Thursday, December 6, 2018


The state funeral for George H. W. Bush and the ritual of oligarchy

6 December 2018
On Wednesday, former President George H. W. Bush, who died last Friday, performed his final service to the American financial elite. The New York Stock Exchange was closed for the national day of mourning proclaimed by President Donald Trump, giving Wall Street an additional 24 hours to recover from Tuesday’s 800-point plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, sparked by concerns over the US-China trade war, signs of an impending global recession and fears over the outbreak of mass working class protests in France.
The memorial service for Bush, held in Washington DC’s National Cathedral, was attended by Trump and every living former president, as well as hundreds of members of Congress, federal officials, judges, generals and corporate bosses. It was a lugubrious affair, culminating in the maudlin remarks of former President George W. Bush, with its inevitable conclusion about his father now being reunited in heaven with his wife Barbara and baby daughter Robin, who died of leukemia more than 60 years ago.
The memorial service for a former president who had previously been a congressman, UN ambassador, Republican National Committee chair, CIA director and vice president was remarkably devoid of politics. The Washington Post reported Monday that the Bush family had insisted there would be nothing like the anti-Trump remarks of Meghan McCain at the recent memorial service for Senator John McCain, informing the White House that they “wouldn’t want anyone there to feel uncomfortable, including the incumbent president.” Thus reassured, Trump sat in the front row of the cathedral, along with the Obamas, the Clintons, the Carters and the Bushes.
The Bush funeral continues a pattern of outlandishly elaborate ceremonies and hypocritical eulogizing of reactionary political figures, in which the celebration of their lives and characters bears no relation either to their actions in office or their standing with the public. This began with the funeral of Richard Nixon in 1994, continued with Ronald Reagan (2004) and Gerald Ford (2006), and resumed again with John McCain earlier this year, and now George H. W. Bush. Not only political figures have been accorded such treatment. Ten years ago, it was Tim Russert, the now long forgotten moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
These ceremonies reflect an increasingly aristocratic environment, in which the deceased are the focus of funeral rituals that with their combination of religion and government pomp more resemble those accorded a monarch than a former head of state in a democratic republic.
On the most fundamental level, this signifies that political conventions are being brought into conformity with the underlying social structure.

In today’s America, a tiny aristocracy of the super-rich presides over the great mass of the population—or, as they prefer to say, “serves the people”—in a fashion that is more reminiscent of Tsarist Russia or the France of the Bourbons than of America in 1776, to say nothing of the Civil War, which was waged, as Lincoln declared, to insure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
It is this contradiction, between the actual economic relations of oligarchic rule and the remaining democratic political trappings, that is the objective basis for the past five days of unrestrained hypocrisy and cynicism.
The United States is a land of lies. Its ruling elites lie to the American people, to the world, and most pathetically of all, to themselves. In the flood of commentary unleashed by the death of George H. W. Bush, it is all but impossible to find a single honest word spoken about his life, his presidency, or the presidency of his son, let alone about the current political environment, in which the historical decay of American capitalism has placed the political buffoon and fascistic provocateur Donald Trump in the office once occupied by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
There is an undercurrent in the media coverage, as well as the pronouncements of political figures like Clinton and Obama, aimed at contrasting the crudeness and viciousness of Trump with the supposed decency and noblesse oblige of George H. W. Bush. This is largely wishful thinking, since there is little in the government of Donald Trump that would have been out of place in the administration of the elder Bush, and even less in the administration of his son.

The elder Bush, after all, used his term in the White House to invade Panama and carry out a mass slaughter of conscript troops in Iraq, ushering in more than a quarter-century of unending war aimed at using Washington’s military supremacy to offset its economic decline. His son came to office in a stolen election and proceeded to launch an unprovoked war in Afghanistan and an invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on lies, which killed over a million people. As part of the same fraudulent “war on terror,” he introduced indefinite detention, mass surveillance, and torture, policies that were either whitewashed or continued and expanded by Obama.
The suggestion of a supposedly vast contrast between George H. W. Bush and Trump is an exercise in self-deception. What the bourgeoisie mourns in the transition from George H. W. Bush to Trump is the dramatic decline in the world position of American capitalism, from the illusions of the “unipolar moment,” the “new world order” and even “the end of history” that followed the dissolution of the USSR, to the grim reality of the United States as a declining world hegemon facing challenges from new rivals like China and allies turned potential threats like Germany.
The true measure of the decay of the American ruling elite is not the transition from Bush to Trump, but the contrast between the brilliant family dynasty of the first decades after the American Revolution—President John Adams; son John Quincy Adams, also a president; grandson Charles Francis Adams, a diplomat under Lincoln; great-grandson Henry Adams, novelist, historian and essayist—and the dreadful Bush dynasty. The Adamses were a product of the rise of American democracy, while the Bushes epitomize its utter corruption and decay.
But there is another America, that of the working class, the vast majority of the population. For working people, the national day of mourning for President George H. W. Bush had an impact only in the lack of mail delivery and the closure of post offices and banks. If they even remember who he was—half the population was either born or moved to America after Bush was president—they couldn’t care less about his death.
The passing of President Bush has not evoked the slightest genuine mourning among the American people. There would be more tears shed if Bush’s television mimic Dana Carvey were to die, and they would be more genuine. As for the crowd in the National Cathedral Wednesday, if they were touched by sadness, it was not for George H. W. Bush, a thoroughly mediocre personage. Their tears are for the system he defended, the source of their own wealth and privilege, which is increasingly threatened by the development of a movement from below.

Sully at George H.W. Bush’s funeral: Washington goes to the dogs

By Eric London 
6 December 2018
The lying campaign by the ruling class to mythologize George H.W. Bush reached absurd new heights with the elevation of his service dog, “Sully,” as a symbol of mourning and national unity.
In the absence of any sympathetic humans who were ever associated with the deceased ex-president, a dog has become the chief mechanism through which the political establishment is seeking to convince an uninterested population to honor one of America’s least popular presidents.
On Tuesday night, Bush family publicity agent Jim McGrath tweeted a photo of the Labrador retriever lying down near Bush’s flag-draped casket in Texas. Though poor Sully probably thought he was just taking a nap, his photograph was picked up by nearly every newspaper, website or television program in America within several hours. A Google search for “Sully the dog” now yields over 50 million results.
Sully resting near George H.W. Bush’s casket
The headlines tearfully proclaimed: “Watch Sully the dog say goodbye one last time,” “Sully the dog proves that love conquers all,” “‘Mission complete’: Sully the service dog accompanies Bush one last time.”
NPR hosted a roundtable discussion with dog experts to determine how much Sully really loved his master. Fox News nobly rose above partisan bickering: “George H.W. Bush’s dog Sully isn’t a Democrat or Republican.”
When Bush’s casket was flown from Texas to Washington DC to lie in the capitol rotunda, Sully was brought along. CSPAN filmed him walking on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews. Cable news programs featured live “breaking news” coverage when Sully arrived at the capitol, entering the rotunda to the somber tune of “taps,” flanked by a wall of saluting war veterans.

When Sully ambled in—sporting an American flag bib embroidered with the presidential seal—the rotunda echoed with the sound of camera shutters from the assembled press gaggle. An emotional CNN “political analyst” declared that with this patriotic display, Sully had “really captured the imagination of the country.”
Live CNN coverage of Sully's entrance at the capitol rotunda
The Washington Post published this Hemingway-esque report on Sully’s solemn entrance:
“George H.W. Bush’s flag-draped coffin was flanked by rifle-bearing troops before they were joined by Sully, his paws quietly shuffling across the polished Capitol Rotunda floor.”
When Sully entered, “He sat and looked around at a crowd both large and silent, then lay for a moment. The dog appeared woebegone, his head slack over his front left paw, his muzzle resting on the ground. Yet he was also steadfast, still keeping watch over Bush.
“The display of instinctual, animalistic devotion captured the reaction to Bush’s death in a way that the words spilled all weekend over the Internet could not.”
Forthcoming Pulitzer Prizes aside, the elevation of Sully the dog as a propaganda symbol underscores several truths about the degraded character of American political life.
Like everything else about the press coverage of Bush’s death, even the Sully story was based on lies. Though press accounts described Bush and Sully’s “forever friendship,” the Bush family only bought Sully in July, and when intrepid Slate reporter Ruth Graham dared point out that the now-famous photo “says almost nothing other than the fact that Sully was, at one point in the same room as the casket of his former boss,” Slate came under heavy fire, fielding thousands of angry messages and tweets.
The episode is a public relations ploy aimed cynically at tugging the heartstrings of onlookers who otherwise felt no particular sympathy for Bush, his family, or the funeral attendees.
Those in attendance were a “who’s who” of the most hated politicians in America: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. If one were to lock the doors at the funeral, empanel a jury and bring in a judge, most of the distinguished guests could be tried for war crimes.
None of these hated figures could serve as media icons around which Americans could be expected to rally. And so, through psychological sleight of hand, the propagandists in charge of the funeral are trying to dupe viewers into transposing their love for man’s best friend with support for one of America’s worst presidents.
But the political establishment is using the Bush funeral media hype to serve a broader political purpose.
As with the funeral of John McCain in August, the official canonization of leading political figures is not primarily to humanize the deceased themselves, but to legitimize the state, its institutions and the authority of the ruling class. Like coronation ceremonies and royal weddings in a monarchy, the official mourning periods are intended to poison the atmosphere with nationalism and paper over social tensions arising from gaping levels of social inequality with phony calls for “unity.”
As for Sully, he will forever remain by far the most popular member of the Bush family to have ever lived.

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