FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Legacy of George the Second

This month, Texas Monthly magazine is running a cover story on George W. Bush and his legacy. The magazine asked various people, including Robert Caro and historian H.W. Brands, for their assessments of Bush. Here’s mine: he will go down as the worst president in U.S. history. He has inflicted serious damage on multiple levels. The three most obvious examples: America’s moral, financial, and military standing.

Moral. The late John Boyd, America’s greatest military theoretician, said there are three levels of warfare: the moral, the mental, and the physical. Of those, the moral level is the strongest and the most important. And that is where Bush has caused the greatest damage. Whether it’s the torture at Abu Ghraib, the official approval of waterboarding and other torture methods, the alleged slaughter of innocents at Haditha by U.S. Marines, the kidnapping (or as the CIA politely calls it, “rendition”) of suspected terrorists from locations throughout the world, or the indefinite incarceration of suspected terrorists without charge at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Bush’s regime has casually discarded the rule of law. And in doing so, it has squandered America’s moral standing in the world. By losing the moral high ground, Bush has degraded our ability to confront Islamic extremists and advance America’s long-term interests in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Immediately after September 11, 2001, the U.S. had the sympathy of nearly every country on the planet. But by declaring an elective war, by using faulty evidence to justify that war, and by using a myriad of suspect legal claims to justify his actions, Bush lost the chance to expand America’s soft power and increase the country’s moral authority at a time when terrorists, thugs, and thieves are proliferating.

Financial. According to Comptroller General David Walker, the U.S. is facing a “fiscal challenge unprecedented in American history.” In an October speech, Walker said that the country’s “fiscal burden has soared from about $20 trillion in 2000 to about $46 trillion in 2005. This burden is growing at the rate of at least $2 trillion to $3 trillion each year.” While Bush can attempt to blame America’s deficit spending on the war on terror, the truth is that he’s done nothing to counter the fiscal recklessness of six years of a Republican-led Congress. America’s unrestrained borrowing means that the interest accruing on that debt is soaring. In 2005 alone, the interest costs on that debt totaled $327 billion. The result of this mismanagement: future political leaders will be hamstrung when it comes to funding other urgent needs, including infrastructure, health care, and retirement benefits. Meanwhile, Bush’s futile war on terror continues ­ at a cost of $9.5 billion per month.

Military. Colin Powell said it best when he declared that America’s military is “almost broken.” I agree, except I’d omit the word “almost.” The Second Iraq War has exposed the U.S. military’s weaknesses, and those vulnerabilities are on display for every crackpot mullah and tinpot dictator to see. The U.S. should be worried about what’s happening in Latin America as Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales continue their populist campaigns. There’s no telling what may happen in Cuba when Fidel Castro finally dies. None of this is to imply that the U.S. should mount a military assault on Chávez. But imagine if a major hurricane hit Cuba, or perhaps Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands? Given the U.S. military’s commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq and the overstretched National Guard system, it’s doubtful that the U.S. could respond in any meaningful way to a major disaster in Latin America. And that would mean yet another replay of the impotence and criminal incompetence that came to the fore after Hurricane Katrina.

Bush has completely failed to rein in an out-of-control military acquisition system in which the Pentagon continues buying outrageously expensive, scandalously complicated weapons that have little or no value in fighting the insurgent foes who are now slowly degrading American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In short, the verdict on Bush’s legacy has been delivered and it is one of total, unmitigated failure. He most closely resembles another Texas president, Lyndon Johnson. Like Johnson, Bush elected to fight an elective war. Johnson’s great sin was Vietnam. But his great redemption came from forcing Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act. In doing so, Johnson achieved the most important political, and human rights, victories of the last century in America.

There will be no redemption for George the Second.

ROBERT BRYCE lives in Austin, Texas and managing editor of Energy Tribune. He is the author of Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America’s Superstate. He can be reached at: robert@robertbryce.com

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail