Although it is now long forgotten, if one tries one can recall that, during the 2000 presidential election, one of candidate George Bush’s rallying cries was that he would ‘bring morality’ back to the White House. Some gullible voters, although not in sufficient numbers to actually elect him, bought into this peculiar fantasy, having watched spellbound for years as an overzealous prosecutor delved into the sex life of President Bill Clinton.
But the will of the voters notwithstanding, Mr. Bush became president by Supreme Court decree. He brought with him his bizarre brand of morality. Let us review some of the more blatant examples.
With a sense of shame unknown to Mr. Bush, Americans can recall his words to the United Nations and the world on September 12, 2002. Said he: “Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program — weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance.” He further asserted that “Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon.” And the crowning statement in his fear-based speech was this: “And Iraq’s state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.” Unfortunately for any sense of morality, these statements were not true.
His adoring minions continued the farce. Secretary of State Collin Powell, addressing the U.N. five months later, showed blurred satellite photos that he claimed showed “active chemical munitions bunkers” that Iraq was successfully hiding from weapons inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who were scouring the nation. Somehow, it seemed, they were able to keep these ‘active chemical munitions bunkers’ from the inspectors, which is not surprising since five years of occupation by the United States has still not resulted in their discovery. One may also wonder why, with 130,000 U.S. soldiers at their border and poised to invade, the Iraqis didn’t use any of their weapons of mass destruction. Could it be, perhaps, that they had none to use?
Be that as it may, Mr. Bush piled more immoral atrocities upon the lies he told the world to justify his invasion. Calling it ‘Shock and Awe,’ he started his second war by bombing population centers in a nation where over half the population was under the age of 15. It may be worth noting that the concept of ‘Shock and Awe’ was the brainchild of one Harlan Ullman, a military strategist who is currently caught up in the money-laundering and racketeering trial of Deborah Palfrey, who operated a high-priced ‘escort’ service. The morality Mr. Bush promised to bring back to the White House is certainly of a most unusual kind.
Mr. Bush has used his own brand of rhetoric to demonstrate what he might define as his strong moral fiber. While he has stated repeatedly that the U.S. does not torture its prisoners, he has approved ‘enhanced interrogations techniques.’ The fact that the entire civilized world condemns those ‘techniques’ as torture, and that they violate not only the Geneva Conventions but national law, once again shines a rather bright light on Mr. Bush’s claims of morality. He has proclaimed his love and devotion to Jesus Christ. Perhaps he needs a tee shirt with the letters ‘WWJT:’ ‘Who Would Jesus Torture?’ Or more appropriately: OWWJUEIT: On Whom Would Jesus Use Enhanced Interrogation Techniques?’
In December of 2006, America again watched as Mr. Bush faced the television cameras, this time from the Walter Reed Medical Center, praising the service of soldiers who had fought and suffered wounds in Iraq. His seemingly heartfelt statements could not be argued with: “We owe them all we can give them. Not only for when they’re in harm’s way, but when they come home to help them adjust if they have wounds, or help them adjust after their time in service.” He met with several injured soldiers and offered encouragement to them, while demonstrating to the nation and the world the excellent treatment that the richest country in the world provides its wounded heroes.
Unfortunately, like most of what Mr. Bush says and does, the obvious hides a far darker interior. In early 2007 the true conditions at Walter Reed were exposed: suffering veterans languishing in roach-infested rooms, lying under rotting ceilings amid walls coated with black mold. Their needed treatment was often neglected, as records were lost and the victims ignored for weeks at a time. Mr. Bush, during his Christmastime photo opportunity, remained in an area kept ready for public inspection; most of the hospital’s resident remained amid the most deplorable conditions. The fact that Mr. Bush lied about the treatment wounded veterans were receiving only compounds the immorality of his allowing them to be so mistreated.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans, causing devastating damage. Among the emergency measures taken was to provide temporary refuge for thousands of evacuees in the Convention Center. This was to be a short-term solution; the center was overcrowded and quickly ran out of necessary supplies. On September 1, Mr. Bush’s personally-appointed head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael Brown, appointed for political reasons since he had absolutely no qualifications to head such a vitally important agency, announced on national television that he was unaware of the Convention Center being used as an emergency housing facility. Most Americans were well aware of it, since it had been widely reported on television news for at least a day. And on September 5, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said that, despite his offer to send firefighters, police officers and other resources to assist the beleaguered city, the request he received was for one truck only. As the people of New Orleans suffered due to the tragic and shocking neglect of Mr. Brown, Mr. Bush weighed in with his opinion. Said he: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” Allowing tens of thousand of people to continue to suffer after losing their homes and, for many of them their loved ones, earned Mr. Brown the president’s praise. Mr. Bush’s brand of morality in action, once again.
One could also mention Mr. Bush’s veto of a bill that would have provided health care to an increased number of children living in poverty. Or his approval of sending Iraq war veterans back to the battlefield after a shorter time at home than they had previously been in Iraq. Or sending them there without the life-saving equipment that they required. Or his tax cuts which provide great financial benefits to the wealthiest Americans and pennies to those farther down the economic ladder.
Or his expenditure of trillions of dollars to kill Iraqis and steal their oil while America slips into a major recession, with citizens out of work and losing their homes. Or his complete disinterest in providing Americans with health care while the health care industry achieves record-breaking profits.
One is hearing less about morality in the current, tedious campaign. Republican nominee Senator John McCain will no doubt steer clear of such topics, not wanting to wear a shirt with a scarlet ‘A’ emblazoned on the front. Democratic contenders Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have found other areas in which to criticize each other, and have left the morality issue alone.
But it is bound to come up again. Once the conventions are over, and the Democrats choose their candidate, we will all be subjected to a variety of worthless and meaningless rhetoric, and certainly the topic of morality will be raised in one of its many forms (‘family values,’ religious observance, patriotism, etc.). The candidates will attempt to show their morality by being photographed with their children (for Mr. McCain it will be the children by wife number 2; they are still young enough to be cute). They will wrap themselves in the American flag and defy anyone to question their morality, as they describe how they plan either to boldly continue to kill Iraqi citizens and U.S. soldiers (Mr. McCain’s plan), or do it more timidly (Mr. Obama’s and Mrs. Clinton’s plan). They will visit New Orleans and decry the horrendous conditions that remain there; talk about the tragedy of children and adults without health care and make some minimal but well-publicized effort to prevent some U.S. citizens facing foreclosure from losing their homes as they themselves retire to their mansions to prepare for another arduous day of campaigning.
Incredible as it seems, many Americans without health care, losing their homes, and burying their children as they return in coffins from war, will vote for the person most likely to continue these immoral atrocities, Mr. McCain. Should sufficient numbers do so to elect him president, they will only get what they deserve. The fact that they will drag down the rest of the nation, and much of the world, with them is yet another immoral tragedy.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.‘