The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 6: MILITARY)

The essay which follows was written in March, 2005, and remains, (admittedly) at best, a superficial overview: a (potentially futile) attempt to at least suggest that the aggressive militarism of the United States which bubbled to the surface quite rapidly in G.W. Bush’s first term was not only bad, but dangerous as well.  Sadly, to this day the war horror of that period continues with the USA still involved in what has now become the longest war in America’s insanely war-stained history: the war in Afghanistan.

Military. War. During my lifetime, the ‘known’ wars and (aggressive) “skirmishes” with American participation include (but are in no way presumed, herein, to be limited to): the Second World War; Korea; Cuba; Vietnam; Chile; Grenada; El Salvador; Panama; Bosnia/Herzegovina; the Persian Gulf; Afghanistan; Iraq; and now (potentially) Libya, Syria, Iran . . . et al., et al.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

War.

The Incessant Voice of War:

One wearies of incessant Voice of War.
Across full breadth of time each nom de guerre
Inflicts upon the Human soul a scar
Which screams in mockery of hallowed prayer.
How many millions must we finally kill
Before is learned this simple quirk of fate:
That murdered dead, in valley or on hill,
Do NOT portend a Greatness in The State?
Upon this Earth of monuments and tombs
Which weep for fallen souls, it’s fair to shout
NO MORE! to darkness that forever looms
In constant threat. And let there be no doubt
Of this–War’s victims hang upon the Cross
Of senseless death . . . in silent, wretched, loss.

So, whereto from here? More of the same? Are ‘we’ inextricably embedded in the muck and mire of incessant war? A look back at the policies and products of the George W. Bush presidencies is not, necessarily, encouraging. Nor is the prospect of yet another right wing Republican presence in either the Congress or, most emphatically, in the White House; e.g. Romney-Ryan. Time will tell . . . apparently. In its invariably nerve-wracking fashion.

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Military:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

I include that quote not because Eisenhower was the Five-Star General who commanded the allied forces to victory in Europe during the Second World War; not because he, as President (note the use of upper case) made good on his pledge to go to Korea following his election in 1952 to find a way to stop hostilities there, and that on July 27, 1953 an armistice was signed; not because President Eisenhower, once he’d had enough of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his bogus ‘hearings’ in search of Communists behind every tree, found a way to put a stop to the nonsense and send McCarthy back into his hole; and not because Eisenhower was a Republican who won two elections with landslide margins.  No, I include that quote in order to point to the contrasts between then and today, only fifty years apart.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a West Pointer, a bold yet measured military man who commanded the allied forces that smashed the Nazi war machine.  He was also a firm negotiator who understood and realized the stupidity that drives men constantly to war; he was, too, a Republican.

George W. Bush, on the other hand, used his daddy’s influence to keep him out of the war in Vietnam via an Air National Guard commission which allowed him to stay, instead, in Texas where, during the span of his “service” he became (according to public record and private testimonies) an alcoholic womanizing druggie.  Thirty or so years later, the same George W. Bush, now president (note the lower case) of the United States , started his own war when he ordered US forces (including the very same National Guard which had kept him immune from service in Vietnam) to attack Iraq.  Today, he oversees a bloated government which is floating on a sea of red ink, one which is still engaged, two years later, in his war in Iraq with no signs of victory, or stalemate, or pullout of forces.  And as he pretends reality to be non-existent, he threatens Iraq’s neighbors Syria and Iran, and may in fact have a plan ready, waiting and set for an eventual assault on Iran.

George W. Bush remains the sitting “president” of what has become to the world a rogue nation, one which has engaged itself in illegal detentions, torture, and even flat-out murder, all presumably with the permission of Bush himself and his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.  There is no sense of remorse, no evidence of conscience anywhere near the top levels of the United States government.  Rumblings are heard: accusations of war crimes, of crimes against humanity are no longer met with skeptical glance but rather with the horrible suspicion that they might just be true.

We’ve come a long way since Eisenhower left office 45 years ago, on or about the January date that George W. Bush took his second oath of office.  One can only cringe at the prospects of what might lie ahead; this ne’er-do-well little man of marginal intellect and of no significant accomplishment is barely two months into his second four years – an ungainly concept to be sure.  And yet, the apparent bulk of Americans seem unconcerned, even unaware that their homeland has become a monster, that their leaders truly are evil men.  Most alive today, of course, either barely remember the Eisenhower years or have never even heard of them (see No Child Left Behind, in earlier section titled Social ).  So how are they to know what an honorable America looked and felt like?   In today’s vengeful atmosphere (one largely created and nurtured by the Bush administration itself), public attitudes seem to answer their own questions.  What if a few dirty Arabs die in US detention camps?  What of it if a few thousands – or even if a few hundred thousands – of Arab non-combatants are killed by America’s ‘shock and awe’ weapons arsenal?  So what?  “They” attacked America, after all.  Saddam Hussein did it, he sent the terrorists to take down the World Trade Center in New York.

No, actually, he didn’t.  He had nothing to do with it, in fact.  “We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the 11 September attacks,” said George W. Bush on September 18, 2003. Hussein’s involvement is strictly a lie, spoken and spoken again and again and again by Vice President – make that vice president – Dick Cheney.  The more one speaks a lie, after all, the more it becomes accepted as truth, right?  And, if it really isn’t the truth, so what?  “We’re an empire now, and we create our own reality” an anonymous White House aide said not long ago.  And besides, who cares about Arabs anyway?  Muslim bastards, they’re not even Christians.

Brings to mind the encounter near the end of the movie mentioned earlier, Judgment at Nuremberg.  The convicted German judge, Ernst Janning has a final private meeting with the American tribunal judge who heard his case and convicted him, sentenced him to life in prison.  Janning said, of German crimes against humanity:

“Those people – those millions of people – I never knew it would come to that…”

Tribunal judge Dan Haywood:

“Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.”

It seems to me that “it” has come to “that” for America now, possibly again.  The most recent statistic notes that there have been 108 confirmed murders committed by American soldiers in the Afghanistan/Iraq war theater.  The Army is said to have little interest in prosecuting them.  Meanwhile, the torture news grows and grows.  At first it was a few pictures from Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, nothing much, really.  What’s a little torture, anyway?  No big deal.  Officially, our leader said it was simply the work of “a few bad apples.”  Right.  Since then the evidences multiply to the point where the media has lost interest (itself a paradox, an able topic for another day).  Too many to name, plus those names are SO hard to pronounce.  Besides, who cares, really.  It’s only a few Arabs, and it was Arabs that blew up the World Trade Cen. . . .  etc.  One tires of the lies, of the lack of remorse, of the lack of conscience.

Somehow, America seems to have come to reflect the very image of George W. Bush himself.  I fear that is not a good thing, as the darkest parts of America’s past return to haunt us once again.  There is still – perhaps there always will be – the eternal issue of skin color.  As Bush himself so eloquently stated on April 30, 2004:  “There’s a lot of people in the world who don’t believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. … I believe that people whose skins aren’t necessarily – are a different color than white can self-govern.”  Generous soul, that one.

Today, hatred – hatred of Arabs, hatred of Mexicans, the hatred born of the errant sense of White Supremacy, hatred of non-Christians – has found new and convenient targets and proves, once again, that hatred does not have a logical boundary, only illogical consequence.  As former senator Al Gore – Bush’s opponent in the 2000 election who ‘lost’ said election even as he won – noted in a recent speech that, “Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens – sooner or later – to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.”

I fear Mr. Gore was all too correct, that such has become the fate of George W. Bush’s America – the America which did, indeed, “shake hands with the devil” when it accepted the fraud which sent George W. Bush to his unearned ascendency in the Oval Office, the America which has turned an unseeing eye away from atrocity, which has begun once again to accept the old darkness of hatred.

I began this section with a quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during the Second World War.  I’ll end it with a quote from General Tommy Franks, Commander of the Coalition forces in Iraq beginning with the preemptive American/British attacks in late March, 2003:

“As I look at President Bush, I think he will ultimately be judged as a man of extremely high character. A very thoughtful man, not having been appraised properly by those who would say he’s not very smart. I find the contrary. I think he’s very, very bright. And I suspect that he’ll be judged as a man who led this country through a crease in history effectively. Probably we’ll think of him in years to come as an American hero.”

Sure, Tommy.  If you say so.

In an aside, a word about Patriotism . . .

There’s a fever let loose in this land, a fever which accuses all who don’t go along – completely and without argument with each and all of Bush’s actions – of either lack of patriotism, or worse, of treason.  The matter has become a poisoned well for all who sip from it, especially for those who suddenly understand that to be a patriot requires that he be not an individualist, not a thinker, but instead understand that to be a patriot is to be a sheep, to follow the leader of the flock with no complaint.  Let the leader worry about the wolves, he will save us all because he is our leader, because he told us he would.

Former arms inspector Scott Ritter wrote, “I can train a monkey to wave an American flag. That does not make the monkey patriotic.”  There are those of us, too, who watch Bush pretend to be president and in the process conclude that simply because a monkey can be trained to dress like a president doesn’t make him a leader.  During the most recent election campaign, an interesting dichotomy appeared.  One candidate, George W. Bush, was, as noted above, an acknowledged draft dodger (by virtue of his father’s influence) as well as a man without scruples, or character, or even a sense of honor; the other, John Kerry, was a five times decorated veteran of the Vietnam war.  Kerry returned home after his duty had been served and joined the ranks of the anti-war movement, even appeared before a congressional committee to answer questions on the matter.  By the time the electoral dust had settled, however, George Bush had become the war ‘hero’ by virtue of his preemptive action against Iraq, and John Kerry was the ‘traitor’ to America because he had thrown away his battle ribbons and because he had protested the American atrocity called Vietnam.

In 1918, Theodore Roosevelt said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

George W. Bush, however, attempted to rewrite said premise when he said, circa November, 2001, “You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.”  In one short line, Bush demanded that all must follow his lead or be considered parcel to the other side.  In effect, he was demanding adherence to the old saw ‘my country, right or wrong, still my country.’  Such was the reality in Nazi Germany, and blind obedience by the many to that basic premise became the legal basis for many of the defendants in the post-war Nuremberg trials.  Revelations at Nuremberg, in effect, proved Theodore Roosevelt correct, and still today make a mockery of the blind allegiance the rabid have for George W. Bush.  It also begs the question as to just who is the patriot, and who is the traitor?  We must never forget that America is a nation of law, not of men; America is prosperous not because of her men and their accomplishments but because of her Founders’ legacy, the Constitution, which enables men of good will and intellect to pursue honest accomplishment (keyword: honest, i.e within the law).  It’s interesting that the presidential oath of office reads, in accordance with Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” [highlight added]

The president takes no oath to defend the people, or the land, or the flag, or even the legacy of the great god in heaven Itself: he swears, instead to defend the Constitution of the United States, because it is the Constitution which is the font from which the best of America derives and flows.  There is no mention of defending the poisoned well of false patriotism.

One expects there were and shall always remain good reasons behind that premise.

To be continued . . .

Read Part 7 here.

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2 thoughts on “The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 6: MILITARY)

  1. Seven years later this essay is still relevant, even if George W. Bush is no longer around. You did well in re-printing it.

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