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Iraq and the War on Terror

Perhaps all wars are based on lies and misunderstanding, but few have been more blatantly so than this one.

Bush’s reasons for war have been proven false, as no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq and any connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda was dismissed by the 9/11 commission. Colin Powell testified before the U.N. Security Council about the need for preemptive war in Iraq using information plagiarized from a graduate student thesis.

Continued U.S. involvement means ever-increasing casualties, and withdrawal has very real possibilities of erupting into a civil war between Shiite and Sunni factions, perhaps even sparking much larger regional conflict in the Middle East.

According to, military reports indicate that the Iraqi war and post-war occupation has killed 887 American troops and injured 5,104 as of mid July. It’s estimated that between 4,900 to 6,400 Iraqi military personnel and 11,000 to 13,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the war began. These numbers don’t include those deeply traumatized by serving in such a dangerous war or tortured and shamed in wartime prisons like Abu Ghraib.

According to Congressional appropriations, the Iraq war and occupation will cost the United States from $135 to $166 billion. But only a fraction of this money is going to active military. In fact, a couple months into the war Bush cut “imminent danger” pay given to Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force personnel in combat zones from $225 to $150 a month. Meanwhile, the administration gave away several billion dollars worth of public funds to Halliburton in the famous no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq.

- Ben Bush and Mark Osmond

Separation of Church and State

Bush’s first executive order as president created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The ultimate goal of the office is to make federal funding available to religious groups that provide social services. Currently, religious groups can receive federal funding if they abide by the same rules — including civil rights laws — that apply to everybody else. However, Bush is pushing legislation that would allow religious organizations that discriminate in their hiring practices to receive federal grant money.

If the legislation goes through Congress, religious groups could hire and fire employees based on church affiliation or sexual orientation and receive millions of dollars in federal money at the same time. The ACLU sued the Salvation Army for this very thing in February 2004. If Bush’s legislation were imposed, the Salvation Army’s conduct would be completely legal.

Perhaps the eeriest display of Bush’s religious vision is found in his speeches concerning the “war on terror,” which are often laced with Manichaean overtones that divide reality into two categories — absolute good and absolute evil.

According to Bush, who named Christ as his favorite political philosopher, the United States has been called to conquer this evil. Referring to the successes of America’s war on terror in a September 2002 speech, Bush paraphrased the Gospel of John, “And the light has shone in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.”

- Mark Osmond

Civil Liberties

Civil liberties will likely be a huge part of Bush’s legacy. The Patriot Act, passed just six weeks after Sept. 11, allows police to check out what you read and search your house without telling you, redefines protest as “domestic terrorism,” and permits the FBI to do away with probable cause. The once-defeated Patriot II (the Domestic Security Enhancement Act) is currently being tacked piecemeal onto other bills in Congress.

To the wider world, the government’s apparent willingness to hold both visitors and citizens as enemy combatants has given the United States a black eye, while the US-VISIT program’s appetite for tourists’ fingerprints promises to reduce the flow of visitors when it goes into effect at the end of 2005. By the end of next year, American passports could also include a Radio Frequency Identification chip, which would broadcast personal information to anyone nearby with the ability to receive it. As the U.K.’s The Register notes, such chips could inadvertently put people at risk by drawing attention to them as Americans or Europeans.

Closer to home, three New York artists, Steve Kurts, Beatriz da Costa and, Steve Barnes have been subpoenaed under the Patriot Act for an art project misunderstood as a biological weapons lab; New York City has lifted restrictions, known as the Handschu agreement, on spying on activists; and the Secret Service intends to shut down the entire New York City subway when Bush accepts the Republican nomination this fall.

Don’t travel. Don’t protest. Stay at home. Shop if you’re afraid.

- Sarah Groff-Palermo


In 2000, Bush flaunted the “Texas Miracle,” claiming that Texas schools had lowered dropout rates and narrowed achievement gaps on tests. Then we found out schools across Houston were fudging numbers. One school reported a 0.3 percent dropout rate, when closer to half the student body never received diplomas. Bush appointed Rod Paige, superintendent in Houston during the cover-up, Secretary of Education.

In January 2002, Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, setting standards for K-12 schools nationally by requiring all subgroups — racial, ethnic, economic — in every school to reach proficiency in core areas. But NCLB offers no additional funding to meet these requirements and allows states to set their own proficiency standards. Under-performing and non-compliant schools lose federal funds, encouraging the widespread practice of “teaching the test.” In an effort to protect federal funding, Texas and Michigan have lowered their standards.

Opponents of NCLB include teachers, administrators, students, parents, and legislatures. Bush has turned a deaf ear to the opposition, and Paige has referred to opponents as a “coalition of the whining,” and identified the National Education Association, the nation’s largest organization of teachers, as a “terrorist organization.”

Further, as reductions in college and university budgets have made 35 percent increases in tuition the norm, low-income students find it harder to pay for college. Yet Bush’s 2005 budget proposal refuses to raise the maximum Pell Grant award, slashes nearly $100 million from the Federal Perkins Loan Program, and calls for the elimination of LEAP, a need=based education grant program.

- William Wroblewski


Bush’s Energy Policy Act of 2003 calls for cutbacks in renewable energy funding and an increase in fossil fuel consumption. Vice President Dick Cheney and his Energy Task Force met with 39 oil lobbyists and executives while writing the legislation.

President Bush then overturned a Clinton-era federal ruling that had banned hilltop strip mining. Next, the Bush administration pandered to corporate timber barons and authored a new forest plan, called “The Healthy Forests Initiative,” mirrored after Clinton-era legislation and language Democratic Senator Tom Daschle slipped into another environmental bill in the summer of 2002. Daschle’s legal jargon, backed by the Sierra Club and other “green” titans, allowed logging on American Indian holy land in South Dakota.

Bush’s own forest plan, supported by the majority of Democrats in the Senate, authorized over $760 million dollars allegedly to prevent wild fires — by cutting down over 2.5 million acres of federal forestland by 2012.

Shortly following the forest debacle, Bush began pushing his “Clean Skies” initiative, which calls for increasing the amount of harsh chemicals allowed to be legally released by industrial polluters. The legislation also aims to cut what the government calls “carbon intensity,” which is a measure of carbon pollution, by measuring environmental destruction by calculating economic losses to major industries, instead of looking at scientific data. The proposed Republican 2005 budget calls for almost $2 billion in cuts for environmental protection.

- Josh Frank

Jobs & Health Care

Under the Bush administration, the economy has certainly taken a turn for the worst. What exactly is the damage, you ask? For starters, the nation has lost 1.7 million jobs over the past two years after adding 5 million jobs in 1999 and 2000. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are at least 2.5 job seekers for every job opening. Unemployment is at an eight-year high and growing — ten million unemployed workers want jobs but cannot find them. More than 4 million work only part-time because they cannot get full-time jobs. The country is experiencing the worst bout of unemployment since the Great Depression.

At the same time, workers who still have health insurance are paying substantially more for it. Workers’ premium payments rose 27 percent for single coverage and 16 percent for family coverage in 2002 and are continuing to increase. According to the Census Bureau, the number of uninsured rose to over 43.6 million in 2001. Many employers are discontinuing current health care and retirement benefits to their employees. Most Americans without insurance — 80 percent — are in working families.

Frighteningly, Bush has no new jobs programs in his budget. His budget provides no new incentives for employers to pay their workers a living wage or to provide them with a health plan or a pension. Bush also opposes raising the minimum wage. Bush has provided companies with tax breaks for investment in technology while opposing tax breaks for hiring new workers. Instead, he is asking for more cuts for the wealthy, and asking congress to make them permanent.

- Alison Parker

LGBTQ Community

One of Bush’s first actions as president was to appoint an openly gay director of the National AIDS Policy Office. Elected as a centrist, Bush’s middle-road stance on LGBTQ issues quickly migrated to the right. In June, Bush refused to observe Clinton’s federally designated Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, citing his belief that people’s sexual orientation should not be politicized. Attorney General John Ashcroft subsequently attempted to shut down the Department of Justice employee gay pride observance every year since, marking the first time any federal agency has banned a gay pride celebration since they began celebrating it in the mid ‘90s.

An entourage of “firsts” follows the tracks of the Bush administration. When gay marriage burst onto the national agenda earlier this year, Bush rallied for an amendment to ban gay marriages, which would constitutionally limit the rights of American citizens for the first time since prohibition in the 1920s. Queers who remembered hearing the Bush of 2000 say, “The state can do what they want” with respect to gay marriage are left wondering what happened to that autonomy. In the polarized election year climate, Bush, abandoned by many centrists, is now situating his base in the religious right.

To solidify his fundamental base in the electorate, George Bush appointed Lou Sheldon as his “faith-based advisor.” Not familiar with the name? According to In These Times, Sheldon publicly boasted, “Gays and lesbians live perverted, twisted lives that feed upon the unsuspecting and the innocent.” Surrounding himself with homophobic advisors like Sheldon and John Ashcroft, Bush has spun 180 degrees by politicizing gender orientation only four years after asserting his neutrality.

- Steven Kelly

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