Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Pretend Captain

Former Texas Air National Guard Lt. George W. Bush showed up on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. He was trim, the result of long daily workouts. He was dressed immaculately, the result of having aides, valets, and costumers. For the sailors returning from Gulf War II, he gave a speech, the words written by taxpayer-funded speech writers. In his flight suit, he looked like a Navy flyer, maybe even a commander-in-chief; he said what a president should say all of it recorded for probable use in a forthcoming election campaign.

This was the same George W. Bush who told the nation in his January State of the Nation address that the U.S. needed to make a pre-emptive strike against Iraq the only time in American history such warfare was condoned by Congress because, he implied, Iraq not only was tied into al-Qaeda and the 9/11 plot but because, he definitively cited, it had and was planning to build nuclear weapons of mass destruction. There is no question the President had been trying to justify why he was determined to go to war against Iraq, thus completing unfinished business from his father’s one-term presidency.

A few writers and members of the opposition argued there was no evidence to substantiate such claims and substantial evidence that actually disproved the President’s assertions. They pointed out that the State department’s intelligence operation, the National Security Council, and the CIA itself as much as a year earlier had noted that the documents the President cited about Iraq buying uranium from Niger, and which were later proven to be forgeries, were suspicious. But, most media just reported what the President said, their role no different from that of a dutiful stenographer.

Most of the Democrat presidential candidates and most of Congress put their pinky fingers into the wind. They decided it was too risky to challenge the President, especially since the politically-adept administration the one that created the Patriot Act made sure the media and the people knew that opposition to this president was nothing short of unpatriotic treason.

When it became apparent after the war the President lied to the people, the President’s political action team went into overdrive. It wasn t the President’s fault, they moaned. Others, like the CIA, gave him bad information, they whined. The British were at fault, they blamed. The president doesn t have responsibility for anything, they wailed.

Instead of sending war-mongering lieutenants Cheney and Rumsfeld out to face the media, the commander-in-chief sent Colin Powell. The secretary if state, a much more sympathetic figure, had protested the war until, good soldier that he is, accepted the Bush doctrine as his marching orders. To nail the claim he had no responsibility, the commander-in-chief sent out his other minority aide, Dr. Condoleeza Rice, to try to explain in a one-hour news conference why the commander-in-chief and his entire senior White House staff, including her, was merely a dupe of bad intelligence. In a sniveling response, she even claimed that had the CIA told the President to take out the inflammatory 16 words, he would have. Of course, by the time the State of the Union was ready for presentation, there was no doubt the President wanted, needed, and expected to utter those 16 words, and hundreds of others, to justify his plans two months later. The CIA’s first mission, according to its charter, is to support the President. And so CIA director George Tenet fell upon his sword to keep his boss from looking bad. In remarkable candor which should earn the respect of every CIA staffer, Tenet said simply, I am responsible for the approval process in my Agency. The President, for his part, said that he had full confidence in the director of central intelligence. CIA takes the blame; the President squeaks past. Even if the information was wrong, said the Bush political machine, at least the U.S. got rid of a dictator. One down. Dozens to go. (Perhaps if the White House had been as careful in preparing the State of the Union as it was in preparing a photo-op on an aircraft carrier, there may not have been a reason to launch a war that killed more than 300 American and British military, and more than 7,000 Iraqis, most of them civilians.)

Perhaps President Bush could learn something from a culture other than Texan. In the Jewish culture, the story is told about the son who had done quite well in business and thought he should be entitled to owning a boat. Not just any 21-footer, but a 41-foot yacht. With teakwood floors and cabinets. With a flybridge, radar, and global navigation systems. Even took a Coast Guard safe boating course. Hired two deckhands to care for his boat. Joined the local yacht club. And, to make sure he looked the part, he went out and bought a captain’s jacket and a captain’s hat. He looked the part. He even acted the part.

When everything was in place, he went to his parents home, then took them in his Mercedes to the yacht club, first for lunch, then onto his newest purchase. His parents, who had worked and struggled their entire lives to be part of the middle class, were pleasantly surprised at their son’s success. Aboard this marvel of the bay, the son said he was now a captain.

His mother was proud, as are all Jewish mothers. But she looked at him. With his new boat, and his new uniform, he really looked like a successful captain. To your father you are a captain, she said. To me, you are a captain. Her son beamed, for all Jewish sons like approval, especially from their parents. But to another captain, she asked, are you a captain?

George W. Bush may look like a president. And, in our media-rich nation, we may prefer people who look the part. George Lite, who failed one of the most important tests of command, that of taking responsibility not only for his own actions but those of his subordinates, will not be able to walk with Jefferson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, or Truman who forthrightly told the nation, the buck stops here.

Walt Brasch’s latest book is “The Joy of Sax: America During the Bill Clinton Era.” You may reach him at brasch@bloomu.edu.

 

More articles by:

Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an analysis of the history, economics, and politics of fracking, as well as its environmental and health effects.

October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail