Monday, July 6, 2009

Through the Looking Glass

Former President George W. Bush gave a speech to an adoring crowd in southeast

Michigan on Thursday, May 28th. Reporters were not allowed to record his remarks, but many

took notes and passed along what Bush had to say. (For most of his Presidency, Bush excluded

reporters completely from speeches like this as did Dick Cheney. I have always wondered what

they were afraid we would hear or find out.) Those who were there said the crowd of about

2,500 gave him a standing ovation. The ex-President spoke for about an hour and a half in

an attempt to tell his side of the story of his Presidency, and shape some of the perception

of his legacy as President.

The President spent much time talking about the events os September 11th. He

said that he thought about that day every day that he was President, even after other

people had moved on. He defended torture and other actions of his administration in

light of September 11th. He said torture saved American lives. He said he had kept America

safe after the attacks on September 11th; and that it was a defining moment of his time as

President. He also spent some time on the economic meltdown (he was in Michigan after

all, the epicenter of the economic nuclear explosion in this country).

What is so interesting about the President's remarks is how remarkably untrue

they are in some cases and how distorted they are in others. It's as if the President is

trying to convince himself about why he did what he did.

The President was spinning myths during his speech. The biggest myth that he

and his former Vice President wish to promulgate is that September 11th motivated the

decisions that they made regarding national security, foreign policy, domestic politics, etc.

Nothing could be further from the truth. September 11th gave them the excuse they

sought to justify policies they wanted to implement from day one of the administration.

In his book, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil says that at the first cabinet

meeting of the new Bush administration, one of the top subjects was how to take on and

take out Iraq. Bush's national security team was composed of signatories to and members

of the Project for a New American Century(PNAC). Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Pearl,

Addington, Feith, and Bolton, among others, had all signed a document in 1998 calling

for the invasion of Iraq, building permanent bases, and using Iraq as a "strategic pivot"

to put military pressure on the rest of the Middle East nations opposed to America's and

Israel's role in the region. The document went on to say that the U.S. would need "another

Pearl Harbor" before the people would be ready to accept such a radical shift in policy.

September 11th gave them their wish. The Bush/Clinton National Security Advisor

Richard Clarke wrote that the administration had little to no interest in Al Qaeda even

after the attack on the USS Cole. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and

Secretary of State Colin Powell said in February of 2001 that Iraq was no danger to this

country and that Saddam Hussein was not even on their radar. Interestingly, neither had

signed the PNAC document. Clarke asked for a meeting with all the principles of the

administration to talk about Al Qaeda and terror, and never got it. He was told by

Attorney General Ashcroft not to bring up Osama bin Laden's name in meetings anymore.

When Bush was briefed on August 6th, 2001 by the CIA and told that bin Laden would

most likely attack this country, that planes could be involved, and that his agents could

already be in the country; his reaction was "...thank you, you have now covered your asses."

He then went fishing. Rice testified that they did not notify the airlines to heighten security

out of fear of panicking the traveling public. According to Clarke, the CIA was running

around with "'s hair on fire over increased signs of an attack", but nothing was done.

They got their Pearl Harbor.

The day after the attack, the President's people met Clarke and others who

reported that Rumsfeld was talking about attacking Iraq. Bush is alleged to have told

Clarke to get evidence that Saddam Hussein was behind the attack. When Rumsfeld was

reminded that Iraq had nothing to do with the attack; he is alleged to have responded

that even so, Iraq has good targets to hit.

The former President stood in Michigan saying September 11th was the signature

event of his Presidency; but history will show that it's importance was that it gave

justification to policies that he and his administration came into office hoping to implement.

Cheney was obsessed with strengthening the office of the President. He had been

Chief of Staff in President Ford's administration after Watergate, and never got over the

reforms passed by Congress to rein in the Executive Branch. He was obsessed with Iraq.

He had been Secretary of Defense when Bush #41 decided not to go to Baghdad and take

Saddam Hussein out. (Bush #41 said that Hussein wasn't worth a single American soldier's

life; and that if they removed him they would have to take over the country because there

was no one to replace him.) Cheney, Wolfowitz, Pearl, Feith, et al., were obsessed with

protecting Israel and saw Hussein as a direct threat because of his financial support for

the Palestinians, and in particular the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. None of

these obsessions had anything to do with bin Laden or September 11th.

Many in the Republican Party were obsessed with run-away civil liberties and

rules and regulations restricting the activities of the CIA, FBI, NSA and other security

agencies. These reforms came about because of the work of the Church Commission,

which revealed wide-spread abuses of power by the national security apparatus of this

country. Illegal domestic spying, FBI counter intelligence programs against Americans

like Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Panthers, anti-war groups, etc., had shocked the

nation. Many of Bush's top advisors and Republican members of Congress, along with

the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and other regressive think tanks

railed and wailed about how the hands of our spy agencies had been tied, and that Supreme

Court rulings had unnecessarily restricted the powers of the police (they hated the Miranda

decision, despised Gideon and were apoplectic over the exclusionary rules). Haven't you

ever wondered how the Patriot Act was written so quickly? The Patriot Act reversed a

laundry list of government regulations and court decisions that Regressives had hated

for years. September 11th gave them their chance to turn back the clock and Bush agreed.

September 11th was a gift that kept on giving. Unfortunately, keeping America safe from

terrorists was almost the last thing on their minds.

In February of 2002, Karl Rove was already meeting with Republican groups

telling them how they were going to be able to use September 11th for political gains

against the Democrats. In June 2002, the Bush administration had decided to go to war

with Iraq. (We know this because of the Downing Street memos.) The Patriot Act was

passed in record time; and we now know that as early as December 2001 Bush had given

the NSA authorization to conduct domestic eavesdropping on American citizens without

a warrant of any kind. In other words, September 11th had allowed them to implement

policies and programs they had on their agenda for ten to twenty years prior.

The former President told the crowd in Michigan that he thought about

September 11th every day. He is trying to massage history and his legacy. He leaves the

impression that his every waking moment was spent trying to prevent another attack.

He and Cheney repeat this mantra as frequently as possible as do regressive commentators

and talk show hosts. "We kept America safe" is what the former President and Vice

President say. "We haven't been attacked since September 11th" they scream on the

airwaves. The reality is that this historic revisionism is political strategy that deliberately

ignores the reality of September 11th and conveniently omits Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, etc.,

and the disasters concerning all three. There is no report that the ex-president mentioned

either Iraq or Afghanistan in his speech in Michigan. He didn't mention a trillion dollars

spent in these wars, almost 5000 dead Americans, 50,000 to 100,000 wounded soldiers,

a broken military, and as many as a million dead Iraqi's. He doesn't mention letting

bin Laden and Mullah Omar escape from the caves of Tora Bora. He doesn't mention

that the rise to power of Iran is directly related to our invasion of Iraq. He doesn't mention

that allowing Bin Laden to escape allowed Al Qaeda to reform and spread and get even

more dangerous. He doesn't mention that the creation of Guantanamo and the revelations

of torture and kidnapping by the U.S. inflamed the Muslim world making recruitment of

new terrorists easier. The mantra is that there has not been another attack. "America is

safer because I thought about September 11th every day." Are we safer?

The former President did mention the economy. (How could he not in Michigan?)

According to those there, he proclaimed his faith in the free market; but he did "admit"

there might have been a slight, small, ever-so-insignificant failure to regulate financial

institutions and activities. Oh, really? A little lax regulation was the only problem? A

$300+billion tax cut for the rich, a trillion dollar war, a $700 billion Medicare Prescription

Drug Program, a castrated SEC, and the destruction of all depression era fire walls meant

to prevent this very meltdown from happening again had nothing to do with the economic

state that we are in today?

A strong and vibrant economy is the key to America's strength. The ability of

American's to provide for their children, educate them, pay their bills, etc., is central to

an enduring nation. The belief that the future will be better and the creation of hope

enables a people to overcome adversity. In fact, we know that a country with a strong

military, but a weak economy, is a recipe for disaster.

Yet, the recently retired President reports that "America has not been attacked."

In the eight years of the Bush Administration, this country has been attacked by

terrorists, engaged in unnecessary war, ruined it's relations with its allies, wrecked the

economy, diluted and watered down civil liberties, and endorsed the concept of the

Presidency in which the President can act as a virtual dictator while we are "at war."

Why would bin Laden attack us again? For $500,000 he caused us to do more damage

to this nation than he could ever do with a second attack.

The former President is trying to rehabilitate his reputation one speech at a

time. He will write a book telling us again how September 11th was the most important

event of his Presidency and how he never stopped thinking about it. In the end, it will not

work, for there is no looking glass big enough nor mushroom powerful enough to forget

the reality that Bush left this nation weaker and more divided and less capable than he

found it. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them


1 comment:

  1. The massive debt with which Bush has burdened future gnerations of Americans should ensure that he continues to be despised.