News of Condi Rice cavorting and frolicking with #10 on the list of worst dictators in the world (make sure you click to see 10-20 as well) really didn't surprise me. Any student of US foreign policy knows we love us our dictators, we're just really spiteful when we dump them. We're like that person who not only left you, but emailed you pictures of of them having sex with other people and got you fired for looking at them at work. Sure, you're a dirty motherfucker, but they liked that about you when you first went out. They used you to slash the tires of their former lovers, to bring home illicit profits with no questions asked, and to make sure that their parents LOVED the next person they brought home, who's so much better (but really isn't).
You can rest assured that George W. Bush has never heard of them either. Hell, he doesn't even know Pervez Musharref is a dictator. Pervie's doin' a heckuva job! He's certainly not going to foist upon the public his pronunciation of Boungnang Vorachith. And those African guys, we can just ignore them right off the bat. They might as well be from New Orleans.
Anyway, what fascinates me most of all about this list is trying to look into the eyes of these most depraved figures of humanity. For some reason, Parade only shows pictures of dictators 10-20 on the list. Most unfortunate. To look into their eyes is to see the banality of evil. Sociopaths most, psychopaths a few, all exist a subtle shift in U.S. rhetoric away from being portrayed as "good friends" or as "next Hitler." Only Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus and Bashar al-Assad of Syria look to have obvious mental problems. But every one of them supposes themselves a master of human affairs, overseeing a nation of sheep and pawns subservient to the visions of grandeur in their minds. Many came into governments with some semblance of structure and instead of repairing damaged institutions, scrapped them for the easy way out. More than anything, they desire that nothing come before their personal convenience. Laws are passed that they cannot be prosecuted for anything they do. Tens of thousands starve or are killed while they operate in luxury second to none within their nation. The law is itself an illusion, existing on no foundation deeper than their whims.
And all of these "humans," as we must lay claim to them lest we become them, are far more depraved, unjudicious, and generally evil than George W. Bush. Yes, all are "products" of their systems to some extent, but that does not excuse one from responsibility. The American system is better than the Eritrean system, the Vietnamese system, the Chinese system, etc. Our worst leader is unable to wreak the sort of havoc on the American people than these men casually inflict on their people every day.
However, these men are George Bush's brothers, nonetheless. Each is a small-minded man addicted to rhetoric, realistic only to the extent that he understands when he is stopped by others who he must then do everything within his reach to knock aside. Born to power, Bush has occupied the life of a Saudi prince from day one, entitled no matter what his foul-ups. He has no understanding of the need or purpose of democracy, rights, infrastructure, checks and balances. If they get in his way, they're bad.
Plant George Bush in any of these countries, and he'd happily occupy this list of dictators. He even has the obvious psychological problems leaking through every facial expression. His power would be his right, just as it is here. His cruelty would be excused by his rhetoric, as it is here. He would jeopardize his people for some endlessly tangled and elaborate string of lies masquerading as foreign policy, just as he has here.
His only saving graces are that he's an American leader, thus he knew he had to keep a majority of the public happy enough to reelected one time. Whatever he'd like to have happen to dissenters, he's restricted to moving slowly. Whatever he'd like to do to the press, the blogosphere moves too quickly for him to achieve stable control. And like most American aristocrats, he gives the wife a smooch, ignores his kids and goes to sleep blissfully ignorant.
George Bush is constrained by the American character, still marked with speedbumps and expectations. He cannot be the monster that these men are.
He is, however, unleashed by the American system to be something none of these men can ever be. Whatever that label, he is now the leader of the (currently) most powerful nation in the history of the world. Capable of more destruction than any other nation could dream of, we are also the most hubristic nation on the planet. We face threats of collapse from energy crises, financial overreach, and religious undermining of democratic ideals. We rest on an apex, balancing delicately, tipping in the wrong direction slowly.
Who is George Bush? He is one of these tiny men of power put in control of that frighteningly lurching ship, a captain who believes icebergs are punishments for those who don't have God on their side. Unlike those listed dictators, however, George Bush understands few limits on his power. He may understand that he cannot manage a land war in Iran, that boundary is very hard and fast. But every other border is porous in his eyes. George Bush has come into a system where the US owns the Middle East, and his type of human being doesn't retreat from that. George Bush only knows how to push at boundaries. And he never questions what he's entitled to.
Look into their eyes. Look into his. Is this the man you trust with his finger on the nuclear trigger? Are you ready to give him more blank checks? Unless this Congress turns Democrat in November, he'll write the biggest check you can imagine, one we won't be able to cash.
Already the wind is starting to pick up. Republicans are gearing to use Iran for 2006 the way they used Iraq. If this country lets them, if we fall so low, we will have become a fallen nation far sooner than we ever hoped. We have to realize that the tables are turned entirely this time. Anybody who fears for this nation's security must realize that for this republic to endure, the brakes must be applied. George Bush must face a barrier that he cannot bash through. If you don't understand the man yet, if you haven't learned your lesson yet, you won't get another chance before he truly does us in.