Monday, September 11, 2006


Books: Republicans vs. Democracy and the Consequences of Bush's War [PA Achives]
By Thomas Riggins

Here is another of our occasional book roundups consisting of short notices of works we have not been able to fully review. If any of our readers are inspired to read one of these books and wishes to write a full review, please contact

OFF CENTER: THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION AND THE EROSION OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Yale University Press, 2005, 272pp., reviewed by Matthew Yglesias in THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, November 2005.

This looks like an important book not only because it explains how the Bushites retain power, but because it gives different reasons than those given by Thomas Frank (What's The Matter With Kansas) - i.e., it does not support Frank's thesis concerning "false consciousness." As Yglesias writes, "class polarization in American voting patterns is increasing and has never been higher than in recent years." Nevertheless people who should not be voting for Republicans are doing so. Why?

Before answering this question, we must note that not only have the Republicans become dominated by the far right, they have also created "the most, cohesive, disciplined congressional party in American history." Big money is behind all this. Yglesias says that policy is being set by "a hyper-empowered group of corporate managers and super- rich individuals." They not only set the policies, but also lie to the American people about what these policies really mean, and a supine press rarely questions them. Tax money is "being redirected away from the public good" and into the hands of the Republicans and their buddies. The laws going through Congress are worded deceptively so that normal people don't understand what is happening, and the public is actually told the laws will do the opposite of what they will really do. Never before has a major political party lied so much about its policy objectives. It has to lie, as polls show that the American people, when they are given correct information and a choice, are not at all conservative in the ultra-right Republican sense. Now, why do they "win" elections?

The Bushites use "the low levels of political awareness" of the people to consciously mislead them (a large portion of the population still links 9/11 to Iraq!). They are also undercutting democracy. They have gerrymandered voting districts so that if only 48 percent of the people vote for them and 52 percent vote against them they still get "almost 55 percent of congressional districts." Remember, when fascism comes to America it will be waving the American flag. Progressives must do a better job of educating the public. That is why left-center unity is the order of the day, and this book can help in the struggle.

IRAQ'S PEOPLE IN THE SHADOW OF AMERICA'S WAR by Anthony Shadid, Henry Holt & Co., 2005, 424 pp., reviewed by Ben Macintyre in THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW for Sunday, October 30, 2005.

What is interesting about this book is that it is written by an Arab American reporter fluent in Arabic. He was able to go where most other western reporters could not go, and he could speak with the Iraqi people directly. The biggest impression I got from this review was of the enormity of the crimes committed by the Bushites in starting this war. President Bush has no moral superiority to Saddam Hussein, in fact less, because he is a hypocrite.

The book tells us Iraq is divided into two zones-- the "Green Zone", described by Macintyre as a "security oasis of four and a half square miles protected by concrete and wire," and the "Red Zone"-- the "rest of Iraq." Shadid sees what is happening in Iraq as a gigantic failure of American policy due to our ignorance and cultural arrogance. He quotes an American officer who said, "We're not going to risk the lives of one of our soldiers to be culturally sensitive." With fools like this in command "our soldiers" are in big trouble!

Macintyre provides some good quotes from the book, such as the following reflections by the author: "My country had taken over another country, and I was watching it happen." Except that the U.S. did not really take over. The so-called "greatest military power in the world" controls only its little "Green Zone." As Shadid states, "the United States now controlled Iraq's destiny; we would now decide its fate. And we understood remarkably little about it." Except that we don't control its fate or anything else about it. We are just a blind killing presence in a country we are ignorant about. The bill that the American people will have to pay for the crimes of Bush and his cronies has not even begun to come due yet.

What do the Iraqi's think of us? Macintyre quotes Shadid: "At first cautiously welcomed, the United States Army became 'first a callous overseer in a looted capital, then an insensitive occupier in a Muslim land, and now... a provocative presence whose visibility only deepened the strife.'" We should bring the troops home now, impeach Bush and his cabal and turn them over to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, along with Saddam Hussein and his fellow defendants at the kangaroo trail in Baghdad. That is what would happen in a just world. Macintyre says, however, that "Shadid offers no solutions." Nevertheless, this book presents an authentic eyewitness account of the blunders and crimes of the Bushites.

--Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at

No comments: