Here we are, with ringside seats — far too close for comfort — at the Great Global Crash of ’08. Nobody’s quite calling it that yet, but what else could it be? All over the world yesterday stocks plummeted; the Russian and Brazilian stock indexes went down so precipitously — 19% and 13% — that exchanges in both countries were closed for parts of the day; the Indonesian index tumbled an unprecedented 10%; the Paris bourse, 9%; the London FTSE 100, a historic 8%; and the main German index 7%; while, at the New York Stock Exchange, the Dow Jones dipped under 10,000 on its wild ride toward the depths.
In moments like this, if you’re an American, you look for ironies. And here’s one appropriate to Chalmers Johnson’s dispatch below. In the last year, the Bush administration’s top officials have sunk much of their increasingly lame-duck energy into pacifying Iraq, and so getting it out of the news and the spotlight at least long enough for election ’08 to happen (and undoubtedly long enough as well for them to get out of town in January). And then what happens? The administration is ambushed, not by Sunni militants or Shiite radicals but by its own people: investment bankers, lenders, hedge-fund managers, financial management types — the very people for whom they organized the world and who had long been playing fast and loose (and profitably) with our economic system. The ambush, of course, took the form of a financial meltdown of massive proportions for which, as in Iraq in 2003, the administration had clearly done no significant preplanning or war-gaming. And, as with the insurgency then, so now they operated by the increasingly worn seats of their pants. Their attempted $700 billion “surge,” as stock exchanges around the world indicated yesterday, wasn’t likely to pacify a global financial system near cardiac arrest.
And I’m getting to that irony, if you’ll just hang on. But first recall the administration’s dreams only five years ago. Then, they were convinced that they would create a Pax Americana globally and a Pax Republicana domestically that would last generations. Now, “Bush’s brain” Karl Rove is talking about an Obama November victory, while what Iraq started, the economic meltdown looks to be ending.
Here’s a sure thing: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney won’t make it out of town in time, their wars will remain disasters, their imperial dreams so much smoke, and domestically, they may have created the conditions for a turning-point election that could bring to Washington not only a resurgent Democratic Party, but the first black president of the United States. Quite a record for one “commander-in-chief” presidency. Chalmers Johnson, whose latest book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, warned of the possibility of a profligate, militarized U.S. going bankrupt, considers whether, in the ruins of Bush’s financial Katrina, an Obama victory and a reconfiguring election are possible, or whether deep-seated racism and embedded regional party loyalties will prove too much even for this catastrophic moment. Tom
Voting the Fate of the Nation
Will Economic Meltdown, Race, or Regional Loyalty Be the Trump Card in Election 2008?
By Chalmers Johnson
In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama called the forthcoming presidential election a “defining moment” in this country’s history. It is conceivable that he is right. There are precedents in American history for an election inaugurating a period of reform and political realignment.
Such a development, however, is extremely rare and surrounded by contingencies normally beyond the control of the advocates of reform. So let me speculate about whether the 2008 election might set in motion a political reconfiguration — and even a political renaissance — in the United States, restoring a modicum of democracy to the country’s political system, while ending our march toward imperialism, perpetual warfare, and bankruptcy that began with the Cold War.