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Bush's Orwellian Address

Happy New Year: It's 1984

by Jacob Levich, September, 2001

Seventeen years later than expected, 1984 has arrived.
In his address to Congress Thursday, George Bush
effectively declared permanent war -- war without
temporal or geographic limits; war without clear goals;
war against a vaguely defined and constantly shifting
enemy. Today it's Al-Qaida; tomorrow it may be
Afghanistan; next year, it could be Iraq or Cuba or
Chechnya. No one who read 1984 in high school could
fail to hear a faint bell tinkling.

In George Orwell's classic, the totalitarian state of
Oceania is perpetually at war with either Eurasia or
Eastasia. Although the enemy changes periodically, the
war is permanent; its true purpose is to control dissent
and sustain dictatorship by nurturing popular fear and
hatred. The permanent war undergirds every aspect of Big
Brother's authoritarian program, excusing censorship,
propaganda, secret police, and privatization. In other
words, it's terribly convenient. And conveniently terrible.

Bush's alarming speech pointed to a shadowy enemy that
lurks in more 60 countries, including the US. He
announced a policy of using maximum force against any
individuals or nations he designates as our enemies,
without color of international law, due process, or
democratic debate. He explicitly warned that much of the
war will be conducted in secret. He rejected negotiation
as a tool of diplomacy. He announced starkly that any
country that doesn't knuckle under to US demands will
be regarded as an enemy. He heralded the creation of a
powerful new cabinet-level police agency called the
"Office of Homeland Security." Orwell couldn't have
named it better. By turns folksy ("Ya know what?") and
chillingly bellicose ("Either you are with us, or you are
with the terrorists"), Bush stepped comfortably into the
role of Big Brother, who needs to be loved as well as
feared. Meanwhile, his administration acted swiftly to
realize the governing principles of Oceania: WAR IS
PEACE. A reckless war that will likely bring about a
deadly cycle of retaliation is being sold to us as the
means to guarantee our safety.

Meanwhile, we've been instructed to accept the
permanent war as a fact of daily life. As the inevitable
slaughter of innocents unfolds overseas, we are to "live
our lives and hug our children." FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
"Freedom itself is under attack," Bush said, and he's
right. Americans are about to lose many of their most
cherished liberties in a frenzy of paranoid legislation.
The government proposes to tap our phones, read our
email and seize our credit card records without court
order. It seeks authority to detain and deport immigrants
without cause or trial. It proposes to use foreign agents
to spy on American citizens. To save freedom, the
warmongers intend to destroy it.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. America's "new war" against
terrorism will be fought with unprecedented secrecy,
including heavy press restrictions not seen for years, the
Pentagon has advised. Meanwhile, the sorry history of
American imperialism -- collaboration with terrorists,
bloody proxy wars against civilians, forcible replacement
of democratic governments with corrupt dictatorships --
is strictly off-limits to mainstream media. Lest it weaken
our resolve, we are not to be allowed to understand the
reasons underlying the horrifying crimes of September
11. The defining speech of Bush's presidency points
toward an Orwellian future of endless war, expedient
lies, and ubiquitous social control. But unlike 1984's
doomed protagonist, we've still got plenty of space to
maneuver and plenty of ways to resist. IT S TIME TO
SPEAK AND TO ACT. It falls on us now to take to the
streets, bearing a clear message for the warmongers: We
don't love Big Brother.
Jacob Levich is an writer, editor, and activist living in
Queens, New York.
"Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither
liberty nor  security"...
Benjamin Franklin

"Fascism should rightly be called corporatism as it is a merge of
state  and corporate power"...
Benito Mussolini

"A nation that forgets its past is doomed to repeat it" ...
Winston Churchill