Over the last several days I’ve had the pleasure of several people coming up to me and asking what I thought about President Obama and Syria. Almost everybody I talk to questions whether the president was telling the truth, not because they inherently distrust Barack Obama, but because they had a fresh memory of George W. Bush and his war machine. As I was watching John Kerry present before the Senate Armed Services Committee, I had flashbacks of Colin Powell presenting in front of the UN. The problem is that we don’t know what the actual data show. We have no way of knowing whether Barack Obama is twisting the information to suit his own needs.
Timothy Egan has more on the Bush Burden:
He’s there in every corner of Congress where a microphone fronts a politician, there in Russia and the British Parliament and the Vatican. You may think George W. Bush is at home in his bathtub, painting pictures of his toenails, but in fact he’s the biggest presence in the debate over what to do in Syria.
His legacy is paralysis, hypocrisy and uncertainty practiced in varying degrees by those who want to learn from history and those who deny it. Let’s grant some validity to the waffling, though none of it is coming from the architects of the worst global fiasco in a generation.
Time should not soften what President George W. Bush, and his apologists, did in an eight-year war costing the United States more than a trillion dollars, 4,400 American soldiers dead and the displacement of two million Iraqis. The years should not gauze over how the world was conned into an awful conflict. History should hold him accountable for the current muddy debate over what to do in the face of a state-sanctioned mass killer.
Blame Bush? Of course, President Obama has to lead; it’s his superpower now, his armies to move, his stage. But the prior president gave every world leader, every member of Congress a reason to keep the dogs of war on a leash. The isolationists in the Republican Party are a direct result of the Bush foreign policy. A war-weary public that can turn an eye from children being gassed — or express doubt that it happened — is another poisoned fruit of the Bush years. And for the nearly 200 members of both houses of Congress who voted on the Iraq war in 2002 and are still in office and facing a vote this month, Bush shadows them like Scrooge’s ghost.
I originally published this post approximately three years ago. With North Korea in the news again concerning its nuclear ambitions, I think it is important to understand the background.
As soon as President George W. Bush took office in 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that he was going to continue the actions of the Clinton administration. Quickly, Vice President Dick Cheney and other neo-cons in the Bush White House worked to silence Powell and reverse the steps that the Clinton Administration took to freeze nuclear weapons production in North Korea.
I believe the way that the US-North Korea relationship has been played out in the media has been ridiculously superficial. Secondly, the American public has been led to believe that everything started with President Clinton. He is portrayed as a hero or a villain, depending upon your point of view. As usual, I think that the real picture is far more complex.
It appears that North Korea’s nuclear plans date back to the late fifties and early ’60s. Being a very small and somewhat paranoid country, North Korea began to send scientists to the Soviet Union right at the end of the Korean War. They did not believe that when push came to shove the Soviet Union would stand up for them. The Cuban Missile Crisis reinforced that belief. The Soviet Union, their ally, backed down when the US show of force and imposed a blockade around Cuba. North Korea thought that Russia would do the same if squeezed by the US. Also, in 1965, the US, Japan and South Korean signed a diplomacy agreement. This served to further isolate the paranoid country. North Korea fired up the first of its two nuclear reactors in 1967. Continue reading The United States and North Korea
500 days by Kurt Eichenwald
For generations we will be studying the immediate aftermath of 9/11 with the same intense scrutiny that we studied the Civil War, Pearl Harbor and the Revolutionary war. There will be scholars who will agree and disagree about this decision or that decision. There are several books that have already addressed the atmosphere before 9/11 and immediately afterward. One of the best books, in my opinion, was Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies. This book was a personal yet comprehensive account of how the United States throughout the 1990s and early in the Bush administration struggled to get a handle on the growing threat from terrorism. Whether you like Richard Clarke or not, this is not the issue. His information has stood the test of time. The second book, less popular, but no less important, is Bob Graham’s book, Intelligence Matters. Sen. Bob Graham was chairman of the Senate intelligence committee during 9/11. His book focuses more on intelligence failures or lapses. He looks for ways in which the intelligence community could have connected the dots and possibly prevented the 9/11 tragedy. Another book that I would like to put on this list is Bob Woodward’s Bush at War. The reason that I am hesitant to place this book on this list is that Bob Woodward’s work has become so politicized. Some of his work is excellent, as in Bush at War. Some of his work is more sensational and, in my opinion, designed to sell books rather than to deliver information. Jane Mayer’s book, The Dark Side, must also be placed on this list.
500 Days belongs in this same category. It is a fantastic work which looks at the first 500 days of the Bush administration. If you’re looking for a book that either praises or condemns President George W. Bush, then you need to find another book. This book, instead of heaping superficial praise on any one individual, examines specific policies and attempts to figure out who made the decision, why the decision was made and on what evidence the decision was made. If you’re looking for a definitive answer, or whether a particular decision was great or awful, those sorts of judgments are not in this book.
There are several themes developed in 500 Days. One of the most important themes is how the United States conducted the War on Terror. The War on Terror is multifaceted. It involves the military, the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, the State Department, the Border Patrol and the Department of the Treasury, just to name a few. This book discusses the decisions made in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in order to try to prevent a second attack. George Tenet, director of Central Intelligence, was convinced tate 9/11 was the first in a series of attacks. The FBI and the CIA were convinced that there were sleeper cells here in the United States and abroad and that these cells were ready to act. Because of this, the Bush administration always felt that they were behind the eight ball. The Bush administration felt that they needed to catch up in order to prevent the next attack. Continue reading 500 Days by Kurt Eichenwald