Jonathan Cloud August 31st, 2007
This period will clearly be seen as one of the darkest in American history – if indeed there’s a future in which America’s history continues to matter.
Let’s consider why this is so, and what could lead to things getting better or worse – or both – in the post-Bush era.
George W. Bush was never cut out to be president. He was an ex-alcoholic, born again, C student – who just happened to be born into a family of wheeler-dealers and politicians with some highly dubious foreign connections. The fact that he got as close as he did during the 2000 election is a testament to how poor a campaign the Democrats and Al Gore ran, which was very poor indeed. He was then anointed by a Supreme Court the majority of whose members were from the Reagan and Bush Sr. eras, in a decision which the minority derided at the time as one of the worst the Supreme Court has ever made.
Still, no one knew much about “W” at the time, except that he liked to take a lot of vacations, and was busy rewarding his cronies with plum spots in the government. It seemed that he intended to keep a hands-off approach to all issues equally, except where it came to splitting fundamentalist doctrinal hairs, as in the matter of stem-cell research.
But the shocking and tragic events of 9/11 forced him into action, and predominantly into taking the wrong actions, and mainly for the wrong reasons. As the days wore on, after 9/11, it became clear that these would have bad consequences; it just wasn’t clear how bad. He vowed to go after “the people who attacked us,” and told the country to go back to the mall. He sent the army into Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban – which had previously been armed and supported by the U.S. during the Soviet occupation – but failed to get Bin Laden. This failure emboldened disgruntled Muslim men everywhere to join this “movement” and plan and carry out acts of spectacular violence aimed at disrupting the global hegemony of the West.
While Americans were out shopping, Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld plotted to invade Iraq – which had nothing to do with 9/11 but did not view it as a tragedy compared to what ten years of bombing and blockading by the U.S. had done to their country. Some estimates have suggested that an additional 500,000 Iraqi children died during that decade, from malnutrition and lack of adequate health care. The real reasons for invading Iraq are still a matter of conjecture, given that Saddam posed no real threat to the America or West, and that Cheney had earlier warned that going into Baghdad would lead the U.S. into a quagmire. But evidently the stakes were high enough to risk even that, and the equally great likelihood of creating more “terrorists” by reacting in exactly the way they intended.
At home, the Bush regime promoted fear, secrecy, and systematic disinformation – some of which they openly described as “creating our own reality” – and whipped the country into a state of hysteria, a pale shadow of the universal dread that accompanied the Cold War, but nonetheless powerful enough to allow them to abrogate the Constitution, hold people in indefinite detention, and torture people.
More to come…