A letter to the editor in my local newspaper, the Charlottesville Daily Progress, has persuaded me to rethink the truly remarkable accomplishments of President George W. Bush and inspired me to join the movement to erect a Bush Memorial on the National Mall.
The letter, published on February 9th, was from David H. Edmunds of Albemarle County and listed just nine of Bush's good deeds, beginning with this one:
"He kept the country safe from terrorist attack for seven years following 9/11."
I think this understates Bush's achievement. Remember that he also kept the country safe from faulty levees, neglect and incompetence in emergency services, and the absence of the National Guard for three years after Hurricane Katrina. In addition, Bush protected us from new fraudulent wars of aggression that would kill many times the victims of 9/11 for five years after Shock and Awe.
"He deposed of one of the most brutal dictators the world has ever seen (Saddam Hussein)."
You said it, Mr. Edmunds! In fact, Bush deposed of over a million other people too who had all served as brutalized subjects of that dictator, and deposed of the homes of five million more, and in fact turned Iraq into such a living hell that a majority of the Iraqis who had not been deposed of were forced to recognize that Hussein had been a two-bit chump and express their eventual regret over the deposing of him.
"He established a foothold for democracy in the Middle East and gave 50 million people their first taste of real freedom."
And this task was more difficult than it sounds. Just as a child may not learn from his first taste of broccoli how good it will be for him, Middle Easterners appear not to appreciate their first taste of real freedom, and the majority of them support all forms of resistance to occupation by the footholders, while making a global hero of a guy who throws his footwear. Imposing democracy on people is a thankless task, but we could build a powerful monument of thanks for 0.00004 percent of Exxon-Mobil's profits this year, or the cost of constructing the Lincoln Memorial.
"He waged an aggressive offensive against the al-Qaida terrorist network by killing or capturing many of their known leaders and severely disrupting their worldwide funding resources."
And he did it fairly and in a spirit of good sportsmanship, taking a moribund disorganized gang of thugs and - through the deposing of a well-known dictator -- creating the most powerful recruiting tool and training ground any anti-American terrorist organization could dream of. Bush built al-Qaida and then waged an aggressive war against it. That's the decent American way. And Bush did not discriminate, readily imprisoning innocent bypassers, slaughtering civilians, and torturing people who did not even appear superficially to have anything whatsoever to do with al-Qaida. Bush played fair and stood by his principles even as terrorist incidents skyrocketed over the course of his presidency, obliging him to cease publication of those statistics lest he give the impression of trying to smear his opponents.
And let's not forget that, even while waging this aggressive war, Bush simultaneously waged an aggressive war on our Bill of Rights, our environment, and the integrity of the U.S. Justice Department. Even so, he still had time to wage an aggressive war on scientists, whistleblowers, and defenders of the archaic right to habeas corpus. Bush valiantly waged an as yet unsuccessful aggressive war on Social Security too, and his foothold there should be remembered.
"He revived a sagging economy and reduced the tax burden on all Americans with across-the-board tax cuts in 2001 and 2003."
The brilliance of this move has been underestimated even by the millions who were forced to spend their entire tax cuts on envelopes, stamps, and resumes. With unemployment, foreclosures, unpayable medical bills, and financially driven suicides all climbing dramatically, in stark contrast to wages and benefits, just think what shape we would be in if Bush had not revived the sagging economy and reduced our tax burdens and those of our overclass and our corporations? His timing, as always, was exquisite.
"He restored judicial balance to the Supreme Court with the appointment of Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito."
The need for this can hardly be overstated, the court having previously reached the point where some observers feared it would abuse its power to the extent of appointing unelected presidents.
"He provided prescription drug coverage for millions of senior citizens through Medicare Part D."
And the beauty of this is threefold. First, Congress did it but Bush has so effectively shifted the seat of power to the White House that anything Congress does is credited to a president instead. Second, by prohibiting the government from negotiating prices for the prescription drugs it buys, Part D ensures that prescription drug prices will increase rapidly for all seniors. During the first year of Part D, prices for the 15 drugs most frequently prescribed to seniors increased nearly four times faster than overall consumer prices. And third, Part D includes a loophole allowing the government to avoid paying anything to a large percentage of those seniors theoretically eligible, thus permitting even more economy-boosting tax cuts! Sheer genius.
"He became the world leader in providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Africa in the fight against AIDS/HIV."
The importance of crediting Bush for this, as for the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, is heightened by the ingratitude of Africans, who have widely denounced his requirement that most of the money go to promoting abstinence and fidelity, thus gaining a foothold in Africa for a new sort of religious bigotry while ensuring the ongoing viability of the fight against AIDS/HIV for many years to come. That's what Bush's father would have called the vision thing.
"Finally, but not least, President Bush restored honor and dignity to the Oval Office following eight years of political and moral corruption by his predecessor (Bill Clinton)."
This, too, is understated by Mr. Edmunds, who does not acknowledge the handicap Bush was playing under. This remarkable leader restored honor and dignity to the Oval Office while eliminating the Fourth Amendment and large sections of several others, while authorizing torture, while lying about the need for wars, lying about preparation for hurricanes, lying about spying and torture, funneling hundreds of billions of dollars to corrupt war profiteers, dismantling the Justice Department and replacing it with a Republican mafia family, openly ordering staffers and former staffers to obstruct justice, commuting the sentence of a top staffer convicted of obstructing justice, and producing phony news reports for our consumption, and all while spending more time than the previous several presidents combined on vacation away from the Oval Office to which he restored such honor and dignity.
"These accomplishments may not place him on Mt. Rushmore, but I am convinced his legacy (like those of Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan) will be viewed much more positively through the prism of history."
Mr. Edmunds is exactly right. If we survive the current military, economic, and environmental catastrophes long enough to consider the Bush-Cheney era a part of history, the actions taken by those two co-presidents will necessarily appear less destructive than they now do. While that restoration of Bush's image still might not put him on Mt. Rushmore (a fact over which I share Mr. Edmunds' sadness), we can hardly forego adding a Bush Memorial to the National Mall.
Some will say there is insufficient space remaining, what with the need for memorials to all the wars Bush started and the desire of so many anarchists to march and protest and petition their government for redress of grievances. The solution, I think, would be the low-cost erection of a chain-link George W. Bush Free Speech Cage, both to memorialize the professionalism of his staff's crackdown on public interaction with the president and to maintain proper control over future demonstrations. Unlike almost any other structure, which would inevitably be ruined by vandals, a chainlink fence withstands most attempts at defacement, and shoes thrown at it will sometimes stick and remain there, leaving the misguided citizen to go home barefoot if he has a home.
David Swanson is the author of the upcoming book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press and of the introduction to "The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush" published by Feral House and available at Amazon.com.Swanson holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as communications coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson is Co-Founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, creator of ConvictBushCheney.org and Washington Director of Democrats.com, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, the Backbone Campaign, and Voters for Peace, a member of the legislative working group of United for Peace and Justice, and convener of the accountability and prosecution working group of United for Peace and Justice.
Republished with permission from AFterDowningStreet.