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It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn

The Neo-Conservatives are gloating. President Bush's great gamble in Iraq “appears” to have been vindicated. The pundits are saying that this Bush is not like his father, and will not allow the economy to be his undoing. His re-election is a given. Not so fast.

A storm is coming in Fall 2003 and in 2004 that will rock the Bush Administration, and dramatically reshape this kind of thinking. Hence, the 2004 Presidential Election is very much up for grabs, as events over the next 18 months will demonstrate. George Bush is likely facing the challenge of his lifetime, and, based on what we've witnessed so far, I'm far from convinced that he has the intelligence, wisdom or emotional flexibility to successfully weather this gathering storm. Hence, his re-election should very much be considered in doubt.

The Saturn Cycle
Saturn is a planet that astrologers associate with the need to accommodate the demands of physical reality, and with testing the theoretical and material foundations of all human activity. Beginning in the fall of 2003, and throughout 2004, transiting Saturn will be conjunct the natal Suns of both President Bush (born July 6, 1946, 7:26 am, New Haven, CT) and the United States of America (July 4, 1776, rectified time of 9:37 am, Philadelphia, PA). This passage of Saturn over the natal Sun of a person, corporation or nation, typically brings a period of intense struggle, resulting in both a hard earned victory, and the assumption of even greater responsibilities – or in failure, and a need to take stock of errors and change direction. This period can also mark a time of tremendous physical stress and psychological fatigue, even physical breakdown. The Sun in the chart of a country inevitably describes its President, King or Prime Minister. Since the birthdays of George W. Bush and the United States are within 2 days of each other, this upcoming Saturn crisis is likely to be particularly intense, with the spotlight of the nation and the world focusing relentlessly on the past actions of, and the present choices facing, the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Saturn cycle takes approximately 29 years to complete. Let's briefly look at the last two times that transiting Saturn formed a conjunction with the United States Sun. By the time that Saturn arrived at the United States Sun in June 1945, Franklin Roosevelt had died [1], the Germans had surrendered [2] and the United States had just signed the United Nations Charter [3]. Harry S. Truman would next find himself face-to-face with the awesome decision of using the Atomic Bomb, or attempting an invasion of Japan that would likely lead to millions of casualties among American servicemen, Japanese soldiers and Japanese civilians. At that moment in history, American leadership and character was being tested – but its actions throughout the whole of WWII, and at that moment, would eventually be rewarded with even greater burdens: the task of transforming former enemies into friends, and the lead role in the defense of liberty and democracy during the Cold War. In August 1974, when Saturn's last series of conjunctions with the United States Sun commenced, the Constitution (and the system of careful checks and balances that the Founding Fathers had put into place) was sorely tested – but led to the resignation of Richard M. Nixon as President [4]. Also, in April 1975, the investment of American lives and treasure in an effort to thwart the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia proved futile, when the army of South Vietnam collapsed, and the North was victorious [4].

In the former instance, FDR's careful stewardship of the United States before the war, and the nation's terrible yet measured response to a premeditated, and completely unprovoked, attack by an aggressor nation, was vindicated. In the latter instance, the decisions made by a series of American Presidents to become involved in a far-away civil war were, I believe, shown to be an over-extension of American military influence. During the Saturn cycle that preceded both these, in 1915-16, Woodrow Wilson did everything in his power to steer a course of neutrality, keep America whole, and out of World War I – until circumstances made it absolutely clear that American participation would be required "over there". Additionally, the 1974 Saturn crisis demonstrated the heavy price that any President must pay when they seek to use their institutional power to quell Americans' constitutional right to dissent – and inhibit Americans' veritable spiritual obligation to attempt to get their nation back on track when they feel that it has strayed dangerously off-course. Such citizen dissent is the soul of any healthy, functioning democracy. It should be treasured, rather than disparaged in the name of knee-jerk, mindless patriotism, that more resembles the psycho-spiritual dynamics operative within a woefully dysfunctional family than any healthy model of adult behavior. When transiting Saturn achieved the United States Sun in August of 1974, it is my opinion that the cosmos was passing judgment on both Richard Nixon's abuse of power but also the strength of the constitutional foundations put in place some 200 years earlier. The Founding Fathers were weighed in the balance, and their vision and craftsmanship was judged wise and worthy.

The Gathering Storm
It is my opinion that the crisis President Bush will face will be multi-dimensional, involving one or more challenges like the following: 1) the unraveling of foreign policy initiatives (nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq, further deterioration of the country's relationship with the United Nations); 2) his approach to the nuclear crisis in North Korea; 3) a serious setback in the War on Terror; and 4) a health crisis involving either himself or Vice-President Cheney. In truth, any area in which the Bush Administration's rhetoric or ambition exceeds their ability to control, anticipate or respond to events is an area in which dramatic reversals might present themselves. The time period for the onset of these events could begin as early as Saturn's entry into the tropical sign of Cancer on June 4th, 2003, but are more likely to occur within the period from July 20, 2003 though the end of 2004. The last week of October 2003 and first week of November 2003 could bring a decisive turning point for the Bush Administration, and the nation.

Based on both the astrological symbolism, and the noises one is hearing in Iraq today, I am expecting that resistance to the United States occupation will only increase from this point forward. The folly of the Bush Administration's Iraq policy was in putting the United States in a position where fear of its continued hegemony became the issue, not Saddam Hussein's brutality, or his unwillingness to live up to his agreements. I suspect that we will see this pattern continue over the next 18 months, as the continued large-scale presence of U.S. forces becomes a brightly lit issue among nationalist elements in Iraq. These U.S. forces will prove a dangerous distraction from a more appropriate focus by the Iraqis on the obvious failure of theocracy in Iran, or the painful example afforded by Yugoslavia, where ethnic and religious violence led to atrocities of far greater magnitude than any committed by the previous regime. Bush may come to rue the day that he was persuaded that extensive United Nations involvement (and the welcome political cover it affords) was a luxury that any Iraq occupation could do without. Moreover, it is also becoming apparent that neither the Defense nor State Departments adequately anticipated the possibility of civil unrest and looting in Iraq. This astonishing miscalculation cannot be engendering good will or confidence among Iraqis, and I suspect is likely to lead to significant political, and potentially military, setbacks over the next 18 months. Perhaps Saturn was speaking through General Shinseki all along, and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were simply too full of themselves to notice?

Another area of international exposure is the United States' unfinished business in Afghanistan. Reports continue to surface that the Taliban and al Queda – many of who were allowed to escape to Pakistan with the ISI officials who were training them – are making a comeback in Afghanistan. The Karzai government is said to only control Kabul and its immediate surroundings. If this is accurate, this is exactly the kind of incomplete project that Saturn is likely to bring to Bush's and the nation's attention. If combined U.S./NATO forces or the Karzai government cannot control the wilds of Afghanistan, then al Queda, or any terrorist group that might succeed them, would again have an ideal base of operations. In its impatience to move on to new martial adventures, a Bush Administration appears to be again leaving Afghanistan to the mercy of Islamic extremists.

The situation in North Korea will also impact Bush's fortunes, but in a fashion that also suggests a degree of collective American karma. As referenced earlier, when Saturn arrived at the United States Sun in 1945, President Truman was faced with the choice of either using the Atomic bomb or a launching massive military invasion, in an attempt to force the Japanese to capitulate to the Allies' terms of unconditional surrender. Historians, I suspect, will debate this decision for decades to come. One can argue that Truman actually saved Japanese lives by using the bomb, since it is clear that there was no basis for a credible diplomatic situation that would have allowed the Japanese military to surrender on their terms – and an invasion would have ultimately lead to millions of unnecessary civilian and military deaths.

It is also fair to argue that the United States' use of the A-Bomb began the cycle of nuclear proliferation, that a negotiated surrender of Japan that simply allowed the nation to retain its Emperor might have been possible – and that demonstration of the bomb did little to deter the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. Today, two complete Saturn cycles and 58 years later, a fear of United States hegemony in the aftermath of the Bush Administration's brave new world preemption policy, and its very different approaches to Iraq and North Korea, is inspiring any number of nations on the wrong side of the tracks to look ever more feverishly at getting their hands on nuclear weapons, and thus avoid Hussein's fate. Right on cue, the genie the United States let out of the bottle in 1945 is asking for a return of our undivided attention, and, in my view, a return to a coherent policy of containment and predictable, careful, diplomatic resolution of conflicts among nations, with the United States and the United Nations working hand-in-hand. The era where cowboy diplomacy remained a vaguely credible option for the United States ended with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I suspect that the new Bush tax cuts will lead to a short-term period of greater economic optimism, and even a substantial rally in the DJIA. However, by fall-2004, I expect this optimism will slowly surrender to a realization that the nation's financial situation has not materially improved – even though it will now be carrying forward massive deficits as far as the eye can see, leading into the detonation of the Social Security and Medicare time bombs in 2008. Hence, it is my opinion that the dynamics of real-world job creation will be an important issue of the 2004 Presidential campaign.

I believe astrology to be unfailingly accurate in describing the phases and shape of the psychological and spiritual development of a person, company or nation. Yet, what astrologers ultimately do is interpret cosmic symbolism, and no astrologer's mind can ever be either bias-free or expansive enough to adequately comprehend what I'd describe as the cycles of heaven. We are always best when we stick to symbolism, and not attempt too narrowly to either detail specific events, or turn ourselves into some kind of all-knowing oracle. In that spirit, let me specifically address the “risks” to my forecast.

Transiting Saturn on the Sun often requires of us that we resolve unfinished business or projects. It can be argued that the removal of Hussein was just that, and hence necessary. However, this idea would have made more sense astrologically if the military invasion had waited until the fall of 2003 or early 2004 – a scenario that might have allowed sufficient time to bring France, Russia and a majority of Security Council members onboard any action, and thus give the United States' military efforts greater intellectual legitimacy in the Arab and International spheres. If the paradigm of astrology demonstrates anything, it might be that timing is everything in life. Do the right thing, even for the right reasons, but at the wrong time, and you can be like Ronald Reagan running for President against Gerald Ford in 1976 – that is, unsuccessful. There was never any question of whether the United States could militarily remove Hussein's regime. That was the easy part. The real question was: could the United States create a healthy nation out of the ashes of Hussein's Iraq after any invasion, and especially after an invasion that looked to many in that country, in that region, and around the world, like a willful imposition of American hegemony – and without the strong support of the United Nations? Moreover, Dubya and the neo-cons argued that 12 years of waiting for Hussein to comply with U.N. resolutions was long enough – but Saturn is the cosmic time-keeper, not any Head of State, even an American President, and Saturn's half-cycle is 14 years. Any way you slice it, the United Nations and the world were clearly not ready for this "optional" war, and any deadly aftermath is likely to spring forth from that painful reality.

A second risk to this forecast is that collective family dynamics will not come into play in Iraq. The Administration is gambling that now that the abusive "Daddy" is gone, Hussein's children will accept Uncle Sam as the new Head of Household – and not seek to act out their repressed anger and rage, exact retribution from individuals and groups perceived to have supported the previous regime, or develop an unnatural desire for the kind of Islamic Republic that their new American stepfather has specifically announced they cannot have. Based on even a cursory study of human behavior, I think that they're being wildly optimistic – especially by using the illustrations of post-WWII nation building in Germany and Japan, neither of which was a nation with dramatic tribal, ethnic and religious differences.

A third risk to this forecast is that supply-side economics actually work, and that by simply cutting taxes, people will suddenly begin investing in activities that create jobs for American workers. My experience is that personal vision, technological breakthroughs and identifying emerging business opportunities are more important drivers of entrepreneurial activity than lower tax rates and greed. Men and women create companies (and the jobs that accompany them) because they recognize a niche that needs to be filled – and, hence, are not at all like Pavlov's dogs, mindlessly responding to the lure of lower marginal tax rates. Businessmen also intuitively understand the need for balanced budgets. As much as conservatives hated Bill Clinton, Wall Street celebrated when Congress ended the years of deficit spending under successive Republican Administrations, and strongly rallied after Clinton's re-election in 1996. In the end, tax cuts that are largely ideological, rather than stimulative, may not spur significant job creation, and hence generate the additional tax revenues necessary to pay for the reduction in rates, particularly long-term. While an overhaul of the tax code may be a worthwhile project, this astrologer is clear that Saturn in Cancer (conjunct the U.S. Sun and Jupiter through much of 2003 & 2004) is simply not the time to roll the dice and expect to get lucky -- especially with the Baby Boomer generation only years away from retirement.

In the end, the biggest risk to my forecast is that the world is exactly as Paul Wolfowitz and his neo-conservatives imagine it, and, hence, ours to mold as we see fit. Every fiber in my being tells me that they're wrong in that regard, and that with Saturn conjunct the United States Sun, this most recent vintage of the "best and the brightest" have an ugly reckoning ahead. But I guess that only time will tell which one of us is right.

Dubya Weighed in the Balance
To sum things up, it strikes this observer that President Bush and Dick Cheney have challenges ahead unlike any they have ever faced. The last two times Saturn has entered the zodiacal sign of Cancer, on its way to forming a conjunction with the United States Sun, two Presidents and one Vice-President left office prematurely – Franklin Roosevelt, in death, in 1945; Richard Nixon, by resignation, in 1974; and Spiro Agnew, by resignation, in October of 1973. In each of the three conjunctions during the 20th century, the wisdom and vision of American leadership was tested. Each instance was directly connected to a major military conflict. When that leadership emphasized a defensive military posture, only resorting to the use of force as a last resort, America triumphed. When that leadership aggressively thrust American military forces into a largely ideological conflict, one in which the United States was not physically threatened, America stumbled. The implications of these precedents on George W. Bush's Iraq's policy, and its impact on the War on Terror, should be obvious. In 1917 and 1942, in the eyes of the world, America wore the white hat; by the late 1960s, and today in 2003, we're largely seen as wearing a black hat, as villains. The feedback of others isn't infallibly accurate, but it is one of the typical ways that Saturn initially attempts to communicate its displeasure with our actions and direction. A truly patient teacher and taskmaster, it holds its heavy artillery in reserve, for use with only the most stubborn and over-confident pupils.

In terms of the political landscape for the next 18 months, I expect a series of emerging crises afflicting the Bush Administration, slowly eroding public support for its policies. I suspect that things may not go well in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the War on Terror, with North Korea, with the economy, and even with any potential Supreme Court nominees. With Saturn conjunct his Sun as well as that of the nation, the political tailwind Bush enjoyed for two years will seem like the memory of a cool March breeze on a torrid August Texas day. Any flaws in his personality, leadership style or vision for the country will be ruthlessly exposed. By the Republican Convention in 2004, my guess is that Dubya's approval rating is likely to be somewhere in the 40% range. The good news for the progressives, and I believe - based on what we've seen so far - for the rest of the planet, is that Bush is extremely vulnerable. A forceful, credible advocate for a coherent, pragmatic, foreign policy, and a sound, fiscally-responsible, economic policy, can unseat him in November 2004. The bad news is that whoever wins the Presidency in 2004 will have to deal with a host of problems that will not be easily or quickly solved, and that the United States is about to enter one of the most challenging period in its entire history. The decisions it makes over the next two decades will impact not only this nation, but also the future of an entire world. Hence, the next President of the United States needs to be a man or woman of character, vision, courage, and true emotional intelligence. He or she needs to be someone who can truly bring us together as a nation, and undo the terrible damage that the current Administration has done to our image around the world, and our relationships with former allies and future partners. They need be someone who can both talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk. They need to be less a cowboy and more a savvy CEO of the world, the kind of man or woman who can so persuasively argue for a compelling idea that others will come to champion it themselves, as if it were their idea. To deliciously twist a phrase from Peggy Noonan and Bush 41, Dubya is not that man. No matter how invincible he looks today, no matter how dim Democratic chances appear at the moment, the cycles of heaven strongly suggest that he can be defeated in 2004. It's always darkest before the dawn.

Matthew Carnicelli © 2003. All rights reserved.

1. The astrological symbolism here involving Saturn is extremely precise. FDR dies with Saturn conjunct the U.S. Jupiter in Cancer, as the demands of time and physical reality extinguish the voice who kept hope and optimism (Jupiter) alive throughout the dark days of the Great Depression and WWII.

2. The "D Day" invasion begins two weeks before Saturn's entry into Cancer, in June 20, 1944. Hence, virtually all the fighting in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, as well as the bloody assaults on the islands leading to Japan, and MacArthur's return to the Philippines, takes place with Saturn in Cancer.

3. The United States signed the U.N. Charter on June 26, 1945, with transiting Saturn exactly conjunct the U.S. Sun, to the day – astrologically signifying America's heavy responsibility for making the world body work, and providing an orderly, if sometimes frustrating, structure for resolving international disputes.

4. Nixon resigned the presidency two days after the first conjunction in 1974; and the collapse of South Vietnam occurred two weeks after the 1975 conjunction.

Originally published May 21, 2003; revised June 1, 2003.

For more on Saturn's conjunction of the United States Sun see:

Darkness Ascending
Documenting the Impact of Cosmic Gravity, Part II
Getting to Know You
Documenting the Impact of Cosmic Gravity, Part I
The Reagan Legacy
Laying Naked Neo-Conservative Incompetence
Take Responsibility
Why John Kerry Matters
The Turning Point
Saturn and the Rush to War
Mission Accomplished?
Rumsfeld Awakens from the Dream
A Viewer's Guide to a Gathering Storm