National Day of Mourning
Accolades Pour In
The Intercept offers a more sobering view.
The Ignored Legacy of George H.W. Bush: War Crimes, Racism, and Obstruction of Justice
THE TRIBUTES to former President George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday aged 94, have been pouring in from all sides of the political spectrum. He was a man “of the highest character,” said his eldest son and fellow former president, George W. Bush. “He loved America and served with character, class, and integrity,” tweeted former U.S. Attorney and /#resistance icon Preet Bharara. According to another former president, Barack Obama, Bush’s life was “a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.” Apple boss Tim Cook said: “We have lost a great American.”
“When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms,” as my colleague Glenn Greenwald has argued, because it leads to “false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts.” The inconvenient truth is that the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush had far more in common with the recognizably belligerent, corrupt and right-wing Republican figures who came after him — his son George W. and the current orange-faced incumbent — than much of the political and media classes might have you believe.
Facts matter. The 41st president of the United States was not the last Republican moderate or a throwback to an imagined age of conservative decency and civility; he engaged in race baiting, obstruction of justice, and war crimes. He had much more in common with the two Republican presidents who came after him than his current crop of fans would like us to believe.
- He ran a racist election campaign. The name of Willie Horton should forever be associated with Bush’s 1988 presidential bid.
- He made a dishonest case for war. Thirteen years before George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction to justify his invasion and occupation of Iraq, his father made his own set of false claims to justify the aerial bombardment of that same country.
- Then there is the fabrication of intelligence. Bush deployed U.S. troops to the Gulf in August 1990 and claimed he was doing so in order “to assist the Saudi Arabian Government in the defense of its homeland.” As Scott Peterson wrote in the Christian Science Monitor in 2002, “Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated… that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.” Yet when reporter Jean Heller of the St. Petersburg Times acquired her own commercial satellite images of the Saudi border, she found no signs of Iraqi forces; only an empty desert.
- He committed war crimes. Under Bush Sr., the U.S. dropped a whopping 88,500 tons of bombs on Iraq and Iraqi-occupied Kuwait, many of which resulted in horrific civilian casualties. In February 1991, for example, a U.S. airstrike on an air-raid shelter in the Amiriyah neighborhood of Baghdad killed at least 408 Iraqi civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, the Pentagon knew the Amiriyah facility had been used as a civil-defense shelter during the Iran-Iraq war and yet had attacked without warning. It was, concluded HRW, “a serious violation of the laws of war.”
- He refused to cooperate with a special counsel. The Iran-Contra affair, in which the United States traded missiles for Americans hostages in Iran, and used the proceeds of those arms sales to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua, did much to undermine the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Yet his vice president’s involvement in that controversial affair has garnered far less attention. “The criminal investigation of Bush was regrettably incomplete,” wrote Special Counsel Lawrence Walsh, a former deputy attorney general in the Eisenhower administration, in his final report on the Iran-Contra affair in August 1993.
- He escalated the racist war on drugs. In September 1989, in a televised addressto the nation from the Oval Office, Bush held up a bag of crack cocaine which he said had been “seized a few days ago in a park across the street from the White House . . . . It could easily have been heroin or PCP.” Yet a Washington Post investigation later that month revealed that federal agents had “lured” the drug dealer to Lafayette Park so they could make an “undercover crack buy in a park better known for its location across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House than for illegal drug activity” (the dealer didn’t know where the White House was and even asked the agents for directions). Bush cynically used this prop — the bag of crack — to call for a $1.5 billion increase in spending on the drug war, declaiming: “We need more prisons, more jails, more courts, more prosecutors.”
That's a more complete assessment of George H.W. Bush. And for that, we have a "national day of mourning".
Why should we have to wait until someone is dead?
We should charge people with war crimes when they are alive.
His son was much worse.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock