Julius Caesar had Gaul; Bush just has gall
Sunday November 5, 2006
In 59BC, Julius Caesar declared he was so shocked by the incursions of the dangerous Helvetii tribe into Gaul, and the suffering of the Gaulish peoples, that he had himself appointed 'protector of the Gauls'. By the time he'd finished protecting them, a million Gauls were dead, another million enslaved and Julius Caesar owned most of Gaul. Now I'm not suggesting there is any similarity between George W Bush's protection of the Iraqi people and Caesar's protection of the Gauls.
For a start, Julius Caesar, as we all know, was bald, whereas George W Bush has a fine head of hair.
In any case, George W Bush is not personally making huge amounts of money out of it. The money-making is all left in the capable hands of companies like CACI International, Blackwater Security and Haliburton.
It's true that Vice-President Dick Cheney's stock options in his old company, Haliburton, went up from $241,498 in 2004 to $8m in 2005 - that's an increase of 3,281 per cent.
But then Dick Cheney is bald.
The point I'm trying to make is that there is absolutely no comparison to be made between Julius Caesar's invasion of Gaul in 58-50BC and George Bush's invasion of Iraq.
I mean, Julius Caesar had the nerve to pretend that the Roman state was being threatened by what was going on in Gaul. He claimed he had to carry out a pre-emptive strike against the Helvetii in the interests of homeland security. In reality, his motives were political. He desperately needed a military victory to boost his standing in Rome and give him the necessary popular base to seize power.
George W Bush, on the other hand, was already in power when he invaded Iraq and, in any case, he didn't need to boost his popularity, because the popular vote had nothing to do with his getting into power in the first place. Julius Caesar was also a very adroit propagandist who made damn sure that his version of events prevailed. He even wrote eight books about his wars in Gaul to make sure it did. George W Bush doesn't need to go to such lengths. He has Fox News.
When Julius Caesar claimed his glorious victory over the Helvetii, he made it sound as if he had destroyed a vast army of 'wild and savage men'. Julius Caesar reckoned he had slaughtered more than 250,000 'insurgents'. In fact, documents found in the remains of the Helvetii camp showed that out of 368,000 people, only 92,000 had been capable of bearing arms.
In other words, it wasn't an army that Julius Caesar massacred, but a whole population including women, children, old and sick, which, I suppose, is one thing that George W Bush and Julius Caesar do have in common: pretending civilians are armed insurgents.
But there the similarity ends. One of the most fundamental differences between Julius Caesar and George W Bush is that Julius Caesar counted his dead, whereas George W Bush can't be bothered. It seems that, as commander-in-chief, George W Bush instructed his soldiers not to count the enemy dead. So the fact that he still sticks to an estimate of only 30,000 dead Iraqis, even when a recently published study in the Lancet suggests he's slaughtered at least 655,000, can only be the result of his extraordinary modesty.
Why else would he dismiss the study as pure guesswork or claim it had used a 'methodology [that] is pretty well discredited', even though the US government has been spending millions of dollars a year to train NGOs in this exact same methodology? Julius Caesar would have seized on the figures with alacrity.
And that is the biggest difference of all: Julius Caesar was an ambitious, vainglorious, would-be tyrant. George W Bush is a modest and self-deprecating one.