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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 8, February 7, 2009

No Dirge for George W. Bush

Wednesday 11 February 2009, by B N Arora

By the time this small piece happens to see the light, George W. Bush would have moved to his multi-million dwelling after laying down office. When an eminent person or a person holding high office/position retires or demits office, we normally eulogise him. This writer, however, acknowledges a sense of guilt in painting Bush in a rather bad light.

Few tears would have been shed when the great George W. Bush (hereafter referred to as Bush Jr) laid down office as he was considered the most hated President of the USA. Of course, only a few Presidents of the US have done real honour to their country but George Jr would be reckoned as the worst of all, even overdoing what his father did during his presidency. Undoubtedly, Bush Jr will be remembered for a very very long time for the unwholesome and dirty deeds done by him or deemed to have been done by him during the eight years he was President.

To start with, his election as the President was highly controversial. Eliot Weinberger, writing in The Nation and the World of January 16, 2004, said George Bush

is the first unelected President of the US installed by a Right-wing Supreme Court in a kind of judicial coup d’etat and that he is the first to subvert one of the pillars of American democracy, the separation of the church and the state.

Similarly, Prof Aijaz Ahmad, commenting about the manner of his election, wrote:

He was elevated to Presidency by a judicial decision of dubious merit, combined with widely suspected disenfranchisement of a considerable section of the Black electorate in the State of Florida which happened to be run by his brother, Jeb. (Iraq, Afghanistan and the Imperialism of Our
Time, Leftword, 2004, p. 262)

THE record of Bush Jr as the US President, both in the domestic field as well as in relation to his foreign policy, is rather ignominious. Take first the domestic front: his policies impoverished a very large segment of the population, and curtailed human rights of the people. Like in the Reagan era, his Administration openly devoted to helping the rich and ignoring the poor. But more than Reagan ‘whose policies tended to benefit the rich in general’, most of Bush’s legislations specifically enriched those in his lifelong inner circle from the oil, mining, logging, construction, and pharmaceutical industries. Writing in The Hindu of October 2, 2008, Joseph Stiglitz said that

the Bush Administration has lost the confidence of the American people, and so has the Wall Street. Those who created the problem (the meltdown) are now the doctors offering the prescriptions. Less than six months ago, we were told that the economy was on the mend. Now we are told the patient needs a massive transfusion, but everyone can see the patient is suffering from internal bleeding.

Even prior to the Wall Street’s collapse, in official reckoning, the US economy lost 760,000 jobs in just nine months during 2008. In all well over nine million Americans are out of work. These figures do not reflect the job losses wrought by the meltdown.

What is truly shocking is that the majority of American workers, about 60 per cent, earn less than $ 14 an hour. The findings of the Community Childhood Hunger Identification Project, using carefully designed and meticulously tested approach, which have been accepted in both government and public health circles, revealed 5.5 million hungry children under the age of 12 and another six million children who were at risk of hunger.

While 45 million Americans lack health care coverage, the Bush Jr Administration went on spending $ 10 million a month in Iraq. (The Nation and the World, December 1, 2008)

One of the most despicable aspects of Bush Jr’s time is that the overarching Patriot Act gives the government power to arrest suspects and detain them almost indefinitely, deport them, hold them in solitary confinement, open their mail, tap their phones, monitor their e-mail and search their homes without a warrant. The Independent (London) reported on February 28, 2003 that since September 11, up to 2000 people had been detained in the US without trial or charge or legal rights.

Coming to foreign affairs, we find that in the very first year of his assuming office, he betrayed tendencies of aggrandisement and war-making. Responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush Jr said that the attack amounted to “an act of war”, against the norms of international law, as pointed out by Jordan Paust, Law Foundation Professor at the University of Houston. Then, in his fateful speech of September 20, 2001 he described his “war on terror” as a “task that never ends”. In his televised address to the joint session of the US Congress a few days after the hijackers’ attack, Bush Jr claimed on September 20, 2001 that there were tens of thousands of terrorists lurking in some sixty countries and the US was going to wage a global, permanent war to weed them out from every nook and corner of the earth. Thus the response of the Bush Administration was that of a bullying stock rather than a wronged nation.

The result was the infamous, unjustified and illegal invasion of Afghanistan, devastating a poor and already pulverised country. According to more than one reliable source, the invasion had been pre-planned much earlier. Here we cannot miss what the world’s top-ranking intellectual today, Noam Chomsky, had to say. In a talk on October 18, 2001 at the Technology Culture Forum of the Massachusttes Institute of Technology, he said: “Looks like what is happening is some sort of silent genocide.” Again, in the course of his lecture on November 10, 2001 at the Music Academy auditorium, Chennai, he argued that the war on Afghanistan constituted a greater terrorist act than the September 11 attacks on the US.

Likewise, the invasion of Iraq ordered by Bush Jr was wholly unjustified and illegal, based as it was on the doctored evidence regarding possession of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein. This invasion too led to immeasurable deaths and destruction. Both these invasions were motivated by a will of full-spectrum dominance of the US over the natural resources of the world and the regions that did not fall in line with the US imperial agenda. In this context, his actions betrayed hypocrisy of the first order in that he said in January 2004, in an address to the joint session of the Congress that

America is a nation with a mission and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambition of empire. (Frontline, April 12, 2004)

Rather, he took resort to what is known as the doctrine of ‘pre-emption’ and acted on the strategic plan of “Shock and Awe”.

The Nobel Laureate, Harold Pinter, opined in his “Shock and Awe” Lecture:

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit acts, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law.

He added that Bush and Blair, who were mass murderers, and war criminals, should “be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice” (but Bush cleverly did not ratify the body). Similarly, Roger Normand, the Director, Centre for Economic and Social Rights, a human rights organisation based in New York, who had led fact-finding missions to Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, expressed his anger thus:
The Bush Administration has attacked not only Iraq but the entire UN system of post-colonial sovereignty. (The Hindu, June 2, 2004)

IN the beginning of this essay, I conceded a sense of guilt in bringing out only the dark of Bush Jr. I also admit ignorance of his bright side. Anyway, to buttress the point that he is the most hated President, we may quote statements of some eminent personalities expressing anger at the actions ordered by him.

1. The former Justice Minister of Germany, Herta Dseubler-Gmelin, compared Bush to Hitler and said:
Bush wants to distract attention from the domestic problems. Even Hitler did it.
- (The Nation and the World, September 21, 2002)

2. In December 2002, the Canadian Prime Minister’s spokesman, Francoise Ducros, said in a conversation with a reporter: “What a moron.”

3. The Iraqi newspaper Al Thawra noted that
Bush has become the most hated person in the world who is given all sorts of bad names, especially in the West.

4. Nobel Laureate German writer Gunter Grass said in Kolkata in early 2005 that “I am not anti-American but I regard George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden as twins”. (Tehelka, February 12, 2005)

5. A poll, the Galaxy Poll, commissioned by the Medical Association for the Prevention of War in Australia, found 52 per cent of Australians view him in the worst light, adding that is he is the worst US President in history. (Metro Now, September 5, 2-7)

6. In a humiliating incident, a television journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi threw two shoes, one after another, at Bush saying “it is the farewell kiss, you dog”, during a news conference with the Iraqi Prime Minister on December 14, 2008 in Baghdad.

7. Delivering the Second Nikhil Chakravartty Memorial Lecture on December 17, 2004, on the subject “War, Peace and World Hegemony in the 21st Century”, the 87-year-old British historian Eric Hobsbawm described the Bush Administration as “a group of political crazies”, and said : “I cannot make any sense of America.” (HT, December 18, 2004)

8. A report of the Human Rights Watch (HRW), published on January 14, 2009, said that
The US specifically by secretly rendering prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, has abdicated the traditional role as defender of human rights.

9. Not long ago, when Bush Jr visited London early in 2004, the Mayor of the city of London “greeted him by declaring that George Bush is the greatest threat to life on the planet that we have ever seen”.

10. Noam Chomsky was told that somebody heard over the radio that someone announced that President Bush “is the most unwelcome visitor to England since William, the Conqueror”.

To sum up, whatever may be the good points to his credit during his regime for eight years, the damage he has done by his policies and actions to the reputation of the American people is indeed very serious. It would take a very long time for the succeeding administration(s) to redeem the global credentials of the American nation.

The author is a former Under Secretary (now retired) of the Union Public Service Commission.

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