Jim Hightower

Dancing with Dictators


For a guy who claims to be a “rancher,” George W. sure is stepping in a lot of cow patties. Take his undeclared, unlimited, undefined war against all of the world’s “evildoers.” George claims the moral high ground in his crusade against the “Axis of Evil,” but as he strides around the globe he’s stepping into some mighty gooey and stinky alliances with repressive, dictatorial, and demonstrably-evil regimes in such places as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, and Uzbekistan. As even The New York Times has noted: “Washington will be mopping up for years from the inevitable foreign policy disasters that come of befriending autocrats who maintain a stranglehold on their own people.” Bush is not merely befriending thuggish dictators, he’s arming them! He has quietly lifted restrictions banning U.S. arms and other military resources from being sold or given to these unsavory and unstable regimes. In the past year the Bushites have dumped some $3.5 billion-worth of military hardware and support into explosive regions and into the hands of evildoers who’ll use the weaponry to prop-up their own dictatorships. This includes equipment for Yemen’s special forces, Cobra attack helicopters for Pakistan’s military dictator, Hellfire missiles for Kuwait’s repressive monarchy, and surveillance equipment for Kyrgyzstan, as well as arms shipments to governments fighting their own people in Azerbaijan, Colombia, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. Thirty-two of the regimes getting U.S. firepower have been denounced by Bush’s own state department for having “poor” or worse human rights records, and these arms will only make life more miserable for the people. Bush also got Congress to allocate half-a-billion dollars for secret sales of arms, so we won’t know how many weapons are being shipped where …and why? To fight this contact Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities at 212-243-3416.


Today’s Powers That Be prefer that we ordinary people feel powerless, as though any struggle against them is hopeless, so why bother? But such a defeatist attitude is not only anti-democratic, it’s downright un-American, for ours is a nation born in rebellion. It doesn’t get much national coverage from the establishment media, but this rebellious spirit against the powerful is in play everyday somewhere in our land. For example, out in Chelan, Washington, the multibillion-dollar McDonald’s burger chain recently got a taste of America’s grassroots democratic spirit. It’s been my joy to visit Chelan, a small resort town that draws tens of thousands of tourists annually. The charm of Chelan is that it’s the exact opposite of slick tourist towns and plastic DisneyWorlds. Situated on a beautiful lake, its resorts and restaurants are locally owned, giving visitors a most-relaxing hometown feel. Symbolic of this feel is the beloved Lakeview Drive-In, a 45-year-old burger joint that’s right out of “American Graffiti.” The city owns the parkland and building where Lakeview is located, leasing the treasured spot to a local mom-and-pop operator. But in August, people were stunned to learn that their city council was in the final stages of secret negotiations to oust mom and pop and turn the lease over to McDonald’s, which was offering almost double the lease money that the local operators could afford. And that would have been that… except that townspeople and tourists alike exploded in rebellion, deluging the council with calls, emails, and screams of outrage: “IS THE COUNCIL STUPID, OR JUST NUTS?” shouted a typical emailer. Just one week later, the chagrined Chelan council voted 7-0 to end negotiations with McDonald’s. Not only was this a victory for local authenticity over franchise plasticity, but also for people power over corporate power… and that’s the American Way.


“You’re either with us, or against us,” W. barks to assorted countries around the globe as he pushes his unlimited world war on terrorism. So, is Bush’s Egyptian buddy, President Hosni Mubarak, with us, or not? George flatly declares that he is, that Egypt is our ally in the war on terrorism … simply overlooking the fact that some of the Al Queda recruits and funding come from Egypt. But Mubarak has been a longtime ally of the oil industry, so W. just naturally sees him as a pal, no matter what else goes on in Egypt. Indeed, we taxpayers ship $2 billion a year to Mubarak to help him stay in power. But George, who says he’s on a mission to defend and extend democracy around the world, has chosen an odd and troublesome friend, who rules Egypt with an iron fist and aggressively represses any outcropping of democracy. For example, this “friend” has just used a kangaroo court to sentence Saad Ibrahim to seven years of hard labor in prison. Mr. Ibrahim’s crime? Promoting democracy by teaching Egyptians how to vote and how to monitor elections. Ibrahim, Egypt’s leading democracy advocate, is 63 years old and ill, but Bush’s buddy is so fearful of democratic thought that he slams the guy into a cell for promoting the very ideals that George says we’re at war to defend. Did the usually bellicose Bushites wave a big stick at Mubarak, like they’re waving at Saddam Hussein in Iraq? No, their wrists went all wimpy and they did nothing but say they were “deeply disappointed.” Imagine how comforting that bold stand will be for Mr. Ibrahim over the next seven years.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.