OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - Highlights of the Bush Years (Lest We Forget)

(10/01/2008)

By Tony Russell
tonyrussell.blogspot.com

As the 2008 election approaches, it may be worthwhile to make a quick run-through of the past eight years, and remind ourselves just how horrible they have actually been. Keep in mind, as you go to the polls, that many of those running have supported Mr. Bush and his agenda at least 90%of the time, or caved into his most despicable demands.

January 11, 2000 ~ The man campaigning to be “the education president” exemplifies the advantages of an expensive education, pointing out that “"Rarely is the question asked, 'Is our children learning'?"

August, 2001 ~ Following a barrage of warnings that a terrorist attack upon the United States is imminent, Mr. Bush goes on a month long vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Mike Allen of the Washington Post calculates that, at this point, Mr. Bush has spent 42% of his term in office on vacation.

February 5, 2003 ~ The administration sends Secretary of State Colin Powell before the U.N. Security Council to make the case for an invasion of Iraq. Powell speaks for more than eighty minutes, cutting loose with a barrage of charges against the Iraqis, including claims that they are hiding chemical and biological weapons, and have revived their nuclear weapons program. He warns of “the gravity of the threat that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction pose to the world,” and succeeds in scaring the bejesus out of the American public. Following the invasion, no weapons of mass destruction are found. Not a single accusation levied by Mr. Powell is ever substantiated.

May 1, 2003 ~ Mr. Bush stands aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in an event orchestrated to mark the end of major combat operations in Iraq. With a red, white, and blue banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” as a backdrop, he declares, “The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11, 2001, and still goes on.”

February 10, 2004 ~ At a fund-raising stop in Chicago,, Mr. Bush takes a hard line on the leaking of Valerie Plame’s undercover identity with the CIA. “If there’s a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.” Events later indicate that the president indeed knows who provided the leak--his closest advisor, Karl Rove, and his vice-president’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. Rove retains his job until he eventually resigns; Libby is convicted of one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury, and one count of lying to the FBI. Libby is “taken care of” when Mr. Bush commutes his sentence.

April 11, 2004 ~ Fielding an unexpected question at his first prime time press conference in over a year, Mr. Bush is unable to think of a single mistake he has made since the attacks of September 11. "I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it," he complains. A long, awkward pause follows.

"I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet," he says.

April 28, 2004 ~ The U.S. public learns about Abu Ghraib when 60 Minutes II reports on the torture of prisoners just before an article by Seymour Hersh is due to appear in The New Yorker. Among the revelations which eventually emerge: prisoners have been pissed on and smeared with feces; a prisoner with a wounded leg was beaten on the wound with a metal baton; prisoners were sodomized with broomsticks and batons; prisoners had phosphoric acid poured on them; prisoners were beaten to death; prisoners were dragged across the floor with ropes tied to their penises; prisoners were shocked with electric wires connected to “various parts of their bodies”; and interrogators set guard dogs onto naked, bound prisoners. Prisoners were routinely humiliated, deprived of sleep, forced to stay in painful positions for long periods, subjected to interminable sessions of loud music, and more. Death certificates routinely stated that prisoners had died “during sleep” or from “natural causes.” No investigations by Iraqi doctors were permitted.

Although authorization for such tactics was apparently given down the chain of command, through Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Vice President Dick Cheney, only low-level military personnel are charged and tried for their part in the torture, while no higher level military or civilian official is ever charged. In fact, several officers implicated are subsequently promoted. In a later interview with Mr. Bush, Adam Bolton of Britain’s Sky News says that there are those who would say that the scandals of Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and rendition are “the complete opposite of freedom.” “Of course,” snaps Mr. Bush, “if you want to slander America.”

August 5, 2004 ~ In a moment of unintended truth, Mr. Bush declares, "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

August, 2005 ~ Hurricane Katrina devastates Louisiana and Mississippi. After a FEMA staffer on the scene writes Michael Brown, FEMA’s director, that the situation is “past critical,” with food and water supplies running out at the Superdome and many people near death, Brown responds, “Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?” The death toll from the storm eventually reaches more than twelve hundred. The president congratulates Brown with the words “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

October 3, 2005 ~ Mr. Bush nominates his personal lawyer, Harriet Miers, to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. In the stories that follow, Ms. Miers is widely quoted as saying that Mr. Bush is “the smartest man I’ve ever met.” There is stunned silence, and then a firestorm of opposition breaks out among hundreds of men she has met, as well as some she hasn’t, questioning her experience and judgment. Her nomination is withdrawn.

March 9, 2006 ~ Mr. Bush signs the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, which contains oversight provisions designed to make sure that the FBI does not abuse the unconstitutional powers the Act authorizes. The safeguards require that the Justice Department monitor how often the powers are used and in what kinds of situations, and periodically report that information to Congress.

Following the hoopla of the signing, Mr. Bush quietly issues a “signing statement” in which he says that he has the power to withhold from Congress the information required by the Act, if he decides that disclosing the information would “impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive’s constitutional duties.” His statement goes on to say, “The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . .” Thus endeth the Constitution’s careful balance of powers.

March 31, 2006 ~ In response to a question at a White House press conference, Mr. Bush tells reporters, “When [Saddam] chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him.” This is the third occasion on which Mr. Bush has blamed Saddam for causing the war by refusing to allow weapons inspectors into Iraq. No one seems able to explain where Mr. Bush’s attention was focused when weapons inspectors, led by the UN’s Hans Blix, ran back and forth across Iraq for four months, with daily coverage by world media, trying to find weapons that didn’t exist. The inspectors were eventually forced to leave Iraq only because the U.S. told them to get out before we began to bomb the country. An official transcript of the press conference notes “laughter” following Mr. Bush’s statement.

January 14, 2007 ~ In a ”60 Minutes” interview, Mr. Bush is asked if he owes the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job. "Not at all,” he responds. “I think I am proud of the efforts we did. [Sic] We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude. That’s the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq."

How to account for those ungrateful Iraqis? One factor may be the more than four million Iraqis who have been displaced, two million of whom have fled the country. Another may be the high death rate. A study by the Lancet, based on a survey of Iraqi households--92% of whom produced death certificates to verify their account-- calculated that 654,965 excess deaths in Iraq were attributable to the invasion through June, 2006. (This includes not just casualties from military operations, but those due to a breakdown of law enforcement, near collapse of the health care system, increased child mortality, etc.) Shootings, kidnappings, suicide bombings, explosions of IEDs, and mortar and rocket attacks remain constant threats. Baghdad has electricity only eight hours a day. Only a third of Iraqi children have safe drinking water. More than 80% of Iraq’s sewage is now dumped totally untreated into rivers and waterways. Etc., etc.

Don’t worry; be grateful. Don’t worry; be grateful. Where is Bobby McFerrin when Mr. Bush needs him?

September 24, 2008 ~ Having ushered the American economy to the brink of a financial meltdown which may rival the Great Depression, Mr. Bush declares on national television, “I know many Americans have questions tonight. How did we reach this point in our economy? How will the solution I propose work? And what does this mean for your financial future?” “These are good questions,” he continues, “and they deserve clear answers.” They do indeed, but, for obvious reasons, Mr. Bush fails to supply them.

© Tony Russell, 2008


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