Don’t Let Bush Off the Hook

Re: the death by apparent suicide of Bruce E. Irvins, just before he was arrested for perpetrating the anthrax attacks in the US shortly after 9/11, Glenn Greenwald has a great post which reads, in part:

… the same people responsible for perpetrating the attacks were the ones who fed the false reports to the public, through ABC News, that Saddam was behind them. What we know for certain — as a result of the letters accompanying the anthrax — is that whoever perpetrated the attacks wanted the public to believe they were sent by foreign Muslims. Feeding claims to ABC News designed to link Saddam to those attacks would, for obvious reasons, promote the goal of the anthrax attacker(s).

Seven years later, it’s difficult for many people to recall, but, as I’ve amply documented, those ABC News reports linking Saddam and anthrax penetrated very deeply — by design — into our public discourse and into the public consciousness. Those reports were absolutely vital in creating the impression during that very volatile time that Islamic terrorists generally, and Iraq and Saddam Hussein specifically, were grave, existential threats to this country. As but one example: after Ross’ lead report on the October 26, 2001 edition of World News Tonight with Peter Jennings claiming that the Government had found bentonite, this is what Jennings said into the camera:

This news about bentonite as the additive being a trademark of the Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant. Partly because there’s been a lot of pressure on the Bush administration inside and out to go after Saddam Hussein. And some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun.

That’s exactly what happened. The Weekly Standard published two lengthy articles attacking the FBI for focusing on a domestic culprit and — relying almost exclusively on the ABC/Ross report — insisted that Saddam was one of the most likely sources for those attacks. In November, 2001, they published an article (via Lexis) which began:

On the critical issue of who sent the anthrax, it’s time to give credit to the ABC website,, for reporting rings around most other news organizations. Here’s a bit from a comprehensive story filed late last week by Gary Matsumoto, lending further credence to the commonsensical theory (resisted by the White House) that al Qaeda or Iraq — and not some domestic Ted Kaczynski type — is behind the germ warfare.

read the rest

Ahh.  It would be nothing more than sad if it hadn’t all led to death, destruction and apparently sanctioned war crimes.  A good leader would have stepped back from the shock and awe to fully consider the best most constructive response.  Best for the US, best for the world.  That didn’t happen.  Nor were any more than a minority of Americans able to achieve a state of mind sufficiently objective and rational to put the boots to leaders who showed no leadership capability whatsoever and a half.  Nor, it seems, are very many people interested in getting it right now.

This makes me think of Richard Nixon.  After he was forced to resign the Presidency of the US for crimes related to overreaching his executive power, very much like George W. Bush and his merry band of criminals, President Gerald Ford extended a pardon to Nixon for any criminal wrongdoing.  At the time, some people, like me, were horrified that Nixon was to be allowed to escape punishment for the damage he’d done to his country and its best democratic principles.  What hue and cry there was died down though.  Nixon lived quietly for awhile and then set about restoring his public image.

Gerald Ford was later praised for his foresight in pardoning Nixon and allowing the country to “move on” after years of teeth ghashing about Watergate, the Vietnam and other distractions.

I was horrified that Nixon was able to rehabilitate himself.  I was, frankly, horrified at the honours bestowed upon him when he died and wondered just what it was that an American president had to do to warrant having shame heaped upon him rather than sainthood, even if it was a somewhat tarnished halo.  I think my motivation back then had to do with a pretty low but nevertheless human desire to see him suffer, to see him punished in a way that would hurt him forever.

Now I think the failure to bring Nixon to justice was a mistake for other reasons.  Like George W. Bush.  Bush and his confreres have followed a path very similar to and even more destructive than Nixon in their successful bid to concentrate power in the executive branch.  They’ve committed crimes against their own citizens with their illegal wiretapping and abridgement of civil liberties; they’ve drawn the American people into an immoral, illegal war against innocent citizens of other countries, costing American lives, bodies and minds in the process; and hell, all the rest of it.  Perhaps the biggest sin has been making America, whose democratic principles and civil values has offered hope to so many, not just in that country but around the world, the butt of justified criticism, jokes and yes, even hatred.  When democracy fails in America, the significance is profound.

I’m not big on the symbolic significance of law because, most often, the people offered up as symbolic sacrifices are the most poor, the least powerful among us.  But Richard Nixon was rich and powerful and he was the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  Gerald Ford was wrong to pardon him.  The symbolic significance of putting Nixon on trial before the people of his country and the world is incalculable.  And maybe, just maybe, it would have provided a warning to people like Bush and his ilk.  Their own security and well-being, the place of the Bush in history is quite probably the only thing that politicians like this care about.  It’s possible that the trial of an American president and, hopefully if not probably, his punishment may well have been a symbolic process the result of which may have maximized benefit for the maximum number of people.  And for which America (and the rest of us) has suffered incalculable harm for  not having undertaken.

Holding George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld et al criminally responsible may yet be the most important thing that America must do in the next years.  Pride in America and her presidents may depend upon it.  The life and safety of Americans and citizens of the world may depend upon it.  The lives, safety and security of future generations may, indeed, depend upon not sidestepping these issues in favour of solving what certainly are critical political, economic and social problems.  Solving those problems may, in fact, depend upon it:

Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world, we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hope for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism.  And so tonight – to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans – I ask for your support.

Guess who said that.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Let Bush Off the Hook

  1. Pingback: Bush Crimes, the Body Politic & the Dems « mirabile dictu

  2. Pingback: After Bush « mirabile dictu

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