Bush’s Sins Catch Up with Him

What a difference a month makes. I spent most of May in Japan, observing from the land of the gods, via CNN, the Japanese media, and the internet the operations of the law of karma in Iraq, the U.S., and the world in general. In the Hindu-Buddhist conception, good actions produce good results (in this and later lives), for the doer and for the world. Evil actions produce the opposite. It is a simple notion, but unlike the simplistic, Good vs. Evil Manicheanism of the Bush administration, it has the ring of truth to it. The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism prescribes good conduct. http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/eightfoldpath.html Among its eight components is “right speech”—including the avoidance of language that lies, insults or hurts people, or shames and embarrasses the speaker.

Bush’s biggest sin in this regard were his statements, early on in the misnamed “War on Terrorism,” linking Iraq to 9-11. There has never been any evidence for this link, and much evidence to the contrary; specialists on the Middle East uniformly doubted it. But a majority of Americans until recently (including countless U.S. troops in Iraq who’ve thought they’re “getting revenge” for 9-11) believed it. They also believed the dire warnings about Iraq’s WMDs, including nukes that could produce “a mushroom cloud over New York City,” as President Bush put it in April 2003. The cost to the world of such wrong speech has been incalculable.

The fall from grace of neocon soul-mate Ahmad Chalabi, announced by Bush who recently told King Abdullah of Jordan (where there is an outstanding warrant out for Chalabi’s arrest for bank fraud) that “you can piss on Chalabi;” plus Colin Powell’s admission that he was “misled by some of the intelligence;” plus the sudden mainstream journalistic attack on Chalabi emphasizing his close ties with Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith (see the May 31 Newsweek); and the humiliating attack on Chalabi’s residence in Baghdad signal the administration’s need to find scapegoats for the abject failure of the Iraq mission. Some top officials may need to be sacrificed for their wrongful speech. (And in a related development, the New York Times has been obliged to apologize for its wrong reportage of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. What are the karmic implications for Judith Miller?) https://www.counterpunch.org/leupp04222003.html

Bush might affect a stance of Reaganesque ignorance of nasty doings among his subordinates, http://www.angelfire.com/empire/hamsamolly/contra.html saying in effect that he had been duped. But that will sound lame and un-macho, and people might point out that a slough of tell-all books by former officials indicate that he himself asked for intelligence to justify a war with Iraq he’d wanted anyway–long before 9-11. (Bill Gallagher drew an analogy between these requests and the request Henry II put before his retainers: “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” The Pope held the king responsible for Thomas Becket’s subsequent murder and he subsequently did penance, being scourged before the archbishop’s tomb.)

Another problem for Bush involves another of the elements of the Noble Eightfold Path: “right mindfulness.” The mind should always been focused, disciplined and aware. But Bush boasts about not reading newspapers; Rumsfeld also says he’s stopped reading them. Bush appears to hear only what his advisors tell him, and these include the neocons hell-bent on transforming Southwest Asia through U.S. military power-disciples of Leo Strauss who advocated clever use of deception to receive the approval of the masses for “wise” policy decisions they would oppose if the real reasons were given, and to win the agreement of “gentlemen” who might be foolishly impressionable; the philosophers alone should lead the state, employing fear and war to wisely do so. http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article-3-77-1542.jsp

In making public pronouncements Bush often looks confused. Even sympathetic commentators have noted his frequent “um” s and sixth grade vocabulary, garbled sentences and apparent attention lapses. His is not a cultivated mind interested in the complexities of the world (but it’s a gentleman’s mind, surely, from the Straussian point of view.) Another Eightfold Path component is “Right Action” (or “Right Conduct”). This includes not killing. This administration has amassed so heavy a load of bad karma that it will likely, as I suggested it would in April 2003, go the way of the Taira rulers in the samurai epic Heike Monogatari: “The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind.” https://www.counterpunch.org/leupp04222003.html

Were they to correctly link cause and effect, Bush or his successor would honestly acknowledge that he miscalculated the level of Iraqi resistance that an unjust occupation would produce; that the often trigger-happy soldiers have responded to sniper fire and roadside bombings with indiscriminate firing on civilians, sweeps that involve kicking down doors, handcuffing and humiliating members of entire neighborhoods, arbitrarily detaining civilians without charge, often humiliating and torturing them. Such treatment then swells the ranks of the variegated resistance movement including Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, Baathists and other secularists-persons who are no more “terrorists” than the members of the French Résistance were under occupation. One should honestly acknowledge that the great majority of Iraqis want the U.S. forces to leave now, and that over half of the Iraqis express some degree of sympathy for Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement. Bush’s assertions that “our enemies” are all also enemies of the Iraqi people, and that a “fully sovereign” state will allow tens of thousands of “Coalition” forces to indefinitely battle those whom even U.S.-trained Iraqi forces decline to do, are more instances of muddled thinking.

Proper, good karma-producing thinking would require an apology for the wrong conduct, a plea for Iraqi forgiveness, and recognition of the fact that the troops’ presence is unwanted. Good conduct would be the withdrawal Iraqis demand, and huge reparations.
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Six weeks ago I was thinking that, despite big administration setbacks, it was planning for the next stage on the neocon agenda: a widening of the war to include Syria. The implementation of sanctions against Syria, the accusations of the Assad regime’s complicity in the passage of “foreign fighters” into Iraq to abet the resistance, and the threats by Israel to attack Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus following the U.S.-backed Israeli missile attack on Syria last fall all suggested this. But now, this looks less likely as every aspect of the war comes under closer public scrutiny and as global outrage at U.S. behavior restrains the more reckless in the administration, some of whom may fall sooner than later due to various bad karma. This close to the election, his popularity at 47%, Bush is more likely to exercise restraint as the CIA and State Department gain at the expense of the Chalabi advocates, who indeed seem poised for a fall.


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Before the disastrous war began, the neocons predicted an occupation of Iraq comparable to that of Japan after World War II. There the occupiers were generally well received, especially before the “Reverse Course” beginning in 1947, which targeted the popular left. But that occupation was one of an advanced industrial, imperialist power over another one following a long war triggered by the Pearl Harbor attack. The Japanese people came to regret the effort to dominate Asia as a blunder, and even those who felt it justified—as an effort to oppose western imperialism in the region—felt it was the nation’s fate, its karma, to accept the results of the war. So there were no snipers or roadside bombs.

The Iraqis, on the other hand, did not provoke war with the U.S. But some felt that however unreasonable the pretexts for war, at least it had toppled a vicious regime. So they indeed welcomed it. But few do now, as the Abu Ghraib photos, a wedding bombing, damage to the Imam Ali Mosque and countless injustices generate inevitable consequences.

With apologies to the immortal John Lennon:

Instant karma gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
Betta get your act together Dubya
Soon you’ll be politically dead
What in the world you thinking of
Smirking like a fratboy, former gov
What on Earth you trying to do?
Grab Iraq, or Iran and Syria too?
Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna smack you right on the face
Better get yourself together Dubya
And join the human race
How in the world you gonna see
Smirking like a chimpanzee
Who in the world you think you are?
A superstar? On the stage of war?

Why in the world are we here?
Surely not to live in pain and fear.
Why on earth are you there
Enraging and scaring—
You’re gonna get your share.

Well we’ll all shine on
In the nuclear war that’s to come
Yes we’ll all shine on
If Dubya continues to bomb
But it won’t be long
Before he and his gang are gone
No it won’t be long
Their karma is just too wrong

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu


Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu