Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Mything the Point of "History Will Judge."

That's the sort of thing leaders confident of their vision like to say. You can't really argue with it, never mind if it has the hollow ring of "famous last words." It's a great way of postponing debate. After all, no matter what your critics think, they can't refute the findings of future historians.

This useful tool for kicking problems down the road has been getting quite a workout recently. Unfortunately, you go down that road far enough you can get run over by history.

Some would say the president is an authentic American hero. Others would say he is America's Nero. Three years into this war, five years into this administration is a good time to review some history ...


When he was installed, Nero was an adolescent, so the early part of his reign was characterized by direction from older figures like Seneca.

When he was installed, Bush had no foreign experience at all.   In fact, he had been outside the US of A only once before becoming president.    During the early years of his administration, policy was characterized by direction from older, more experienced hands like Cheney.


In 58 A.D., Nero proposed a major tax reform program. He moved to abolish indirect taxes on the entrance and exit of commodities passing from one imperial province to the other. The contrast between Nero and the senate became clear. The abolition of taxes was a threat to the great Italian land owners, namely the senators, who found themselves facing competition from provincial producers. The landed aristocracy became the enemy of the emperor.

Starting in 2001, Bush proposed a major tax reform program. He moved to abolish the estate tax, while simultaneously lowering the tax rates for wealthy Americans. Bush wanted the free transfer of wealth from one generation to the next of American oligarchs. The contrast between Bush and his predecessor became clear. The lowering of tax revenues threatened social programs and discretionary spending that affected millions of Americans. The wealthiest Americans became the biggest supporters of the president.


In 62 AD Tigellinus prompted Nero to pass a series laws known as "lex maiestatis" or (laws for the defense of the State) that were put to deadly use against anyone considered a threat although the primary victims were Christians.

In Oct. 2001, John Ashcroft  helped Bush push through Congress a series of radical changes to over 15 different statutes in the cynically named "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism" Act, aka the "USAPATRIOT" Act.   These were put to use against anyone considered a threat although the primary victims were Muslims.


In 64 A.D. a great fire swept through Rome and left much of the city in ruins. Although it was widely rumored that Nero himself had the fires set, that was never proven. However, it is true his ambitious building campaign following the fires represented to many an exercise in private selfishness at a time when public reconstruction was needed most.

In Sept. 2001, a great fire swept through lower Manhattan and left much of New York's financial district in ruins, the Pentagon was also severely damaged.    While it was rumored that Bush himself had been warned of the attack, it was never proven. However, it is true his ambitious campaign to revamp government following the attacks represented to many the realization of a private agenda shrouded in secrecy at a time when public policies based in honesty were needed most.


In 65 A.D. Nero's artistic inclinations, present since his accession, became truly public, and in a display which shocked conservative tastes he appeared on stage and sang for audiences.

In March 2004 Bush's comedic pretensions shocked the public when he appeared on stage and joked about the absence of WMD in Iraq.

That was shocking, but the real kicker came the following year.

In Sept. 2005 Bush's shocked the public with another politically tone-deaf performance when he appeared at a Republican fund-raiser strumming a guitar while New Orleans drowned.


In 67 A.D. Nero left Rome for a tour of Greece, during which his extravagances alienated him further still from general citizens and military commanders alike.    More crucially, in his paranoia he ordered a popular and successful general to commit suicide, a decision which left other provincial leaders in doubt about his next move and inclined toward rebellion rather than inaction.

In Feb. 2003, while still at war in Afghanistan, Bush mobilized troops with the intention of using Iraq as a "test case" for the so-called "Bush Doctrine" of preemptive war against potential threats.    The grandiose plans alienated him further still from general citizens and former military commanders alike.   In his drive to promote this agenda he ordered a popular and successful former general to commit political suicide in front of the UN Security Council.   This decision left other alliance leaders in doubt about his next move and inclined toward rebellion rather than inaction.


In 68 A.D. Vindex revolted in Gaul on principle.   Clodius Macer followed suit in Africa, but for purely opportunistic reasons.   Galba  declared his allegiance to the Senate and the Roman people, rather than to Nero.   Such unrest in the provinces, coupled with intrigue at Rome among the praetorians provided Nero's enemies, especially within the Senate, with their chance to depose him.   He committed suicide.

In March 2004, The "Coalition of the Willing" began to splinter.   Spain revolted, as did Poland, Honduras and others.    The next year, Uzbekistan declared its allegiance to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and forced US troops to leave the country.   Such unrest provided Bush's adversaries with a chance to assert their view of a "multi-polar" world.


In 69 A.D. Rome descended into Civil War... a period known as the "Year of the Four Emperors (Nero, Otho, Galba, and Vespasian).   For many, this marks the end of the "Golden Age" of Rome.

Moving forward, a storm is gathering.   The radical policy commonly referred to as "The Bush Doctrine" is driving countries normally at each others throats into each others arms.   A consequence of this realignment may be for OPEC members to decide their future is better assured  by cooperating with members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.    One consequence of that relationship would be for OPEC to denominate oil in euros instead of dollars.    For many, that would mark the end of America's global hegemony.


"We learn from history that we do not learn from history."
- GB Shaw quoting Hegel

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