An American President Steps Over the Line (Again)
by Douglas Milburn
How do you live with yourself if you’re responsible for the deaths of 4,000 American soldiers and uncounted hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?
Is it enough to believe your own public political platitudes about making the Middle East safe for democracy? Is the unstated rich peoples’ platitude about making the same region safe for Halliburton et al. enough to calm your troubled presidential mind?
Over the years of this national (international) tragedy we’ve heard — and picked apart — enough of Bush’s speeches to conclude that both those rationales are at work.
His 2008 Memorial Day radio address gave away the game in one sentence that, strangely, no one seems to have noticed. Partly, I suppose, because we are by now so inured to his inanities that nobody except talking heads and columnists hard up for analytical fodder is paying much attention to what he says.
I couldn’t get this one sentence out of my mind after it flashed through whatever media I was tuned in to.
Right at the end of a few minutes of the usual patriotic vacuities, he asks all Americans to remember the soldiers who paid the ultimate price, who were “delivered out of the agony of war to meet their Creator.”
My first reaction of jaw-dropping surprise was followed, the more I thought about it, by incredulity and then embarrassment, which finally morphed into a kind of nightmarish despair, the kind you feel when Slim Pickens at the end of Dr. Strangelove reveals his true cowboy colors and happily rides one of the bombs to earth shouting “Hee-haw” with a big grin on his face.
I was stunned that a president could and would say such a thing in public on the radio 1) without shame and 2) apparently without awareness that there might be any cause at all for shame in making such a statement.
A statement which basically says, “4,000 soldiers have died, but that’s OK because however awful their deaths were, they’re now a lot better off than they were before (and than we are who are still struggling along on Earth) because, well, they’re face-to-face with the Big Guy Himself. So, not to worry.”
We’ve known that Bush some good while ago delivered himself into the hands of evangelical Christians. We’ve had a number of hints that Biblical prophecy concerning Israel, End Times, and all that, may have played a part in shaping White House policy in the Middle East.
But here, in this one sentence, he revealed in total clarity, the extent to which he has bought into the most simplistic, bedrock faux reality of the right-wing religionists.
Clearly the mountains of the dead weigh on him. Just as clearly, he’s found a way to sleep under that crushing weight, a way to think himself beyond the horrors that he has caused into a happier world: “As your president, I say to all you loved ones and friends of our dead soldiers, never mind your sadness and feelings of loss, because the simple truth is that they are much better off now than we are and certainly much better off than they were before they died.”
Some call it faith. What do you call it when the leader of an ostensibly secular nation uses his position of power to spin an unverifiable tale to justify and celebrate the deaths for which he is responsible? I call it obscene.
Douglas Milburn is the founder/editor of the Internet magazine, Magellan’s Log (since 1999). He is the author of several books and former editor of Houston City Magazine (RIP).