Archive for the ‘george w. bush’ tag
While the full implications surrounding the “War on Terror” that was initially waged by George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, have been brought to light many times before (here, here and here), Ta-Nehisi Coates with The Atlantic recently asked some hard questions that, because of Bush’s declaration and the United States’ commitment to ending terror, don’t admit to any easy answers.
One of the most important and morally gray questions: does torture work, and if so, should we be willing to use it to extract information that is vital to national security. Coates notes some of the inconsistencies surrounding President Obama’s own policy on fighting terror:
The president is anti-torture — which is to say he thinks the water-boarding of actual confirmed terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was wrong. He thinks it was wrong, no matter the goal — which is to say the president would not countenance the torture of an actual terrorist to foil a plot against the country he’s sworn to protect. But the president would countenance the collateral killing of innocent men, women and children by drone in pursuit of an actual terrorist. What is the morality that holds the body of a captured enemy inviolable, but not the body of those who happen to be in the way? (Italics mine.)
I don’t have an answer to that last question. Critics of torture never tire of arguing — and as Quentin Tarantino argues in Reservoir Dogs — a person will say anything to make the pain stop. Or, in the infallible logic of Nice Guy Eddie:
If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he’ll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don’t necessarily make it fucking so!
Or, perhaps Mr. White’s rather nuanced view is correct:
Now if it’s a manager, that’s a different story. Managers know better than to fuck around, so if you get one that’s giving you static, he probably thinks he’s a real cowboy, so you gotta break that son of a bitch in two. If you wanna know something and he won’t tell you, cut off one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb’s next. After that he’ll tell you if he wears ladies underwear. I’m hungry. Let’s get a taco.
What about the view of Creasy from Man on Fire:
I am going to ask questions. If you don’t answer fully and truthfully, you will suffer much more than you have to. I’m going to cut your fingers off. One by one, if I have to.
Or, how about Jack Bauer:
Jack Bauer: Ibraham Hadad had targeted a bus carrying over forty-five people, ten of which were children. The truth, Senator, is that I stopped that attack from happening.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: By torturing Mr. Hadad!
Jack Bauer: By doing what I deemed necessary to protect innocent lives.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: So basically, what you’re saying, Mr. Bauer, is that the ends justify the means, and that you are above the law.
Jack Bauer: When I am activated, when I am brought into a situation, there is a reason, and that reason is to complete the objectives of my mission at all costs.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: Even if it means breaking the law.
Jack Bauer: For a combat soldier, the difference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people that I deal with, they don’t care about your rules. All they care about is results. My job is to stop them from accomplishing their objectives. I simply adapted. In answer to your question, am I above the law? No, sir. I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay. But please, do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions I have made. Because sir, the truth is … I don’t. (“Day 7: 8:00am-9:00am“)
I realize these are just arguments from the minds of entertainment writers, but the questions and concerns aren’t going away because of the Pandora’s Box that Bush opened when he first uttered the words “War on Terror.” Remember his remarks from 2007:
On every battlefront we’re on the offense, keeping constant pressure. And in this war on terror, we will not rest or retreat or withdraw from the fight until this threat to civilization has been removed.
Admittedly, the extremism would have arisen and grown with or without Bush; the president simply committed the United States and its allies to the impossible task of wiping terrorism in its totality off the map. That was the critical mistake that Bush made. The threat of violence from extremists will never be removed as long as zealots and extremists cultivate the idea that a religion or a powerful leader can rise to such heights that any amount of death and suffering are justified in order to protect them. This is why John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” was so important, and why we should never forget his lyrics:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
As long as zealots have something to kill or die for, they most certainly will because in their deluded and splintered minds, it gives them something, ironically, to live for.
Here is one of the more cogent commentaries about GOP primary presidential candidate Rick Perry’s recent “Oops” moment from the debate this week. If you haven’t seen it, here is the video of the awkward 53-seconds:
In the column, I think Matt Bai gets at the heart of Perry’s mishap:
The problem isn’t just that Mr. Perry was groping around on stage like a prairie dog in a hailstorm. …
The problem is that he didn’t seem to know the basic details of his own proposal. Here he was calling for what would be a truly radical restructuring of the federal government — involving many thousands of jobs and many billions of dollars in federal expenditures — and he didn’t have a grasp on which sprawling departments he would shutter. It seemed the idea was not his own, but rather something he had tried and failed to memorize.
I’ve heard the TV talking heads and people with whom I have spoken say things similar to, “Well, anyone can have a brain freeze or suffer from a mental lapse.” True, but as Bai again points out, cutting back the three government agencies — commerce, education, energy — is almost exclusively what has set Perry apart from the other GOP candidates. As Bai says,
… Mr. Perry violated one of the core tenets of modern politics, which is that you have to at least sustain the artifice of ownership. We know, of course, that presidential candidates don’t actually write their own speeches or stay up late at night tinkering with their own proposals to overhaul Medicare. We get all that.
But we do expect them to really believe in the things they propose — to have the requisite conviction to know and recite with passion the basic policies that someone on their team stayed up nights to craft. Say what you want about Mr. Bush, but no one ever doubted his deep well of resolve on tax cuts or education reform. He had command of his own plan, if not all the underlying data.
There’s nothing more central to Mr. Perry’s campaign than the idea of scaling back the government in Washington — that’s pretty much the whole tamale right there — and what he proved last night, in 60 or so agonizing seconds, is that he hasn’t thought deeply enough about it to even master the basics of his own agenda.
How is it possible that one could forget the central tenant of one’s plan to cut spending? I mean, that’s been his task-at-hand for months now. How is it possible that a presidential candidate, no less, could whiff on such a key component to his entire campaign. It’s as if Joseph Ratzinger, the pope, had just given a speech at the Vatican and in his preachments, failed to give nod to one member of the Holy Trinity. Perry isn’t trying to win a city, county or state seat. He is running for the highest office in the free world.
This latest episode (And this certainly has not been the only questionable moment in Perry’s run) shows: first, how the far right wing of American politics borders on the ridiculous; second, how the general political discourse has devolved (by 18th century standards) by many degrees downward into an intellectual morass; and third, how we as an electorate expect much too little from the people who claim they want to lead us. I mean, George W. Bush was a buffoon who thought he had God on his side and allowed his subordinates to dictate his courses of action in almost every case, but at least he knew his stance on the issues, articulated them (although in questionable grammar) and rarely — if ever and to a fault — did he falter in his convictions. This current bunch continues the buffoonery, while lacking the charm and consistency, and are, clambering for election, apparently, just for the sake of being elected without a clear or coherent vision. It’s a waste and a disgrace to the legacy of the nation.
H.L. Mencken said it best, which was apparently misquoted as “People deserve the government that they get …”
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
Or, the succinct, harsher version from this blogger:
Idiots elected by idiots.
In short, until the electorate smartens up, don’t expect much from the elected. Hopefully at some point, the tide of the conversation will turn and the discourse will improve. But we are almost as far removed from that day as we are from 18th century politics, which makes 21st century politics look, at once, dumb, childish and astonishingly enough, brazen by comparison.
Before I begin, let me say that I have some mixed feelings on how the Osama bin Laden case was handled. In one sense, as I will state again later, I’m glad we finally got him. On the other hand, I think his execution elevates him in the eyes of some and skirts a judicial system that is all ready in place to try individuals accused of crimes against humanity. I explain further here.
I wasn’t planning on chiming in on the bin Laden case in the first place, since it’s been covered ad nauseam in the media following his demise, but that was before I read that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendelhall had opined on the matter. While many NFL players were quite positive about the military finally getting bin Laden and laudatory of our men and women in uniform, Mendelhall had some rather brash things to say about Sept. 11 and bin Laden’s death.
Speaking from his Twitter account, here are a couple of his posts:
What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…
@dkeller23 We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.
In these comments, Mendenhall appears to be referencing certain conspiracy theories that claim the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were enacted by our own government, that the World Trade Center buildings were imploded artificially and that the whole thing was a farce. I will not speak on the absurd notion that the Sept. 11 attacks might have been executed by our own government as an excuse to invade Iraq. I will concede that George W. Bush was exceedingly incompetent as a leader and probably led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses, but even I can’t indict Bush for orchestrating a massive plot to raze the World Trade Center, sacrificing 3,000 Americans as an excuse to invade Baghdad.
I agree with Mendenhall that celebrating death, any death, is cause for pause, but I don’t share his religious misgivings about judging bin Laden or his crackpot suggestion that bin Laden might not have been behind 9/11. We know that he and his organization were behind the Sept. 11 attacks. This isn’t in dispute because he admitted it in 2004, lest Mendenhall or anyone else forgets. As bin Laden said at the time:
We decided to destroy towers in America. God knows that it had not occurred to our mind to attack the towers, but after our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon, this came to my mind.
But celebrating bin Laden’s death is misguided for a different reason: as hinted at earlier, I’m not convinced that we should have killed the man in the first place or at least not without a trial. First, his death may incite future attacks, possibly more so than would have his capture and trial, and second, because we actually did him a favor by cutting his life short or at least based on his religious worldview and the worldview of his followers. By killing him, we essentially raised bin Laden to martyr status in the eyes of fringe Muslims and members of al-Queda.
According to this report from The Atlantic, the official story about what happened in the minutes leading up to bin Laden’s death was either misleading or an outright untruth. The original story was that bin Laden was killed amid a firefight, which implies that he was armed and putting members of a U.S. operatives group in harm’s way, thus leading American forces to fire on him. We now know, however, that bin Laden was unarmed when SEALs personnel shot him in the head and chest. As The Atlantic story says:
A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive.
The public stance from the White House, however, is that the ops group would have taken him alive if they had the opportunity. It seems to me if he was unarmed, the SEALs would have had that opportunity, whether bin Laden was belligerent with them or not. The Atlantic article also implies that if the U.S. had captured bin Laden alive, an ensuing trial would have been a bureacratic and diplomatic boondoggle:
Capturing bin Laden alive would have also presented the administration with an array of nettlesome legal and political challenges. …
A bin Laden trial, even before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, would have attracted enormous media attention, potentially giving the terror mastermind a high-profile platform for spreading his extremist views, and also could have inspired more terrorist attacks.
Boondoggle or not, the Obama administration is beginning to look more and more like the cavalier, let’s-go-get-’em outfit that presided over the last administration or, perhaps, even more so, since the Bush administration at least captured some suspected terrorists and informants, rather than cutting a fiery path of “justice” across the Middle East. The American ethos, of course, favors the approach that we took, which is to go after bin Laden with the intention of killing him. I won’t go so far as to say Obama purposefully took that course of action to help his election chances in 2012 (because he knows most Americans wanted bin Laden dead), but no other president can claim to have killed the mastermind behind the deadliest act of terror ever exacted against the United States. So, I think it will certainly play a significant role in his reelection chances.
Whether or not killing him was legal not (related article), refusing to try him like any other criminal presents other ethical problems. Michael Moore made a cogent point this week on Piers Morgan Tonight. He said that even high-ranking Nazi officials, who were at least partially, indirectly or directly, responsible for the murder of millions of Jews, received a trial and were not just executed firing-line style.
Or, in Moore’s words:
I just feel … we’ve lost something of our soul here in this country. And maybe I’m just an old-school American who believes in our American judicial system, something that separates us from other parts, other countries, where we say everybody has their day in court no matter how bad of a person, no matter what piece of scum they are. They have a right to a trial.
The question then becomes: should modern terrorists be treated more harshly than other war criminals like the Nazis? I think most anyone would have trouble making the case. Hitler and the surviving SS members had millions of people’s blood on their hands. Bin Laden had 3,000 Americans. Does just one American equal thousands of European Jews, thus justifying killing terrorists who harm Americans rather than putting them on trial like we did the Nazis?
Let’s work it out mathematically. By this wayward logic, if we take the 6 million Jews killed in Europe and the 3,000 people killed in New York and equated them, what would we find? We would find by simple division that the death of just one American would equal 2,000 Jews in Europe (6,000,000/3,000). Or, to put it another way, to kill one American means that 2,000 Jews in Europe would have to die to justify the same amount of justice. If all human beings are counted as equals, as they should be, and using the Obama administration’s line of thinking, we should have just shot all captured SS officials without batting an eye and been happy about it all the while.
But we didn’t. We allowed a group of deluded, racist and depraved individuals to have their day in court in the wake of Auschwitz, the gas chambers and the mass graves that littered the fields and towns of Europe. But when a fanatical Muslim terrorist kills 3,000 of our own, our justice system is too good for the man. Only the barrel of a gun will do. Thus, a martyr was born.
Since a trial would have surely damned bin Laden to the death penalty anyway, something about how events played out should, at least on some level, chaffe us all. Like Moore, I’m glad we finally found him, but even people who admit guilt are given a trial. Should bin Laden have been any different? It seems to me that we essentially immortalized the man by treating him as if he was somehow different than any other person charged with crimes against humanity. A trial would have said, and quite forcefully, to the rest of the world, especially to the radical Muslim world, “No! Bin Laden is no different than any other man. He will face a trial, and he will bow to the justice system like everyone else.”
We missed an important opportunity here. When celebrations break out in the streets after we gun down one of our national enemies execution-style without the use of the machinations that judge the guilt of every other mortal in the modern world, our collective soul may have, indeed, suffered an irreparable blow.
[Photo credit: Getty Images - Hundreds of Pakistani Jamaat-ud-Dawa activists prayed in Karachi for Osama bin Laden, whom they regard as a martyr.]
Article first published as New York City: Two Towers Down But Still in the Game on Blogcritics. Originally written about midnight Sept. 12, 2010.
I admit it. I have not spent the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, tuning in to the 24/7 news cycle, which – and I know this just by mere channel surfing – seemed to feature loop after loop of the planes crashing into the buildings and the subsequent terror that surely shattered the hearts of many in Manhattan and Washington and Pennsylvania, and nay, the entire nation.
Today, I have mainly watched college football and read a book on the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth (highly recommended, by the way).
But between my various enterprises this Saturday, I have thought about that day and about what it means to me. I have thought about the many volunteers who gave of their time, and some of their very livelihood, the latter of which (some) suffer from incurable diseases, such as lung damage from those who inhaled various toxins on that day and in clean-up efforts.
I have thought of the regular folks on the street who witnessed the planes crashing into the buildings, and then found themselves encased in chaos and dust. I thought of the 9/11 Truth crowd who claim, with pomposity, that the whole thing was rigged from the start, by our own government, or at the very least, that our government under George W. Bush was privy to such tidings.
And I have thought about my own excursions to New York, “the concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” as the popular Alicia Keys/Jay-Z tune goes. I live in the Southeast now but once lived in Manhattan as an infant. But since that time, I have been to the city many times. And once, I was able to go to the very top of one of the Twin Towers and looked out over the city from that phantasmal height, and I was in awe. This is an experience for which I am thankful to have been given. The view is still fertile in my mind. There, across the rail. Through the tall, shiny glass windows. Soaring and a little nearer to sky and clouds than to Earth.
And now, probably some 15 years or more since I was there, that heralded skyline is no more. I don’t need the news stations to tell me how grave and important Sept. 11, 2001, really is to all of us who love the city. I felt the thud, an intense thud, like everyone else. My “thud,” perhaps, wasn’t quite as booming as that of, say, a Mets or Yankees or Giants or Rangers fan, but it was a real thud, but not awe, as Bush later proclaimed about Iraq. For, with war, there is no “awe,” just shock and death, and “awe” is a quite macabre way to describe war.
So, tonight, now 15 minutes into Sept. 12, I am reminded of two songs, one my Ryan Adams titled, “New York, New York” (which was shot, interestingly, only four days prior to the tragedy on Sept. 7, 2001) and one more poignantly directed at the 9/11 tragedy, The Beastie Boys’ “An Open Letter to NYC.”
Here is the second video:
[Photo caption: Credit: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times; Family members of 9/11 victims at the reflecting pool during the ceremony in New York.]
I recently finished reading “Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention in 1787” by Christopher and James Lincoln Collier, and for anyone who has not read it, I would highly suggest it as an introduction to what happened behind closed doors that summer, which eventually resulted in what we know as the document that binds us and guides us as a nation.
The book’s conclusion, which included a brief explanation or thesis about how the axioms presented in the U.S. Constitution fit into and implicate how we conduct business as a nation in modern times. It’s conclusion reminded me of a discussion I had with (seemingly) the entire bloc of Tea Party supporters, of which, that post can be found here.
My main premise in that post was to suggest that no one really knows what the Tea Party movement is about. Is it about a strict adherence to the Constitution? Is it anti-tax? Anti-big spending? Anti-Democrat? People showing up in 18th century garb at rallies across the country didn’t exactly clarify matters. Another point that I hope was clear in my post and in other posts on this blog, here and here, is that it’s awfully hard to know precisely on which side of current national issues the Founding Fathers would have come down on. We can probably get close, but they were people of their own times attempting to forge a document that would live beyond them. And they most certainly did, but to say that we can take modern questions like, should we bailout the automakers or should we offer universal health care, and place them onto the Founders, seems to me anachronistic and reading back onto them modern concerns. The truth is, as I see it, they would likely be extremely surprised to see how much liberty we have taken thus far with their — our — document. The authors of the aforementioned book acknowledged this problem.
Take the Colliers’ interpretation of how the Founders would have viewed the modern incarnation of the Supreme Court:
The power of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution is what has given the document the flexibility necessary to deal with changing conditions. Yet it is certain that the delegates would have been horrified to see how broadly the Court has used its interpreting power. They believed, at bottom, that if final power had to lie anywhere, it ought to be in the legislature, which they saw as the primary voice of the people. They certainly did not expect the judiciary to be dealing with day-to-day details of school ssytesm, prisons, and fire departments as they do today.
Also, after FDR, we see a string of presidents taking military action and intervening in affairs overseas with troops without first asking for Congress’ approval. George W. Bush would obviously be the worst agressor in recent years.
Here is what Encarta says, which notes that Congress in years past has simply “relinquished” powers to make war to the president:
U.S. presidents after World War II have assumed most of the authority to send U.S. troops into battle. The Korean War (1950-1953), for example, was regarded by the U.S. government as a police action rather than as a war, and President Harry S. Truman never sought a declaration of war from Congress. And in 1964 Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which effectively ceded to President Lyndon B. Johnson the ability to wage war against Vietnam. Congress passed a similar resolution on January 12, 1991, authorizing President George H. W. Bush to use force against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.
And the Colliers’:
What, finally would the Founders have thought of the tendency of recent American presidents to commit troops to battle without formal permission from Congress? They would almost certainly have been astonished and outraged. They were determined not to give a potential tyrant an armed force to use as he wished. (Not to call him a tyrant; that would probably be inaccurate, but this is precisely what George W. Bush did). Had they seen a president sending troops out on his own in pursuit of his foreign policy objectives (Again: See Bush) they would have taken immediate action to stop him.
My larger point is this: If we want to take a literalist reading of the Constitution and say such things as, ‘It’s socialism that the president will now be the largest shareholder in GM or that it’s socialism to attempt to bailout the banks,’ we might as well begin taking the entire building down brick-by-brick. Or, even that such things as Medicaid and Social Security are unconstitutional (as some in my debates with the Tea Party supporters were claiming), we might as well start from ground zero and begin the country over again. We are one of the country’s the world looks to for leadership, and it’s much too late, centuries late, to begin debating, off the rantings of Glenn Beck and others, that the entire edifice is now faulty and unconstitutional.
The Framers, Madison, Washington, Gouvenor Morris, Hamilton, Gerry, Randolph, the Pinkneys (Charles and Charles Cotesworth) and many others were some of the greatest minds to ever land on this soil. Though they might have been astounded or enraged that we would now make some of the policies that we are making, they were forward thinking enough to realize that circumstances in the 18th century would not be the circumstances in the 21st century, including some of the very provisions they laid forth in the Constitution. That’s why they made it flexible enough to be amended and interpreted. They, I think, trusted that great minds would also follow their own, doing what was best for this country and, subsequently, for the international community.
(CNN) – The global economy may be undergoing a significant downturn, but the White House’s dinner budget still appears flush with cash.
After all, world leaders who are in town to discuss the economic crisis are set to dine in style Friday night while sipping wine listed at nearly $500 a bottle.
According to the White House, tonight’s dinner to kick off the G-20 summit includes such dishes as “Fruitwood-smoked Quail,” “Thyme-roasted Rack of Lamb,” and “Tomato, Fennel and Eggplant Fondue Chanterelle Jus.”
To wash it all down, world leaders will be served Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003, a wine that sells at $499 on Wine.com.
The exceedingly pricey wine may seem a bit peculiar given leaders are in Washington to discuss a possible world financial meltdown, but Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for Laura Bush, said it “was the most appropriate wine that we had in the White House wine cellar for such a gathering.
McDonough also said the White House purchased the wine at a “significantly lower price” than what it is listed at.
“Of course the White House gets its wine at wholesale prices,” she said. “Given the intimate size of the group, it was an appropriate time for The White House to use this stock.”
The leaders of the U.K., France, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and 11 developing economies have all come to Washington at the behest of President Bush in an effort to express confidence in the fundamental underpinnings of the world’s economy.
Not much in the way of comment here, for this story speaks for itself. It speaks volumes as to how folks with much in the coffers in this country (and others) are unwilling to sacrifice anything whatsoever for the good of all. I point to the automaker CEO’s private jet rides to Washington several weeks ago and their subsequent actual car rides to Washington a couple weeks later, which amounted to not much more than throwing a dog a bone. They weren’t repentant. They weren’t suddenly concerned with the working man’s plight. They were concerned with their image.
So, here we have the Bushes providing $499/bottle wine to world leaders who came to the G-20 summit to discuss the economic crisis. Irony barely even touches the surface. “Given the intimate size of the group, it was an appropriate time for The White House to use this stock,” Laura Bush spokeswoman Sally McDonough said.
This stock? Give us a break. A stock that cost 500 bucks? While engaging in their polite dialogue about the sorry state of the world economy over $500 wine, did it ever occur to them that such extravagance sure could have went a long way to help a working family make ends meet. That $500 sure could have went to feed a family of four for at least a month or two. But nah, dignitaries can’t be concerned with all that. They, intrinsically, need the best of the best. Dignitaries who gathered to discuss a floundering economy that has rendered thousands jobless and homeless are above such sacrifices and have more to worry about than the jobless, hungry children, women and children down the block. To think about how $500 (How many bottles were consumed at the summit?) could have helped a real family make ends meet or feed hungry children is, frankly, shameful, for it was only wasted frivolously and unnecessarily.
Bush greets 2 Marines, gives them kisses
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush stopped on the White House South Lawn to pose for a photograph with two Marines who served in Iraq — and planted a kiss on the head of each.
After climbing down from his Marine One helicopter, Bush walked toward the White House, then stopped and approached the Marines, one of whom was in a wheelchair. The president greeted Lance Cpl. Patrick Pittman Jr., of Savannah, Ga., and Lance Cpl. Marc Olson, of Coal City, Ill.
Bush directed aides to turn Pittman’s wheelchair around. Instead, Pittman stood next to the president for the photograph. They were joined by Olson’s mother, Pinky Kloski.
Bush had a few words for the two Marines as they stood on either side, then kissed each on the top of the head.
Kloski said the two were injured while serving in Ramadi.
Earlier in the day, the president had traveled to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to speak about the military and strategy during his tenure as commander in chief. — The Associated Press
Democratic pundits and WordPressers may have a field day with this picture, but I think it’s quite extraordinary. When was the last time an American president actually kissed a soldier, or anyone, as a sign of deep gratitude and compassion? Say what you will: Bush is trying to salve his bruised legacy of sending thousands into harm’s way and death to fight a war that shouldn’t have been waged or authorized. He, by a level of dishonesty, got us into the current mess in the Middle East and will leave it to the next president to lick the wounds and repair our tattered PR with the rest of the world. He’s simply making a last push, a final claim to his legacy.
But discard the conjecture for a second. What male in American society kisses another male, unless, perhaps they are related, as in a father to son, or homosexual? I may hug my closest, lifelong male friend, but kissing them goes a step too far, and we both know it. While it may be commonplace in other European or Asian societies, it is not commonplace here, and to take it a step further would be taboo. For Bush to kiss a veteran as in this picture speaks to something else.
Many would disagree with me (Many, in fact, think he’s one of those most heartless presidents we have ever had.), but I think, a) he is aware that he has made mistakes, b) that he is human (and this pretty well assumes that he will make mistakes) and c) that he is sincere on many levels. I think he sincerely loves his country, loves freedom and is truly grateful for the service of the men and women he has sent into battle. I think he mourns (and probably holds a level of guilt) for those who have suffered death or physical maladies on his watch. And this kiss finds its impetus here. Again, believe what you will, that he isn’t the smartest cracker in the cabinet, that he is actually a terrorist himself or even that’s he’s calculatingly headstrong on policies that have proved to be errant, but at the core, for all his miscomings, I think he’s sincere, and I think that is evident in this photo.
What is the war on terror?
What defines it and at what point might we be able to declare “victory?”
One could suggest these questions might have been more relevant six or seven years ago when this debacle began after 9/11, but as we are still in a two-front war, still being affected globally by terrorism (See: Mumbai) and still hobbled under George W. Bush’s all-encompassing declaration of war on enemies both seen (mostly unseen), it’s still relevant today.
Frankly, I still don’t know what the war on terror means. I understand it’s an active roundup of people who seek to do harm on an international scale to innocents (For the record, the “Allied” forces have killed an estimated 90,000-97,000 civilian Iraqis since 2003.) and to catch those regimes who seek to intimidate and bully governments with which they don’t agree, but terrorism has existed since the Earth cooled (Possibly, but only possibly, is this an overstatement).
A few of many examples include:
- The Crusades
- The slaughter/scattering of the Native Americans
- John Brown, the Sons of Liberty, the Ku Klux Klan, the Irish Republican Army and numerous examples from the Cold War
Thus, terrorism is not a new thing. It wasn’t created on 9/11. And most importantly, it’s not a thing we can wrap our minds, our hands or our guns around. It’s a ubiquitous thing. Like the war on drugs, it’s so ubiquitous that we can’t even imagine it’s eventual victory. Acts of terror have pervaded for centuries. The fact that we are just now in the 21st century declaring a “war” on it precludes nothing from its history.
What does “victory” look like? What would that mean?
One supposes that it means eradicating those in the world who seek to do us (Us, meaning not only Americans, but innocents around the world) harm. But how does one carry this out to its end? To declare war presupposes that said war predicates an enemy and the possibility of victory over that enemy.
But we don’t have a clearly defined enemy. We have a group of erratic, ever-shifting, ever-evolving group of networks. They have no defined “nation” and no defined “allegiance.” Unless that allegiance is said to be to Allah. And if that’s the case, we are waging a war, ultimately, against a mythical god. One can see, then, how the war on terror, taken to its extreme, can appear wholly absurd, and not only ubiquitous, but otherworldly. For, if the god supposedly served by radical Islamic terrorists orders its subjects to kill infidels (or to kill anyone) in its holy text is not worthy to be served, praised or even acknowledged.
Moreover, the War on Terror is like a giant, never-ending escape clause, excusing us from the guilt of all kinds of atrocities that otherwise would not be put up with. When will this mythical war end? What defines its victory? What does victory even mean? It’s not a war against Iraq or a war against Afghanistan. It’s a war against an ideal, an intangible. At this point, we can not predict its end. And if we somehow knew what victory would mean, we shudder at its far-reaching, centuries-long consequences.