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I Was a Guest at Belshazzar's Feast

by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

May 2, 2004

The moment came, among the estimated several thousand guests gathered there, during a moment of the scheduled events which immediately preceded President George Bush's short address, when I suddenly realized what I was actually experiencing. At that moment, remembered music flowed into my mind: Robert Schumann's Opus 57 setting of Heinrich Heine's "Belshazzar's Feast."

It was the din which did it.

On Saturday evening, I was a guest, among several thousand press, political dignitaries, former U.S. officials, and others present, for The Annual Dinner of the White House Correspondents' Association, held at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The proceedings began before six o'clock in the evening, circulating and chatting in the hospitality rooms of the press groups, until a movement, through security, into the large auditorium when the dinner was to be served, and the President and Jay Leno, among others, to speak.

That process continued up into the time the dinner was being served to the guests—that by means of an impressive performance of the relevant hotel staff. All had been amiable. The guests whom I met, some new personal acquaintances, some old, were intelligent, sometimes ranked as important figures in national and international affairs, and a fair ration, with something truly important to say, even in the bustle of that occasion.

Then, it happened. Everything was drowning in the great, grey, rolling fog of the meaningless crowd-sound, throughout the dinner period. This virtually drowned out all events during the period from the introduction of the persons at the head of the table, until the toast to the President. I was suddenly overtaken by a sense of the unreality of the situation in which I found myself. The thought surged up: "I am a spectator at Belshazzar's Feast."

One of my associates responded to my muttered statement of that fact: "That solves the problem of a lead for the briefing."

The immediately ensuing developments solidified that sensation. The President gave one of his better "rubber chicken" addresses, and Jay Leno was pretty much a disappointment, until his punch-line which virtually concluded the proceedings, when he made a reference to Secretary Powell's recent surgery with the magic punch-line of the evening: "Semi-colon Powell." That closing remark by Leno concluded the festivities on a note of national strategic irrelevance which I found appropriate to the prevalent state of mind of the Washington, D.C. public-opinion-shaping establishment today.

The handwriting was, indeed, being written on the walls.

I had walked into the Washington Hilton among the earliest arrivals. I was guided through the labyrinth of hospitality rooms, meeting some of my happier acquaintances by handshake, and with brief exchanges, others by eye-contact across a crowed area. As the crowd thickened, I become increasingly aware of a certain quality of irrelevancy of the world-outlook expressed among what should be a very large sampling of the Washington press and related establishment. Some had important, and fairly accurate views on particular matters, but, with rare, and important exceptions, virtually no sense of reality concerning the really big things that threaten the very existence of the U.S. today: the presently onrushing global monetary-financial collapse, and the actual, global-strategic implications of the escalating warfare in Iraq. By the time the din settled in, during the dinner, a sense of being in a re-enactment of Belshazzar's Feast took over. I could see the virtual handwriting on The Wall of the halls of today's Babylon, the wall of current world history.

Poor President Bush, with his "rubber chicken" address, saw nothing. That did not surprise me. Neither, it seemed, did most among the thousands gathered in that room that night. I thought of Heine's poem, and tried to drown out the cacophony with a memory of Schumann's setting of the poem to song.

The U.S. press and related parts of the governmental establishment, in general, are living in a "fish-bowl" of mutually reenforcing delusions which are taken among most of them for "accepted views of current reality." Belshazzar is the emperor, after all. Bush is not the emperor, but more like flotsam buffeted by the currents of sophistry within the intellectual fish-bowl in which he lives, the Washington mass-media fish-bowl. Like self-doomed ancient Athens, the U.S. which I know otherwise to be typified by what I saw and heard last night, is living in that kind of self-consoling state of mass delusion which captured the attention of Heine's view of Belshazzar's Feast.

Our job is, as Heine and Schumann tried in their time, to play our part in freeing this nation, and much of the rest of the world besides, from the fateful tyranny that "fish-bowl" of mass delusion.

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