President Bush, the elder deems his son a success in carrying out his presidential duties and says history will see him in a kinder light than today’s media and political critics. According to dad, who apparently feels a need to affirm his macho credentials by parachuting out of planes from time to time, his son has been maligned by people who just don’t understand the demands of his office or his grand design for the universe.
But as thing stand now, it would take an extremely partisan historian to look at W’s time in the White House as a plus either for the country or the world. His bellicose speeches and neo-con agenda promised much but delivered next to nothing, especially in terms of his professed goal of spreading democracy across the Middle East. In fact his policies have enhanced terrorist activities overall and served as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and others.
As the occupation in Iraq drags on things in Afghanistan have worsened with the Taliban making inroads in several provinces and Al Qaeda alive and well in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan. And although Musharref, Pakistan’s leader, is on our list of friends he made a hands-off deal with the mountain dwellers and his army is disinclined to fight fellow Muslims in any case. Our military has suffered greater losses this year than ever in both countries, and no meaningful policy has been articulated by the administration that would address the problems we face in either place; we have neither the manpower nor the political muscle to make any real difference over time.
We have what can only be described as a tiger by the tail. Having invaded Iraq with faulty intelligence, massaged into the message the Bush people wanted to convey combined with insufficient forces to sustain the military victory and incompetent stewards of the ‘new order’ our options began vanishing along with our unrealistic expectations. And far from Iraqi oil paying for the war, what American taxpayers aren’t underwriting, our government is borrowing from countries like China who hold our debt if not our fate in their hands.
Kurds are making their own deals with oil companies quite apart from Iraq’s so called Unity Government, the Kurdish border with Turkey is lighting up, towns and villages have been ethnically cleansed and a huge Iraqi Diaspora is developing in Syria and Jordan much to those countries’s dismay. Still, the Bush people and some of the generals on the ground point to signs of progress because certain kinds of violence have diminished despite the terrible human toll that continues and ongoing political uncertainty.
Many critics of our pre-emptive strike in Iraq continue to question why we chose to abandon Afghanistan. At least we had help there from UN forces and after 9/11 a measure of sympathy and support from much of the free world. Not that an invasion of Afghanistan would have been any slam dunk, but there was chance there to establish some semblance of a central government, root out Taliban remnants and even pursue Osama bin Laden. It wouldn’t have been showtime with all that “shock and awe” but there would have been a sense of legitimacy that was clearly lacking with our invasion of Iraq. And now military forces are struggling to hold on to gains previously made there.
Domestically, the son claims to stand on principle when he vetoes any expansion of the children’s health insurance (SCHIP) program and funds it in an amount that won’t even sustain it at current levels. He also threatens to veto any attempt to reduce the effect of the AMT on millions of additional taxpayers with offsets among the more affluent among us. No tax increases he says even though the richest Americans grow richer as middle-income earners are destined to feel the pinch of a winter that promises higher home-heating bills and reduced buying power for the holidays. For lower-income folks disastrous loan vehicles may force them into bankruptcy and homelessness. It wasn’t so long ago that President Bush was touting the rise of home ownership during his tenure – – at what cost to ordinary Americans and the national economy remains to be seen.
And the homeless problem among veterans is a national disgrace. Has there been even a murmur from the White House about this problem or any real consideration of how other returning vets will cope with their war-induced infirmities, physical and mental. Is the funding in place to handle these additional demands?
Father Bush, in defending his son, asks us to remember the extreme brutality of Saddam Hussein and tells us how much better Iraq and the world are now that he is gone. There are few who mourn his demise, but the disruption in the region unleashed by our hasty and ill-informed decision to take over Iraq and behave as if it were our exclusive domain has left life without Saddam a mixed blessing.
Whatever history holds in store for Bush the younger; his years in the White House have not prospered the country or furthered our standing as a great nation. In fact it will be a decided relief when his term of office ends. We will all be better off when he too is a thing of the past; he has been playing president far too long.