It’s no secret that I detest the Bush II administration. I had the great fortune of living in Washington, DC, during the immediate aftermath of 9/11, for the start of both Bush wars, the anthrax attacks and the Beltway sniper. I remember quite well the palpable fear of the times; many believed –quite rationally– that a dirty nuclear bomb was about to be detonated in the nation’s capital. Our wills and passports were updated, and everyone seemed to have a one-way ticket out of the city in his back pocket; and the family car was stocked and fueled at all times. There was a run on the antibiotic Cipro, the most accessible defence against anthrax. Israeli nuclear/biological/gas masks were sold out for months. Everyone was preparing for the worst. Seriously, that was the tone of the time. And we all –everyone of us, even we “liberals” who disliked the man– looked to the President to calm the distress, defend the put upon, and quell the fear, not stoke it.
But he squandered every opportunity with head-slapping regularity. How should we protect the union? Shop. Seriously, he told us to shop. When rednecks were beating up brown people because they resembled Al Qaeda, Bush went on TV and said that that behaviour was sending the wrong message. Sending the wrong message? What about defending the rights of all Americans, not just the white Christian ones? Instead of a leader of a nation, we got an ideological partisan intent on pushing an agenda crafted by PNAC nearly a decade earlier, regardless of the globo-political realities that were essentially contraindications.
But, of course, Bush’s greatest failing was the insulting, criminal invasion of Iraq. I spoke out and wrote about my objections to this act early on, and got death threats for my efforts. Today, it is common for the mainstream to talk about how they were lied to about weapons of mass destruction, and had they known of such duplicity, they never would have supported the war.
I call bullshit. To many of us, the duplicity was obvious. Most famously, weapons inspector Scott Ritter appealed to anyone who would listen that the evidence was shoddy. His reward was to be demonized by all the media, not just Faux News. Months later, the new weapons inspector, Hans Blix, would suffer the same fate.
In this sense, at least, Bush was not alone in his crime. His society’s institutions, particularly the spineless media, were complicit. Those who voiced dissenting opinions were quickly demonized and denied platforms: Bill Maher lost his TV show for suggesting that suicide bombers were not cowardly; the Dixie Chicks lost shows and sponsors for decrying Bush policies. But extreme racist and militaristic voices, like Anne Coulter, who called for the invasion of Muslim countries and their forced conversion to Christianity, retained their pulpits and saw their audiences and contracts grow fatter.
Bush’s policies in support of torture were clearly illegal according to laws under which the USA was a signatory. The internment of prisoners without charge and trial, wiretapping without warrants, the denial of counsel and aid for detainees… all of these are acts worthy of criminal investigation. Consider the following:
“George W. Bush’s speech on September 6 amounted to a public confession to criminal violations of the 1996 War Crimes Act. He implicitly admitted authorizing disappearances, extrajudicial imprisonment, torture, transporting prisoners between countries and denying the International Committee of the Red Cross access to prisoners.
“These are all serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. The War Crimes Act makes grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and all violations of Common Article 3 punishable by fines, imprisonment or, if death results to the victim, the death penalty.”
I would add that the fomenting of an unnecessary war of aggression, based on deliberately enhanced data, that resulted in tens –if not hundreds– of thousands of deaths of innocents, is a monstrous war crime that I believe stains the hands of George Bush.
Now, my internet friend Rondi linked to this article, which argues that we are all judging Bush too harshly. Well, I must disagree. I think history will judge him with increasing incredulity that our society allowed him to transgress as much as he did. It’s amazing that the US constitution survived the Bush Presidency, and I’m convinced that one more large scale terror incident on US soil would have fully unleashed the beast, and put the final nails in the coffin of the American empire and civil liberty.
A commenter on the Western Standard blog summarized well Bush’s biggest blunders:
Bush should have:
1. Stayed in Afghanistan and caught bin Laden rather than starting a second war.
2. Appointed people based on merit rather than cronyism. This isn’t an ideological complaint. Harriet Miers for SCOTUS? Come on.
3. Come out unequivocally against torture. Sometimes the good guy needs to fight with one hand tied. It’s not fair, but it’s what makes him the good guy.
4. Got warrants for surveillance. FISA allowed immediate wiretapping with retroactive approval, with no warrant requirement at all when the targets weren’t US persons. Where’s the need for unauthorized wiretapping?
5. Recognized that the separation of powers is as essential today as it was when the Constitution was drafted.
I believe that hisory will record that George Bush, Jr, presided over the decline of the American empire from a global military and economic power to fragile and nearly hollow democracy on the verge of becoming a have-not nation. And, if all our hopes are realized, President Obama may preside over the transition of that former empire into a simple, stable republic that once more values the profound ideals of its genius founders.