For Bush – after 9/11– power means simply command, not responsibility for the consequences of his actions. Indeed, by waging unprovoked war against Iraq, he discarded decades of legal culture established by conservatives. He acted radically, ignoring the wisdom of conservative icon Edmund Burke: “Our patience will achieve more than our force.”
But unlike Bush, Shakespeare’s Henry fought alongside his men and respected his enemy. In contrast, after the successful invasion of Iraq, when the resistance to US occupation began, Bush taunted those his army had vanquished. “Bring ‘em on,” was his response to the growing US body count at a July 2 White House press conference, as if he were John Wayne starring as a US Marshall in Baghdad, Wyoming.
Quite the contrary, he had already amply demonstrated his lack of respect for legality. In his first two years in office he withdrew from more international treaties than any president in US history. After the 9/11 events, he squandered vast international good will by taking a military rather than a judicial path toward “fighting” terrorism. His aggressive western movie stance, his dissing of the UN and those allies who disagreed, and his threatening approach to smaller nations who refused 100% obedience gained him and his government world wide animosity. He has weakened the UN to a point of near irrelevance.
Previous presidential graduates of Harvard and Yale did not elevate assassination to the open and highest level of policy. They kept it covert, fearing its effect on the foundations of law. Albeit sneaky and treacherous, Bush’s predecessors understood the repercussions that would result from making coups and murders as normal instruments of state policy. Under Bush’s culture of power, members of the US army should feel no shame when their commanders order hundreds of them armed with heavy fire power to execute two men. One wonders if the Israeli assassination method has become contagious!
The Dow Jones average responded to the murder of Saddam’s sons by rising over 100 points. The President seems unconcerned that his actions might set a precedent. One of his enemies around the world might well copy him and offer a bounty for the heads of his twin daughters. Indeed, Texans especially should understand that. Anyone who has read the “eye for an eye” passage of the Bible will get the point.
Conservative columnist William Safire has yet to write his Sunday New York Times Magazine language column about Bush’s epistemology. I could imagine Safire toasting the President’s virtues, loyalty to friends and donors – the same people – and certitude about the conduct of his war of terror.
For example, who in his right mind would tell Bush to “think the matter through” before making a decision? The exceptions that come to mind would involve him “thinking up a plan to get rich quick” or “thinking himself into a panic” after the 9/11 events. But rather than exercising the power of reason, he feels more comfortable exercising raw power. We have no evidence that Bush conceives actual ideas or draws inferences or calculates consequences.
When he said in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 7, 2002 that “the evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program,” did he ask for facts? When he claimed in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union Address, that “Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent,” and “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” did he ask any questions of his intelligence specialists?
I don’t think the President ignored facts presented by the CIA that cast a dubious light on Bush’s weltanschauung. The facts just whizzed on by. He knows, in his gut, right from wrong, good from bad. Why listen when you know the answer?
Bush apparently did not understand that his advisers had exaggerated or perhaps invented facts that would bolster their arguments for making war against Iraq. They persuaded the President by appealing to his gut feelings. Since neither he nor his key Cabinet advisers thought to check facts, they all went along with the fabrication.
Likewise, does Bush realize that he has spent the U.S. surplus, bankrupted the Treasury and created the largest annual deficit in US history? Under his watch some 2 plus million Americans have so far lost their jobs.
Is he aware of any of these “accomplishments”? Does he know that his “assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring,” as the July 15, 2003 Washington Post put it. “Hussein had, in fact, admitted the inspectors,” the Post reminds us “and Bush had opposed extending their work because he did not believe them effective.”
Similarly, Bush blamed Saddam. Don’t bother him with facts since they do not appear to determine his judgments. I shall refrain from calling him a liar and table my idea for a bumper sticker that says “At least he didn’t lie about sex.”