George Bush came to office in 2001 promising a new era of integrity, civility and “compassionate conservatism,” an era of humble American foreign policy, and a bi-partisan approach to government.
Once in office, this chameleon president almost immediately set out to embroil the country in a major war in the Middle East against the nation of Iraq. The game plan was laid out at the president’s first National Security Council meeting, attended by Vice President Dick Cheney (the man holding Bush’s controller), Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neal (who later spilled the beans about the session).
Bush also famously ignored all warnings about the imminent attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. How much he and the rest of the administration knew about that attack in advance, or whether elements within the administration may have even helped it along, remains the subject of considerable interest and investigation and may never be answered, but it is clear that there were ample warnings about it, and he did nothing—even rudely blowing off a briefer who tried to alert him to the danger. Moreover, it is known that Israeli Mossad agents (who we know have close ties to both the US intelligence apparatus and to the Neocons who infest the Bush White House) did indeed have advance knowledge, and were set up across New York Harbor with a video camera to tape the attack on the Twin Towers (they were subsequently arrested by New Jersey police, only to be later released and sent back to Israel, through intercession by the US government). As well, we know that unidentified people made a killing by placing negative bets, called “puts,” on the stocks, several days before 9-11, of the two airlines that were hijacked, American and United, and of two investment banks that would be seriously hurt by the building collapses, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. (The puts were placed through an investment bank, Alex Brown, which until a year earlier had been headed by a man who moved over to become the number three person in the CIA.) It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Bush/Cheney administration, at a minimum, wanted an attack on American soil, and a national disaster that would put the country on a war footing.
Certainly instead of rallying the public and defending the nation’s democratic traditions and its Constitution, Bush and his handlers after 9-11 immediately set in motion a concerted scare campaign to undermine both. While urging the public to buy sheets of plastic and duct tape to construct “safe rooms” in their homes, they rammed through Congress a deceitfully named measure, the so-called Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act), which effectively undermined most of the articles of the Bill of Rights (and which appeared, suspiciously, fully drawn up in bill form, only days after the attacks).
At the same time, the president, only one week after the attacks, obtained an Authorization for Use of Military Force for a military attack on the Taliban government in Afghanistan and on Al Qaeda forces in that country, which he subsequently interpreted broadly as an authorization for a global “war” on terror which he then claimed made him effectively a dictator with absolute power both at home and abroad (the so-called “unitary executive” theory). Under this claim of absolute power as commander in chief in time of war, Bush went on to order the use of torture against captives, foreign and domestic, including US citizens, to strip even US citizens of the right of habeas corpus—that is, the right to have their arrest and detention brought before a federal court—and to establish secret torture centers around the globe and on military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba.
As well, even before the 9-11 attacks, the president began a sweeping program of electronic spying, run through the super-secret National Security Agency, on Americans’ telephone and internet activities. It was and remains a program that deliberately avoids seeking warrants and court approval even by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court—a body that has only rejected some five requests for warrants out of hundreds of thousands sought since its establishment in 1978.
Finally, in a perhaps fatal undermining of the Constitution, the president after 9-11 began a practice of simply refusing to enact or obey laws passed by the Congress, effectively rendering the legislative branch an impotent debating club.
Not content to simply explode or dismantle the legal foundations of the American government and rule of law, Bush and his handlers also went about systematically destroying the country’s basic institutions and even its economy.
The education system was fatally ensnared in a test-driven system called “No Child Left Behind,” which has in short order dumbed down public education to an extent shocking even to this already anti-intellectual society, with many schools simply giving up the teaching of art, literature or history, in order to focus desperately on math and reading in order that their students would do well enough on standardized tests to keep the schools from losing their funding.
The dollar has been cast adrift to become the new Lira as the government has gone on an unprecedented borrowing spree to fund endless war and ever-larger military budgets, while erasing the taxes on the wealthy, the super-rich, and corporations. Banks were given free rein to enter into all manner of risky ventures, leading to the current collapse in credit. Corporations were encouraged to ship their production and jobs overseas. Homeowners were encouraged to spend, spend, spend and to mortgage their homes to the hilt and then some. Towns, cities and pension funds were encouraged to invest in fantastic “structured” products that were actually towering card houses. Domestic car manufacturers were encouraged to build every larger, ever more voraciously gas-guzzling vehicles, pumping out ever larger quantities of carbon into the already overstressed atmosphere.
The nation’s infrastructure—its roads, dams, bridges, levies, airports, veterans hospitals etc.--were left to decay, with predictable results, the most dramatic of which was the loss of an entire city, New Orleans, to a routine Category 3 hurricane (after which, the president did nothing to rescue the survivors or fund a recovery).
Surveying at the appalling wreckage left after eight years of the Bush administration, it is hard to recognize the country that he started out with in 2001. A once proud nation—one that only a few years ago was admired around the world and that now is viewed as a pariah and a rogue state—today trembles before a handful of turbaned fanatics holed up in caves in the Hindu Kush, its trillion-dollar high-tech military colossus fought to a standstill in Iraq and Afghanistan by a few thousand brave men and women armed with RPGs, antique AK-47s and home-made roadside bombs. A nation that once was the envy of the world for its free society now has scientists afraid to report their findings, university professors afraid to support outspoken colleagues, members of Congress afraid to defend their Constitution, citizens afraid of their neighbors, journalists afraid of government criticism, lawyers afraid to defend clients...
Hey, this place starts to look and feel an awful lot like the China I lived in back in 1991!
Forget all the nonsense about Barack Obama being a closet Muslim. We already have our Manchurian Candidate in the White House, and he has largely accomplished what he was programmed to do: destroy the country.
The truth is this: If at the end of their second term, Bush and Cheney were to hop on a plane and fly off to a hideout in the mountains on the Afghan-Pakistan border, leaving a "Nya-nya!" note on the White House dining room table, few people would really be very surprised.
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This story was published on February 28, 2008.