Tongues of Flame: Strange Doings at the Inauguration
"Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked." – Exodus 23:7
There was something strange – passing strange – about the sumptuous carnival mounted to celebrate George W. Bush's chokehold on power this week.
And it wasn't the fact that this $50 million extravaganza of corporate bribery and royal fawning took place against the stark backdrop of last week's news:
**the senseless bloodshed of Bush's failing war, its ostensible "cause" – the threat of Iraqi WMD -- confirmed, yet again, as a tissue of lies, this time by the final report of Bush's own weapons inspectors;
**the CIA's damning report confirming, yet again, that Bush's clumsy, criminal invasion has vastly increased the power, scope – and expertise – of Islamic terror; a torrent of new evidence confirming, yet again, the Bush Regime's systematic use of torture, kidnapping, and murder as sanctioned instruments of national policy;
**Bush's successful backroom effort to quash a Congressional attempt to put mild restraints on his worst atrocities;
**plans to build permanent "gulags" for the lifelong detention of uncharged, untried, arbitrarily designated enemies of the state;
**the sudden appearance of a new pro-government terrorist group in Iraq, the "Saraya Iraqna," offering wads of American cash for insurgent scalps – just days after the Pentagon floated the idea of funding "death squads" in the occupied land;
**the appointment of a sexually-obsessed religious crank – ex-Jesse Helms minion Claude Allen – as head of the regime's "domestic policy;"
**and the official announcement that infant mortality had risen in America for the first time in 45 years – another magnificent feat of arms in Bush's relentless war against the poor and working people of his own nation.
But it wasn't any of these stories – a single week's droppings from the Bush Regime's ever-oozing moral corruption – that plagued the fat and happy inaugural feasters. On the contrary, they accounted such things as great achievements of their Leader, proud moments in his mighty, ongoing work: the transmogrification of the American Republic into a militarized thug state, driven by cronyism, conquest and fear, ripe for the plucking by predatory elites. There was nothing strange at all in their celebration of Bush's crimes and perversions.
Yet as the glorious day went by, something uncanny began to gnaw at the designer-clad, diamond-studded celebrants – at first just among the more perceptive few, but later spreading throughout the whole glittering herd. It was a presence, mute, disturbing, manifesting itself in brief flashes at the edge of one's vision. "Was that--? Could it be--? Surely not!" They would shake their heads, move on to the next round of drinks, the next back-slap with a lobbyist or Regime grandee, trying to regain the strutting spirit of triumph and superiority that had filled them since the President's sliver-thin victory.
But still it pressed forward, the presence, like visual static, like an alternate reality breaking through the day's shining façade. When the feasters looked on the bristling military displays, the lavish floats, the thumping bands, they began to see ghostly figures mingled with the marchers: corpses walking, men, women and children, dirty, ragged, still bearing the wounds and manglements of their deaths. Their ranks grew thicker and thicker: a hundred thousand Iraqis, the death toll of the innocent killed since the invasion; hundreds of American soldiers, the agony of senseless death seared in their eyes; the three thousand victims of September 11, betrayed by Bush's own embrace of the ultimate act of terrorism – an unprovoked, unnecessary war of aggression.
And when the feasters sat down to their prayer breakfasts and power lunches, the flashes, the static gave them no respite. When they bit down on succulent portions of prime rib and smoked ham, human blood gushed through their teeth and poured down their throats. When they offered up a toast to their victorious Leader, human blood dribbled from their lips. The waiters bearing in the steaming platters of haute cuisine were all naked, hooded, electrodes clamped to their dangling genitals, dog chains wrapped around their necks. Their blood and feces dripped into the soups and iced desserts as silently, diligently they served the feasters.
Now it was impossible to deny; there was something monstrous among them. The only question left was this: Do you acknowledge the horror, the new reality – or do you ignore it and feast on?
They kept feasting, of course, kept smiling, kept dealing, kept slapping backs, waiting for the high point of the day: the president's speech, his vision for the nation, the world, the course of history itself. Here they would find their justification, their exaltation, the confirmation of their righteousness.
At last the time came, and they gathered eagerly before the great podium, where He himself – the president – was standing. But here too was a mystery. For a strange light was upon him, and behold there talked with him two men, which were Osama and Zarqawi. They spake all three together of their common faith, the way of blood: terror, slaughter, zealotry and ignorance.
Then he, the Leader, turned his countenance to the multitude, and as he spoke, as the lies issued from his mouth, his visage began to alter. It reddened, flickered, wavered, belched smoke, and finally burst into flames. And the president was become a pillar of fire, and all of his followers and agents, his adulators and sycophants and brother-enemies, were likewise pillars of fire, the whole great crowd. And they lived and raged and walked in fire, and the heavens grew black with stench and smoke as the fires, in madness, feasted on the bodies of the dead and the tortured.
And so ended the second inauguration of the forty-third president of the United States.