December 18, 2008

Booting them out

The year ends with two of the most hated political figures in recent history, US President George W. Bush, and his dwarfed, local version, Gloria M. Arroyo, getting their symbolic comeuppance. Thanks to an intrepid Iraqi journalist, the lame duck Mr. Bush got the quintessential Arabian contemptuous send-off – having a pair of shoes hurled at him – that was as well a poignant reminder of his crimes against humanity in ordering the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

For her part, Mrs. Arroyo’s well-deserved kick-in-the-behind took the form of the December 12 anti-Charter change/anti-Gloria rally in Makati’s business district.

In truth, one’s Christmas wish for Bush might have been an ending like that of the villain in the novel Shogun by James Clavell, who gets buried in the ground up to his neck and anyone who cares to spit, piss, kick dirt into his face or hit him with a stick (no lethal blows, please, we want him to last for all those in the overlong queue) can do so to his/her satisfaction.

But the poetic justice rendered by the young Iraqi journalist, Muntadar al-Zeidi, to this indescribably abhorrent US President is still vastly superior on several counts.

First, it’s near perfect execution. As Ms. Susan Roces would say, “Not once, but twice” did al-Zeidi successfully fire the leather missiles at Bush’s head. No matter that he didn’t actually hit Bush, the low velocity of his ammunition being a natural disadvantage. Yet the unexpected form of his assault weapon was enough to confound Bush and al-Maliki’s entire security horde enough to give the young man the precious seconds to carry out his heroic deed. The timing too could not have been more perfect; i.e. during an international, multimedia-covered press conference that has captured the image of Bush’s ignominious exit for posterity and for internet –users’ on-demand replay.

Second, the political message rang loud and clear. No sense in paraphrasing it. We must quote al-Zeidi no less. “This is a farewell kiss, you dog!” shouts our champion in Arabic, with the first throw, thus capsulizing all the unbridled scorn and hatred of the Iraqis, other Arabians and people the world over for Mr. Bush. Al-Zeidi follows this with another shoe and the unforgettable denunciation, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” (Notice how that covers not just the estimated million Iraqis killed but even the thousands of American soldiers who died, cannon fodder once more for the imperial wars of the US ruling elite.)

Third, the shoe attack cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as a “terrorist” act. The opportunity to heap political onus on this highly innovative form of protest, one that would commonly arise at the sight of the carnage and destruction wrought by, say, a suicide bomber, just isn’t there. Could al-Zeidi have been inspired by Osama bin Laden? Who knows and who cares? His message just can’t be clouded or be overtaken by the “terrorism” bogey.

No wonder that Mr. Bush could only react lamely that al-Zaidi was merely “trying to draw attention to himself” and that “…one guy throwing shoes (cannot) represent a broad movement in Iraq.” Later, when he had time to compose a more “presidential” reaction, Mr. Bush tried to downplay the significance of persistently low popularity ratings in light of the US’ worst recession since the 30’s and America’s new quagmire in Iraq, by saying “I didn’t compromise my soul to be a popular guy.”

Does this sound familiar? History students should do some research to find out whether Mrs. Arroyo actually preceded her American Idol Bush in using this incredible line that only their inner circle of sycophants would still buy.

Now for Mrs. Arroyo’s own “shoe-in-the-face” episode.

The weightiest mass demonstration against the Arroyo regime in this last quarter was clearly the December 12 anti-Charter change rally simply titled, “Enough! Stop Gloria’s Chacha now!” The range of social classes and political forces that were present or expressed similar sentiments was clearly the most significant aspect, compared to the much bigger numbers of those who went out into the streets in the same venue on February 29, at the height of the NBN-ZTE corruption scandal.

And the “expletives” came fast and furious, raw or in more sophisticated form, from senators, a former government official, a stand-up comedienne, progressive politicians and numerous speakers and cultural performers from all walks of life. Three prominent rebel military officers -- two of whom are highly-decorated and one, voted senator by a wide constituency -- sent their solidarity messages from their prison cells.

Certainly the basis for a resurgence of mass protest is being fed by the Arroyo regime’s extreme aggravation of the country’s chronic economic crisis and the people’s misery by pushing neoliberal policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund/World Bank and World Trade Organization even in the wake of the most severe US and worldwide economic recession such policies have already spawned.

But it is in her thinly-disguised bid to remain in power beyond 2010, by orchestrating a Congressional railroading of Constitutional amendments in the Lower House, that Mrs. Arroyo herself has provided the occasion for another show of unity among the fractious opposition, from left to right of the political spectrum. It has also sparked discordant anti-Charter change voices from within her own ruling circle and among her most reliable defenders in Congress, the Catholic church hierarchy and the leadership of the charismatic religious movement El Shaddai.

The rejection of Mrs. Arroyo’s Chacha is broad because of a variety of reasons but the most incontrovertible one is that people want a change of leadership. They are fed up with this illegitimate, corrupt and obnoxious regime and will not countenance any form of prolongation of Mrs. Arroyo’s rule, especially by means that is grossly illegal and unjustifiable.

Should Mrs. Arroyo pig-headedly force through her Chacha, her political isolation will reach unprecedented levels. The volatile national situation could easily be ignited as opposition to her regime broadens and intensifies.

At the rate she is going, Mrs. Arroyo will have more than a pair of shoes thrown at her when she is finally booted out of Malacanang. #


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