Adam Ash

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Monday, December 04, 2006

US Diary: one pundit asks if Bush is sane, and another proves he's only the fifth worst president

1. Is President Bush Sane? -- by Paul Craig Roberts

Tens of millions of Americans want President George W. Bush to be impeached for the lies and deceit he used to launch an illegal war and for violating his oath of office to uphold the US Constitution. Millions of other Americans want Bush turned over to the war crimes tribunal at the Hague. The true fate that awaits Bush is psychiatric incarceration.

The president of the United States is so deep into denial that he is no longer among the sane.

Delusion still rules Bush three weeks after the American people repudiated him and his catastrophic war in elections that delivered both House and Senate to the Democrats in the hope that control over Congress would give the opposition party the strength to oppose the mad occupant of the White House.

On November 28 Bush insisted that US troops would not be withdrawn from Iraq until he had completed his mission of building a stable Iraqi democracy capable of spreading democratic change in the Middle East.

Bush made this astonishing statement the day after NBC News, a major television network, declared Iraq to be in the midst of a civil war, a judgment with which former Secretary of State Colin Powell concurs.

The same day that Bush reaffirmed his commitment to building a stable Iraqi democracy, a secret US Marine Corps intelligence report was leaked. According to the Washington Post , the report concludes: "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point that US and Iraqi troops are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar province."

The Marine Corps intelligence report says that al-Qaeda is the "dominant organization of influence" in Anbar province, and is more important than local authorities, the Iraqi government and US troops "in its ability to control the day-to-day life of the average Sunni."

Bush’s astonishing determination to deny Iraq reality was made the same day that the US-installed Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and US puppet King Abdullah II of Jordan abruptly cancelled a meeting with Bush after Bush was already in route to Jordan on Air Force One. Bush could not meet with Maliki in Iraq, because violence in Baghdad is out of control. For security reasons, the US Secret Service would not allow President Bush to go to Iraq, where he is "building a stable democracy."

Bush made his astonishing statement in the face of news leaks of the Iraq Study Group’s call for a withdrawal of all US combat forces from Iraq. The Iraq Study Group is led by Bush family operative James A. Baker, a former White House chief of staff, former Secretary of the Treasury, and former Secretary of State. Baker was tasked by father Bush to save the son. Apparently, son Bush hasn’t enough sanity to allow himself to be saved.

Bush’s denial of Iraqi reality was made even as one of the most influential Iraqi Shi'ite leaders, Moqtada al-Sadr, is building an anti-US parliamentary alliance to demand the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

Maliki himself appears on the verge of desertion by his American sponsors. The White House has reportedly "lost confidence" in Maliki’s "ability to control violence." Fox "News" disinformation agency immediately began blaming Maliki for the defeat the US has suffered in Iraq. NY Governor Pataki told Fox "News" that "Maliki is not doing his job." Pataki claimed that US troops were doing "a great job."

A number of other politicians and talking heads joined in the scapegoating of Maliki. No one explained how Maliki can be expected to save Iraq when US troops cannot provide enough security for the Iraqi government to go outside the heavily fortified "green zone" that occupies a small area of Baghdad. If the US Marines cannot control Anbar province, what chance is there for Maliki? What can Maliki do if the security provided by US troops is so bad that the president of the US cannot even visit the country?

The only people in Iraq who are safe belong to al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgents or are Shi'ite militia leaders such as al-Sadr.

An American group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, has filed war crimes charges in Germany against former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. A number of former US attorneys believe President Bush and Vice President Cheney deserve the same.

Bush has destroyed the entire social, political, and economic fabric of Iraq. Saddam Hussein sat on the lid of Pandora’s Box of sectarian antagonisms, but Bush has opened the lid. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed as "collateral damage" in Bush’s war to bring "stable democracy" to Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqi children have been orphaned and maimed. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled their country. The Middle East is aflame with hatred of America, and the ground is shaking under the feet of American puppet governments in the Middle East. US casualties (killed and wounded) number 25,000.

And Bush has not had enough!

What better proof of Bush’s insanity could there be?

2. He's Only Fifth Worst -- by Michael Lind/Washington Post

It's unfair to claim that George W. Bush is the worst president of all time. He's merely the fifth worst. In the White House Hall of Shame, Bush comes behind four other Oval Officers whose policies were even more disastrous: James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and James Madison.

What makes a president horribly, immortally bad? Poor luck is not enough. Some of the greatest presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, have inherited crises and risen to the occasion. The damage must be largely self-inflicted. And there's another test: The damage to the nation must be substantial. Minor blunders and petty crimes do not land a president in the rogues' gallery.

Doing nothing can be even worse than doing something wrong. Take the worst president of all time, Buchanan. In office when Lincoln's election in 1860 triggered the secession of one Southern state after another, Buchanan sat by as the country crumbled. In his December 1860 message to Congress, three months before Lincoln was inaugurated, he declared that the states had no right to secede, but that the federal government had no right to stop them. By the time he left office, seven states had left the Union, and the Confederates had looted the arsenals in the South. If Buchanan had exercised his powers as commander in chief, the rebels might have been stopped at far less than the eventual cost of the Civil War -- more than half a million American dead and the ruin of the South for generations. (After he left the White House, Buchanan explained that he did not stop secession for fear that hostile blacks would overrun the North.)

The Civil War era also gave us the second-worst president: Johnson, Lincoln's vice president and successor, a Tennessean who vetoed civil rights acts and blocked the 14th Amendment because he didn't like blacks, of whom he declared, "It is vain to deny that they are an inferior race -- very far inferior to the European variety." Johnson's policies led to his impeachment and forced the Republicans in Congress to create a quasi-parliamentary system marginalizing the president. While Lincoln had his own racial prejudices, he was a model of enlightenment next to Johnson and Buchanan.

The third-worst president is Nixon, a criminal in the White House who is still the only commander in chief ever to resign. Many presidents have abused their power, and the "imperial presidency" existed long before Nixon. But he was the only president to run a criminal gang out of the Oval Office engaging in spying and burglary while he sought to corrupt the Justice Department, the FBI and the CIA. (By contrast, Bush's misguided authorization of torture, secret CIA prisons and illegal eavesdropping were at least directed at suspected terrorists, not at his personal and political opponents.)

The damage Nixon inflicted might have endured had he established the principle that the president is above the law. As he told David Frost in a famous 1977 television interview, "Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." Because of the exposure of Nixon's criminality during Watergate, we still live in a constitutional republic rather than a banana republic with an elective dictatorship.

Refusing to enforce the law while the country disintegrates, trying to re-enslave emancipated blacks, and doubling as chief magistrate and gangster -- what could rival these presidential misdeeds? Well, how about unnecessary and catastrophic wars?

To qualify a president for the Worst of All Time list, a war must be catastrophic as well as unnecessary. Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada, George H.W. Bush's invasion of Panama and Bill Clinton's invasion of Haiti don't cut it -- they were unnecessary, but minor. And presidents can be forgiven costly wars that were necessary or hard to avoid, such as Harry S. Truman's stalemated war in Korea and Lyndon B. Johnson's failed war in Vietnam, each of which was a Cold War battle more than a separate conflict. After 1950, U.S. strategy required Washington to go to war to prevent Soviet bloc proxies from taking over South Korea, Indochina and Taiwan -- the amazing thing is that the Cold War ended without a battle for Taiwan, too. Future historians are likely to be as kind to LBJ as they have been to Truman.

The two big, unjustified wars on my list are the War of 1812 and the current conflict in Iraq, and the first was far worse than the second. Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," was a great patriot, a brilliant intellectual -- and an absolutely abysmal president. In his defense, the world situation during the Napoleonic Wars was grim. The United States was a minor neutral nation that was frequently harassed by both of the warring empires, Britain and France. But cold geopolitics should have led Washington to prefer a British victory, which would have preserved a balance of power in Europe, to a French victory that would have left France an unchecked superpower. Instead, eager to conquer Spanish Florida and seize British Canada, Madison sided with the more dangerous power against the less dangerous. It is as though, after Pearl Harbor, FDR had joined the Axis and declared war on Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

It might have been worse. In 1812, Madison wrote Thomas Jefferson to ask what the former president thought of waging war simultaneously against Britain and France. Alarmed, Jefferson replied that this was "a solecism worthy of Don Quixote." Instead, the United States fought only the British, who torched Washington, D.C., while Madison and first lady Dolley fled to Virginia. Gen. Andrew Jackson's victory in the Battle of New Orleans (waged two weeks after the United States and Britain, unknown to Jackson, had signed a peace treaty) helped Americans pretend that the War of 1812 was something other than a total wipe-out.

By contrast, George W. Bush has inadvertently destroyed only Baghdad, not Washington, and the costs of the Iraq war in blood and treasure are far less than those of Korea and Vietnam. Yet he will be remembered for the Iraq conflict for generations, long after tax-cut-driven deficits, No Child Left Behind and comprehensive immigration reform are forgotten. The fact that Bush followed the invasion of Afghanistan, which had sheltered al-Qaeda, with the toppling of Saddam Hussein, will puzzle historians for centuries. It is as though, after Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, FDR had asked Congress to declare war on Argentina.

Why did Bush do it? Did he really believe that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Was it about oil? Israel? Revenge for Hussein's alleged attempt on Bush's father's life? The war will join the sinking of the USS Maine and the grassy knoll among the topics to exercise conspiracy theorists for generations, and the photos of torture at Abu Ghraib will join images of the napalmed Vietnamese girl and executed Filipino rebels in the gallery of U.S. atrocities.

Like all presidents, George W. Bush wants to be remembered. He will get his wish -- as the fifth-worst president in U.S. history.

( -- Michael Lind is the Whitehead senior fellow at the New America Foundation.)


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