulf oil, of his humanitarian philosophy of deciding which poor nation needs what form of infrastructure, and by awarding ensuing no-bid contracts to like minded companies.
Ignoring my own advice, I mentioned the war. Grandma Yiddish Soprano choked on a latke. ‘There’s a war?’ A young niece quickly translated: ‘She means Iraq.’ Grandma breathed again. She thought I meant a real war.
I suggested that funding any business, including a war, with a budget of $30 billion which then blew out to $200 billion (and counting), is not sound banking practice. Especially in light of Wolfie’s own prediction that it was a ‘doable’ little war. At this point the spectre of Paul Wolfowitz entered the room through the door customarily left open for Elijah, as the table appealed for his continued guidance in the pacification of Iraq.
I bumped into them again last week at a local bar. We talked Katrina. To most New Yorkers, Katrina was another unforgivable Bush disaster. But so ‘six weeks ago’. Yet the heavy-machinery scion spoke animatedly about the task ahead. His excitement was lascivious. As a friend of the Bush Administration he had been offered a lucrative contract to loot New Orleans.
No event is too catastrophic, too tragic, not to be a political opportunity for the Bush Administration. Its propaganda system is efficient, extensive and doctrinaire and its target is a population which still believes in America right or wrong. While Katrina may have caused a momentary knee-jerk reaction as the press came dangerously close to telling the truth, Bush still emerged unscathed in the wider scheme of things. Unbelievably, the aftermath of Katrina saw his approval rating rise by two per cent, according to a yet to be published Newsweek poll.
And all the while, opposition Democrats inexplicably stay within the boundaries of the national consensus (a consensus informed by the propaganda system) rather than taking a proper stand. That’s not to say that ‘anti-war’ groups aren’t making a noise. But, in large part, their agenda is not to end the occupation of Iraq but to bring the boys home. Or to deploy the National Guard where it belongs.
I asked the man who knows Paul Wolfowitz if he ever mentions the war any more. No, he’s moved on.
And so it goes. Will Katrina touch the soul of Americans, open national dialogue and further expose the abandonment of its weakest or will they too just move on.
The scion’s friend followed me out of the bar. Maybe I could change your ideas over dinner, he suggested. ‘In your dreams, mate. On both counts.’ And I moved on.
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