by Helen Thomas
WASHINGTON -- As he leaves office, President Bush is passing on to his successor two wars and a growing economic debacle. What a way to go!
Because of Bush's policies, the U.S. also is complicit in the Israeli attack on the Palestinians on the Gaza Strip by providing a "made-in-America" high-tech arsenal for the assault and blocking a ceasefire for nearly two weeks, a move intended to help the Israelis consolidate their hold.
Not to worry, Bush says he isn't concerned about how history will view his militant eight years in the White House, telling ABC News that he "won't be around to read it."
Well, they say that journalism is the first draft of history. So I am going to predict that those future historians will not deal kindly with the Bush presidency.
It's true -- as Bush and company point at their proudest achievement-- there have been no new terrorist attacks on the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001.
But they fail to acknowledge administration mistakes before and after that fateful day, starting with the fact that White House and security officials ignored significant early warnings of an imminent strike against the U.S.
The second half of the double 9/11 mistake was the trampling of our constitutional system and American values by the administration's infamous torture policies, illegal interrogation practices, including water boarding (simulated drowning), secret prisons abroad and U.S. run jails at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Post- 9/11 Bush strategy also nurtured a climate of fear that enabled the self-styled "decider" to lead the country into a senseless war against Iraq, a calamity still underway as he leaves office almost six years after the invasion.
Add the administration's pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and you have basis to dub Bush's eight White House years as the "Bush error."
He was to be the great "unifier" but instead he became a great polarizer.
While he remained stubbornly steadfast to his core social convictions, he did a 180-degree turn when it came to the role of government in the economy when he bailed out the collapsed giants of Wall Street.
He told CNN: "I've abandoned free market principles to save the free market systems." So much for all the anti-government rant of Republican conservatives.
After the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice drummed up the fiction that Iraq was linked to the al Qaida attacks and sold that fable to a naive Congress and jittery American people. During the first crisis meeting after the 9/11 attack, neo-con advisor Paul Wolfowitz, said: "Let's bomb Iraq."
There were no Iraqis involved in the attack and no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any role in planning or executing it.
Other falsehoods that these officials peddled included the tale that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Cheney told his Sunday television audiences, "We know where they are."
Official inspectors found none. The non-existent weapons were used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Bush is not about to admit that his costly inhumane attack on Iraq was a mistake. How could he tell grieving families of more than 4,000 American service members that their loved ones had died because of his error?
In addition to the flawed decision to attack Iraq, Bush and Co. used the aftermath of 9/11 to take wholesale swipes at our civil liberties, including warrantless wiretapping.
So those future historians will have a clear view of the 43rd president as they look back on the early years of the 21st century.
A list of Bush's accomplishments also should include his efforts to pay more money and political support into helping victims of AIDS and malaria in Africa. And he is proud of his controversial program "No Child Left Behind" to upgrade public school students by imposing national standards on an education system that had none.
Those future historians should also take note that Bush was hailed for his "likeability" when he came into office and was dubbed the guy you would like to share a beer with.
However, a CNN poll last year suggested that Bush had become the most unpopular president in modern American history. That CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey indicated that 71 percent of the American public disapproved of how Bush was handling his job as president.
Bush must have a sense of relief in giving up the presidential burdens.
He is confident that those future historians will vindicate him and his presidency.
But no one is expecting him to wind up on Mount Rushmore.
© 2009 The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
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