Saturday, January 17, 2009

"A Farewell Address" to George W. Bush

by Norman Markowitz

I thought I would say a very long overdue Goodbye, although we will be living with the consequences of your administration for a long time. I saw your "farewell address" and you ended I thought as you began-- something of a befuddled fool.

At least you didn't have to resign to keep from being impeached and going to jail like Nixon, even though most historians believe you are now well ahead of him on the shortlist of worst presidents.You seemed to know that you weren't too popular anymore, but you didn't care much. You talked about making "tough decisions" and about spreading freedom and democracy with a confused look on your face.

But I don't think you ever made a tough decision of any kind. In fact I don't think you made too many decisions of any kind. Cheney, Rummy, and the gang hung around you, fed you false information which you didn't pay much attention to anyway, worked up policies that fit in with your prejudices, and then took off with your blessings. Let's look at some of your moves.

First you stole or had your handlers steal the election of 2000 in a way that no one except Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 ever stole an election and, even with his betrayal of Reconstruction, you clearly surpassed him on the list of very bad presidents.Even though you lost the popular vote and with the help of a five Republican Supreme Court Justices stole the electoral vote, you acted as if you had a mandate, pushing from the beginning for an aggressive militarist foreign policy and a revival of the worst of Reagan's pro corporate anti working class domestic policies. From the beginning, your administration was run by people who regarded your father as too far to the left (a point that historians with a psychoanalytic orientation will probably explore in the future). But you weren't getting too far until the 9/11 attacks which gave you the opportunity to fan the flames of fear to get from a pliant Congress pretty much what you wanted.

Here there were opportunities that other presidents, a Republican like Eisenhower for example , would have grasped. The chance to rally the international community against Al Qaeda and international terrorism at a time when sympathy for the U.S. as a nation was very great. A time to strengthen alliances and the U.S. world position. But you didn't really have a clue. Instead you pushed through the Patriot Act to strike at generations of civil liberties protections; created a new agency, "Homeland Security," which began to overlap with existing agencies and waste billions in political pork barrel projects to Republican districts in places like Idaho and Tennessee, prime Al Qaeda targets.

I mentioned Eisenhower, who is not one of my favorite presidents, but was a smart military man. He would have realized that "terrorist groups" are largely a police matter, not a military one, and that the use of conventional military options like invading countries makes little sense against terrorist groups and is the last, not the first resort, in all cases Although he played golf with big businessmen and defended their interests, I can't see him giving bin Laden's relatives safe passage out of the U.S. without seriously interrogating them while poor Muslim Americans were being arrested and held without warrants for attending the wrong Mosque at the wrong time. I can't see him rewarding the Saudi feudal monarchy and the Pakistani military dictatorship while he wrapped himself in the flag and declared a war against terrorism. He certainly supported these regimes duriing his administration, both to defend the U.S. Aramco oil interests and to fight left and neutralist forces in India and the Middle East. But he would have looked at their involvement in the events of 9/11 and taken actions to disengage the U.S. from them, while calming the American people by explaining to them that when terrorists make their targets afraid and hysterical, they score a major victory. You did the opposite, in so far as you understood or understand what you were doing.

Eisenhower had a mixed record to say the least on foreign policy questions from my perspective but he ended his administration as a fiscal conservative opposing increased military spending and in his farewell address warned the nation of the existing of a "Military Industrial Complex," an decision more important, as I see it, than any that he took as president. Although you probably could not define the Military Industrial Complex in an identification test in a U.S. History class, you gave it more money than any president in U.S. history after the 9/11 attacks. And then you outdid your political role model, Ronald Reagan, in launching a "perfect war" for the military industrial complex, the transnational oil companies, the new "private contractors" who sell overpriced everything to the military and even provide expensive private security forces in war zones.

You invaded Iraq, which you accused of being allied to Al Qaeda, even though all rational analysts new that its secular dictatorship was a fierce enemy of Al Queda. You then developed a propaganda term, "weapons of mass destruction," chemical, meteorological and nuclear(but not all sorts of "conventional bombs and artillery weapons with napalm and other things) and invented "evidence" that Iraq had such weapons, even through many years of UN inspection showed that was not verifiable and, in the first Gulf War, when they had chemical weapons, they had not used them against the coalition forces for fear of retaliation. Then you threw in some rhetoric about advancing Democracy and launched the invasion with British but no other support, against a nation which had half the military capacity that it had in the first Gulf War, easily won the invasion part, and announced somewhat prematurely, "mission accomplished."

But wait a minute. Then came the occupation, the most disastrous ever carried out anywhere by the U.S., unless you were a war profiteer. First, your administration made sure to protect the oil, but for some reason forgot to secure the arms arsenals, which were looted along with the historical treasures of millenia(the latter didn't matter much to you, but the former would provide large quantities of weapons to insurgents).

Then you demobilized the Iraqi army, but really did little to provide jobs for the former soldiers (after all, you don't believe in any welfare state) In the name of "freedom" and "democracy" you fumbled around looking for political servants among the locals while you treated the whole country the way 19th century U.S, governments treated Indian Reservations--as territories to make quick profits from settlers and businesses allied to corrupt "Indian agents" while the natives looked on in in sullen anger. Instead of settlers and Indian agents, you had tens of thousands of foreigner making high wages while Iraqis were unemployed, companies like Halliburton and Blackwater, making super profits by selling respectively consumer products to the military and private security forces for both U.S. civilian contractors and the U.S. government. But a country is a lot bigger than a reservation. You couldn't easily keep the Iraqis who opposed your policies pacified and "on the reservation." Your Iraqi servants often joined your corporate friends in stealing billions of U.S. taxpayer funds as thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed and wounded in the ensuing carnage. You could send in a modern cavalry in the form of the "surge" to dampen things down for publicity purposes But a country is still not a reservation and you had made legions of enemies rather
than friends and when the U.S. eventually leaves your enemies, now our enemies, will be stronger, especially the Iranians, who now have the allegiance of many of your former servants.

You probably don't understand any of that George, and wouldn't care if you did Since it is getting late, let me list a few more of your accomplishments. You were the first president to fight a war and cut taxes, excluding Ronald Reagan's Grenada phony war. While you didn't beat Reagan in increasing the deficit in percentage terms, you went a few trillion ahead of him in dollars not adjusted for inflation. The more than ten trillion deficit you rolled up before the present economic crisis will be a big part of your legacy. In your Farewell Address, you might have read out yours and your business associates credit card numbers to the general population to offer than some solace.

And then you brought religion into government in a way that no one, not even Reagan ever had. You intimidated scientists in your administration who supported stem cell research (something that not even many rightwing Republicans who want to extend their lives would do). You treated the science of global warming with even more disrespect than you did Darwinian evolution. You funded "faith-based" organizations as a dime store substitute for serious social policies. With all your self-praise about fighting the war against terrorism, your administration showed itself for what it really was when Hurricane Katrina struck. A policy of benign neglect in flood control beforethe disaster was then augmented by a FEMA administration led by an inexperienced incompetent, with FEMA itself an important agency buried under the PR and pork barrel Homeland Security Agency, an agency more interested in its image than in policy. What followed was tens of thousands of New Orleans people living through horror without the serious help of their own government, forced to become internal refugees as New Orleans, one of the greatest cities of the U.S., experienced a kind of underwater gentrification.

As for small things like the Bill of Rights, the Geneva Convention stipulating government policies in wartime, your administration practiced and defended torture against proscribed people and used warrantless searches and seizures and preventive detention against U.S. citizens who were caught in the dragnets of the "war against terrorism"
for reasons often unknown to both them and their captors. It seemed like your administration never heard of habeas corpus, but then again you were always an English only man with no interest in Latin.

I could go on George but why do it. During your administration a series of popular novels from a fundamentalist Christian perspective saw the righteous being raptured up to heaven and the secular faithless being "left behind"(the name of the series)to deal with the disasters the world faced because of sin and evil. Your administration put the overwhelming majority of Americans in that "left behind" category, even substantial numbers of people who voted for you and went along with your policies until the present economic crisis scared a lot of them sane.

Farewell George. You have already cost me a great deal of money from my pension fund (along with tens of millions of Americans) and probably postponed mine and their retirement for years as you retire from the presidency. Any thing is possible, but I really doubt we will see a "revisionist school" of history seeking to rehabilitate your administration in the future, not on this planet anyway.

P.S. I revise my previous judgment in a PA article in 2007, contending that you were the second worst president in U.S. history, behind James Buchanan, but still had time to catch up. With the Autumn 2008 economic crisis, you did catch up and are now in my opinion the worst president in U.S. history.