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Volume 3, No. 10 - March-April 2004

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Empty Chairs, George Orwell, George W. Bush and the War on Terror
Subodh Atal

A photo in the Washington Post recently symbolized the Orwellian framework within which the Bush administration is conducting the war on terror and its foreign policy. Colin Powell and Viceroy Paul Bremer were addressing a press conference in Iraq. But the audience was absent - the photo showed empty chairs from where the press reporters had walked out to protest shooting of reporters in Iraq.

Addressing a press conference where no reporters are present isn't the most significant sign of the Orwellian nature of today's US policies. But it is certainly symbolic of the dangerous level of obfuscation, self-delusion and lying that the administration resorts to in continuing the charade that it is carrying out a real "war on terror". Perhaps the most striking sign of the book "1984" playing out in global reality is the "surrounding" of Al Zawahiri by Pakistani troops a day after Colin Powell visited Pakistan and declared it an ally on par with Israel and Japan. Capturing or killing Zawahiri and Bin Laden at this late date will certainly help Bush get a rise in polls in the run up to the November elections. And Musharraf will get a pat on the back by world leaders for being against Al Qaeda.

But what is the reality?

Musharraf has hushed up the probe of the nuclear proliferation. No one outside that joke of a country knows whether nuclear weapons, materials or designs have been provided to other unstable nations such as Saudi Arabia, or even Nigeria, or whether such technology has been supplied to the jehadis who are intermingled in Pakistan's military, intelligence and nuclear establishments.

There were recent reports that Pakistani sleeper cells are being infiltrated into the United States. Are any of these unwelcome visitors planning to bring nuclear goods with them for a bigger 9/11? And if it only took the Pakistani military one-day to surround Zawahiri, why did the Bush administration not tighten the noose on Musharraf for the past two and a half years? Did it want to give Zawahiri and Bin Laden that much time to spread the cancer of terrorism and set large parts of the globe on fire in the meanwhile?

The Orwellian twist to the administration is that it claims to be waging the war on terror, when it has actually created a new epicenter of terrorism in Iraq. It has allowed the spread of terrorism from South East Asia to Europe. It has not bothered to get Pakistan to clean up its nuclear proliferation and terrorist infrastructure, and has blocked critical findings about Saudi Arabia's connections to 9/11 from releasing. That the Orwellian methods are working is evident from the fact that more than half the population of the United States still believes Bush is "strong on terror". And all it will take will be that one extra delegate to give Bush four more years and more mayhem around the world while Americans snugly believe every word that he says.

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