Talking Turkey
by Peter Kurth
December 9, 2003

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“Don’t criticize my children, or you’re dead.”
— Barbara Bush, “Larry King Live,” Oct. 20, 2003

I thought I’d heard everything until they confessed that even the turkey wasn’t real. I mean the turkey George W. Bush was carrying through the Army mess hall on Thanksgiving, during his “bold,” “courageous,” “secret,” “historic,” two-hour visit to the Baghdad airport — excuse me, “the war zone” in Iraq.

It was bad enough when the White House lied for no reason, inventing an imaginary conversation between a British Airways pilot and Air Force One during Dubya's daring foray through the skies. This story was retracted only after a BA spokesman insisted it never happened; Bush, moreover, traveled to Iraq on a Gulfstream 5, not the presidential jumbo jet. But when I read about the turkey I nearly popped a vein.

“In the most widely published image from his Thanksgiving day trip,” said The Washington Post, “the beaming president is wearing an Army workout jacket and surrounded by soldiers as he cradles a huge platter laden with a golden-brown turkey. The bird is so perfect it looks as if it came from a food magazine, with bunches of grapes and other trimmings completing a Norman Rockwell image that evokes bounty and security in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.”

But guess what? The bird was just a prop, “a decoration,” says the Post, “not a serving tray,” meant only “to adorn the buffet line.” Bush not only didn’t serve it, as worshipfully reported, he didn’t eat it, either. Having told “the troops” — 600 of them, to be exact, pre-selected for their photogenic qualities and their ability to cry on cue — that he’d come all the way from Texas to get “a warm meal,” Big Chief Chickenhawk turned right around and skedaddled back to Crawford just as fast as he’d arrived, under cover of darkness, in an unmarked, unlit plane.

“We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost in casualties, defeat a brutal dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins,” Dubya remarked before he shot out the door. In the meantime, the Army is stringing barbed wire around every Iraqi village it suspects of harboring “terrorists.” With “liberation” like this, who needs a dictator?

And, sure enough, it worked — again. Thanks to a craven press and a dazed, dumbed-down, knuckleheaded citizenry, currently in the throes of its annual shopping orgy, Ding-Dong got another free ride.

“What the president did today was show he was willing to put himself in harm’s way, like the troops,” said historian Douglas Brinkley on CNN. Such a brave little man! What a leader! Exactly 10 of the United States’ 43 presidents have also been generals — count ’em, 10 — and not one of them wore a military uniform after entering office, the Founding Fathers having plainly spelled out in the Constitution that the Commander-in-Chief is a civilian, not a military man.

Now we’ve got Junior — a born prevaricator, a walking publicity stunt, an “unelected, willfully ignorant, alcoholic Texas yahoo” and “bone-stupid fantasist,” as he was described not long ago in the leftist newsletter CounterPunch — strutting around in his badges and bomber jackets and autographing the American flag as if he owned it. He doesn’t. We own it. It belongs to us. Has everyone forgotten?

“White House officials do not deny that they craft elaborate events to showcase Bush,” the Post continues, “but they maintain that these events are designed to accurately dramatize his policies and to convey qualities about him that are real.” As proof of this, the paper quotes yet another monstrosity of the right, Mary Matalin, whom it describes as “a former administration official” instead of a broadcasting hack, married to another broadcasting hack, the supposedly “liberal” James Carville. Neither of them would ever have left Arkansas if this country weren’t already bought and paid for by their corporate masters.

“This was effective,” says Matalin about Bush’s Baghdad junket, “because it captured something about the president that people know is true, that he really cares about the soldiers and gets emotional when he sees them.” No dope herself, Matalin adds, “You have to figure out how to capture the Bush we know, even if it doesn’t come through in a speech situation or a press conference. He regularly rejects anything that is not him.”

“Not him?” Him is nine innocent children killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. Him is corporate welfare and Medicare “reform.” Him is a graft-ridden father, a Nazi Vice-President, war as peace and truth as treason.

Vermont’s Randolph T. Holhut, editor of The George Seldes Reader, summed it up last week by calling George W. Bush “the enemy of peace,” “the enemy of international cooperation,” “the enemy of the environment,” “the enemy of sound economics,” “the enemy of civil liberties,” “the enemy of education,” “the enemy of senior citizens” and, “most of all, the enemy of truth, for virtually every word that crosses his lips and virtually every policy initiative he comes up with is a lie.”

In this, the last scheduled “Crank Call” of 2003 (save for the Crank year-in-review), I leave you with a joke, hatched in the nest of that vanishing species, the Honest American, and sent to me by Lea Wood of Underhill. Thank you, Lea — let her rip:

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, “What are all those clocks?”

St. Peter answered, “Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie, the hands on your clock will move.”

“Oh,” said the man, “whose clock is that?”

“That’s Mother Teresa’s. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie.”

“Whose clock is that?”

“That’s Abraham Lincoln’s clock. The hands have only moved twice, telling us that Abe only told two lies in his entire life.”

The man asked, “Where’s President Bush’s clock?”

“It’s in Jesus’ office. He’s using it as a ceiling fan.”

Happy holidays, America, and to all a good fright — with these killers in power, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: peterkurth@peterkurth.com. Visit his website at: http://www.peterkurth.com/


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The Gang that Couldn’t Talk Straight On Iraq
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