Monday, January 19, 2009

George W Bush: Not Exactly The Best President Ever

Why would anyone try to defend George W Bush at this point? There's nothing in it for liberals, and conservatives have overwhelmingly realised that the way to retain any credibility in the wake of his disastrous reign is to distance themselves from him as thoroughly as possible. So I found this article in the Independent rather baffling.

In it, Bruce Anderson accused Bush's critics of having a tenuous grip on reality. However he spends most of the article conceding massive errors on the part of his hero: Failure to plan for Iraq, failure to handle the situation after the invasion, willingness to undermine fair trial rights through the use of Guantanamo. It seems that he picked up on the rule of essay writing which requires you to set out the other side's case, but not the one that requires you then to knock it down with you own case.

He does try, however. He gives a triumphant anecdote about how a friend went to a cabinet meeting and Dick Cheney didn't say a thing. He seems to think that this means Mr. Cheney wasn't secretly the power behind the throne, because of course powers behind the throne always exercise their influence in the company of the entire cabinet.

Next, he comes up with something of an insight about Islamic terrorism: "Why do these people hate us? The Bush team came up with their answer: because they live in failed states, which offer their young no hope in this world and thus leave them open to the temptations of fanaticism and a better deal in another world." That's certainly part of the story, although he glosses over the extent to which the US has had a hand in damaging many of these states, leading to this resentment. The thing is, this is more analysis than Bush ever offered. In his speeches he would just go on and on about ideologies of hatred without even suggesting why they were popular. It was his opponents who tried to dig a bit deeper and understand the social causes of the problem - something which is anathema to 'personal responsibility' conservatives.

"Saddam had been trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. We could not be certain that his quest had failed. So should we wait until the certainty of a mushroom cloud?" It makes you wonder whether he realises how excitedly he is rewriting history. Does no-one remember the weapons inspectors who were forced to withdraw because the US was impatient when they didn't find anything? Saddam did not have WMDs, and if Bush had really cared, he could have made sure of it.

"Largely because of the malign influence of that fraud and tautology, international law, we have grown squeamish about regime change." Tautology? What, is law by its nature international? That word - I do not think it means what you think it means. Anyway, of course he hates international law. And hell, there's plenty to criticise about it. But usually, the fact that it attempts to restrain countries from invading other countries just because they don't like them is seen as a good thing...

"After 2001, in both Washington and London, there was a split between those who knew Iraq, who were generally hostile to the War, and those who wanted war but usually knew nothing about Iraq." And what lesson are you going to draw from this fact??

"Instead, the direction of events was left to the neo-conservatives, most of whom were dangerous idealists who believed that democracy was an infallible political antibiotic." Yes, including the man you are trying to lionise here. Keep up!

"There was one unfortunate side effect of the war on terror: Guantanamo. At the time, it seemed a good idea: a cunning means of preventing American lawyers from undermining America's security." One?? One unfortunate side effect?? And notice how he effectively rewrites "A cunning means of preventing the rights guaranteed by the Constitution from getting in the way of protecting America's security" in order to get a dig in at lawyers. Because that's why people hate lawyers - they protect people's right to a fair trial. Bastards!

"On the economy, and like Gordon Brown, George Bush could be accused of failing to fix the roof while the sun was shining. But two years' ago, it all seemed to be working...George Bush did not foresee the crisis. Who did?" How about plenty of people who had a clue how this whole economy thing works? Good god, are they really prepared to claim ignorance this extent in order to get off the hook?

The whole article is almost self-parodying, and is taken to shreds in the comments. I suppose there will always be someone who will support the unsupportable. I just hadn't imagined that they would be this bad at it!

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