Monday, January 5, 2009

Bush Legacy: Total Devastation of All He Surveyed

This is how Tom Engelhardt sums up Bush's Ponzi Presidency:

Perhaps, in the future, historians will call him a Caesar -- of destruction.

Veni, vidi, vastavi... [I came, I saw, I devastated...]

Bush's ravaging of the planet (not discussed in the article, which focuses on military and economic devastation - ah, so much devastation, so little time to account for it all...) was perhaps in part due to his focus on destruction of the people ON the planet and their well-being, in failed, ill-devised, idiotically-administered, compassion-be-damned wars. Oh, and bloating the military into its own iron bubble. Wars, too, can be a Ponzi scheme. Not just the economy anymore.

Mr. Engelhardt's synopsis reminds us that it's not only Bush:

Between 1945 and George W. Bush's second term, the U.S. economy, American corporations, and the dollar have held remarkable sway over much of the rest of the world. New York City has been the planet's financial capital and Washington its war capital. (Moscow, even at the height of the Cold War, always came in a provincial second.)

Which was, of course, due to a strong military focus by the U.S. in trying to "round up the world" by military domination coupled with soft-sell propaganda.

In the wake of the Cold War, its various military commands (including Northcom, set up by the Bush administration in 2002, and Africom, set up in 2007) divided the greater part of the planet into what were essentially military satrapies. And yet, the U.S. military, post-1945, simply could not win the wars that mattered.

Or in other words,

In the major wars (and even some minor actions) the U.S. military fought in those decades, it had been massively destructive but never victorious, nor even particularly successful.
Yet the gung-ho Bush war-neocons wanted full speed ahead:

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and the various neocons in the administration were fundamentalist idolaters -- and what they worshipped was the staggering power of the U.S. military. They were believers in a church whose first tenet was the efficacy of force above all else. Though few of them had the slightest military experience, they gave real meaning to the word bellicose. They were prejudiced towards war.

This seems to have always been the Republican line: patriotism means pro-war, and what's important is to have a war. The consequences of it are immaterial. The logic, the motivation, the reasons why are all out of question. Republicans want war - ours is not to reason why; ours is but to fight...and die.
And so this analysis of American "victories" show how, in fact, they were anything but:

Yes, it had "won" largely meaningless victories -- in Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983; against the toothless Panamanian regime of Manuel Noriega in Operation Just Cause in 1989; in Operation Desert Storm, largely an air campaign against Saddam Hussein's helpless military in 1990 (in a war that settled nothing); in NATO's Operation Deliberate Force, an air war against the essentially defenseless Serbian military in 1995 (while meeting disaster in operations in Iran in 1980 and Somalia in 1993). On the other hand, in Korea in the early 1950s and in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from the 1960s into the early 1970s, it had committed its forces all but atomically, and yet had met nothing but stalemate, disaster, and defeat against enemies who, on paper at least, should not have been able to stand up to American power.

Of course, Mr. Engelhardt's article is about body counts, and how Bush avoided them. Yes, he counts the tally of "victories", but the true cost of devastation is not publicized. And with good reason:

... the military had been counting bodies as well, but as the possibility of victory disappeared into the charnel houses of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon and the president finally gave in. While this did not stoke an antiwar movement, it represented a tacit admission of policy collapse, a kind of surrender. It was as close as an administration which never owned up to error could come to admitting that two more disastrous wars had been added to a string of military failures in the truncated American Century.

That implicit admission, however, took years to arrive, and in the meantime, Iraqis and Afghans -- civilians, insurgents, terrorists, police, and military men -- were dying in prodigious numbers.

And those numbers of casualties, the dead among supposed "enemies" who in some ways come off more as "victims" - the civilians, the children, the families, and in Gitmo, even the accused "enemy combatants", at least the ones arrested as minors... - only served to reveal the human tragedy behind Bush's failures. Thousands of dead, many of them innocents who never would have done anything to U.S. citizens, soldiers or otherwise, had we not invaded, uninvited, and created havoc everywhere we went.

Various groups of scholars and pollsters also took up the task, using sophisticated sampling techniques (including door-to-door interviews under exceedingly dangerous conditions) to arrive at reasonable approximations of the Iraqi dead. They have come up with figures ranging from the hundreds of thousands to a million or more in a country with a prewar population of perhaps 26 million.

United Nations representatives have similarly attempted, under difficult circumstances, to keep a count of Iraqis fleeing into exile -- exile being, after a fashion, a form of living death -- and have estimated that more than 2 million Iraqis fled their country, while another 2.7 million, having fled their homes, remained "internally displaced."

Similar attempts have been made for Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch has, for instance, done its best to tally civilian deaths from air strikes in that country (while even TomDispatch has attempted to keep a modest count of wedding parties obliterated by U.S. air attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq). But, of course, the real body count in either country will never be known.

One thing is certain, however: it is an obscenity of the present moment that Iraq, still a charnel house, still in a state of near total disrepair, still on the edge of a whole host of potential conflicts, should increasingly be portrayed here as a limited Bush administration "surge" success. Only a country -- or a punditry or a military -- incapable of facing the depths of destruction that the Bush administration let loose could reach such a conclusion.

Ever heard of an economic meltdown? And now...the planet, please...

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