Both Vice-President Cheney and his puppet, er, boss, have given media interviews over the last few weeks in which they have attempted (Cheney more blatantly, Bush more quixotically) to revise the record of their administration’s accomplishments.
Mr. Cheney defiantly, if somnolently, asserts the invasion of Iraq was fully justified; Mr. Bush continues to claim it was “necessary,” to the extent he understands that word. (He was initially miffed when asked whether the war was one of necessity or choice.)
Both men are, in part at least, trying to rewrite the history of their record.
I’d be inclined to let them get away with it but for the fact that they were (take your pick here) either war criminals, criminally negligent, incompetent, arrogant to a fault, disinterested in the extreme, or just lousy at their jobs. In fact, check all of the above.
And so, before they are allowed to ride off triumphantly (or even quietly) into the sunset of their poorly-earned retirement, let’s set the record straight on at least ten things Bush and Cheney did wrong.
1. They started a war that was neither necessary nor justified. The invasion of Iraq was not just a poorly conceived military incursion, as might have been the case with Clinton’s decision to keep “peace-keeping” troops in Somalia in 1993. It was an act in violation of international law that has cost the lives of over 4,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
2. They prosecuted that war as ineptly as any America has ever fought, starting with the lack of concern as Iraqis looted their museums and national palaces and continuing to an occupation that quickly made the “liberators” the enemy in the eyes of many of the “liberated.”
3. They ignored intelligence warnings in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks, thereby leaving the country completely unprepared for the terrorism of that day. Never mind whether the attacks could have been prevented. The lack of diligence, indeed the lack of interest, was epitomized by Condoleezza Rice when she described the President’s Daily Briefing that warned of imminent al Qaeda plans to attack the U.S. as only having “historical information.”
4. They failed to find bin Laden and emboldened al Qaeda. Whether bin Laden could have actually been “eliminated” might never be known, but Bush and Cheney clearly took their eye off of the ball when they reduced the military effort in Afghanistan in favor of Iraq. And, of course, by fomenting hostility to the U.S. in Iraq, they made al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts that much easier.
5. They discounted the value and importance of the federal government. This failing is partly due to their absurdly misguided dogma, which is that all government is bad and that the federal government is the worst of the bad. As a result, Bush put a crony in charge of FEMA and the country got the Katrina disaster. He put another crony in charge of the Justice Department, and the country got political tests for its prosecuting attorneys and torture for its detained “enemy combatants.”
6. They deregulated the financial markets and gave the major players in those markets the ability to swindle investors and, ultimately, bring the nation to the brink of economic collapse. Let’s remember here that Bernard Madoff is not a new phenomenon. He follows a long line of Bush/Cheney-approved swindlers like Kenneth Lay of Enron fame. This administration so loved the rich and super-rich and so believed in the wonders of wholly unregulated capitalism that it has just about killed the goose that lays the golden eggs.
7. They betrayed the rule of law. Bush set out to deny the balance of powers that makes the Constitution such a brilliant document when he introduced “signing statements” as a means of changing the legislative intent in the bills he signed into law. That approach easily led to redefinitions of executive power, including Cheney’s outrageous claim that his office was not bound by the constitutional definition of the executive branch because he is a “legislative” officer.
8. They ignored the Middle East for all but the last few months of their administration. The current flare up of hostilities in Gaza may well have been inevitable, as the history of that part of the world is replete with hatred, violence, terrorism and tragedies such as the world is now seeing again. But this administration made a point of disengaging from the peace process after Bill Clinton had all but sealed a lasting deal between the Palestinians and Israel in the last months of his tenure. Instead of picking up the ball from that five-yard line, Bush directed his State Department to punt it the other way. The results of that decision are now all too evident.
9. They diminished the image of the country in the eyes of the rest of the world. By essentially telling the United Nations to “go f—k” itself, as Cheney so nonchalantly instructed Senator Patrick Leahy in the Senate cloakroom one day, the administration turned itself from the world’s champion to the world’s pariah. World leaders can barely contain their lack of respect for Bush, and the shoe throwing incident last month in Baghdad will long be remembered, fairly or not, as the event that best expressed the view of much of the world towards the president and his administration.
10. They increased the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Under these men, America has become a nation of extreme wealth of the few and struggling-to-get-by of the many. As that latter group grows in size, and as the future seems ever bleaker, crime, divorces, and suicides increase and, ultimately, depression looms. Without a prosperous middle class, America is just another industrialized nation, one that is probably in decline.
In sum, this administration, led by these two men, will be remembered as the worst of the post World War II era, and when you are comparing Johnson’s Viet Nam disaster, the Nixon Watergate years, the Reagan Iran-Contra subterfuge and the Clinton sex scandals to name just a few, that’s saying a lot.