How Bad Has Bush Been? How Deep is the Ocean? How High is the Sky?

By Dennis Loo

We are finally coming to the end of the long international nightmare of George W (Whatever I Can Get Away With) Bush and Dick (I’ll Shoot You in the Face, Even If You’re My Friend) Cheney.
That’s what most of America, at least, and the world hope to be the case.
It’s on that note of hope that Keith Olbermann ends his “eight years in eight minutes” assessment of the Bush White House’s years:
“making us act out of fear rather than fortitude
“leaving us with precious little to cling to tonight
“save the one thing that might yet suffice:
Hope is what Obama’s presidential bid was based on and what his presidency will be premised upon. Hope (and revulsion for the Bush Regime) is what moved millions to vote for Obama. This system had to reach further than it’s ever reached to “keep hope alive,” as Jesse Jackson used to say. The system went to a first term black Senator with a middle name of Hussein to keep that hope alive. This system even offered us a GOP ticket that claimed that it also represented “reform,” because the Bush/Cheney White House has been so despised and so manifestly disastrous.


* * *
Hope and change.
It would take eight weeks, not eight minutes, to recount all of the Bush Regime’s transgressions in full (for they have had eight years to do their carnage in and have not wasted any time, even now, when pardons and other further transgressions are still possible). We wrote a book about this (Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney) as did several other authors. Those books are indispensable reading for those who want to understand the sheer magnitude of Bush and Cheney’s crimes and the origins and agenda of their movement.
I’m not going to try to recount all of their crimes here. I’m going to cut to the chase and focus on the most important element of all: the fact that the Bush Regime represents the culmination (to this point), and logical outcome, of the trajectory that began in earnest under Ronald Reagan: Free market and Christian fundamentalists in charge; “faith-based community” dictating over the “reality-based community;” political power untethered from – and openly defiant and contemptuous of - the law.
The rule of law and of reason was replaced under Bush and Cheney by the rule of men.
This is much more dangerous than any of the specific, infamous, and egregious sins of commission and omission by the Bush Regime. For if their transgressions are allowed to pass unprosecuted and unsanctioned, then the precedent stands and has been established. It doesn’t matter if this new administration refuses to do what Bush and Cheney and the US government as a whole have done for the last eight years. It doesn’t matter if Obama ends torture, closes GITMO, ceases rendition, restores habeas corpus, declines to use signing statements and stops the ubiquitous government spying. It doesn’t matter how high toned his rhetoric and how different his administration’s actions and policies. It doesn’t matter if Obama turns out to walk on water. If Obama does not prosecute the Bush Regime’s crimes, if he declines to “look backward” and insists on only “looking forward,” then his presidency is a failure: not only do infamous atrocities go unpunished and the victims of those atrocities go unrecognized, but any future president can do what Bush and Cheney have done and more. The game is over. Checkmate. The wrong side wins.
The explicit declaration that the law is whatever the president says it is, and that the President is above any and all laws, represents a return to Emperors and Kings, to pre-Magna Carta, to feudal conceptions of the nature of political rule where the law was whatever the king or queen said it was.
The Bush Regime is living proof that a presidency that invokes “national security” and “terror” can do any and all things that it wants under the rubric of “protecting the nation,” and Congress and the mass media (even if some of them grumble a little) will co-operate like nervous Nellies and declare: “Here, Mr. (or Ms.) President, have some more.”
Bush and Cheney used 9/11 and the “war on terror” to claim the right under the Bush Doctrine (Sarah Palin, pay attention) to launch wars on countries that have not attacked us first (the highest war crime of all, according to the UN Charter), to use torture and carry out indefinite detentions, to shred civil liberties (your right not to be spied upon by your government and to confront your accusers in a court of law, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, to free speech and assembly), to defy Congressional law and intent, and to say “go fuck yourself” to anyone who doesn’t toe their line (as Cheney said in the Senate and as the White House said to New Orleans, to the world, and to Joseph Wilson et al).
As bad as the economic crisis is, and as bad as it’s going to get over the next few years, their economic policies are just the tip of the iceberg of what they have done.
What they have done and gotten away with is vertigo inducing. Surely, this man whose inauguration on Tuesday represents a watershed event and whose campaign has promised change so incessantly, he will make right what has been so monstrously and blatantly wrong.
"We have not made final decisions, but my instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure we're moving forward, we are doing the right thing. That doesn't mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law that they are above the law, but my orientation is going to be moving forward," Obama on ABC 1/11/09 Raw Story
I don’t like the way that sounds, do you?
It sounds like what Clinton said when he declined to investigate the crimes committed by George H.W. Bush, what George H.W. Bush did when he pardoned Reagan for Iran-Contra, and what Ford asserted when he pardoned Nixon.
These past presidents all declared that the national “healing” should begin, that “partisanship” and “division” were to be avoided at all costs, and that we needed as a nation to “look forward.”
As Robert Parry writes:
“Clinton wrote in his 2004 memoir, My Life:
“’I wanted the country to be more united, not more divided, even if that split would be to my political advantage,’ Clinton wrote. ‘Finally, President Bush had given decades of service to our country, and I thought we should allow him to retire in peace, leaving the matter between him and his conscience.’” [See Bill Clinton, My Life, p. 457]
Apparently, it’s okay to claim that one party is better than the other party, and we’re permitted and encouraged as citizens to choose one party or the other in electoral contests, but going after criminal wrongdoing is not okay. Voting in another administration is okay. Prosecuting criminals is not. It doesn’t matter how egregious and how consequential or how barbaric or how fundamental to the law and principles the crimes committed by public officials. They are not to be punished for that kind of thing, because, well, only uncivilized nations do that! Civilized nations let old presidents and their gang of thieves and murderers retire in fine fashion to travel the world giving speeches for five or six figures and up. Civilized nations don’t put their past or present presidents before the International Court for crimes against humanity. Civilized nations let torture be done and pat the torturers on the backs and say: What a fine fellow you are!
As Charles Krauthammer, Obama’s recent dinner partner, notes with pleasure in a January 16, 2009 Washington Post Op-Ed:
“Obama is consciously creating a gulf between what he now dismissively calls ‘campaign rhetoric’ and the policy choices he must make as president…Vindication is being expressed not in words but in deeds – the tacit endorsement conveyed by the Obama continuity-we-can-believe-in transition. It's not just the retention of such key figures as Defense Secretary Bob Gates or Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, who, as president of the New York Fed, has been instrumental in guiding the Bush financial rescue over the past year. It's the continuity of policy.”
Krauthammer goes on to approvingly cite Newsweek’s inauguration eve’s cover headline: "Why Obama May Soon Find Virtue in Cheney's Vision of Power."
This is change? The new president adopting the old Vice’s vices?
If you fail to right wrongdoing and you fail to air lawbreaking and sins of an administration, you are allowing and guaranteeing that the festering corpse of those crimes will infect and rise again, like the Undead, to consume the living of today and tomorrow.
Robert Parry again, on January 17, 2009:
“Obama appears poised to make many of the same mistakes that marked the start of the Clinton presidency 16 years ago, when another Bush was leaving office in the midst of an economic recession and the Establishment (led by its chief mouthpiece, the Washington Post) was nearly unanimous on the need to look forward, not backward.
“Then, there was widespread (and bipartisan) agreement with President George H.W. Bush’s pardons of six Iran-Contra defendants, short-circuiting a trial of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger that was set to begin in early 1993. That trial would have altered the historical understanding of the scandal by revealing the high-level approval of crimes by President Reagan and Vice President Bush.
“The Weinberger trial also would have put front and center the concept of an all-powerful President. In effect, the Iran-Contra Affair was a way station in the restoration of the imperial presidency, from its collapse in Watergate to its post-9/11 resurrection under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.”
For eight years now weapons of mass distraction have been rolled out like tanks in an attempt to derail and redirect the people’s righteous anger at the Bush Program. Protecting the putatively sacrosanct principles of the rule of law and reason has been deemed only worth upholding in words, while the rule of law and science have been slaughtered at the alter of imperial(ist) interests.
Obama’s campaign in particular, and the 2007/2008 presidential campaign in general, the longest and most expensive race in history, were premised on an effort to distract the nation from and block from happening what absolutely had to be done and what a majority of the people has for so long and still today demands: impeachment and prosecution of the Bush Regime as war criminals, miscreants, corrupt to the marrow scoundrels, world class liars, and tyrants.
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The Janus Face of the System
Janus in Roman mythology was the god of beginnings and endings, the guardian of the gate who could see backwards and forwards.
Janus-faced also has another, more sinister meaning: being two-faced, that is, hypocritical. Which one of the Januses is more apropos here?
Obama has made his career on his adroit and carefully crafted phrases and skillful presentation of self. He could not have become the chosen one for powerful interests without being a safe bet for their interests. He would not have been featured as a viable candidate by mainstream media and backed by Democratic Party leaders if he were not solidly within the acceptable parameters as A Defender of the Empire. By saying that his orientation is “moving forward,” he is operating in the same tradition of Bill Clinton, Bush Sr., and Ford: pardon the perpetrators of grand crimes, or at least, don’t investigate them and certainly don’t prosecute them. This tradition of covering up massive crimes goes back to even the highly regarded FDR. During his presidency a fascist coup was planned by major industrialists, including Prescott Bush, George W. Bush’s grandfather.
As Professor Alan Nasser points out in “The Threat of US Fascism: An Historical Precedent:”
“The [1934] Congressional committee had discovered that some of the foremost members of the economic elite, many of them household names at the time, had indeed hatched a meticulously detailed and massively funded plot to effect a fascist coup in America. The owners of Bird’s Eye, Maxwell House and Heinz, among others, totaling about twenty four major businessmen and Wall Street financiers, planned to assemble a private army of half a million men, composed largely of unemployed veterans. These troops would both constitute the armed force behind the coup and defeat any resistance this in-house revolution might generate. The economic elite would provide the material resources required to sustain the new government.
“The plotters … were appalled at Roosevelt’s willingness after 1933 to initiate economic policies that economists and businessmen considered dangerously Leftist departures from economic orthodoxy. Only a fascist-style government, they thought, could enforce the kind of economic ‘discipline’ that would reverse the Great Depression and restore profits.
“Interestingly, it was a military man, a prominent retired general assigned the task of raising the 500,000-man army, who blew the whistle after pondering the grotesque implications of the undemocratic installation of a fascist dictatorship in Washington. FDR was thus able to nip the plot in the bud.
“The president might have used the occasion to alert the public to the anti-democratic impulses of a major segment of the capitalist class. But this of course would only have bolstered the fortunes of Communist, Socialist and other anti-capitalist political tendencies here, which were already gaining some ground among artists, intellectuals and a surprising number of working people. It is well known that Hollywood screenwriting in the 1930s was replete with Communist-inspired sentiment.
“And of course we must not forget that FDR was himself a (somewhat renegade) member of the very class that would have toppled him. While FDR was open to watered-down Keynesian policies in a way that very few of his class comrades were, his commitment (like Keynes’s) to the ‘free enterprise’ system was unconditional. He had no interest in publicizing a plot that might constitute a public-relations victory for anti-capitalist politics. He therefore refused to out the plotters, and sought no punitive measures against them. In the end, class solidarity carried the day for Roosevelt. …
“Thus, fascist tendencies gestating deep within the culture of the U.S. ruling class were effectively left to develop unhindered by mass political mobilization.
“Might this grisly episode have important implications for our understanding of the current political moment? One may be inclined to think so on the basis of the fact that one of the architects of the plot was one Prescott Bush, grandfather of George W. Bush. Bush, along with many other big businessmen, had maintained friendly relations in 1933 and 1934 with the new German government of Chancellor Adolph Hitler, and was designated to form for his class conspirators a working relationship with that government.”
FDR knew that had the American people found out about this plot, that the repercussions for the capitalist class being seen as patriots only when the posture suits them and as died-in-the-wool cheerleaders for Capital Now, Then, and Forever, screw the people and screw democracy and liberty, might be devastating, especially in a time when capitalism was being revealed in all its naked glory as indifferent to the needs of the many. A time a little bit like now.
Like FDR, who Obama has been not infrequently compared to, Obama takes office in a time of extraordinary danger for the US financial system. Unlike FDR, Obama’s already got two wars going on. While FDR did not campaign on a platform of change, he didn’t have to, Obama had to adopt that posture to win.
Unlike FDR, Clinton, Bush Sr., and Ford, the transgressions of the previous administration are not violations of certain laws and abuse of public trust. The Bush Regime’s transgressions are in whole and in every single part consciously and consistently aimed at the very idea of the law itself.
While Nixon protested that “It’s not against the law if the President does it,” he was forced to resign or face certain impeachment because of his violating the law and breaking the rules against spying on the other party.
Bush and Cheney have not only been caught red-handed breaking the law and lying about it, they have not only been caught spying on the Democratic Party, they have been caught spying on everyone, caught torturing people and caught red-handed lying about the reasons for their war on Iraq and virtually everything else that they have done. They have admitted doing these illegal things as well, although Bush continues to claim a meaningless distinction between torture and “alternative interrogation techniques.”
What Obama does in his first 100 days, in other words, will prove momentous not because he is the first African-American US president, but because if he fails to prosecute these world class criminals, then he dooms the country to continue along the path that began with Reagan: no measure no matter how barbaric or illegal will be banned from being carried out in the interests of the Janus-faced Empire with its Republican Head and its Democratic Head. At best, Obama’s term(s) will be an interregnum, a pause and readjustment. Palin and others like her – Christian Fascists who have no truck with niceties like the law and civil liberties - wait in the wings for their chance in the White House. Reverend Rick Warren, who likens gays to pedophiles and those who have sex with animals, will stand a few feet from our new president on Tuesday, delivering the invocation for this new administration.
As the World Can’t Wait’s 2005 Call put it, addressing the American people:
“That which you do not resist and mobilize to stop you will learn — or be forced — to accept.”
The stakes here cannot be overstated. Obama must not be allowed to sweep these terrible crimes and monstrous precedents under the rug. The Bush Regime must be prosecuted for their crimes. If Obama continues to try to finesse this responsibility, then his legacy will be even worse than that of Bush and Cheney because he was the one who had the task of holding tyranny to account and he refused to do it.

If the American people don’t stand up and demand that Obama do what must be done, then we will have failed and history will judge us exceedingly harshly – as well it should.

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.