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Reviewing "Decision Points" - G.W. Bush's memoir

By       Message Richmond Gardner     Permalink
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Dan Froomkin, one of the better critics of G.W. Bush during those dark years when he was in office, focuses on two particular items that Bush addresses in his memoir: The "decision" to go to war against Iraq and the decision to torture detainees. I was especially amused by one part of the decision on torture from another Froomkin piece on June 2009:

Comey describes how he and some of his colleagues had "grave reservations" about the legal analyses being concocted for Cheney. And he accurately predicts that Cheney and other White House officials would later point the finger at the Justice Department during the investigations that would inevitably ensue once the administration's actions were made public.

Indeed, in one e-mail, Comey describes an exchange with Ted Ullyot, then Gonzales's chief of staff: "I told him that the people who were applying pressure now would not be there when the s--- hit the fan. Rather, they would simply say they had only asked for an opinion."

And in Bush's justification for ordering torture:

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"Because the lawyer said it was legal," Bush replied. "He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I'm not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do."

Following illegal orders is not just a bad thing in itself, there's a high probability that you'll get tossed to the sharks or thrown under the bus if the people you're carrying out illegal acts for find that they're feeling the heat for the acts that you performed for them. Froomkin goes over the many Bush and Cheney assertions that torture "worked" (That is, that acts of torture resulted in the obtaining of useful information) and finds each and every time that, well, they're simply assertions that after all this time, remain completely unsubstantiated.

The only clear benefit that Froomkin can find for torture under Bush is that it provided clear (even if obviously coerced) "confessions" that helped to make the case for launching the Iraq War. As he points out, both Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell used the "confession" coerced out of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi by Egyptian authorities to make speeches in which they declared that they had "proof" of the danger that Iraq posed. Of course, neither man saw fit to inform the public as to where exactly this information came from and, as a consequence, how reliable this "confession" truly was.

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Did Bush make a "decision" to go to war against Iraq? Froomkin points out that in order for there to have been a real decision, there needed to be an alternative course of action that might have been chosen in preference to what actually happened.

Prados wrote that the cumulative record clearly "demonstrates that the Bush administration swiftly abandoned plans for diplomacy to curb fancied Iraqi adventurism by means of sanctions, never had a plan subsequent to that except for a military solution, and enmeshed British allies in a manipulation of public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic designed to generate support for a war."

That's right: There never was another plan. And therefore -- ironically enough, considering the title of Bush's book -- there never was an actual "decision point" either. There were some debates about how to invade Iraq, and when, but not if.

I took part in what I believe was the first anti-Iraq War demonstration. It was in September 2002, in the same month when Bush made his "We gotta git Saddam afore he gits us" speech at the UN. I very clearly remember that none of the speakers at the march nor any of the people carrying signs made or even suggested anybody else make, any attempt to communicate with the President and to try and convince him to change his mind. I believe we all reached the same conclusion, that Bush had absolutely and unequivocally made up his mind and that he was going to invade Iraq, period.

As another reviewer points out:

The structure of "Decision Points," with each chapter centered on a key issue--stem-cell research, interrogation and wiretapping, the invasion of Iraq, the fight against AIDS in Africa, the surge, the "freedom agenda," the financial crisis--reveals the essential qualities of the Decider. There are hardly any decision points at all. The path to each decision is so short and irresistible, more like an electric pulse than like a weighing of options, that the reader is hard-pressed to explain what happened. Suddenly, it's over, and there's no looking back.

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Also, I found this description to be all-too-accurate:

Here is another feature of the non-decision: once his own belief became known to him, Bush immediately caricatured opposing views and impugned the motives of those who held them. If there was an honest and legitimate argument on the other side, then the President would have to defend his non-decision, taking it out of the redoubt of personal belief and into the messy empirical realm of contingency and uncertainty.


Yep, I remember the pieces about "Some say...", the phrase that signaled to readers and listeners that Bush was about to drag out the rhetorical device of a straw man to make his argument of the moment.

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PN3(Ret), USN, 1991-2001. Done a number of clerical-type jobs. Computer "power user," my desktop is a Windows machine, but my laptop is an Ubuntu Linux. Articles usually cross-posted at http://www.prawnblog.blogspot.com Personal details at (more...)
 

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