Tuesday, January 20, 2009

True (well, not so true) to the End

The great mass of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one
-Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf Vol. 1, Ch. 10

Why oh why do they keep lying and deceiving? Oh yeah, it's because a whole bunch of people eat this stuff up. Stumbled across another case in point of the smokescreen that is the Republican party and the wacky right, a little number released by the White House called the 'Highlights of Accomplishments and Results The Administration of President George W. Bush 2001-2009'. The legacy book is yet another example of the distorted way in which these people actually see the world. So, in celebration of the final moments of the Bush presidency let's try to once again for old time sakes to expose the truth by looking at this publication point by painful point.

The report has five main categories, the first of which is the claim that Dubya "Kept America Safe and Promoted Liberty Abroad". The four supporting arguments are that he waged the global war on terror, transformed the institutions and the tools of war, established the freedom agenda to spread hope through liberty and finally, established a new approach to international development. The first claim is based on the fact that US soil hasn't seen a terrorist attack against it since 9/11. True, but as I've read in many places, the previous 7 years hadn't seen one either. What's been swept under the rug and somehow forgotten is that it was on Bush's watch that 9/11 happened. Have we forgotten that Bush responded to the August 6, 2001 memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" by going on vacation? Or that he hardly paid any attention to the intelligence dating back to January 2001 which insisted that al-Qaeda was an "urgent" threat? The truth here is that the Bush administration has made America and the world a much less safe place, especially vis-a-vis terrorism. The neocon strategy of spreading democracy through war has proved to be an abysmal failure. Yes, they transformed war by instituting a policy of pre-emptive war in Iraq and the tools were sharpened through the unsigning of the ICC and ignoring the Geneva Convention. The use of torture condoned by his cohorts has created a much more dangerous world for troops abroad. The State Department, traditionally the main tool of foreign policy, has become an afterthought, understaffed, underfunded and suffering from low morale. Reading about this 'freedom agenda' is confusing. If it's the measure introduced to but not passed by congress it represents some of the higher ideals of the Republican party. However, the more nebulous 'freedom agenda' held by Dubya and fellow neocons has truly been a disaster. Beyond Iraq, one need look no further than South America or central Asia, where American influence has waned considerably. As for the colour-coded revolutions, well, most have been revealed as nothing more than a smoke screen, whose initial success has faded away much like the smoke. Did I mention Afghanistan? Guess I forgot about it too...

Bush on the economy, another laugher. Section numero dos is headed: Lowered Taxes and Instituted Pro-Growth Policies. Should read: Made the rich richer and sold the rest down river. More than any one single reason for the financial crisis is the culture of lies and deceit that the Bush administration helped to perpetuate. If you aren't so philosophical and need concrete reasons for the crisis, luckily I've got a few. Doubling the national debt after inheriting a budget surplus, pushing for deregulation and the ever widening income gap are good starting points. A doubling of the nation's debt to over $11 trillion while today the richest 1% of Americans share of national income is 22.1% compared to 16.1% in 2002 with the bottom 50%'s share today being 12.5% compared to 14.2% six years ago. In 2007 real median household income dropped 1% while corporate profits jumped 68%. But really, one need only look at Bush's advice to the American consumer which basically boiled down to "go shopping!". Yes, that's right, declare a 'war on terror' and instead of asking the people to make sacrifices, ask them to mortgage their financial future - and of course that's what Joe and Sally did. In previous wars citizens were encouraged to invest in war bonds and the likes, Dubya told the people "to get down to Disney World". Imagine how bad things would be today if he'd had his way and Social Security had been privatized.

Next up, George the second apparently "Reformed Government to Better Serve Americans". The first subsection is about education and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, part of the Bush pledge in 2000 to improve education when he lamented, "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?". The results have been mixed with reading and math scores showing improvement but many questioning the neglect of other subjects; an overhaul awaits the Obama administration. On health care the report mentions the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. Whatever it's merits the cost represent another boldface lie told to the American people as the White House continually low-balled the price tag in order to ensure passage. Sound familiar? Refresher: Back in 2003 the Bush Administration wanted to put the price tag of a war in Iraq at around $50 billion. White House Economic Advisor Larry Lindsey was fired for suggesting it could be $100 to $200 billion, that's right, fired for stepping out of line. The real cost could come in somewhere around $5 trillion! Only missed that one by a factor of 100. Oh yeah, there are over 46 million Americans without any kind of health insurance today, an increase of more than 8 million since 2000. The next part is the creepy one for us small 'g' god people; Dubya's administration has "Improved lives by partnering with faith-based and community groups". Whether or not one supports the president's Faith-Based and Community Initiative (FBCI), what is undeniable is that it will be a part of the Bush legacy as it has changed the rules of the game. The Constitutional line between church and state has been blurred and a new way of handing out money to political allies was created, sound familiar? It should as cronyism is a central theme in the last section here, where Bush II "Provided unprecedented resources for those who defended our freedom". Yes, sending over 4000 folks to die in a war tends to put pressure on you to spend some money on the armed forces. The silver lining? Well, at least Dick Cheney and Haliburton got richer.

GWB "Set a Bright Course for America's Future" must be the most baffling section of the document. Apparently he advanced energy production, lessening America's dependence on oil. One almost has no words to argue against this, and I guess that's the point. But pointing to the success of ethanol subsidies when they have had a large hand in disrupting world commodity markets, threatening global famine? Maybe the authors missed out on the run up to near $150 a barrel oil last year. Or perhaps the report implicitly counts Iraqi oil production as being American now. Dubya has also protected the environment, damn, I almost can't write this stuff. An administration that has done all it can to perpetuate global warming deniers' claims while removing itself from the obligations of the Kyoto Protocol could one day be pointed at as the reason for the end of the world. Lastly in this section the administration "Reduced crime, lowered drug use, and protected vulnerable children". While having the authority to pardon crimes helped his family sleep at night while in office, it will be interesting to see how many within the inner-circle are brought to justice. Legalizing war crimes through the Military Commissions Act helped keep the streets crime free too, at least those in Washington, D.C.!

The final section is titled: Stood on Principle and Showed the Way Ahead. Thank you Mr. President for creating the environment we're in today, one where lying, deceit, greed and corruption have come together in a perfect storm that truly threatens to end the American way of life. Through it all though Dubya "promoted a culture of life", by which I guess it means for those who weren't killed in Iraq. In fact, the phrase is lifted from a speech given by Pope John Paul II on a tour of the US in 1993, and by the Vatican's standards, Dubya has sort of succeeded. The main points of this ideal are: opposition to abortion, check, opposition to capital punishment, oops, opposition to cloning, check, opposition to contraception, check, opposition to embryonic and stem cell research, check, opposition to euthanasia, check and opposition to unjust war, d'oh! Well, 5 outta 7 ain't bad I guess. Opposition to stem cell research "set research back five to six to seven years in this country," delaying potential treatments for a number of degenerative and life threatening diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. And guess what, those scientists that would have been working in the US are simply in other countries doing that same research. Next, George "Appointed judges committed to ruling by the letter of the law" is the shortest section of the document, quickly mentioning the appointment of Judges Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Funny how it skips over the whole Alberto Gonzales fiasco, assuming the public has already forgotten. Guess that's the point, most already have and won't even really know what is missing, much of their civil liberties. From wire tapping to political favouritism and approval of torture, (Gonzales called parts of the Geneva Convention 'quaint') Dubya and his gang chipped away at all that Americans supposedly hold sacred, their freedom, while proclaiming to be protecting and spreading it abroad.

None of this could have happened without three main factors, 9/11, Cheney and Rove. Cheney pushed for a radical rewriting of American policies on such critical issues as surveillance and detention of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks, with virtually no oversight or input from Congress or the courts. Meanwhile Rove worked his black magic upon a sleep-walking nation, molding public opinion through his version of the truth with impunity. Before getting to the gripping "100 Things Americans Might Not Know" wrap-up, this legacy forming document proclaims that, "President Bush led with a hopeful vision, met complex and rapid-fire challenges with steady resolve, and based his decisions on principle." This seems to be the central theme of the Bush record defense, he was a victim of circumstances and he dealt with all the issues based on his principles. Herein lies the ultimate irony of the past eight years: If a man (or woman) with more sense than neocon ideology had occupied the Oval Office to face those same challenges, America and the world would be a much better and safer place today. Instead of seeing 9/11 as an opportunity to reach out to the world, it was treated as a chance to settle scores and start wars, thereby fuelling extremism and creating legions of new terrorists. Evidence of moral corrosion can be found everywhere we look, from the financial scandals of Enron to Bernie Madoff, the humiliation of Saddam Hussein to Guantanamo Bay. Thank you Mr. President, we wish we never knew you.