Roaming Charges: Mother of War

Photo by David Valdez | CC BY 2.0

So Barbara Bush, the matriarch of a dismal and bloody era of American politics, died this week. Predictably, in death she is being hailed as a feminist, a humanist, a doyenne of literacy, a moderating force on the viciousness of the neocons and racists who populated the White Houses of her husband and son. That’s not the way I recalled her, in my brief biography of her son George W., “High Plains Grifter,” published in Grand Theft Pentagon: Tales of Corruption and Profiteering in the War on Terror. Here, then, is my shot at revising the revisionists…

Start from the beginning. George W. Bush wasn’t born a cowboy. He entered the world in New Haven, Connecticut, hallowed hamlet of Yale. His bloodlines include two presidents and a US senator. The cowboy act came later, when he was famously re-birthed, with spurs on his boots, tea in his cup and the philosophical tracts of Jesus of Nazareth on his night table. Bush is a pure-blooded WASP, sired by a man who would later become the nation’s chief spook, a man frequently called upon to clean up the messes left by apex crooks in his own political party, including his own entanglements (and those of his sons) with the more noirish aspects of life. His grandfather was a US senator and Wall Street lawyer, who shamelessly represented American corporations as they did business with the Nazi death machine. Old Prescott narrowly escaped charges of treason. But those were different times, when trading with the enemy was viewed as, at the very least, unseemly.

His mother, Barbara, is a bitter and grouchy gorgon, who must have frightened her own offspring as they first focused their filmy eyes onto her stern visage. She is a Pierce, a descendent of Franklin, the famously incompetent president, patron of Nathaniel Hawthorne and avowed racist, who joined in a bizarre cabal to overthrow Abraham Lincoln. (For more on this long neglected episode in American history check out Charles Higham’s excellent book Murdering Mr. Lincoln.)

Understandably, George Sr. spent much of his time far away from Barbara Bush’s icy boudoir, indulging in a discreet fling or two while earning his stripes as a master of the empire, leaving juvenile George to cower under the unstinting commands of his cruel mother, who his younger brother Jeb dubbed “the Enforcer.” This woman’s veins pulse with glacial melt. According to Neil Bush, his mother was devoted to corporal punishment and would “slap around” the Bush children. She was known in the family as “the one who instills fear.” She still does…with a global reach.

How wicked is Barbara Bush? Well, she refused to attend her own mother’s funeral. And the day after her five-year old daughter Robin died of leukemia Barbara Bush was in a jolly enough mood to spend the afternoon on the golf course. Revealingly, Mrs. Bush kept Robin’s terminal illness a secret from young George, a stupid and cruel move which provided one of the early warps to his psyche.

Her loathsome demeanor hasn’t lightened much over the years. Refresh you memory with this quote on Good Morning America, dismissing the escalating body count of American soldiers in Iraq. “Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many,” the Presidential Mother snapped. “It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”

Even Freud might have struggled with this case study. Imagine young George the Hysteric on Siggy’s couch in the curtained room on Berggasse 19. The analysand doesn’t enunciate; he mumbles and sputters in non-sequential sentence fragments. His quavering voice a whiny singsong. The fantasy has to be teased out. It’s grueling work. But finally Freud puts it all together. This lad doesn’t want to fuck his mother. Not this harridan. Not this boy. He wants to kill her and chuckle in triumph over the corpse. Oh, dear. This doesn’t fit the Oedipal Complex, per se. But it explains so much of George the Younger’s subsequent behavior. (See his cold-blooded chuckling over the state murder of Karla Faye Tucker.)

Perhaps, Freud isn’t the right shrink for Bush, after all. Maybe the president’s pathology is better understood through the lens of Freud’s most gifted and troubled protégé, Wilhelm Reich. (I commend to your attention Dr. Reich’s neglected masterpiece Listen, Little Man.) Sadly, we cannot avail ourselves of psychological exegises of either Freud or Reich. So Justin Frank, the disciple of Melanie Klein, will have to substitute. In the spirit of his mentor, Frank, author of Bush on the Couch, zeroes in on the crucial first five years of W’s existence, where three factors loom over all others: an early trauma, an absent father and an abusive mother. It is a recipe for the making of a dissociated megalomaniac. Add in a learning disability (dyslexia) and a brain bruised by booze and coke and you have a pretty vivid portrait of the Bush psyche.

With this stern upbringing, is it really surprising that Bush evidenced early signs of sadism? As a teenager he jammed firecrackers in the orifices of frogs and snickered as he blew them to bits. A few years later, as president of the DKE frathouse at Yale, Bush instituted a branding on the ass-crack as an initiation ritual. Young pledges were seared with a red-hot wire clothes hanger. One victim complained to the New Haven police, who raided the frathouse. The story was covered-up for several decades until it surfaced in Bush’s first run for governor of Texas. He laughed at the allegations, writing the torture off as little more than “a cigarette burn.”

+ MSDNC’s Joy Ann Reid, typically, had a much different view of the Bush Materfamilias and her revolting brood:

Joy Ann Reid: “Whatever disagreements one might have with the Bushes, theirs was a more dignified version of the Republican Party. It’s hard to imagine them suborning the infiltration of torch-bearing neo-Nazis and nativists under their watch, let alone the myriad Trumpian sex scandals.”

Tell it to the Dead! 153 Executed in Texas, 1.2 million in Iraq….

+ If you want an unimpeachable reason to impeach Trump look no further than the assault he made on the Constitution at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time on April 13th, when he ordered cruise missile strikes against three Syrian government sites without authorization from Congress or the United Nations. It was one of those increasingly frequent occasions when you could watch a war crime unfold before your eyes in real-time.

+ In the span of one week, Trump hired John Bolton, pardoned Scooter Libby, bombed Syria and declared “Mission Accomplished.” He’s finally getting his full Bush on….

+ From the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Trump warned dozens of times about the dangers of US involvement in yet another Middle East bloodbath. None of these pacifist statements won Trump a Nobel Peace Prize, so he resubmitted his own nomination via cruise missiles instead. It worked for Obama….

+ It only took Bolton five days to steamroll Mad Dog Mattis, who had urged Trump to wait until Syrian culpability for the chemical weapons attack had been verified and then seek congressional approval for the missile strikes. But Trump and Bolton rejected Mattis’s advice, saying it was vital that the US strike quickly “in order to back up his bellicose Tweets.

+ I Tweet, Therefore I Bomb. Can we file a class action suit against Twitter for being a co-conspirator in a war crime?

+ 105 Cruise missiles at $1.4 million apiece: $147,000,000. Nice payday for Raytheon.

+ There still seems to be some question as to whether the cruise missiles launched at Syria to destroy chemical weapons production sites themselves contain Depleted Uranium as part of their guidance system. More than 900 DU missiles were dropped on Iraq in the first Gulf War, leading to a spike incidences of leukemia.

+ Chuck Schumer, commandant of the Resistance©, on Trump’s illegal bombing of Syria: “A pinpointed, limited action to punish and hopefully deter Assad from doing this again is appropriate, but the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria.”

+ Trump bombing Syria out of humanitarian concern for the women and children he refuses to admit into the US as refugees takes his hypocrisy to a new level of depravity…

+ In a case of blatant French meddling in US politics, Emmanuel Macron bragged this week about convincing Trump to keep US troops in Syria. Where’s the special prosecutor?

+ Jacques Chirac was horrible, but he had the guts to oppose the Iraq war. Macron, the micro-Napoleon, couldn’t wait to join one…

+ As Sean Hannity is to Trump, so is Bernard Henri-Levy to Macron. Where is the Hague Tribunal for the Cruise Missile Philosophes?

+ The only thing slower than the Syrian Air Defense response to the cruise missile strikes has been the lethargic reply of the US Congress in defense of it’s own exclusive right to declare war against sovereign states…

+ Give the Russians points for humor. They claimed that the archaic missile defense system the Soviets sold the Syrians decades ago knocked down 75 cruise missiles, even though most accounts have the Syrian rockets being fired 25 minutes after the last cruise missile struck.

+ When it comes to missile defense, it’s all about the marketing. Since Reagan announced Stars Wars, nearly every anti-ballistic missile test has been a failure, even when the defensive missiles know exactly when the attacking missiles are coming, where they’re coming from and where they’re targeted. It’s one of the most expensive conjobs since the B-2 “Stealth” bomber.

+ Of course, Trump also claimed that all of the US cruise missiles were perfect hits, which is laughable given past performances, where errant missiles have often outnumbered ones that hit their targets.

+ In Trump’s defense, “precision strikes” means, by definition, that every civilian killed by the bombings was meant to be killed and wherever the missiles landed is where they were programmed to land.

+ The Pro-Assad contingent after reading Robert Fisk’s dispatch from Douma: “It’s such a relief to learn those kids died of hypoxia, gagging on dust from barrel bombs, rather than chlorine gas! I sure hope they were all the offspring of head-chopping terrorists!”

+ Did Assad use chemical weapons in Douma? I don’t know. The images are horrifying, regardless of the means of the slaughter. Time and again, the regime has shown itself capable of almost any kind of atrocity, from torture to assassination to bombing civilian targets. It has even rented out its infamous dungeons as CIA black sites. 500,000 have already died in Syria. More killing will not end the war, whoever is doing the killing for whatever alleged reason–protecting children, protecting religious minorities, protecting traditional territory…The right to protect is not a license to kill.

+ The point is that even if Assad did use chlorine bombs or sarin-loaded weapons there was still no legal justification for the US/UK/French strikes on Syria. One war crime can’t justify another. Retaliatory strikes don’t even function as a deterrent. The Damascus and Homs attacks served only to prove the futility of Trump’s last illegal missile strike on Syria.

+ I’ve been reading Vera Brittain’s courageous 1944 pamphlet “Seed of Chaos: What Mass Bombing Really Means”, which denounced the saturation bombing of Nazi Germany by Allied war planes. If chemical weapons were the war crime that defined WW I, “area bombing” represented the military horror of WW II, until Hiroshima, which was area bombing at an atomic scale. Brittain, a nurse who witnessed the horrors of the trenches in France and wrote vividly about her experience in Testament of Youth, was vilified and branded a German-sympathizer for her strict adherence to pacifist principals, even though her name appeared in the notorious “Nazi Black Book” of 3,000 Britains to be seized, and probably executed, after an invasion by the Wehrmacht.

+ I’m with Brittain. The Left’s place should be with those under the falling bombs, whether they are dropped by British, American, French, Russian or Syrian planes.  Any nation with an Air Force is a nation that is primed to commit a massacre from above.

+ Jeremy Corbyn to Theresa May during Prime Minister’s questions: “Would it be legitimate to bomb Saudi airfields for their role in the humanitarian crisis in Yemen?”

+ Lindsey Graham denounced Trump’s airstrikes on Syria as a “major step backwards.” Why? Because they didn’t decapitate the Assad regime. Graham won’t be satiated until Trump fires off a few “tactical” nukes…

+ In the face of this madness, the US is once again in the position of relying on Putin to be the one to show restraint and yank the world back from the nuclear brink…

+During Trump’s joint appearance with Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lao, the president announced a big weapons deal with Japan. Trump apologized for the slow shipping of past purchases and pledged to cut through the red tape in order to get the weapons there in time for Abe to rattle them at Kim Jong-Un. If Trump lets the Pentagon use Amazon Prime to ship the killing machines, he might go a long way toward mending relations with the Bezos Post.

+ It’s official! Sub-prime auto loan delinquencies are now higher than they were during the Great Financial Crisis!

+ From West Valley, Utah, comes the story of a man who was shot for obeying the commands of police. In this suburb of Salt Lake City, police pursued a young black man named Elijah James Smith through a suburban neighborhood on suspicion of stealing cars. Smith was tracked into a house, where he was found hiding in the garage. Smith’s hands were in his jacket pocket and one cop yelled: “Put your hands up now. Let me see your hands.” Smith first raised his left hand, then is ordered to put up his other hand by police. As Smith removed his right hand from his pocket, the cops opened fire, shooting him three times. The police later said they feared Smith was going to pull out a gun. He was found to be unarmed. Smith died of his wounds. He was 20 years old.

+ Black, naked, in distress? Nothing a few cop kicks and gut punches won’t cure, even at Harvard…

+ Joyce Carol Oates: “In lower Manhattan Starbucks, Bartleby the Scrivener has been taking up an entire table for 158 yrs without ordering a thing. ‘I would prefer not to’–is his excuse. Yet, not taken away in handcuffs & we know why.”

+ Gang Green is running full-page ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times urging Trump to fire Scott Pruitt for his corruption in office. But they’ve got it all wrong. If the Sierra Club really wants Trump to can Pruitt the ad should’ve read: “Heckuva job, Scotty! You’re living higher on the hog than Trump. You’re accomplishing things he’d never dream of. You’re hands are so big you had to hire security guards to keep Playboy models from throwing themselves at you. Keep it up!”

+ Who has poisoned more people: Assad in 7 years or Scott Pruitt in one?

+ A Texas woman has a “missed miscarriage,” meaning her fetus’s heart had stopped beating and had been lifeless in her womb for at least two weeks. She schedules a procedure at Seton Hospital, a Catholic-run facility in Austin. Before the administrators will consent to perform the surgery, the woman must sign a ghoulish agreement forcing her to bury the fetal tissue.

+ Where do the GOP mega-donors send their mistresses for abortions? Whose last names are carved on the tiny tombstones?

+ ICE is locking up journalists for reporting on them…

+ The Cleveland Plain Dealer has endorsed Dennis Kucinich for Governor. It’s hard to overestimate the significance of this. The paper has smeared Dennis since he was “Boy Mayor” of Cleveland. My college room-mate was from Cleveland and he convinced me to go to Cleveland to campaign for Dennis during the recall (which he barely survived) and the primary for his reelection, where he was being challenged by two Democrats, and was defeated by the awful Voinovich. The Plain Dealer wanted Dennis’s head on a spike then. This is an amazing about-face and long overdue..

+ When the Obama administration covertly funded Cuban rappers to undermine the Castro regime:

If we bring back the Batistas
you could be a barista…

+ Have the Russians been watching and emulating “Homeland“?

+ The cult of Comey, aka the Comeyntern…

+ Repeat after me, Comeyntern, these words from the Master’s book: “People must fear having their name forever associated with a criminal act if we are to have a nation with the rule of law.” Feel the chill?

+ Comey says Trump told Comey that Putin told Trump that “Russia has some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.” Putin publicly made this assessment a few weeks earlier at a press conference. Will France file an infringement of trade complaint with the WTO?

+ All this hooker banter between Trump, Comey and Putin made me flashback to this story that I was told by a Colorado River guide who took Putin and his entourage down Cataract Canyon. As you may know, river guides are some of the toughest people around, yet this one was unnerved by the experience, still trembling telling the tale (Down the River With Vladimir Putin) years later…

+ As you may know, Kanye is writing a “philosophy book” and thanks to Twitter we live in a privileged moment when we can watch deep thinkers work out tricky logical and moral conundrums in real time. If only Twitter had been around to reveal how Kant developed his Categorical Imperative, it might have made more sense…

+ Remember when liberals used to ridicule Sarah Palin for having said she could see Russia from her house? Now these same liberals are seeing Russians IN their houses, under their beds, in their closets, infiltrating their online Resistance@ protests…

+ The United Kingdom will become the first nation to ban plastic straws. God forbid they ban cruise missiles as a first step to saving the planet…

+ One of the more amusing ironies of the Michael Cohen case, which involves Cohen’s role in arranging hush payments to two Playboy models and a porn star, is the fact that it’s being heard by federal judge Kimba Wood, who was Bill Clinton’s 2nd botched choice for attorney general, her nomination doomed by failing to make SS payments for her Nanny and Republican mock-shock at the fact that she’d spent five days training to become a …. Playboy bunny.

+ Americans, 90% of whom got screwed by the latest tax bill, now prefer the GOP on taxes over Democrats. What do you expect for a party which has abdicated even the pretense of class politics…

+ The Democrats’ advantage in the mid-term elections is rapidly dwindling. Just remember class, no election is ever too much of a sure thing for the Democrats not to blow…

+ A narrow majority of Americans now support a single-payer health care system. Unfortunately, a large majority of Democrats will do almost anything to kill it…

+ The latest Public Policy Polling national survey is out. Here’s a look at how the Democratic Party contenders would fare in a 2020 matchup with Trump:

Biden: 56-39 (+17)
Sanders: 55-39 (+16)
Warren: 51-40 (+11)
Booker: 49-39 (+10)
Harris: 43-49 (+4)
Gillibrand: 42-40 (+2)

+ Joe Biden says he will decide on whether or not he will run for president by the end of the year. It will take the next seven months to determine whether or not the White House can be retrofitted to function as an assisted-living facility.

+ I don’t know or much care if Trump paid Russian hookers to piss on Obama’s bed in Moscow. I do care that he’s about to piss oil all over the Arctic. If only the impending rape of ANWR got 100th the coverage of the alleged golden shower in Moscow.

+ Ryan Zinke, he’s not a geologist (despite a degree in geology from the University of Nike), but he plays one on TV (and in congressional hearings.)

+ Calling Zinke, who hasn’t encountered an oil reserve he didn’t want to drill, a geologist is like calling a grave-robber an archaeologist. He’s the opened the Bears Ears to both.

+ Back in 2013, you could hear Zinke pontificating on his radio show, hosted by the Military Appreciation Channel. Using the moniker “Commander Z,” Zinke talked “global cooling” climate change denialist Edward Berry, “investigated” the veracity of Obama’s birth certificate, and speculated as to whether Michele Obama had some connection to the Boston Marathon bombing. On the show, Zinke referred to himself as the the chairman of Special Operations for America, a rightwing political action committee. Zinke railed against federal and state laws that require coaling mining companies to reclaim old mines by restoring the site to its natural geography. “Montana’s one of the only states that demands the coal companies put [land] back the way it is, with all the imperfections,” he said. “If you have a rattlesnake den, they’re going to demand you replace the rattlesnake den.”

+ Global temperatures will breach the 2 degrees of warming threshold set by the Paris Accords sometime between 2010 and 2015 warns Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, a Professor of Engineering Emeritus at Cornell University. According to Ingraffea’s research the main culprit is methane leaking from shale fields and natural gas wells. Let’s face it, we’re fracked.

+ Infrastructure week seems to have bypassed Mississippi, where Governor Phil Bryant, a Republican, was forced to issue an emergency order closing 103 failing bridges across the state.

+ The GOP in Michigan may move to legalize recreational marijuana before the fall referendum because they fear the ballot measure may led to record turnout. Legalization as voter suppression!

+ Rep. John Carter, a Republican from Texas, enlightened his congressional colleagues at a hearing on human smuggling with this strange claim: “Believe me, a lot of the attractive children are not making it to the border.” The eugenics of immigration?

+ According to an absorbing profile of Tom (bad politics, great plays) Stoppard in the New Yorker, the playwright was apparently a very slow learner.  “Stoppard, who spoke only Czech until he was three…” Imagine not having mastered French and at English by that. When you think about it, it’s amazing the poor child amounted anything at all.

+ Perhaps it’s time to stop naming disorders after Nazi doctors like Hans Apsberger, who sent disabled children to their deaths….

+ White evangelical support for Trump has hit record highs. It makes sense. Trump is our King David. He has Bathshebas stashed in bungalows from West Hollywood to West Palm Beach and his Tweets read like the Psalms of Righteous Sinners…

+ Trump on Thursday: “Human trafficking is worse than it’s ever been in the history of the world.” Uh, don’t tell the Governor of Alabama, Ms. Ivey might consider that bold claim an affront to Southern heritage….

+ Rosalie Hooks, the director of the wonderful Watts Towers Art Center, has been suspended by the City of Los Angeles for allowing local artist Jacori Perry to begin painting a mural of LA-based jazz titan Charles Mingus on the walls of one of the center’s buildings. The city alleged that Perry didn’t have the proper permits for the painting. Of course, Simon Rodia, the man who built the Watts Towers over a period of 33 years, didn’t ask for any permits. Oh, yeah, the structure in question is called the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center building. No word yet on whether Perry will be “permitted” to finish his mural.

+ Serious question: Does the New York Times pay David Brooks to write columns like “A Renaissance on the Right” or does the multi-millionaire Brooks pay the New York Times to run them?

+ Nearly 1,500 sharks were spotted in a gathering off the Northeast coast this week. A casting call for the “Shark Week” episode in the forthcoming Stormy Daniels/Trump film?

+ A day and a night with Jimi Hendrix in DC….

I Died for Living

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Still recreating my vinyl collection. Here’s the latest acquisitions…

46. The Payback by James Brown

47. Talking Timbuktu by Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder

48. Let It Be by The Replacements

49. Speak No Evil by Wayne Shorter

50. Super Ape by Lee “Scratch” Perry and the Upsetters


Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

The Red Caddy: Into the Unknown With Edward Abbey by Charles Bowden

May Made Me: an Oral History of the 1968 Uprising in France by Mitchell Abidor

The New Urban Crisis: Gentrification, Housing Bubbles, Growing Inequality and What We Can Do About It by Richard Florida

How History Will Judge Us

Hunter S. Thompson: “We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world—a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us. . . . No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we’ll kill you.

“Well, shit on that dumbness. George W. Bush does not speak for me or my son or my mother or my friends or the people I respect in this world. We didn’t vote for these cheap, greedy little killers who speak for America today—and we will not vote for them again in 2002. Or 2004. Or ever.

“Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having all this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid little rich kids like George Bush? They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us—they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis. And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them.”

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3