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Bush’s Legacy

January 16th, 2009 by Madeleine

I am always slightly disturbed when I encounter Bush-haters amongst my friends. Disturbed not because it surprises me that Bush-hater exist but because my friends are otherwise smart, informed, thinking people who have a healthy degree of scepticism towards the left-wing, anti-conservative values of the media and hollywood; I just don’t get how they can navigate other issues well but then buy into all the conspiracy, anti-Bush hysteria.

They in turn, of learning that I think Bush is one of greatest US Presidents of my life time and that I firmly believe he will be remembered up there with Reagan, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Washington as one of the best, think I am insane and are invariably shocked. They start throwing all the conspiracy theories at me, they talk about his motives, his war-mongering and the rest. Typically each demonstrates a superficial understanding of the issues and even when they have read up on some of these issues they still fall into the error of failing to understand the nature of politics and the necessity of spin demonstrating that despite their protests they have and do buy into the media and hollywood’s portrayal of Bush.

In New Zealand, even among a Christian or politically conservative constituency, I am very aware that in making these statements I am amongst a minority and that many regular readers will be baffled to discover that I think Bush rocks. If you are such a person but you otherwise generally like what I have to say, please read the following article that appears in today’s Herald as it summs up pretty much everything I would like to say.

This article, unlike today’s Herald editorial claiming the opposite, was written by a political historian, educated at Cambridge.

Legacy the Bush-Haters Will Loathe
NZ Herald 16 Jan 09

The American lady who called to see if I would appear on her radio programme was specific. “We’re setting up a debate,” she said sweetly, “and we want to know from your perspective as a historian whether George W Bush was the worst president of the 20th century, or might he be the worst president in American history?” “I think he’s a good president,” I told her, which seemed to dumbfound her, and wreck my chances of appearing on her show.

In the avalanche of abuse and ridicule that we are witnessing in the media assessments of President Bush’s legacy, there are factors that need to be borne in mind if we are to come to a judgment that is not warped by the kind of partisan hysteria that has characterised this issue on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first is that history, by looking at the key facts rather than being distracted by the loud ambient noise of the 24-hour news cycle, will probably hand down a far more positive judgment on Mr Bush’s presidency than the immediate, knee-jerk loathing of the American and European elites.

At the time of 9/11, which will forever rightly be regarded as the defining moment of the presidency, history will look in vain for anyone predicting that the Americans murdered that day would be the very last ones to die at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the US from that day to this.

The decisions taken by Mr Bush in the immediate aftermath of that ghastly moment will be pored over by historians for the rest of our lifetimes. One thing they will doubtless conclude is that the measures he took to lock down America’s borders, scrutinise travellers to and from the United States, eavesdrop upon terrorist suspects, work closely with international intelligence agencies and take the war to the enemy has foiled dozens, perhaps scores of would-be murderous attacks on America. There are Americans alive today who would not be if it had not been for the passing of the Patriot Act. There are 3,000 people who would have died in the August 2005 airline conspiracy if it had not been for the superb inter-agency co-operation demanded by Bush after 9/11.

The next factor that will be seen in its proper historical context in years to come will be the true reasons for invading Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in April 2003. The conspiracy theories believed by many (generally, but not always) stupid people – that it was “all about oil”, or the securing of contracts for the US-based Halliburton corporation, etc – will slip into the obscurity from which they should never have emerged had it not been for comedian-filmmakers such as Michael Moore.

Instead, the obvious fact that there was a good case for invading Iraq based on 14 spurned UN resolutions, massive human rights abuses and unfinished business following the interrupted invasion of 1991 will be recalled.

Similarly, the cold light of history will absolve Bush of the worst conspiracy-theory accusation: that he knew there were no WMDs in Iraq. History will show that, in common with the rest of his administration, the British Government, Saddam’s own generals, the French, Chinese, Israeli and Russian intelligence agencies, and of course SIS and the CIA, everyone assumed that a murderous dictator does not voluntarily destroy the WMD arsenal he has used against his own people. And if he does, he does not then expel the UN weapons inspectorate looking for proof of it, as he did in 1998 and again in 2001.

Mr Bush assumed that the Coalition forces would find mass graves, torture chambers, evidence for the gross abuse of the UN’s food-for-oil programme, but also WMDs. He was right about each but the last, and history will place him in the mainstream of Western, Eastern and Arab thinking on the matter.

History will probably, assuming it is researched and written objectively, congratulate Mr Bush on the fact that whereas in 2000 Libya was an active and vicious member of what he was accurately to describe as an “axis of evil” of rogue states willing to employ terrorism to gain its ends, four years later Colonel Gaddafi’s WMD programme was sitting behind glass in a museum in Oakridge, Tennessee.

With his characteristic openness and at times almost self-defeating honesty, Mr Bush has been the first to acknowledge his mistakes – for example, tardiness over Hurricane Katrina – but there are some he made not because he was a ranting Right-winger, but because he was too keen to win bipartisan support. The invasion of Iraq should probably have taken place months earlier, but was held up by the attempt to find support from UN security council members, such as Jacques Chirac’s France, that had ties to Iraq and hostility towards the Anglo-Americans. History will also take Mr Bush’s verbal fumbling into account, reminding us that Ronald Reagan also mis-spoke regularly, but was still a fine president. The first MBA president, who had a higher grade-point average at Yale than John Kerry, Mr Bush’s supposed lack of intellect will be seen to be a myth once the papers in his Presidential Library in the Southern Methodist University in Dallas are available.

Films such as Oliver North’s W, which portray him as a spitting, oafish frat boy who eats with his mouth open and is rude to servants, will be revealed by the diaries and correspondence of those around him to be absurd travesties, of this charming, interesting, beautifully mannered history buff who, were he not the most powerful man in the world, would be a fine person to have as a pal.

Instead of Al Franken, history will listen to Bob Geldof praising Mr Bush’s efforts over Aids and malaria in Africa; or to Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India, who told him last week: “The people of India deeply love you.” And certainly to the women of Afghanistan thanking him for saving them from Taliban abuse, degradation and tyranny.

When Abu Ghraib is mentioned, history will remind us that it was the Bush Administration that imprisoned those responsible for the horrors. When water-boarding is brought up, we will see that it was only used on three suspects, one of whom was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qaeda’s chief of operational planning, who divulged vast amounts of information that saved hundreds of innocent lives. When extraordinary renditions are queried, historians will ask how else the world’s most dangerous terrorists should have been transported. On scheduled flights?

The credit crunch, brought on by the Democrats in Congress insisting upon home ownership for credit-unworthy people, will initially be blamed on Bush, but the perspective of time will show that the problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started with the deregulation of the Clinton era. Instead Bush’s very un-ideological but vast rescue package of $700 billion (£480 billion) might well be seen as lessening the impact of the squeeze, and putting America in position to be the first country out of recession, helped along by his huge tax-cut packages since 2000. Sneered at for being “simplistic” in his reaction to 9/11, Bush’s visceral responses to the attacks of a fascistic, totalitarian death cult will be seen as having been substantially the right ones. Mistakes are made in every war, but when virtually the entire military, diplomatic and political establishment in the West opposed it, Bush insisted on the surge in Iraq that has been seen to have brought the war around, and set Iraq on the right path. Today its GDP is 30 per cent higher than under Saddam, and it is free of a brutal dictator and his rapist sons.

The number of American troops killed during the eight years of the War against Terror has been fewer than those slain capturing two islands in the Second World War, and in Britain we have lost fewer soldiers than on a normal weekend on the Western Front. As for civilians, there have been fewer Iraqis killed since the invasion than in 20 conflicts since the Second World War. Iraq has been a victory for the US-led coalition, a fact that the Bush-haters will have to deal with when perspective finally – perhaps years from now – lends objectivity to this fine man’s record.

Andrew Roberts is the author of Masters and Commanders: How Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Alanbrooke Won the War in the West
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42 responses so far ↓

  • I think this guy’s an optimist – but he’s largely right.

    Personally, I think that Bush’s accent started it. He talks funny, so the media love to think he’s stupid. From there, focus on the mistakes (real and imagined, as most were) as much as possible and you end up where we are today.

    From what I’ve seen, Obama may have already clocked up more true scandals than Bush ever did. But you wouldn’t know it.

    It’s actually pretty crazy really. Most people start from the claim that Bush committed war crimes, by going to war with Iraq.

    But under the law congress has to authorise that, and they did. Once Saddam was out, the UN authorised the cleanup.

  • Good to know there’s still some independent thinkers in the world, Madeline.

  • Did you find it easy to get copyright from Herald to reproduce this?

    steve taylor

  • Bush was the worst. No doubt about that see the price of the bailout. That’s the price of his failure. But if you think Reagan was good then that explains it Reagan started the crooked policies that came to fruition now. There are points though that I agree with. Saddam and the Taliban thrived on generous US aid and it was US responsibility to subdue them which they honestly did. Praise for that. Otherwise the policies of Bush (and Reagan)led to the catatrophic consequence we all have to suffer.

  • Andrew Roberts accuses Saddam of expelling “the UN weapons inspectorate looking for proof of it [the WMD arsenal] … in 1998 and again in 2001.

    I suggest you check “Timeline: Iraq weapons inspections” at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2167933.stm. It makes no mention of any such action in 2001.

    But neither 1998 nor 2001 are, in any event, the crucial dates in this chronology. The crucial date is March 17, 2003, when the UNITED STATES advised the weapons inspectors to leave (see http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-03-17-inspectors-iraq_x.htm).

    The AP article begins: VIENNA, Austria — In the clearest sign yet that war with Iraq is imminent, the United States has advised U.N. weapons inspectors to begin pulling out of Baghdad, the U.N. nuclear agency chief said Monday.

    Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the recommendation was given late Sunday night both to his Vienna-based agency hunting for atomic weaponry and to the New York-based teams looking for biological and chemical weapons.

    “Late last night … I was advised by the U.S. government to pull out our inspectors from Baghdad,” ElBaradei told the IAEA’s board of governors. He said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council were informed and that the council would take up the issue later Monday… (End of excerpt.)

    A diligent researcher would, I believe, be able to find many inaccuracies in Roberts’ article. Take, for example, his assertion that, “When Abu Ghraib is mentioned, history will remind us that it was the Bush Administration that imprisoned those responsible for the horrors”.

    How does this square with the statement by Senator Carl M. Levin, during the Senate Armed Services Committee’s inquiry into the abusive treatment of detainees in U.S. custody, that
    abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere were not “simply the result of a few bad apples acting on their own”, but were apparently “authorized at senior levels of our government”?
    (See http://www.cfr.org/publication/18025/senate_armed_services_committee_inquiry_into_the_treatment_of_detainees_in_us_custody.html )

    Other assertions by Roberts, such as his claim that “the women of Afghanistan [will thank Bush] for saving them from Taliban abuse, degradation and tyranny”, are risible. The consensus of those who know anything at all about Afghanistan is that the position of women in the country has NOT improved during the past seven years.

    I’m afraid I have neither the time nor inclination myself to fully research all these matters. Roberts is such a biased and mediocre commentator, he doesn’t deserve the effort. As a person who apparently supports the kidnapping and torture of people who have, in some instances, proved to be entirely innocent, he has only my deepest contempt.

    One of the pillars of our civilization is something called habeas corpus. We should never forget that, especially when we start prattling about our “values”.

  • I’m with Madeleine.

    Kurt

  • In my humble opinion, quoting in full is a bit off.. it’s done for stuff produced by others. I know it’s cited and all but what if reproducing in full means that the site it comes from doesn’t get any revenue? The first anonymous is right in saying that it’s copyrighted.

    I don’t know what the answer should be as I have serious issues with copyrights in general, but surely…

  • Alan

    You write “Andrew Roberts accuses Saddam of expelling “the UN weapons inspectorate looking for proof of it [the WMD arsenal] … in 1998 and again in 2001.” I suggest you check “Timeline: Iraq weapons inspections” at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2167933.stm. It makes no mention of any such action in 2001.”

    I see so because one news agency never mentions it it did not happen. Unfortunately another news agency PBS states that ““IAEA was allowed back into Iraq in January 2000 and again in January 2001. But its inspectors were blocked from full access inspections.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/gunning/etc/arsenal.html

    You go on to state “ A diligent researcher would, I believe, be able to find many inaccuracies in Roberts’ article. Take, for example, his assertion that, “When Abu Ghraib is mentioned, history will remind us that it was the Bush Administration that imprisoned those responsible for the horrors”.How does this square with the statement by Senator Carl M. Levin, during the Senate Armed Services Committee’s inquiry into the abusive treatment of detainees in U.S. custody, that
    abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere were not “simply the result of a few bad apples acting on their own”, but were apparently “authorized at senior levels of our government”?
    (See http://www.cfr.org/publication/18025/senate_armed_services_committee_inquiry_into_the_treatment_of_detainees_in_us_custody.html )”

    There is no inconsistency here; Roberts said the Bush administration imprisoned those responsible. You comment shows that one witness in an inquiry thinks others were responsible. I could find almost any trial or inquest where there are witnesses on both sides of the issue. fairness means you do not simply believe the side who puts forward the view you like. But Roberts point was that the people who tortured in this instance were prosecuted by the Americans. Torture existed for many years in Iraq before the invasion under it was not prosecuted by the Baathists but legally sanctioned by them.

    You add “Other assertions by Roberts, such as his claim that “the women of Afghanistan [will thank Bush] for saving them from Taliban abuse, degradation and tyranny”, are risible. The consensus of those who know anything at all about Afghanistan is that the position of women in the country has NOT improved during the past seven years.”

    Actually your comments don’t address his point, he did not say women are better off he said that Bush saved the women from “Taliban abuse, degradation and tyranny”, this is a fact. Moreover as to your “consensus” I note that it does not include residents of Afghanistan 70% of whom when polled in 2007 stated that they believed women are better off nor does it include residents of Kandihar 75% of whom said that women are better off. I guess these people are not included in the group who know “anything about Afghanistan” http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/afghanistan/afghan-survey2007.html#women

    I’m afraid I have neither the time nor inclination myself to fully research all these matters. Roberts is such a biased and mediocre commentator, he doesn’t deserve the effort. As a person who apparently supports the kidnapping and torture of people who have, in some instances, proved to be entirely innocent, he has only my deepest contempt.

    This is perhaps the most telling comment of all. Your stating that a person who has a degree with first class honours in history from Cambridge , is a honoury scholar at Cambridge, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature a Fellow of the Napoleonic Institute and has numerous published books in political history. Is a mediocre researcher in political history? Amazing, that the editorial boards of various publishing companies, the members of various historical societies, Cambridge’s examination panel, the various anonymous referees of publishing companies, and the faculty at Cambridge do not share your opinion.

    [ Its comments like these that made be sceptical of the “Bush is stupid” crowd, according to some people any one who is a conservative is stupid no matter how well educated they are or what the facts say. I was subjected to “Matt is stupid” comments throughout by entire PhD study by the same people who pushed the “Bush is stupid” line. In fact I had left wing activists saying I about to fail my PhD thesis and my supervisor was in despair over me two months after I had graduated and my supervisor written me a glowing reference. ]

  • Issue 1: We are talking about the allegation that Saddam ordered the expulsion of inspectors in 2001, not his obstruction of their searches. We all know that Saddam was uncooperative at that time, probably for reasons of national pride. But as I pointed out, it was the US, in the end, that gave the inspectors their marching orders – so that the invasion of Iraq, which was planned before Bush became president, could go ahead.

    Issue 2: It wasn’t just “one witness in an inquiry [who thought] others were responsible”. This was also the formal finding of the Senate Armed Services Committee. See the December 11, 2008, report by the Associated Press, headlined “Rumsfeld Responsible for Torture”, which begins:

    WASHINGTON – A bipartisan Senate report released today says that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.
    The Senate Armed Services Committee report accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the principal architects of the plan to use harsh interrogation techniques on captured fighters and terrorism suspects, rejecting the Bush administration’s contention that the policies originated lower down the command chain.

    “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own,” the panel concludes. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

    The report, released by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., and based on a nearly two-year investigation, said that both the policies and resulting controversies tarnished the reputation of the United States and undermined national security. “Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority,” it said. (Excerpt ends.)

    Now under the principle established by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, those at the top of the chain of command are just as responsible, and possibly more responsible, for war crimes than those who actually do the dirty deeds. (We hanged Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita for crimes committed by his troops in Manila in 1945 even though the court acknowledged that he had no effective control over them at the time.) But in the case of the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, only those at the coal face, so to speak, were prosecuted. Therefore, the statement that “the Bush Administration … imprisoned those responsible for the horrors” really needs to be qualified.

    Issue 3: The 2007 poll found that 75 percent of Afghans thought women were better off than they were in 2002 – AFTER the Taliban had been driven from power. That really needs to be stated. But the main point to be made is that a lot has happened in Afghanistan since 2007. There has been a resurgence of the Taliban, which now controls much of the south and east of the country. And with this resurgence, there has been a marked deterioration in the position
    of women.

    Writing in the Independent, in an article posted at http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/101504/ on October 3, 2008, Kim Sengupta says:

    Of five prominent women interviewed three years ago by The Independent for an article on post-Taliban female emancipation, three … are dead and a fourth has had to flee after narrowly escaping assassination in an ambush in which her husband was killed.

    Religious fundamentalists are waging a ruthless campaign to eliminate women who have taken up high-profile jobs. Parliamentarians, schoolteachers, civil servants, security officials and women journalists have been selected for attacks by the jihadists. Countless others have been maimed and murdered in villages where the vengeful Taliban have returned to impose the old order. (Excerpt ends.)

    Your mention of Kandahar is ironic, as it has recently been the scene of (Taliban?) attacks on women. These include one reported on December 4, 2008, by Heidi Vogt of The Associated Press:

    Last month, militants riding motorbikes squirted acid from water bottles onto female students and teachers walking to school in the southern city of Kandahar. Several girls suffered burned faces and were hospitalized and one teenager couldn’t open her eyes for days after the attack. (Excerpt ends.)

    Issue 4: Sorry, I’m not impressed by people’s “qualifications”; only by their ideas.

  • I have no problem with you saying that Bush is one of the greatest presidents of your life time, simply because all US presidents are more or less equally evil despots, and saying that he is the best of a very bad lot is no compliment at all 🙂

    Bush certainly was one of the greatest in regard to militarised imperialism and destruction of personal liberties. E.g.:

    http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/military-police-on-the-highways-of-america-part-2/

    It’s deeply ironic that the Bush dynasty, which created the crisis of terrorism to replace the crisis of communism, has been replaced by a man who is both a communist and a terrorist:

    http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/barack-obamas-inauguration-a-communist-and-a-terrorist-is-now-the-worlds-most-powerful-man/

    http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/barack-obamas-inauguration-the-communists-have-won-the-cold-war/

  • Quite disturbing, really, that someone who happens to be socially conservative (nominally) can be hailed as overall pretty good, while glossing over very serious degratation of civil liberties and commercial disclipine of the banking and lending businesses. I think it shows where your priorities lie: it’s all about gay ‘marriage’ and left-vs.-right and liveral vs. conservative and cluture wars, while legal and ethical principles and doctrines such as habeas corpus, secret police and prisions, private ownership and risk, just war theory etc. just for those who deal in the technicalities and the purists.

  • Sorry – shortly after posting this we got more news about my medical condition which we have been digesting, hence the silence. I hope to read through all these comments soon though I will say two things.

    First, I should have qualified the fact that the recent US financial bailout was not something that sat right with me given my political persuasion (though I concede a case may exist where it arguably sits ok with Bush’s). I don’t think every single thing Bush has ever done was perfect, he is human, my point was that he was a very good President and that those who say he does not are very wrong.

    Further, with regards the copywrite issue. I originally intended to just link to the Herald aticle and not reproduce it but I could not find the article on their site. I googled it and found it had been published in so many different places that I could not tell who held the rights for it. It looked like a case of public domain to me so I stated where I had first found it, included a link to the Herald, and a link to the author – an accepted IP internet convention.

    I take intellectual property and plagiurism very seriously so took the necessary steps to show my respect for them. If someone can point me to a law to the contrary I am happy to reconsider.

  • I wonder if M&M would critique (or consider others critiques of) the concept of 'intellectual property' including copyright. I reckon it's a government invention and a government intervention, going against common law freedoms and concepts of property.

    See http://www.mises.org/store/product.aspx?ProductId=552 and http://mises.org/journals/jls/15_2/15_2_1.pdf

  • while legal and ethical principles and doctrines such as habeas corpus…

    “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. “
    -US constitution

    Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus. Bush only suspended it for terrorists, clearly constitutional.

    If you cared to read a little wider, you would discover that most measure were approved by bi-partisan committees. Only the Republicans didn’t try to pretend they never made decisions when later the public raised an eyebrow.

    You should read Hillary and Kerry’s speeches about the Iraq war, if you gave them to the guy on the street, they’d swear they were made by Bush. Well, actually not because Hillary quoted intel from her husbands time in the hot seat. Oops, seems that Iraq was a thorn for quite some time.

    But don’t beat yourself up. It’s not like the MSM have gone out of their way to point this out.

  • “officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.”

    Your report misses a few facts.

    These methods were only approved for a handful of weeks, for specific situations.

    What the report is really saying is that other people heard about what was going on at gitmo and thought they’d copy – without being told that they were allowed to.

    In other words, they acted outside their orders.

    If you think Bush will hang for that, you need to calm down – a lot. But that’s M’s point in the first place, people are buying into hysteria.

    If you drop your Obama worship and read carefully the specifics of what he says, many of his positions are very little changed from Bush – I even say today a quote suggesting that he is going to put new, more harsh interrogation methods into the army manual!

  • I have referred the Roberts article to David Michael Green (http://www.regressiveantidote.net/index.htm), a professor of political science at Hofstra University. This is his reply, which can also be found on his website:

    “There’s a boat-load of nonsense here, of course, but I’ll just confine myself to the least sensical nonsense on Iraq and 9/11.

    Did you notice the absence of the Downing Street Memos or Paul Wolfowitz’s confession, both of which prove that the administration never cared a whit about WMD, but simply agreed on it as the best way to market a war that they had already decided to launch? Andrew Roberts forgets to mention this definitive evidence, but history will not.

    Did you notice the French-bashing nonsense among the lies and other nonsense concerning the Security Council resolutions on Iraq? It wasn’t just a French thing – almost nobody at the UN supported this invasion. Andrew Roberts forgets to mention this definitive evidence, but history will not.

    Did you notice how he has a lot to say about how Bush kept us safe after 9/11, but never mentions his total failure leading up to that day? How he was called a complete failure in dealing with terrorism by his very own terrorism czar? How he stayed on vacation in the month prior to 9/11, after receiving a briefing warning of the coming attack? How he told his briefer, “Okay, you’ve covered your ass now”? Andrew Roberts forgets to mention this definitive evidence, but history will not.

    Did you notice the discussion of this “bipartisan” president, with his “almost self-defeating honesty” and his willingness to be the “first to acknowledge his mistakes”? My god, is this guy on drugs?!?! History will not be.

    This is just the beginning of it. There is so much more. So much more that went wrong. So much more destruction. So much more kleptocracy.

    They can’t talk about these things, so instead they keep repeating the mantra that “he kept us safe” from another attack. But didn’t every president? Meanwhile, how many bungled something as big as 9/11?

    They can’t talk about these things, so instead they keep repeating the mantra that history will vindicate George W. Bush eventually, just like Truman.

    Actually, quite the opposite is true. Once his enablers are gone, and once further evidence from his administration is gathered, and once the fuller repercussions of his failings are felt, history will diminish his standing even further. Lots further.

    This was the worst president in American history, and American history will say so.

    Emphatically.”

    Give my best regards to NZ!!

  • Between 2005 and 2008, I collected all the articles I could find about the suspension of habeas corpus by the Bush gang and placed them at http://islamnz.com/HabeasCorpusPages/habeas_corpus_index.html, under the headline “The death of habeas corpus”.

    Note the last article, by Matthew Rothschild, which begins:

    The Supreme Court, by the narrowest of margins, came down with a great decision when it affirmed the habeas corpus rights of detainees in Guantanamo.

    The decision, issued on June 12 [2008], could not have been clearer.

    The Court ruled, 5-4, that the section of the Military Commissions Act effectively denying habeas corpus to detainees was unconstitutional.

    In a ringing tone, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority decision, concluded by noting that our security depends not only on a “sophisticated intelligence apparatus and the ability of our Armed Forces to act and to interdict.” Security also depends on “fidelity to freedom’s first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers.”

    Noting that “few exercises of judicial power are as legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to hear challenges to the authority of the Executive to imprison a person,” the Court stood up for itself and for all of us.

    “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times,” Kennedy wrote. “Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.”

    This case was an instance where the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch conspired to go outside the framework of that law. The court had twice ruled against the Administration’s policies in Guantanamo, so Congress passed the Military Commissions Act (MCA) in 2006 in response. That act denied detainees of essential elements of the writ of habeas corpus, the right to challenge their detention adequately in court.

    The Supreme Court on Thursday said that both Congress and the Executive Branch overstepped their bounds and landed in unconstitutional territory.

  • See also the article entitled So Long Worst President Ever; 10 Reasons History Will Hang You,
    by Bernie Horn, Campaign for America’s Future, posted January 16, 2009, at http://www.alternet.org/story/120220/?page=2

    The article concludes: So, congratulations for being the worst president in American history. That’s not just my personal opinion; that’s the opinion of 109 historians polled by the History News Network. Fully 61 percent ranked Bush as the “worst ever;” 98 percent labeled his presidency a “failure.” And this poll, taken in early 2008, predated the cataclysmic housing and banking crashes. Bye-bye W — history will not be kind.

  • Alan

    You write
    “61 percent ranked Bush as the “worst ever;” 98 percent labeled his presidency a “failure.”

    Isn’t the question of wether a person is good or bad actually a question of ethics and hence outside the competence of historians?

  • Alan

    Re issue 1: Here your comments are actually irrelevant because they address a tangential point. Roberts suggested there were good reasons for war one reason he gives is failure to comply with UN resolutions or to co-operate with the inspection process. The expulsions are mentioned to illustrate this point. Your response does not address this point at all. Apart from your argument that the BBC does not mention an expulsion therefore it did not happen ( a fallicous argument from silence) you go on to add “we all know that Saddam was uncooperative at that time” showing you actually agree with his basic point. Moreover even if you don’t citing that one reason for the invasion is not a good one does not show that they all are.

    Re issue 2 I think Scrubone has addressed this quite well. But will note that again you miss what I take to be the basic point under Bush their were prosecutions. Under Saddam Iraqi’s were tortured in prisons by the thousands, in a far more demeaning and brutal fashion and the occupying government endorsed it. The invasion ended decades of abuse of prisoners if Bush had behaved in the way his opponents wanted, Sadam and numerous others who were responsible for outrageous cases of torture and abuse of prisoners would not have been brought to justice at all. If the failure to bring tortuerers to justice makes a regime terrible then all those states that did not support the invasion must be considerably worse than the Bush administration.

    Re issue 3, here again you miss the point and focus on tangential issues. Roberts point was that Bush liberated women from Taliban “abuse, degradation and tyranny”. Your comments now are essentially to admit this, when the Taliban were removed women were better off, however in those areas where they have regained influence they are not. Exactly.

    Re issue 4. I agree that a persons ideas are not automatically true because the person has qualifications. But that was not what I said, nor was it what you said. You did not just say Roberts’s claims were false you suggested he was a mediocre researcher. That is very different, and apart from being a version of the ad hominem fallacy, I argued its unlikely to be true , its unlikely that a person could get the appointments, qualifications and publications, Roberts has if they were a mediocre researcher.

    Finally you bring up the issue of Habeas corpus, scrubone however has pointed out that the doctrine of habeas corpus allows for its suspension in times of war. Your response to this is simply to note that a narrow margin of Supreme Court judges think it has been misapplied in this situation. That is hardly a compelling indictment. The supreme court by a majority have approved of the death penalty and also banned it. The supreme court by a majority ruled that laws against sodomy were constitutional and in another case ruled they weren’t they have also ruled in favour of slavery. And Roe V wade made the ridiculous claims that abortion was a right in common law. I will also note that not long ago a majority of judges ruled that Bush won the election over Al Gore. Funny how the reaction from Bush haters was different then, the court seems to be appealed to on a very selective basis. The point is that the claim that Bush simply ran roughshod over it is at best debatable. Scrubone also noted that many of the measures you bring up were supported by the democrats including people in the current “improvement”. So singling the republicans out on these issues is rather selective.

    I could also note that the Clinton administration, bombed Iraq, brought in rendition, intervened in Kosovo without UN approval, bombed Afghanistan, blew up a civilian factories killing non-combatants, intervened in Somalia, and had numerous terrorist attacks committed against the US under their watch and were not entirely innocent of the current financial crisis. Bill Clinton, vetoed bans on partial birth commited perjury and was never prosecuted and considered discussing peace in the middle east so important that he got his mistress to give him head while he talked with Arafat over the phone. And now a key person from this regime is secretary of state.

  • “Isn’t the question of wether (sic) a person is good or bad…” I have never addressed the issue of Bush’s “goodness” or “badness” as a person. In this debate, I have addressed only the issue of his presidency.

    “Re issue 1: Here your comments are actually irrelevant because they address a tangential point.” But I didn’t set out to address more than this “tangential point”. I looked for evidence that Saddam ordered weapons inspectors out in 2001, first in a BBC chronology and then in a Guardian chronology. I didn’t find any. That is not, of course, proof that there weren’t any such expulsions in 2001. It is, however, strong grounds for suspicion there weren’t. In my earlier comments in this column, I then noted that the most important date – March 17, 2003, when the United States “advised” the inspectors to leave – was not mentioned by Roberts. Why? Does he not want us to suspect that the US, with Shock and Awe all set to go, was becoming impatient, and wanted to get the show on the road?

    “…you miss what I take to be the basic point [that] under Bush their (sic) were prosecutions…” Well, at the time I was editing the world news page of a daily newspaper, so the prosecutions of Lynndie England, Charles Graner, et al., were hardly something I “missed”. I’m just annoyed, as I was during the Vietnam War, that we never punish those who are primarily responsible for atrocities committed by our troops. Instead, we say things like “history will remind us that it was the Bush Administration that imprisoned those responsible for the horrors” (to quote Roberts) – and conveniently forget those who, like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in this case, created the culture and conditions in which the abuses inevitably occurred. Actually, Bush et al., did more than that. They redefined torture to exclude the mere infliction of pain, and routinely resorted to sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, shackling for prolonged periods in stress positions and other practices that the US picked up from North Korean interrogators during the Korean War. I’m also annoyed by Roberts’ totally misleading remarks about “extraordinary rendition”. A person reading his article might suppose, if he or she has never heard the term before, that it means simply transporting a suspected “terrorist” (sometimes an innocent person who has been literally sold to the Americans) on a non-commercial flight. Actually, it usually means sending such a person to somewhere like Morocco or Egypt, or to a CIA “black site”, to be tortured. We have no idea how many people the US has tortured by proxy, and we have no guarantee that this abominable practice will cease – despite Obama’s vow that the US will not use torture “under his watch”. (Note: According to the … European Parliament report of February 2007, the CIA has conducted 1245 flights, many of them to destinations where suspects were tortured, in violation of article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. – Wikipedia.)

    All this reveals the utter hypocrisy of the claim that the US, in some gesture of nobility, invaded Iraq to rid it of an evil torturer. Not only does the US also torture people, both directly and indirectly, it supports dictatorial, repressive regimes, which use torture as a tool, whenever such support is judged politically expedient. For example, the US supported Saddam throughout the 1980s, during Iraq’s war of aggression against Iran, and sought to minimize some of his more egregious crimes. Then, after the first Gulf war, it encouraged the Shia of southern Iraq to rebel against Saddam – only to stand by and do nothing when Saddam took his revenge. It could have intervened to prevent the slaughter, but it did nothing because, at the time, it didn’t want a Shia regime to come to power in Baghdad. Then, in the 1990s, it supported sanctions against Iraq that actually strengthened the Saddam regime (via the ration system) and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 500,000 people. (Note: Lesley Stahl on US sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.” – 60 Minutes, 5/12/96.) A discussion of the “long-discredited claims that sanctions are not to blame for Iraq’s suffering, but that Saddam Hussein bears sole responsibility” can be found at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1084.

    More later, when I have time.

  • In that infamous TVNZ Face to Face interview of March 21, 2003, in which interviewer Kim Hill “challenged” John Pilger over his views on Iraq, she said emphatically at one point: “Surely, the Americans are doing the right thing now [by invading Iraq]?”. Unfortunately, that part of the interview is not online at NZ on Screen. But I recall Pilger’s response: “Well, no, they’re not,” or words to that effect.

    I might have replied that the US might – just might – have been doing the right thing if the removal of Saddam had been the full extent of the US objective. But it never was. The removal of the Americans’ former henchman in the Middle East was never going to be more than the first step toward the creation of a capitalist utopia, a privatized paradise. The year 2003 was to be Year Zero for Iraq. The slate was to be wiped clean, and Iraqi society was to be reconstructed – in the way described by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. Thenceforth, Iraq was to serve not only as a model for the rest of the Middle East, but as a sort of blueprint for further US interventions in the region. Uncle Sam was on a roll.

    This project apparently owed a lot to the Project for the New American Century, which foresaw in 2000 that only “some catastrophic catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor” would enable its stated goals, which included the “toppling of regimes resistant to our corporate interests”, to be speedily implemented. (See http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf) In addition to the “new Pearl Harbor”, which duly arrived on 9/11, a simple, marketable justification for the invasion had to be found. There were several “candidates”. First up was “a link between Saddam and al-Qaeda”, if it could be made to fly. It couldn’t, despite assiduous efforts, so “Saddam’s WMD” had to fill the breach. Saddam had been trying to get yellowcake from Niger – or had he? Oops! The documents that purported to reveal his procurement efforts were forgeries. No matter. Saddam was obstructing the work of the weapons inspectors. He had to be hiding something. And so it went on.

    The risible Roberts says “Mr Bush assumed that the Coalition forces would find … WMDs”. Perhaps he did. Who knows? Perhaps he had forgotten that on February 24, 2001, in Cairo, Colin Powell said: “He [Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to use conventional power against his neighbors.” Perhaps he had forgotten the briefing he received from CIA director George Tenet on September 18, 2002, “on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction” – information that was then distorted in a “restructured report [that] was passed to Richard Dearlove, chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on it as validation of the cause for war”. (Source: Sidney Blumenthal at salon.com.)

    As Solzhenitsyn said in his Nobel lecture in 1970: “Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his METHOD must inexorably choose falsehood as his PRINCIPLE.”

    More later, when I have time.

  • You raise far to many points for me to address each one thoroughly. So let me raise a few responses.

    You have suggested that Bush is the worst president in history this is a comparative statement, it means that Bush must not just have done some bad things> But that what he did was worse than all previous administrations. (including those that supported slavery prior to the civil war)

    What you have posted up actually provides evidence that this statement is false.

    1. You cite the case of rendition going to great lengths spelling out what allegedly happened. The problem is, a I pointed out in my previous response, is that rendition occurred under the Clinton adminstration. Moreover, Scrubone pointed out that the measures you refer to gained bi partisan support, from both republicans and democrats hence nothing in these examples shows that Bush and the republicans were any worse than previous administrations or worse that the current one.

    2. The same point is evident in your documentation of the past support the US gave the Baathist regime. You note that the US supported Iraq in the Iran Iraq war in the 80’s ( this war killed around two million people). You note that in the 90’s the US supported sanctions that killed 500,000 children (and you argue that the sanctions not Saddam’s redirection of oil for food profits to his own coffers caused these deaths).You cite Madeleine Albright as evidence of the suffering caused. The problem is Bush was elected in 2000; Albright was secretary of state under the Clintons

    These examples then show that previous administrations probably were worse in their dealings with Iraq. Unlike Bush they did not “create a climate” where some soldiers mistakenly thought they could torture a handful of Iraqis, they were complicit in a regime that systematically murdered and tortured Iraqis by the thousands. Similarly, unlike Bush previous adminstrations did not invade Iraq and remove the Baathists from power. The either supported Iraq engaging in wars that killed in excess of 2 million people, or they killed 500,000 children through sanctions, or they turned a blind eye to Saddam and let him murder thousands of Shiites. All these examples show in fact that Bush is not worse than his predecessors with regards to Iraq

    You have demonstrated the point Scrubone has been making. That journalists are very selective in their commentary on Bush adminstrations actions. Your own analysis bears this out After all, by your own admission, Obama just appointed as secretary of state a women who was complicit in the deaths of 500,000 children in Iraq. Where is the *outrage* from where I am the silence is deafening.

  • Alan

    Your post shows exactly the fallacies involved in arguments against the war in Iraq. One reason given for the invasion is that the Baathist regimes systematic abuse of its own people was severe enough to justify overthrowing the government with force.

    What arguments do you give against this?

    Well very bad ones,

    First you state that the US are hypocrites for doing this seeing they supported Saddam in the past that however does not address the issue at all. Suppose the US are hypocrites does it follow what they are doing is wrong. Not at all, suppose a murderer tells people they should not murder, does the fact that he is a hypocrite mean that his statement is mistaken. No.

    Second you suggest that their real motives were not to set the Iraqi people free but something more sinister. This may or may not be the case, but even if it was all it shows is that the US has bad motives. It does not show their actions are unjust. Consider: a person can give to charity not because he cares for the poor, but because he wants others to be impressed by his piety, this would be a bad motive but it does not follow that giving to charity is wrong, or that he should not give to charity. It simply tells us about the character of the person giving to charity not the morality of his actions.

    Third, you talk about the lack of WMD’s, this however is irrelevant. The Bush administration provided several different arguments for invasion. WMD was one of them, hence even if this argument does not work, it does not follow that the others do not, and it certainly does not show that the argument about the need to remove Sadam because of his systematic human rights abuses is flawed. You don’t refute an argument by ignoring it and attacking a different one.

    Of course the WMD issue might be useful if your wanting to argue that Bush is a liar. But the question of whether Bush is a liar is not the same question as wether a particular action of his was justified. Philosophers and Ethicists learn in their first year that attacking the character of a person making an argument is not the same as actually refuting their argument.

  • In Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, John Gray has some interesting things to say about the “philosophy” of Tony Blair. They are worth repeating, as they also apply, to some extent, to George W Bush – a man who shares Blair’s fervent but shallow religiosity:

    “Blair’s complicity in deception in the run-up to war has led to him (sic) being seen as mendacious. This is a misreading. It is not so much that he is economical with the truth as that he lacks the normal understanding of it. For him truth is whatever serves the cause, and when he engages in what is commonly judged to be deception he is only anticipating the new world that he is helping to bring about… The result [of this] was that whereas in the past lies were an intermittent feature of government, under his leadership they became integral to its functioning” (Pages 146-47).

    Supporters of the Bush regime (or legacy) often ridicule “conspiracy theorists”. But they have to ask themselves: Is it surprising, when no one is sure what the truth is, that conspiracy theories flourish?

    Anyway, are the conspiracy theories any more fanciful than some of the ideas the Bush supporters have? Roberts says “history will listen to … the women of Afghanistan thanking [Bush] for saving them from Taliban abuse, degradation and tyranny”. Several things need to be said about this statement:

    1. The belief that Muslims, male or female, Afghan or otherwise, will someday express gratitude for being saved or protected by the US Marine Corps is a neoconservative fantasy, partly based on a 19th-century belief the West has a mission civilatrice. (Interestingly, Rudyard Kipling urged the United States to take up the “White Man’s Burden” of bringing “civilization” to the other races of the world, whether they wanted such civilization or not.) Muslims are more likely to remember that Islamic extremism arises as a reaction to foreign intervention, and to perceive that, ultimately, the cause of a problem cannot be its cure.

    2. Afghan women have been victims of the Americans as well as of the Taliban, through the bombing of homes, the shooting up of wedding parties (something the Americans are particularly good at), and the loss or serious injury of children and other family members in kidnappings and military engagements.

    3. Within a few years of being saved, many of these women, and possibly all of them in the south and east of Afghanistan (outside Kabul, of course) found that the Taliban were back – and that they had been only “temporarily saved”. Are they really going to feel grateful for that? Are the Muslims of eastern Bosnia grateful to the UN for its action in creating a “safe haven” for them in Srebrenica – which was, indeed, safe until the Serbs made it very unsafe?

    4. The US intervention in Iraq has predictably resulted in a rise in Islamic extremism in that country, and an alarming DECLINE in the status of women.

    More later, when I have time. (Sorry, I wrote the above elsewhere. That’s why it’s out of sequence.)

  • Clarification of the Bush era redefinition of torture:

    The Aug. 1, 2002, memo, sent from Assistant Attorney General Jay S Bybee to Alberto R Gonzales, counsel to the president, parsed the language of a 1994 statute that ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and made the commitment of torture a crime. To be torture, the memo concluded, physical pain must be “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” – Frontline: The Torture Question

  • More about torture

    Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a Nobel laureate not-for-profit organization… [has] called on President Obama and Congress to “immediately authorize a non-partisan commission to investigate the authorization, legal justification, and implementation of the Bush administration’s regime of psychological and physical torture.” – William Fisher, Inter Press Service, January 30, 2009

  • You’re setting up a straw man, Matt. In three instances, you have misrepresented my position. In the first instance, you said I was adducing something as proof, when I was adducing it as evidence. We have already dealt with that case. In the second instance, you say I have “suggested that Bush is the worst president in history”. What does “suggested” mean? If my memory serves me correctly, all I have done is post two items in which OTHERS said they thought Bush was the worst president in history. I did so because I thought the items were of interest in the context of this debate, and that you might like to comment on them. I, personally, would never say “Bush is the worst president in history”, not only because of the reasons you have given at great length, which are entirely apposite, but because I couldn’t even name all the presidents of the US. I would thus be reckless, indeed, to make any such comparative statement. In describing Bush’s presidency, I would probably use such adjectives as “appalling” and “disastrous”, which is not to say that I necessarily consider Bush “worse” than Clinton or Bush Senior or anyone else. Incidentally, I do not have a high opinion of Clinton, and I have no great expectations for Obama.

    The third misrepresentation of my position is in your most recent post, where you say I have given arguments against the overthrow of the Iraqi regime with force. In reality, I have never argued against the use of force to remove Saddam, either in this column or elsewhere. On the contrary, I not only maintain that Saddam had to be removed by force, I maintain that the force had to come from outside the country. I do not agree with John Pilger, whom I admire, that in the absence of economic sanctions the Iraqi people might have been able to get rid of him. I have read at least one book on the modus operandi of the Mukhabarat, Saddam’s intelligence service, and I don’t think any such attempt would have succeeded. Indeed, there were a few attempts over the years, all of which failed.

    This does not mean, however, that I looked with favour upon the removal of Saddam by the US. In my opinion, one torturer is not an appropriate agency for the removal of another. And the fact that the US had been Saddam’s partner in crime in the 1980s, and had subsequently committed numerous crimes against the Iraqi people by (1) slaughtering defenceless retreating Iraqi troops and civilians on the “Highway of Death” in 1991, (2) using DU munitions against Iraqi forces in southern Iraq and contaminating the area with radioactivity, (3) bombing the country throughout the 1990s and wrecking much of its industrial infrastructure, and (4) imposing economic sanctions on Iraq and not lifting them after they were seen to be simply adding to the suffering of the people, virtually guaranteed that the Americans would not be welcomed in Baghdad.

    But I said in my earlier post that the US might – just might – have been doing the right thing [by invading Iraq] if the removal of Saddam had been the full extent of the US objective. But the US had an “agenda” for Iraq – an agenda that was disastrously inappropriate rather than “sinister”, and which was vitiated by the absence of an informed, coherent plan to implement it. The US also had a poor understanding of its obligations and responsibilities as an occupying power, and an apparent indifference to an orgy of looting unparalleled since the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258. (“Stuff happens,” was Rumsfeld’s cynical comment.) As in 1258, the city’s library of priceless religious and historical works and records was destroyed, in what one suspects was an attempt to erase a culture. Robert Fisk, who was there at the time, says dedicated teams of arsonists were apparently bussed in.

    Now let’s look at your proposition, which is that a man’s “bad” character and “bad” motivation do not make his “good” action wrong. That is true in the analogy you give. But it is also true, in that case, that the man’s character and motivation don’t affect the outcome of his action, unless the charity learns of his past behaviour and decides to return his donation. But in the case of the invasion of Iraq, the character and motivation of the US were prejudicial to both the way in which the action was executed and its outcome. And as we all know, the outcome was a disaster: to date, 98,000 documented civilian deaths in violence, according to Iraq Body Count; as many as 1,300,000 deaths, according to other estimates; a society in which sectarian strife, exacerbated by the foreign occupier in the opinion of many Iraqis, has turned more than four million Iraqis into refugees, and created walled ghettos that resemble parts of Palestine.

    For all this, the Bush presidency bears a heavy responsibility. Even if it was not possible to put together an “untarnished” international intervention force, all kinds of steps could have been taken by the US to secure a better outcome. For a start, Arabic speakers from the State Department, with a good knowledge of Iraq, could have been sent to run the transitional authority. Incredibly, such people were not only excluded, they were specifically excluded. Only loyal Republicans were wanted, and the less they knew about Iraq the better. Who cares about the past, when a country is to be made anew?

  • The following is the beginning of an article, dated January 16, 2009, by Eman Mansour, a campaigner with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA):

    After NATO’s invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, most people thought the world had finally remembered and rescued a country drowned in pain and sorrow. But despite the attention paid by the international community, today Afghanistan is one of the poorest, most under-developed countries in the world. The false slogans of “womens’ freedom” and “democracy” by the US helped it justify its invasion but today the people, especially women, feel betrayed by those false promises.

    The US government brought back to power the men who devastated the country and the lives of the people like no government before. These are the criminals of the Northern Alliance who fought among themselves from 1992-96, immersing the country into deep turbulent years of unimaginable crimes: abductions, torture, rape, looting and forced labour. The warlords involved like Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani and others enjoy high posts in the so-called democratic government today – but the people want to see them on trial in courts. In a nutshell, the present government today is ideologically no different from the Taliban.

    To throw dust in the eyes of the world, they sent 68 female members to the parliament as a showcase – but in fact the vast majority of them are fundamentalist women who were sent to the parliament by warlords. The Women’s Ministry is another showcase that has done nothing for Afghan women. Malalai Joya, the only MP who dared to draw attention to the plight of Afghan women, was quickly expelled from the parliament.

    Today the United States claims to have freed Afghan women, but women’s lives are still as painful as under the misogynist regime of the Taliban…

    (For more, see the RAWA website.)

  • The following is the beginning of an article headlined Violence Against Iraqi Women Continues Unabated, dated December 1, 2008, at electroniciraq.net:

    “Iraqi women have seen their rights eroded in all areas of life while the world observes from afar,” warns the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Yakin Ertuerk, on the International Day on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

    “The ongoing conflict, high levels of insecurity, widespread impunity, collapsing economic conditions and rising social conservatism are impacting directly on the daily lives of Iraqi women and placing them under increased vulnerability to all forms of violence within and outside their home”, says Ms. Ertuerk.

    Although too often overlooked, “violence against Iraqi women is committed by numerous actors, such as militia groups, insurgents, Islamic extremists, law enforcement personnel, members of the family as well as the community”, laments the UN Special Rapporteur.

    Women are victims of rape, sex trafficking, forced and early marriages, murder, and abduction for sectarian or criminal reasons; many are driven or forced into prostitution. Women also fall victims to the disproportionate use of force by members of Iraqi and multi-national forces (MNF-I), including during raids on private homes. To escape the cycle of violence many women turn to suicide, sending a clear message of despair to their society…

  • I am Christian. I don’t hate the former President of the United States of America. There are probably some good things that G.W.Bush did during his time in office. As a person he could well be a very nice bloke. However I disagree with Andrew Roberts in his attempt to portray the former president as a competent Commander-in-Chief. No doubt his close advisors must share some of the blame for, as military historian Martin Van Creveld put it (Nov 2005)”misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus … sent his legions into Germany and lost them”. I don’t believe that history will share Roberts optimistic view of the former president. Worst president? Great president? In my view I don’t think he has been a strategic president because I question whether the consequences of what he did are in the national interests of the USA.

    – Timothy

  • This whole blog is flawed from the first paragraph, by linking anti-bush thinking with "conspiracies". 
    Its a simplistic catch-cry from the right to justify war.
    The belief that the towers came down because bin lardens mates flew planes into it is a conspiracy in itself.
    Look at all the independant evidence regarding sept 11, that whole day was a conspiracy, from the pentagon, to the towers.
    Or you can just believe what they tell you, keep your head in the sand.  I don't believe the US govt brought them down, but it makes more sense than the offical explaination.
    whats a conspiracy???????

    i think the real point of this blog was to get people to reply, well done…..we know you don't really belive this stuff.

  • This whole blog is flawed from the first paragraph, by linking anti-bush thinking with "conspiracies".  
    Its a simplistic catch-cry from the right to justify war. 
    The belief that the towers came down because bin lardens mates flew planes into it is a conspiracy, as is the belief the us govt brought them down.
    Look at all the independant evidence regarding sept 11, that whole day was lie after lie, from the pentagon, to the towers. 
    Or you can just believe what they tell you, keep your head in the sand.  I don't believe the US govt brought them down, but it makes more sense than the offical explaination. 
    whats a conspiracy??????? 
    according to your mentality a conspiracy is anything not on the 6 o'clock news?
    i think the real point of this blog was to get people to reply, well done…..we know you don't really belive this stuff, or you haven't bothered to look for the truth

  • The previous "guest", and anyone else still following this debate, may be interested to know that, after describing Bush as "…one of greatest US Presidents of my life time…", Matt Flannagan now describes him (in a tweet to http://twitter.com/luckykiwi on August 10) as the "lesser of 2 evils". 

  • Alan, actually there is nothing inconsistent between the two statements. But I would also note that the Tweet was from me, the blog above was by Madeliene

    The tweet you refer to, claimed that Bush administration engaged in Torture and tried to suggest some how this means any support I had of the Bush administration is misplaced. ( or perhaps I condoned this) This does not follow, even if the Bush administration did immoral things like torture, it does not follow they were not the best choice, because the alternatives to them may have done even worse things. 

    The example  I made in the tweet is abortion, which kills millions of people every year ( far more than the war in Iraq or Afghanistan did) which the Bush administration opposed and Obama has supported.  Another example often forgotten is that  Sadam Hussein engaged in the brutal torture of thousands, the removal of him from power could well have saved thousands of people from torture whereas an administration that had not initiated regime change would not have saved people from torture.  Its not enough to say Bush did X and X is bad, what one would need to say is that the alternatives to Bush would do better

  • Two paragraphs from “George Bush’s Favorite Historian: The strange views of Andrew Roberts” – a review by Jacob Weisberg of Roberts’ “A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900”:

    As a historian, Roberts is present-minded in the extreme, returning at every stage of his narrative to justifications for Bush’s actions in Iraq. The neoconservatives who want to spread democracy in the Middle East are the heirs to compassionate Victorians who sought to civilize India, China, and Africa. While the reader is still choking on the casting of Richard Perle as Lord Macaulay, Roberts is hard at work grafting Bush’s head onto Winston Churchill’s body. The president’s prosecution of the war on terror is “vigorous” and “absolutely unwavering.” His and Tony Blair’s Iraq war has provided “excellent value for money” to the taxpayer. That Bush has brought “full democracy” to Iraq is stated as unequivocal fact.

    Roberts is as sloppy as he is snobbish. I am seldom bothered by minor errors from a good writer, but Roberts’ mistakes are so extensive, foolish, and revealing of his basic ignorance about the United States in particular, that it may be worth noting a few of those I caught in a fast read. The San Francisco earthquake did considerably more than $400,000 in damage. Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself in 1941, did not write for Encounter, which began publication in 1953. The Proposition 13 Tax Revolt took place in the 1970s, not the 1980s—an important distinction because it presaged Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980. Michael Milken was not a “takeover arbitrageur,” whatever that is. Roberts cannot know that there were 500 registered lobbyists in Washington during World War II because lobbyists weren’t forced to register until 1946. Gregg Easterbrook is not the editor of the New Republic. “No man gets left behind” is a line from the film Black Hawk Down, not the motto of the U.S. Army Rangers; their actual motto is “Rangers Lead the Way.” In a breathtaking peroration, Roberts point out that “as a proportion of the total number of Americans, only 0.008 percent died bringing democracy to important parts of the Middle East in 2003-5.” Leaving aside the question of whether those deaths have brought anything like democracy to Iraq, 0.008 percent of 300 million people is 24,000—off by a factor of 10, which is typical of his arithmetic. If you looked closely enough, I expect you could find an error of one kind or another on every page of the book.

    (Support for my claim, at the beginning of this debate, that Roberts is a poor researcher.)

  • The following passage, taken from George Mason University’s History News Network, is attributed to Johann Hari in the New Republic (4-13-07):

    … Bush, Cheney, and — in a recent, glowing cover story — National Review, have, in fact, embraced a man with links to white supremacism, whose book is not a history but an ahistorical catalogue of apologies and justifications for mass murder that even blames the victims of concentration camps for their own deaths. The decision to laud [Andrew] Roberts [the author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, which President Bush has read and priased,] provides a bleak insight into the thinking of the Bush White House as his presidential clock nears midnight.

    Andrew Roberts describes himself as “extremely right wing” and “a reactionary,” and, in Great Britain, the 44-year-old has long been regarded as a caricature of a caricature of the old imperial historians. He famously lauds the British Empire–and its massacres and suppressions–as “glorious” on every occasion. He sucks up to the English aristocracy to the point that Tatler, the society journal, says, “[H]is adolescent crush on the upper classes is matched by virtually no one else in this country.” One of the few things that can silence Roberts is a mention of his origins in the distinctly nonaristocratic merchant classes, with a father who owned a string of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises. Much as he longs to be K&C (Kensington and Chelsea), to those he adores, he will always have the whiff of KFC.

    Yet this Evelyn Waugh tomfoolery masks an agenda that the distinguished Harvard historian Caroline Elkins describes as “incredibly dangerous and frightening.” To understand the core of Roberts’s philosophy–from Waugh to war–it’s necessary to look at a small, sinister group of British-based South African and Zimbabwean exiles he has embraced.

    In 2001, Roberts spoke to a dinner of the Springbok Club, a group that regards itself as a shadow white government of South Africa and calls for “the re-establishment of civilized European rule throughout the African continent.” Founded by a former member of the neo-fascist National Front, the club flies the flag of apartheid South Africa at every meeting. The dinner was a celebration of the thirty-sixth anniversary of the day the white supremacist government of Rhodesia announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, which was pressing it to enfranchise black people. Surrounded by nostalgists for this racist rule, Roberts, according to the club’s website, “finished his speech by proposing a toast to the Springbok Club, which he said he considered the heir to previous imperial achievements.”

    The British High Commission in South Africa has accused the club of spreading “hate literature.” Yet Roberts’s fondness for the Springbok Club is not an anomaly; it is perfectly logical to anybody who has read his writing, which consists of elaborate and historically discredited defenses for the actions of a white supremacist empire–the British–and a plea to the United States to continue its work….

  • As usual we see an ad hominen attack on the character of the person in question rather than a substantive argument.

    If you give credence to articles which maintain Bush is the worst President in US history you have to be willing to take seriously some interesting claims. For example you have to suggest that American presidents who ordered their air force to engage in carpet bombing of whole civilian populations and dropped two atomic bombs on Japan some how constituted less sins than the invasion of Iraq ( assuming the invasion was unjustified which is not a self evident fact despite left wing journalists constantly short circuiting the moral debate and asserting it was).

    You will also have to suggest that generations of presidents who supported slavery and allowed it to continue for centuries somehow acted more morally than Bush did.

    You have to also argue that Bush should be removed from power and Ashscroft brought to justice because of alleged torture of suspected terrorists. But also argue that a regime which engaged in the systematic torture of thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians should not have been removed from power because to do that is contrary to “peace”.

    And seeing the Churchill analogy has been raised, I agree Bush and Blair were not like Churchill. Neither for example ordered the fire bombing of whole German civilian centers such as the bombing of Darmstadt on 11 September 1944 killing 12000 civilians in a single night. Or the bombing of Hamburg which killed 40,000 or the bombing of Dresdan which killed 35,000, both done in order or terrorise the local population into surrender.

    Nor was Bush or Blair he also was not responsible for military cock ups like Gallipoli that resulted in one of the worst massacres in New Zealand history. But of course Bush and Blair are evil demons worse than any previous admin they invaded Iraq. Churchill is one of the greats.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Recyling: Rawls on Religion and Public Life =-.

  • “Words cannot convey exactly how frightening a man becomes when he turns from historian to propagandist.” — good quote from “Court Historian” (Andrew Roberts) by R.J. Stove in The American Conservative.

    The capitalized section of the following paragraphs reminded me of your ethics/reasoning:

    To expect in Roberts’s effusions the smallest nuance or humility makes hunting for four-leaf clovers seem like an intelligent use of one’s time. He is incorrigible. Not only must every good deed of British or American rule be lauded till the skies resound with it, but so must every deed that is morally ambiguous or downright repellent.

    The Amritsar carnage of 1919, where British forces under Gen. Reginald Dyer slew 379 unarmed Indians? Absolutely justified, according to Roberts, who curiously deduces that BUT FOR DYER, “MANY MORE THAN 379 PEOPLE WOULD HAVE LOST THEIR LIVES.” Hitting prostrate Germany with the Treaty of Versailles? Totally warranted: the only good Kraut is a dead Kraut. Herding Boer women and children into concentration camps, where 35,000 of them perished? Way to go: the only good Boer is a dead Boer. Interning Belfast Catholics, without anything so vulgar as a trial, for no other reason than that they were Belfast Catholics? Yep, the only good bog-trotter … well, finish the sentence yourself.

  • Do we have to retraverse the issue of whether or not GWB was “the worst president is US history”? I have already explained that I inserted the link to “So Long Worst President Ever; 10 Reasons History Will Hang You” , plus the article’s concluding paragraph, because I thought the article was “of interest in the context of this debate”. If you want to know why those 66 American historians “ranked Bush as the ‘worst ever’ “, you will have to ask them – or at least refer to the “10 Reasons”.

    I think I made my position clear when I said that I would describe the Bush II presidency as “appalling” and “disastrous” – and avoid the trap of any superlative.

  • Further to my last post, I don’t think an enumeration of a scholar’s failings constitutes an “ad hominen attack”. In addition to Jacob Weisberg’s list of “extensive, foolish” mistakes by Roberts, R.J. Stove has a few in the following paragraph from “Court Historian”:

    It is tempting to make an entire article not only from Roberts’s forensic amorality but from his outright factual ineptitude. In a spasm of revisionist daydreaming, Roberts has announced that the Australian prime minister in 1938 was Robert Menzies. This would have astonished the actual Australian prime minister of that year, who bore the name Joseph Lyons. Presumably relying on one-volume encyclopedias’ entries, Roberts never got around to discovering that the Australian leader baptized Joseph Benedict Chifley was known to all his compatriots as Ben Chifley: not, pace Roberts, as “Joseph Chifley.” Someone might also with benefit have advised Roberts that the Brighton bombing aimed at Margaret Thatcher occurred in 1984, not 1985, and that Nelson Mandela was released from jail in 1990, not 1994. Virginia Woolf could hardly have contributed to the periodical Encounter, since she suicided 12 years before it began.

  • Alan

    What you said was this

    The article concludes: So, congratulations for being the worst president in American history. That’s not just my personal opinion; that’s the opinion of 109 historians polled by the History News Network. Fully 61 percent ranked Bush as the “worst ever;” 98 percent labeled his presidency a “failure.” And this poll, taken in early 2008, predated the cataclysmic housing and banking crashes. Bye-bye W — history will not be kind.

    Now you grant that it was not your personal opinion, yet you did see the source as reliable and having credibility that’s why you cited it.

    I put to you that given Truman dropped 2 nuclear bombs on Japan and the US (following the British) engaged in much worse conventional bombings of civilian centres in WWII and that many US presidents tolerated and supported chattel slavery, anyone who suggests Bush was the “worst” is not really speaking credibly at all. One would have to ignore a hell of a lot of history to make this claim.

    I think I made my position clear when I said that I would describe the Bush II presidency as “appalling” and “disastrous” – and avoid the trap of any superlative.

    Yeah you say this hear when I point these obvious facts out. Elsewhere however you have suggest Bush is satan. Which paints quite a different picture.

    Further to my last post, I don’t think an enumeration of a scholar’s failings constitutes an “ad hominen attack”.

    Actually it is, as is insinuating he is a racist or attacking his moral opinions, and actuall addressing of his arguments might be of interest.

    BUT FOR DYER, “MANY MORE THAN 379 PEOPLE WOULD HAVE LOST THEIR LIVES.”

    Actually if there really was a choice between killing 375 innocent people and killing 3000 innocent people and there was no third option. I think one would be required to kill 375. Nor do I consider this controversial ( it’s the conclusion of the famous Trolley problem) What would you do, kill 3000? That’s the only alternative available.

    But to your point, according to utilitarianism, which is the dominant secular ethical philosophy of today, one is required to kill hundreds to save thousands. I myself don’t accept this view largely because it clashes with theological premises I accept, but I do know that it’s a fairly common and position amongst secular ethicists one defended by numerous competent ethicists to suggest that a Historian lacks credibility because he accepts a utilitarian view simply shows you don’t know much about ethics.