I take advantage of the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to repeat some of my thoughts and criticisms of President George W. Bush.
George W. Bush should go down in history as being one with the infamous villains of the modern world. Now, they are dedicating a library in his honor. In fact, at this dedication, which took place on April 25, all five of the living US presidents were in attendance, as were Tony Blair and representatives from Israel, Italy, and Australia. The bright and shiny new library stands at University Park, Texas, on the campus of Southern Methodist University.
President George W. Bush made some remarks. He quoted Alexander Hamilton, who Bush said, worried about ex presidents wandering among the people like discontented ghosts. He went on to thank a number of people, including his mother and father:
This is the first time in American history that parents have seen their son’s presidential library. Mother, I promise to keep my area clean. You know, Barbara Bush taught me to live life to the fullest, to laugh a lot and to speak my mind, a trait that sometimes got us both into trouble. Dad taught me how to be a president. Before that, he showed me how to be a man, and 41. It is awesome that you are here today. I welcome my dear brothers and sister, as well as in-laws, cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles — all of you for joining us. Our family has meant more to me than anything, and I thank you for making it so.
President Bush also shared some memories of his presidency:
But when future generations come to this library and study this administration, they’re going to find out that we stayed true to our convictions that we expanded freedom at home by raising standards in schools and lowering taxes for everybody that we liberated nations from dictatorship and freed people from AIDS and that when our freedom came under attack, we made the tough decisions required to keep the American people safe.
At the end of his speech, the former president spoke of Franklin D. Roosevelt:
Franklin Roosevelt once described the dedication of a library as an act of faith. I dedicate this library with an unshakable faith in the future of our country. It was the honor of a lifetime to lead a country as brave and as noble as the United States. Whatever challenges come before us, I will always believe our nation’s best days lie ahead. God bless.
The president seemed to enjoy the day and the fine weather. He chose not to address some disconcerting and controversial elements of his administration. This author is no fan of George Walker Bush, and I have been critical of him in the past. Those who know my thoughts may find it to their benefit to discontinue reading at this juncture.
Let us take this opportunity to review some of the highlights of the celebrated president’s administration. The chaos began as President Bush was reading to a group of young school children, with some limited media coverage. Word came that the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and other points in America were under attack. We all recall that grisly day in September of 2001.
Bush soon determined that Iraq was behind the attack. In the weeks and months ahead, Bush continued his campaign against Iraq, stating that that nation had weapons of mass destruction, and was importing weapon grade uranium from Africa.
Time went by. United Nations inspection teams were granted authority from Iraq to inspect any area of Iraq, at any time, up to and including Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace. Irag and Hussein were fully cooperative, and no weapons, not even mustard gas, were found.
Joseph Wilson, an agent of the CIA, traveled to Africa, and after extensive work, determined there was no truth to the allegations concerning uranium enrichment. Bush became angered, and at that point ‘outed’ Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, revealing her as an agent of the CIA, endangering her life, and ending her career. Then, in spite of all evidence of the innocence of Hussein (who was working at the time to end hostilities between Shiite and Sunni sects ) Bush pushed forward with the plan to make a pre-emptive strike against that weak and struggling nation. The war lasted several years. One hundred thousand Iraqis were killed, defending their homes, families, religion, and culture. Hussein was hanged.
Following the invasion of Iraq, characterized by massive bombing and ruinous artillery barrages, Bush selected Halliburton Industries to follow the devastation, and to rebuild. Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush founded Halliburton, at that time called Dresser Industries. Halliburton was a Bush family conglomerate, and Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, was an executive officer at Halliburton. In fact, Halliburton was selected to feed all military personnel serving in Iraq. According to a United Press International article published in The Washington Times, the Kuwaiti-owned Timimmi Company had been serving hot meals to troops stationed in Iraq for $3 a meal. The contract was later reassigned to Halliburton, which raised the price to $5 a meal, subcontracted the meal services back out to Timimmi, and kept the 40 percent difference.
During May of 2006, the Bush administration was associated with questionable warrantless surveillance on Americans, and was also associated with detention facilities; secret prisons used for rendition of terror suspects. In spite of actions in Congress toward censure, the administration continued to ignore traditional values and existing laws, and tracked phone calls, numbering in the millions, in concert with the war on terror. During that period, press sources disclosed the existence of the massive domestic intelligence-gathering program. The CIA collected call records on tens of millions of personal and business telephone calls made in the United States.
On October 5, 2007, President Bush responded to an uproar in Congress over disclosure of formal opinions within the Bush Justice Department permitting the harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects. Bush said, “This government does not torture people.” He then went on to clarify: “I have put this program in place for a reason, and that is to better protect the American people. And when we find somebody who may have information regarding a potential attack on America, you bet we’re going to detain them, and you bet we’re going to question them, because the American people expect us to find out information – actionable intelligence – so we can help protect them. That’s our job.” President Bush declared that interrogation methods had been “fully disclosed to appropriate members of Congress.”
In fact the torture of those suspected of terrorism, some very young, some perhaps innocent, is well documented. Waterboarding involved drowning, then resuscitating prisoners, over and over, with only a few seconds between drownings. Americans were told this was done to get information to prevent future attacks, but the now well known Wiki-leaks showed that the torture and waterboarding were done to obtain evidence against those already in custody.
In 2005, the Justice Department under Bush authorized the CIA to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures. It was speculated that the actual practices extended far beyond the limits described by the president.
Torture that seems to go far beyond the president’s description has long been reported at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At one point it was reported that although news reports indicated that the “stink should soon be ending”, inmates were attempting suicide at an unprecedented rate. The UN Committee Against Torture said the US should release detainees or give them access to a judicial process. In December of 2006, a lawsuit was filed by two civil rights groups that would hold then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, under Bush, personally responsible for allegations of torture in overseas military prisons. The lawsuit describes the imprisonment of nine foreigners detained in Iraq and Afghanistan. It contends the men were beaten, suspended upside down from the ceiling by chains, urinated on, shocked, sexually humiliated, burned, locked inside boxes and subjected to mock executions.
All these deeds were done during the administration of a finger bending and insecure president, one incapable of meeting the challenges of that high office. Now Bush and the Republicans are altering the way he will be remembered with an impressive library. And, to make matters worse, George W. Bush, just prior to the dedication, made a suggestion that his brother Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida during one of the most disputed American elections in recent history, would make an ideal president.
If Americans are lulled into a false sense of security, or befuddled by a feeling of helplessness, we may see even graver days ahead. As the song goes, “Oh, say, does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave…?” Time will tell.
Photo: Lawndale News