President George Bush's aggressive and militaristic policies have not only alienated millions of people abroad, but have also caused deep fissures at home. The American society has never been more divided, nor more vulnerable than under Bush and his extremist ideologues (better known as the neocons). Although American politics generally become polarized at election time (the farce is duly joined by the corporate media, to create the illusion of differences of opinion in order to herd a largely indifferent populace into the polling booths), the vast majority know all too well that it makes little difference to their lives whether a Republican or a Democrat occupies the White House.

But 2004 is different in one important respect: this year's presidential election occurs in the aftermath of the events of September 2001 ("911") and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The American public would not have cared at all that these Muslim countries were invaded, provided that both adventures had gone well; so long as other people die, the Americans are quite content, but when their own begin to die, then they wake up and take note. The Iraqi "cakewalk", in particular, has led to a quagmire from which there is no exit in sight yet. American casualties are already approaching the thousand mark; this is not how Americans expected their great foreign adventure to go.

After stonewalling for several months, Bush was forced under pressure from families of the victims of 911 to order a Congressional inquiry. But he kept its mandate severely restricted, so that the role of his government in the sordid affair (ignoring repeated warnings, doing nothing while hijacked planes slammed into buildings) would not be exposed. During the 911 Commission hearings, families of the victims expressed dismay at the manner in which information was being withheld. There were frequent outbursts of anger but "trouble-makers" were hurriedly bundled out of the building. So much for American democracy! Simultaneously, the US House Intelligence Oversight Committee, headed by Porter Goss, a Republican Congressman from Florida and a CIA operative for 30 years, held his tongue while various awkward facts were swept under the rug. He also failed to conduct a proper oversight committee on the seriously flawed National Intelligence Estimate (2002) of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, which paved the way for the US's unilateral attack on Iraq in March last year. For his loyalty to Bush and the US government (which means his treachery to his people), Goss has been rewarded with the directorship of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Since the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, all the US government's claims have unravelled. While Bush has repeatedly changed the rationale for his Iraqi misadventure (from weapons of mass destruction, to restoring human rights in Iraq, then to bringing democracy and restoring peace), the behaviour of the US forces and of American individuals, and the reality of life in Iraq, have all exposed the brazen falsehoods again and again. After scouring Iraq for a whole year, the US's own 1,200-member team found no weapons of mass destruction; Bush had the audacity to say that Saddam had hidden them well because "I say so." The tortures and rapes at Abu Ghraib prison exposed the lies about restoring human rights; the vicious attacks on Najaf, Sadr City, Sammara, Nassiriya and other Iraqi towns, while the US imposed a puppet government led by a former-Ba'athist-turned-CIA-agent, have exposed the myth about democracy and security. Foreign contractors are fleeing Iraq because of the lack of security, but Bush and his British ally, prime minister Tony Blair, never tire of talking about freedom, peace and security in Iraq. "What world are they living in?" asked Robert Fisk of the Independent (London) on August 1.

Throughout all this, Goss has conducted himself as a most obedient ally of Bush (a "team player", in the official parlance). Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, described him as vice president Dick Cheney's "cat's paw". Another, David MacMichael, said, "Goss was a very strong supporter of the agency and not one who was ever associated with any proposal for change or, for lack of a better word, reform. To find him being the nominee [for directorship of the CIA] can be interpreted as saying this is business as usual." Goss's job in this election year, therefore, is to stonewall demands for a full disclosure of the horrors perpetrated by Bush and his gang of neocons, so that their Democratic rivals are unable to get political mileage out of it. Nor will Goss allow any changes in the agency that, despite its budget of US$30 billion per annum, could not do its duty properly. This conveniently papers over the fact that, from his first day in office, Bush was bent on attacking Iraq because "this guy [Saddam] tried to kill my dad." Under Bush Junior, US policy came down to a personal vendetta.

In recent weeks Bush has tried to blame "flawed intelligence" for the Iraqi debacle, and then added a new rationale for the war: "Iraqis are better off without Saddam." Perhaps one should ask the Iraqis; they certainly hated Saddam, but they are not enamoured of Bush either. In June, when George Tenet was replaced as CIA director, US government officials indicated that a permanent replacement would not be named until after the election; they want to avoid washing the dirty linen of intelligence in public again. Evidently they had not yet checked with Karl Rove, Bush's chief of staff and the Machiavelli of the current administration, who has strong connections to the most extreme elements in Israel. Rove is in charge of Bush's attempt to get himself re-elected; he wants to make sure that Bush Junior does not repeat the mistake of Bush Senior by alienating the US's powerful zionist lobby: hence his craven surrender to all the demands made by Ariel Sharon, prime minister of Israel.

By nominating Goss as CIA director, Bush has done several things at once: he has politicized the agency that had traditionally acted above internal partisan politics; he has also ensured that Goss will allow the CIA to take the blame for intelligence failures and get Bush off the hook. The Democrats are furious, but in American politics, especially in an election year, everything is considered okay. If Bush could steal the presidency in 2000 by disenfranchising thousands of voters in Florida, and putting the names of long-deceased Texans on the electoral list, then nominating a republican politician to head the CIA is small beer. The electoral fraud in Florida was perpetrated mainly by his younger brother, Jeb Bush, who was and remains governor of the state. It will again be one of the most hotly contested states in November.

Goss has a "distinguished" record of acting as cheerleader in Congress for government propaganda. During a speech on the floor of the House on October 9, 2002, he parroted the government's line about Saddam's regime in order to pave the way for invasion. Given his long intelligence record and his position as head of the Intelligence Oversight Committee, many congressmen and women defer to his judgement. This is was Goss said: "Iraq has expanded its weapons of mass destruction capabilities against its pledge not to. It still has deadly chemical weapons hidden throughout the country, and it has tried to develop nuclear devices as well. It is certain that Iraq has ties to many Islamic terror groups in the region, including Al-Qaeda. Evidence supports Iraq's involvement in the first and probably the second World Trade Center bombing."

All these false claims are in the Congressional record, yet he has been appointed to a post that is supposed to provide accurate information to the president in order for him to formulate sound policies. Before the elections in November, Goss's job will be to stonewall attempts to nail Bush's lies; in the unlikely event that Bush wins, it will be to continue the same pattern by repeating lies against Islamic Iran, in order to justify an attack there next. That is the doomsday scenario that even Bush's close friends dread. But when ambitious men and women seize the levers of power attached to the world's biggest war-machine, one can expect only the worst.