Graffiti artwork of former President George W. Bush. (Photo: JonnyC / Flickr)
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sooner or later, heaving buckets of blame onto George W. Bush for what we as a nation are being forced to endure will become a facile excuse; at some point, the whole kit and caboodle will be the sole property of President Barack Obama, whether he likes it or not and be damned to excuses. Already, his administration has taken enough dramatic measures to ensure that, should something go wrong, a fair share of censure will and rightly should be placed on the present and not the past.
This has been one of those weeks, however, when everything happening bears the scars and stains of the despicable, cowardly and criminally insane actions of the Bush administration. This has been one of those weeks where it seems for all the world as if Bush left a flaming bag of dog poop on the White House porch before fleeing into the night, and President Obama had no choice but to stomp on it and get covered in crud. This has just been one of those weeks.
President Obama spoke before the UN General Assembly on Wednesday after making significant progress in two key areas of foreign policy: he secured concessions from Russia regarding sanctions on Iran and won support from both Moscow and Beijing for a resolution to curb nuclear proliferation. In his address, however, one could not help but notice how forcefully the president emphasized the demonstrable fact that he is not George W. Bush, and that the country he leads is not the same one that had run roughshod over the international community over the last eight years.
"During his address to the General Assembly," reported The New York Times on Thursday, "Mr. Obama sought to present a kinder, gentler America willing to make nice with the world. He suggested that the United States would no longer follow the go-it-alone policies that many United Nations members complained isolated the Bush administration from the organization. 'We have re-engaged the United Nations,' Mr. Obama said, to cheers from world leaders and delegates in the cavernous hall. 'We have paid our bills' - a direct reference to the former administration's practice of withholding some payment due the world body while it pressed for changes there."
The simple fact that an American president had to stand before that world body and apologize, to all intents and purposes, for the last American president is a stinging humiliation for this country, but the sad fact is that it had to be done. Resentments over what Mr. Bush and his minions did during their time continue to fester all over the world, but especially in and due to the two war-torn countries where fighting and dying continue even at this very moment - two countries Mr. Bush tore apart with the greedy opportunism of a spoiled child opening other people's Christmas presents.
A roadside bomb killed a policeman in Mosul, Iraq. Another roadside bomb in Mosul killed three Iraqi soldiers. A 20-year-old American soldier was killed when his Blackhawk helicopter crashed in Balad. Another American soldier, age 22, died of non-hostile wounds on an airbase in Kuwait. Approximately 30,000 families in the Ninevah province in Iraq have been displaced since the US invasion began in 2003, and remain so today. These are the facts from this week alone, and no amount of spin or bluster can counter the simple truth that Mr. Bush owns the blood and sorrow still being spilled into the sand and dust of that nation.
The Washington Post this week blew the lid off a policy rift that has apparently developed between military commanders and the Obama administration over how best to proceed in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, was quoted in a leaked Pentagon report stating that unless more troops are dispatched to Afghanistan immediately, America risks losing the war within twelve months. The White House, by comparison, has been mulling over actually decreasing the number of US troops there, and focusing on protecting Afghan civilians while making targeted attacks against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.
Whatever decision is ultimately reached will become a defining moment for Obama, because whatever he does will be a policy shift from the Bush administration's actions in Afghanistan, and will cement this war as belonging in full to this White House. Even so, the fact remains that this eight-years-and-counting war in Afghanistan would almost certainly be in a far different place had Mr. Bush chosen not to scoop out so many troops from that country and send them to Iraq. Both wars are half-a-loaf failures left behind by Bush that, when combined, make for some rancid bread left on Obama's plate.
There were a number of other issues that came up this week to remind us of the mess Mr. Bush left behind. The apprehension of alleged terrorist plotters in Denver and New York has been riddled with questions about the validity of the investigation, i.e. whether this is for real or if the DoJ is showboating at the expense of someone's rights again, and that sounds all too familiar. Obama's decision to lower the standards for application of the "state secrets" privilege was roundly praised, but came with statements from the ACLU, the CCR and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) warning the administration not to behave like its predecessor. Even the current debate over health care reform has not escaped the taint of the previous administration, as the people who are deliberately deranging the conversation with nonsense are the very ones brought to prominence on the coattails of Mr. Bush and his crew.
None of this excuses Mr. Obama from his responsibilities, and every day that passes makes the state of things more and more his to keep. This was one of those weeks, though, when the shadow of the last White House occupant lays long, dark and deep across these United States.
Photos in Slideshow By: Eric Draper, Pete Souza, SPC Ronald Shaw Jr., U.S. Army, Staff Sgt. Jason Robertson, Spc. Daniel Herrera, Sgt. Jennifer Cohen, UNICEF Iran, Sgt. Johnny R. Aragon, Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Andrew Smith, 55th Signal Company, U.S. Army Spc. Justin French, Sgt. Jerry Saslav
Flickr: nukeit1/ vaXzine/ Weissfineart / cactusthesaint / smlp.co.uk / brykmantra /Technofreak / talkradionews / Dean Terry / blogpocket / ***JohnnyC / Bousure / jeffschuler / burge5000 / borman818