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Reprinted from Consortium News
President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right).
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Media reports on Jon Meacham's biography of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President, have brought me a painful flashback to the deceptive, destructive -- yet at the same time highly instructive -- years 2002 and 2003, when his son George W. Bush, the 43rd President, attacked Iraq.
Reality should trump rhetoric regarding that godforsaken war -- in my view the most unprincipled and consequential foreign policy blunder in U.S. history. This may be reason enough to renew focus on those years because, for many Americans, those events remain cloaked in mystery and misunderstanding.
With his candor about his eldest son, the 91-year-old Bush patriarch also has sounded what may be the death knell for the moribund campaign of his younger son Jeb to be president #45. I do not suggest that #41 did that consciously. His unusually unguarded remarks, though, will lead voters to be chary of yet another Bush, if only on the "fool me once " fool me twice" aphorism that Jeb's big brother had trouble remembering.
Meacham's Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush will not be available to the hoi polloi until next week. Details already reported on the critical years of 2002 and 2003, however, permit -- I think, rather, dictate -- some preliminary analysis, before the Karl Roves of this world create still more "new history."
The clear and present danger of getting sucked into yet another quagmire or quicksand pool on false pretenses persists. Thus, it seems fitting and proper to review the lead-up to the unprovoked "shock and awe" on Iraq proudly launched in March 2003 by #43, egged on by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other white-collar thugs.
Despite the propaganda and more tangible signs of incipient war in Iraq, my former intelligence analyst colleagues and I -- with considerable professional experience watching other countries prepare for aggression against others -- were finding it difficult to believe that the United States of America would be doing precisely that.
Still harder was it to digest the notion that Washington would do so, absent credible evidence of any immediate threat and would "fix" intelligence to "justify" it. But that, sadly, is what happened. On March 19, 2003, U.S. "shock and awe" lit the sky over Baghdad.
A Dozen Years Later
That was more than 12 years ago. That not one of the white-collar crooks responsible for the war and ensuing chaos has been held accountable is an indelible blot not only on our country, but also on international law and custom. After all, the U.S./U.K. attack on Iraq fits snugly the definition given to a "war of aggression" as defined by the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal. Nuremberg labeled such a war "the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
And the evil continued to accumulate: torture, kidnapping, black prisons, extrajudicial killing, massive invasions of privacy, and even the annulment of such basic human rights as the great writ of habeas corpus that was wrested from England's King John 800 years ago. And, in the wake of this criminality, bedlam now reigns across large swaths of the Middle East driving millions of refugees into neighboring countries and Europe.
That the U.S. and U.K. leaders who launched the Iraq war have so far escaped apprehension and prosecution might be seen as a sad example of "victor's justice." But there are no victors, only victims. The reality that President George W. Bush and his co-conspirators remain unpunished makes a mockery of the commitment to the transcendent importance of evenhanded justice as expressed on Aug. 12, 1945, by Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. representative at Nuremberg:
"We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it."
Maybe it is partly because I know the elder Bush personally, but it does strike me that, since we are all human, some degree of empathy might be in order. I simply cannot imagine what it must be like to be a former President with a son, also a former President, undeniably responsible for such trespass on law -- for such widespread killing, injury and abject misery.
It is something of a stretch, but I have tried to put myself into the shoes of the elder Bush. In them I find myself insecure and struggling -- like Jacob -- before his dream about wrestling with God. The story in Genesis shows Jacob full of anxiety, despite God's promise that God would bless his dynasty. He cannot overcome his fear and is powerless to control his fate.
Jacob is aware that he is at a pivotal juncture but he is physically spent. Alone in the wilderness facing death, he collapses into a deep sleep, only to find himself wrestling all night with God. At daybreak he awakes with an injured hip; he is disabled but his life is spared. He had come to grips with God and, in the end, receives God's blessing of peace.