Obscene spending at inaugural while millions go without

WASHINGTON – In his inaugural address Jan. 20, President George W. Bush vowed to spread “liberty” and “freedom,” brushing aside his administration’s record of torture and mass detention of detainees and its support of authoritarian regimes around the world.

Bush did not mention the Iraq war and limited his comments on domestic policy to a few sentences touting his “ownership society” with privatization of Social Security and Medicare the centerpiece of that scam.

At a Jan. 26 news conference, Bush made no mention in his opening statement of the deaths of 36 U.S. troops in Iraq that day, the deadliest for U.S. forces since they invaded Iraq 22 months ago.

When a soldier dies, the surviving family gets $12,000 – about what First Lady Laura Bush paid for her inaugural wardrobe. “Some military families can’t pay the rent,” said Brian Anders, coordinator of the Washington Peace Center (WPC) Anders is a Vietnam veteran who lived through the decades of U.S. government neglect of Vietnam vets. “Iraq war veterans are already showing up homeless on the streets,” he said. “It’s déjà vu all over again. More than 10,000 have been wounded, many with life-altering amputations. Its pretty hypocritical of Bush to talk about delivering freedom to the world when we don’t have it here at home.”

For the inauguration, the capital was turned into an armed camp with 17,000 police and troops and miles of barricades to keep protesters out while Bush and his wealthy patrons reveled at 10 corporate-sponsored balls, parties, and candlelight dinners that cost an estimated $40 million.

Hard pressed District of Columbia taxpayers were required to cover $12 million in security costs from their share of Homeland Security funds earmarked to pay for emergency services for D.C.

Ruby Nell Sales, director of the D.C.-based Spirit House Project, joined the “Turn Your Back on Bush” protest against the inaugural extravaganza. Hundreds of people infiltrated the crowds of Bushites and when the presidential motorcade rolled past turned their backs in protest. Others held up hand-lettered placards that proclaimed, “Bush: Worst President Ever.”

Sales scorned Bush’s clichés. “Rather than becoming a larger, more inclusive democracy, we are becoming a closed, barricaded, shut-down society,” she said. A veteran of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee civil rights protests in the South during the 1960s, Sales said, “Our dissent is nonviolent but the government’s response is militarism. Out of this closed, militaristic society comes more terrorism.”

Pete Perry of the D.C. Anti-War Network (DAWN) organized a “die-in” near the White House. The protesters read the names of Iraqis who have died because of the U.S. occupation, and then fell down in simulated death

“Bush used these catch-words, ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty,’ but does it mean the Iraqi people must accept it at the point of a gun?” Perry demanded.

“War is not the answer and never has been. How many more soldiers from poor towns in states like West Virginia are going to die before Bush is satisfied?”

The “die-in” was part of the larger protest rally and march organized by DAWN and endorsed by United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ), which assembled at Malcolm X Park and marched down 16th Street toward the White House. D.C. Police estimated the crowd at 10,000, making it the largest counter-inaugural since Nixon’s 1973 reelection.

“The anti-war movement is growing and so is the opposition to the Iraq war among the people,” Perry told the World. “It is arrogance that Bush, with just over 50 percent of the vote, claims a mandate for his agenda. I think it is going to energize people to stand up and say: ‘No, you don’t have a mandate.’”

Phyllis Bennis, a researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies active in UFPJ, said, “The claim that U.S. foreign policy is based on support for freedom and liberty is a lie and represents the worst kind of hypocrisy and double standard.”

“The peace move movement — both in the U.S. and globally — now faces the obligation of reclaiming the fight for freedom and liberty as our own,” she said. “We are the ones who stand for real freedom and real liberty.”

Many thousands protested Bush’s “coronation” at other events across the nation. UFPJ spokesman Bill Dobbs said more than 150 protests were listed on the coalition’s Jan. 20 calendar. Thousands marched on Market Street in San Francisco and hundreds more in Oakland. Over 400 turned out in Sacramento, Calif. George Main, president of the Sacramento chapter of Veterans for Peace told the rally at the State Capitol, “We have to get out of Iraq. I urge people not to vote for any politicians who can’t tell us when the troops are coming home.”

More than 2,000 demonstrated in Portland, Ore., and 1,000 in Seattle. About 1,500 people joined a “jazz funeral for democracy” in New Orleans. At a protest at the Colorado Capitol building in Denver, women wearing witches’ hats chanted, “We’ve been under a spell but we are waking up.”

greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com. C.F. Niles contributed to this article.