Ira Chernus  
PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER

BUSH IS IRRELEVANT AND MUST GO

In a major policy shift, I have decided that George W. Bush is irrelevant and must be replaced as leader of the United States. Every week, an American somewhere murders, rapes, or brutalizes a foreigner. I hold the president personally responsible for every such attack.

With American citizens continuing to kill and attack people in other nations, Bush is clearly irrelevant to the worldís search for peace. I am ceasing all contacts with him, immediately. And I am calling upon the people of the United States to elect new and more effective leadership, right away.

My critics will say that the president can not keep track of every U.S. citizen everywhere in the world, and when Americans attack foreigners, he denounces the attacks. But what is Bush doing to stop the violence? I want to see deeds, not words. He is the leader of the country. He is responsible for all its policies, all its actions, by all its people, everywhere. He is sworn to uphold the Constitution, which calls for law and order to prevail. If he can not fulfill his duties, then he is irrelevant.

Bush has also made himself irrelevant by denying basic democratic and constitutional rights to his own people. He came to power in an election that appeared to be free and fair. But even his own Justice Department now admits that many voters in Florida were illegally disenfranchised. Since last September 11, he has suspended numerous civil liberties that used to be considered basic to a democracy, using his parliament as a rubber stamp to give his measures an appearance of legitimacy. If Bush expects me to consider resuming contacts with him, he must first show himself capable of running a genuinely democratic government. If he can not (which seems likely, given his long history of ignoring individual rights), then it is time for him to go.

This column is the opening shot in my major public relations campaign. I plan to get the news media to repeat, over and over again, that Bush is responsible for every act of violence by an American overseas, that he is now irrelevant, and that the U.S. must choose a new leader. If the media say it enough, people will begin to believe it. Eventually they will take it for granted. Then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If enough people assume that a leader is irrelevant, that leader does in fact become irrelevant.

I learned this lesson from the government of Israel. Last fall, the New York Times reported that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and his advisors had decided to undermine Palestinian leader Yasser Arafatís authority. Their plan was to blame Arafat for every act of violence committed by any Palestinian against any Jew and to declare Arafat an ineffective leader, thus irrelevant to the peace process.

The plan has succeeded admirably, with plenty of help from the U.S. government and news media. Arafatís supposed "irrelevance" is now widely accepted in the U.S. as a fact, even though he remains the only Palestinian leader capable of making peace with the Israelis. So letís take a page from Israelís playbook. Letís blame Bush for everything that goes wrong, anywhere, and demand that he leave office.

All joking aside, no leader can control the actions of all people in his nation. It is always counterproductive to treat a nationís leader as irrelevant. And no nation has the right to tell another nation whom it can or cannot choose as its leader.

But there is something to be said for treating a leaderís policies as irrelevant, when they are counterproductive to humane goals and values. Many courageous Palestinians have long treated Arafatís security forces and censorship as irrelevant, as they have gone about the daily business of preparing for a truly democratic Palestinian state.

Here in the U.S., we should treat outrageous Bush administration policies as irrelevant and continue our efforts to build a democratic, just, and humane society. The Bush administration's Middle East policy is certainly outrageous. it is based on the presumed U.S. right to tell the Palestinians that they may no longer have the leader they choose, if Bush and Sharon donít like that leader. It is not Arafat, but the Bush Middle East policy, that should be treated as irrelevant.


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