THE ROVING EYE Fade out on George W Bush
By Pepe Escobar
WASHINGTON - And now, the end is near; the final curtain drops in a cold,
paranoid Fortress DC under maximum red alert. In a contrived Oscar night-style
mood, with thanks aplenty, George W Bush delivered his farewell address from
the East Room of the White House on January 15.
Bottom lines: he turned Afghanistan into "a young democracy fighting terror";
he turned Iraq into "a young democracy in the heart of the Middle East"; he
brags "America is promoting human rights"; and more than anything, America
under his watch got seven years without another 9/11. But "the terrorists" will
There may have been things he would have done differently - no
specifics given. But certainly there's no Nietzschean "Beyond Good and Evil"
for him; this is a world where "oppressive ideologies" in the Muslim world
"condemn women to subservience" compared to those who seek "liberty and justice
as a path to peace" (America and her allies, of course). And "they" hate us
because they hate us: "America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict".
A few days earlier, holding hands with his wife Laura on Larry King Live,
he looked like a discombobulated wax doll. And then there was the final presser
at the White House - including the drab anticlimax of an abrupt thanks to the
few assembled hacks and a hasty exit to the tune of general perplexity.
The performance also boasted White House interns who had to be conscripted to
fill the empty seats. Regrets? He had a few (Katrina, the Mission Accomplished
banner), but then again, too few to mention. He was all wired up defending his
"good, strong record" - a man incapable of introspection or even a hint of
self-doubt. Once again he would never acknowledge mistakes: everything from Abu
Ghraib to not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they were just
The Lone Ranger
It's been a long and winding road since that "I think the United States must be
humble" he uttered in a 2000 debate with Al Gore, since the "compassionate
conservative" rhetoric, and since the "uniter, not a divider" motto. So let's
go through some of this "good, strong record".
When Bush came into office the US had a US$237 billion surplus. Three days
after 9/11, on September 14, 2001, his approval rate was 86%. By mid-2004, the
budget deficit was in excess of $400 billion - and growing. (Thanks in large
part to a big bipartisan majority in Congress having happily passed his $1.35
trillion package of tax cuts to the rich in May 2001.)
By mid-December 2008, his popularity ratings had plunged to 23% - only one
point from an all-time low in every poll taken since 1938. Still, at 30% this
month, this means that almost one in three Americans still approve of his job.
H L Mencken must be wallowing in horror in his grave.
Coming close to destroying a superpower and the global economy virtually
single-handedly is not bad for someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth
who never held a steady job until the age of 45 - until "turd blossom" Karl
Rove, the little, fat, bald Machiavelli, engineered him as the ultimate,
corporate-pleasing, Southern Strategy lethal weapon, and Bush family
consigliere James Baker turned a massive electoral fraud, mostly in Florida and
Ohio, into a hijacked mandate via the Supreme Court. (American corporate media,
by the way, loved it.)
As for the 2004 re-election - when his approval rate was at most 40% - it was a
mix of low-tech - absentee ballots that were never mailed, rejected
"provisional ballots", "spoiled ballots" - and high-tech - via scores of dodgy
Diebold machines - corruption.
Bush was the dream Project for a New American Century (PNAC) president. The
PNAC's bible was the 2000-penned "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies,
Forces and Resources for a New Century", which unabashedly advocated "American
hegemony" and "full-spectrum dominance", and which was itself based on the
1991-penned "Defense Planning Guidance", also known as the Wolfowitz doctrine.
The PNAC - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz - migrated in full force to the Bush
administration and could not have been readier after 9/11 to engage in the
nonsensical, global "war on terror". An endeavor those wily Brits, via Foreign
Secretary David Milliband, took the opportunity to formally bury in style a few
hours before Bush's farewell.
The "war on terror" catalogue included launching pre-emptive wars disguised as
wars of liberation; torture as official US state policy; and a war against
Islam, "suspicious" Muslims in particular and Latino immigrants in the
homeland. The "war on terror" framework facilitated something that was already
planned and had been discussed at the G-8 meeting in Genoa in July 2001.
Namely, an October 2001 attack on Afghanistan to get rid of those pesky,
turbaned former darlings of Unocal, the Taliban. Washington wanted its pipeline
from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, and was determined to get it.
Dates with destiny
The "good, strong record" is peppered with unforgettable dates.
Take August 6, 2001, when Bush royally ignored the now legendary memo warning
that Osama bin Laden was "determined to strike in the US". After a Central
Intelligence Agency analyst briefed him he came up with "All right, you've
covered your ass now."
Take fateful September 11, 2001, when he declared the global "war on terror".
And global it certainly was, all across the Pentagon-coined "arc of
instability" - from the Andes in Colombia to the Horn of Africa and then
through the Middle East to South, Southeast and Central Asia.
Take January 29, 2002, his first State of the Union address, when he in fact
declared war on "at least a dozen countries ..." and qualified North Korea,
Iran and Iraq as the "axis of evil”.
Take February 7, 2002, when he issued an executive order declaring the Geneva
Conventions off-limits to suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. The memo,
as Colin Powell's former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson told Vanity Fair,
was written by Cheney's counsel David Addington, "blessed by one or two people
at the Office of Legal Counsel", passed to Cheney, passed to Bush and signed by
Bush. Wilkerson gleefully compared Addington's role with Cheney to Ayman
al-Zawahiri's role with Bin Laden.
Take September 20, 2002, when he launched the Bush doctrine (yes, that thing
that totally baffled Sarah "Barracuda" Palin), which breaks down to the
Empire's divine, unilateral right to launch a war against any "terrorist"
state. The doctrine - a barely disguised ploy to assure control of global
sources of energy - was enshrined as official policy in the 2002 National
Security Strategy. It implies a US Empire of Bases - reaching 900 soon - in
dozens of countries; a bloated Pentagon budget, plus hidden "extras" beyond $1
trillion a year; and of course a non-stop war mentality, with ramifications
that lead to the weaponization of outer space.
The Bush years were a nightmarish maze of violations of the rule of law and the
smashing of constitutional liberties - from the 300-page-long USA Patriot Act
to the Homeland Security Act and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency
that now terrorizes not only illegal but also legal Muslim and Latino
And then there is masterpiece - the Iraq War.
How not to remember July 23, 2002 - the day of the now famous Downing Street
memo, revealed only years later, when Sir Richard Dearlove, head of British
intelligence, coined the indelible phrase "the intelligence and facts were
being fixed around the policy".
How not to remember September 15, 2002 - when the assistant to the president
for economic policy, Lawrence Lindsey, estimated the cost of a war in Iraq
between $100 billion and $200 billion. A furious Donald Rumsfeld - always in
love with the Khmer Rouge school of management - called it "baloney". Lindsey
is fired in December. Years later, in 2008, Nobel winner Joseph Stiglitz and
Harvard professor Linda Bilmes estimate the real cost of the war may be as much
as $3 trillion.
How not to remember January 21, 2003 - when according to Sir David Manning,
Tony Blair's chief foreign policy adviser, Bush and Blair settled on an actual
date for the start of the war - no matter what resulted from the Hans
Blix-conducted UN inspections.
Baghdadis today compare Bush's oeuvre in honor of democracy and the free market
in Iraq to Genghis Khan's in the 14th century. Khan's pyramid of skulls left by
the Tigris find echo in Bush's benchmarks: at least 1 million deaths caused
directly or indirectly by the war and occupation, more than 4 million
internally and externally displaced, mass poverty, 70% unemployment, and the
virtual nonexistence of fresh drinking water, sanitation, electricity, medical
care, education, and security.
The waste land Bush was the champion of corporation, speculation, wild
privatization and the end of public education. Bush's systematic war on the
American middle and working classes - his "ownership society" - signified
non-stop wealth redistribution towards the top. Ninety-percent of American
families are now reduced to little or no net worth, they've been plunged into
Bush was not only the scourge of a dying middle class; he was the champion of
the underclass - at least in terms of assuring its overwhelming expansion. The
Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) has assessed that one in three jobs
in the US - concerning at least 47 million people - pays ridiculously low wages
with few or no benefits. According to the CEPR, one in every four US workers -
about 35 million people - earn poverty level wages.
Under his watch, a mega-bubble economy based on speculative greed and massive
fraud went bonkers - disaster capitalism at home. At his final presser Bush had
the gall - of course not contested - to say it was not his fault the financial
crisis happened during his tenure. Of course, he forgot to say this was a
crisis by design - guaranteeing an even greater concentration of financial and
economic power, in global terms, for a minimum elite comprising Masters of the
Universe JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citigroup.
It's a "good, strong record" pile up; from the neglect of poor blacks in
post-Katrina New Orleans to rejecting the Kyoto Protocol; from hiring hacks to
spill White House propaganda to vetoing stem cell research legislation twice;
from building a multi-billion dollar wall across the Mexico border to stop
Latino immigration to exempting Big Chemical from monitoring lead emissions.
The Center for Public Integrity's "Broken Government By the Numbers" report
adds an extra X-ray of the Bush wasteland. From 935 "demonstrably false
statements" in the run-up to the Iraq war to 45 million people with no health
care (and tens of millions in some very precarious scheme); from 60% of
Environmental Protection Agency scientists reporting political interference in
their work to 760,800 disability claims awaiting hearings by the Social
Security Administration as of October 2008; from 190,000 missing weapons in
Iraq to $212.3 million in Halliburton "extras" for construction work in Iraq;
from less than 3% of US electricity needs provided by alternative energy to $60
billion in annual Medicare fraud.
Some people actually loved his methods. Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore's former
ambassador to the US, told Vanity Fair that "the Chinese have been brilliant in
playing the Bush years. Asia is one part of the world where many will see
George Bush in a positive light, although not necessarily for the reason he may
Another character who has been brilliant in playing the Bush game has been no
other than Osama "dead or alive" bin Laden, who, dead or alive, could not miss
the opportunity to salute Bush via an audiotape released this week. Bin Laden
said, "The question is, can America continue the war against us for several
more decades? The reports and signs show us otherwise." Osama seemed to be
quite amused by the "inheritance" Bush left to Obama: "If he withdraws from the
war, it is a military defeat. If he continues, he drowns in economic crisis."
And this when the war in Iraq - as Paul Krugman has noted - is costing about as
much each year as the insurance subsidies Obama would need to implement
universal health care in the US.
Anyway, none of this is his business anymore. Bush will fade into retirement in
a commute between a sleepy Dallas suburb and the Crawford ranch where he spent
more than 450 days of the presidency. Whatever he does, he won't be
disappointed with history’s judgment.
What a record: stolen elections, corporate greed, fraud and corruption,
unlimited spending, wealth redistribution (to the top), no checks and balances,
rampant militarization, the destruction of Iraq, permanent war, and
unquantifiable, unrepayable national debt. Not many world emperors are able to
create a vast wasteland, call it a government, and then retire.