We live in the America Bush Jr created, a break with our past.

Summary: Dazzled by Nobel Peace Prize President Hope and Change, people (including historians and political scientists) and have only slowly recognized that Obama has largely continued the policies of his greater predecessor — a man who truly changed the course of American history. Until we understand our past we cannot effectively cope with our future.

Bush on Mt Rushmore

Passing years make it ever more clear that Bush Jr was one of the few transformative Presidents in US history, decisively changing the course of both domestic and foreign policy. Consider just a few of his major policy initiatives. The roots of these policy changes lie in the past, but he brought them to maturity.

  • His tax laws shifted the burden of Federal taxes from the rich to the middle-class (only slightly rolled back by Obama; State and local taxes were already regressive), continuing the work of our previous transformative President — Ronald Reagan.
  • He shifted the US from its post-WWII policy of containment and support for international law (largely a US-driven creation) to one of militaristic aggression — quite mad for a world in which new power centers are arising).
  • He decisively broke with the New Deal patterns, weakening the regulatory apparatus ability to interfere with corporate profits — and diminishing the influence of other interests, such as unions and environmentalists.
  • He decisively broke with  generations-old legal precedents (e.g., torture, preemptive war, indefinite detention without trial) or centuries-old (e.g., use of mercenaries).

As with many such key moments in time, historians only slowly recognized the change in course if America, and even more slowly explore the factors that made it happen. In the New York Review of Books Mark Danner continues his work reviewing books about this remarkable story (one reason the NYRB should be on everybody’s subscription list). Here we examine the person most responsible for crafting America’s new grand strategy. The origins of Bush’s domestic policies remain to be explored, on another day.

Excerpt from “In the Darkness of Dick Cheney

By Mark Danner
New York Review of Books, 6 March 2014 (red emphasis added)

Reviewing:


This was the heart of the Bush Doctrine: henceforth terrorists and the states harboring them would be treated as one and, as President Bush vowed before Congress in January 2002, “the United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” It was according to this strategic thinking that the United States answered attacks on New York and Washington by a handful of terrorists not by a carefully circumscribed counterinsurgency aimed at al-Qaeda but by a worldwide “war on terror” that also targeted states — Iraq, Iran, North Korea — that formed part of a newly defined “axis of evil.”1 According to those attending National Security Council meetings in the days after September 11,

“The primary impetus for invading Iraq…was to make an example of [Saddam] Hussein, to create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States.”

Bush Jr on the Patriot Act

… By invading Iraq Bush administration policymakers — and at their head, Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — had managed to demonstrate to the world not the grand extent of American power but its limits. The most one could say is that the “demonstration model” had had the opposite result of that intended, encouraging “rogue states,” faced with the prospect of an aggressive United States determined to wield its unmatched conventional military forces, to pursue the least expensive means by which to deter such an attack: nuclear weapons of their own. Now the Iraq war suggested that even if the Americans did invade, a determined core of insurgents equipped with small arms, suicide vests, and other improvised explosive devices might well be enough to outlast them, or at least outlast the patience of the American public.

And yet we live still in Cheney’s world. All around us are the consequences of those decisions: in Fallujah, Iraq, where al-Qaeda-allied jihadis who were nowhere to be found in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq have just again seized control; in Syria, where Iraqi jihadists play a prominent part in the rebellion against the Assad regime; in Afghanistan, where the Taliban, largely ignored after 2002 in the rush to turn American attention to Saddam Hussein, are resurgent.

And then there is the other side of the “war on terror,” the darker story that Cheney, five days after the September 11 attacks, was able to describe so precisely for the country during an interview on Meet the Press:

“We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies…. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”

The day after Cheney made these comments President Bush signed a secret document that, according to longtime CIA counsel John Rizzo, was the most comprehensive, most ambitious, most aggressive, and most risky Finding or MON [Memorandum of Notification] I was ever involved in. One short paragraph authorized the capture and detention of Al Qaeda terrorists, another authorized taking lethal action against them. The language was simple and stark…. We had filled the entire covert-action tool kit, including tools we had never before used.8

This memorandum, as Rizzo remarks, “remains in effect to this day.” So too does Congress’s Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Bush signed the following day. More than a dozen years later these are the two pillars, secret and public, dark side and light, on which the unending “war on terror” still rests.

————————————-

Please read this article in full. It’s vital that we understand what happened before we blindly stumble further down this path. We can still change course, before we do irreparable damage to America.

Mark Danner

About Mark Danner

Mark Danner is the author, most recently, of Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War. He is a Professor of English and Journalism at Berkeley, and a Professor of Foreign Affairs and the ­Humanities at Bard. His writing and other work can be found at his website.

For More Information

(a)  Another post about George W. Bush, a transformative president: Let’s honor our generation’s greatest leader, one of the chief builders of a New America.  Also see  Tom Engelhardt’s introduction to this article Still Living in Cheney’s World and “How Obama Took the Brakes Off the War Machine: Three precedents that make it even easier to use lethal force abroad without congressional approval.

(b)  Mark Danner’s articles at NYRB about Bush Jr’s SecDef Rumsfeld:

(c)  Posts about continuity of US foreign policy between Bush Jr and Obama (that neither Left or Right see this is strong evidence of our inability to clearly see the world around us):

  1. A guide to our Middle East Wars – change you cannot see, 31 March 2009
  2. Quote of the Day, 20 May 2009 — Connect the dots between Bush and Obama to see the nice picture.
  3. Stratfor looks at Obama’s foreign policy, sees Bush’s foreign policy, 30 August 2009
  4. Motto for the Obama administration: “The more things change, …”, 5 September 2009
  5. Change, the promise and the reality, 11 October 2009

12 thoughts on “We live in the America Bush Jr created, a break with our past.

  1. Yeah, right, blame everything on Bush for the current state of our nation and world…it’s escapist fantasy delusions perpetuated by the left.

    1. Jude,

      “Blame everything on Bush for the current state of our nation and world”

      When someone makes specific statements, to reply by gross exaggeration (“everything”) and denial is just wasting your time and ours. Ditto for the tribal chest-thumping (“by the Left”).

      If you believe some specific statements are wrong, then tell us what and why.

      If you just don’t like the facts, well then — neither do I. I voted for Bush in 2000 (in hindsight I regret doing so, although I dislike Gore).

    1. Editor of the Fabius Maximus website: “… now that we know the reasons are mostly fiction. In my opinion future historians will wonder why we ever believed such nonsense, and ignored the people who told us so at the time. ”

      How so? The law and policy of the Gulf War ceasefire plainly state that the casus belli for enforcement was based on whether Iraq complied with the UNSC resolutions of the Gulf War ceasefire. The determinative fact findings clearly establish that Saddam was noncompliant with the spectrum of ceasefire mandates at the decision point for Operation Iraqi Freedom. That Saddam was guilty of material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire is fact, not fiction.

      Public Law 105-235, August 31, 1998:

      Whereas Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threaten vital United States interests and international peace and security: Now, therefore, be it
      Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations, and therefore the President is urged to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.

      President Clinton, December 16, 1998:

      I made it very clear at that time what unconditional cooperation meant, based on existing UN resolutions and Iraq’s own commitments. … I made it equally clear that if Saddam failed to cooperate fully, we would be prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning. … The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Saddam has failed to seize the chance. And so we had to act, and act now.

      President Clinton, August 2, 1999:

      Iraq remains a serious threat to international peace and security. I remain determined to see Iraq fully comply with all of its obligations under Security Council resolutions.

      President Clinton, July 28, 2000:

      The crisis between the United States and Iraq that led to the declaration on August 2, 1990, of a national emergency has not been resolved. The Government of Iraq continues to engage in activities inimical to stability in the Middle East and hostile to United States interests in the region. Such Iraqi actions pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.

      President Bush, September 12, 2002:

      If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material[,] … immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions[,] … cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi’a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions[,] …
      … The Security Council resolutions will be enforced — the just demands of peace and security will be met — or action will be unavoidable.

      Public Law 107-243, October 16, 2002:

      The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to—
      (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
      (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

      UNSC Resolution 1441, November 8, 2002:

      Determined to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions and recalling that the resolutions of the Council constitute the governing standard of Iraqi compliance, …
      … Decides that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 …
      … Decides, while acknowledging paragraph 1 above, to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council;

      UNSC Resolution 687, April 3, 1991:

      8. Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of:
      (a) All chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities;
      (b) All ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres and related major parts, and repair and production facilities;
      9. Decides, for the implementation of paragraph 8 above, the following:
      (a) Iraq shall submit to the Secretary-General, within fifteen days of the adoption of the present resolution, a declaration of the locations, amounts and types of all items specified in paragraph 8 and agree to urgent, on-site inspection as specified below;

      10. Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally undertake not to use, develop, construct or acquire any of the items specified in paragraphs 8 and 9 above …

      UNMOVIC Cluster Document, March 6, 2003:

      UNMOVIC evaluated and assessed this material as it has became available and … produced an internal working document covering about 100 unresolved disarmament issues …
      … [for example] UNMOVIC has credible information that the total quantity of BW agent in bombs, warheads and in bulk at the time of the Gulf War was 7,000 litres more than declared by Iraq [and] … With respect to stockpiles of bulk agent stated to have been destroyed, there is evidence to suggest that these was [sic] not destroyed as declared by Iraq.
      … UNMOVIC must verify the absence of any new activities or proscribed items, new or retained. The onus is clearly on Iraq to provide the requisite information or devise other ways in which UNMOVIC can gain confidence that Iraq’s declarations are correct and comprehensive.

      Iraq Survey Group Duelfer Report, September 30, 2004:

      ISG uncovered information that the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) maintained throughout 1991 to 2003 a set of undeclared covert laboratories to research and test various chemicals and poisons, primarily for intelligence operations.
      …• The existence, function, and purpose of the laboratories were never declared to the UN.

      Iraq’s decisions in 1996 to accept the Oil-For-Food program (OFF) and later in 1998 to cease cooperation with UNSCOM and IAEA spurred a period of increased activity in delivery systems development. The pace of ongoing missile programs accelerated, and the Regime authorized its scientists to design missiles with ranges in excess of 150 km that, if developed, would have been clear violations of UNSCR 687.

      From 1999 until he was deposed in April 2003, Saddam’s conventional weapons and WMD-related procurement programs steadily grew in scale, variety, and efficiency.

      The UNSCR 1441 inspection period concluded with the UNMOVIC Cluster Document finding of “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues” which confirmed “Iraq … remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687” in Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply with [Iraq’s] disarmament obligations” with “full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687” (UNSCR 1441). The UNMOVIC findings were the principal trigger for OIF.

      In the post-war investigation, the Iraq Survey Group corroborated Iraq was noncompliant with the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687: “ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs” (Duelfer Report).

      Saddam’s evident noncompliance with the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687 per UNMOVIC at the decision point for OIF is, by itself, sufficient to justify OIF – “Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein” (UNSCR 1441).

      That being said, note that I set aside Saddam’s continuing violation of other ceasefire obligations such as the terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687 and the humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688 that were also principal grounds for the President “to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to … enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq” (P.L. 107-243).

    2. Eric,

      It is nice to find that there is still at least one true believer, no matter how delusional. In fact Iraq had no working WMDs, let alone nukes, except for some too old to use material in dumps.

      As has been lavishly documented by now, Bush and his senior advisors put immense pressure on his Intel staff to manufacture the claims of Iraq WMDs. That plus the even more fictional claims of alliance withal Qaeda, provided the justification for the invasion and occupation.

      Afterwards one of the chief drivers for the grossly illegal torture was to find support for the fake claims made before the war.

      In the hundreds of posts about the Iraq war enthusiasts like you trumped each rumor or story about WMDs, all found to be baseless or exagerated. Ten years in which I burned away hundreds of hours on this madness.

      To make it quite simple, if they found anything, it would have been showcased like the first moon landing.

      I’m not going to go over this nonsense again.

    3. Actually, in 2005, the bipartisan Silberman-Robb WMD Commission, while sharply critical of the pre-war intelligence, “found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. What the intelligence professionals told [the President] about Saddam Hussein’s programs was what they believed.” Then in 2008, a Democrat-slanted Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, although overtly partisan, analyzed pre-war statements by Bush administration officials and concluded they were largely “substantiated by intelligence”, and found no manipulated intelligence nor political pressure placed on intelligence analysts.

      I don’t understand your characterization of the actual, defining law, policy, and determinative fact findings as “delusional”. There is no clearer assessment of the ‘why’ of OIF than the bedrock law, policy, and fact findings. They speak for themselves.

      The law and policy clearly show the casus belli was Iraq’s noncompliance with the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441). The “governing standard” for disarmament was clearly defined by UNSCR 687. The UNMOVIC Cluster Document clearly confirmed Iraq was noncompliant with the “governing standard” of UNSCR 687 at the decision point for OIF. The Iraq Survey Group Duelfer Report clearly corroborated Iraq was noncompliant with the “governing standard” of UNSCR 687. Again, that sets aside Saddam’s other continuing violations of the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” that were also casus belli for OIF. It doesn’t get more simple to understand than that.

      However, you have apparently asserted an arbitrary standard for Iraqi compliance in replacement of the actual “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” that was mandated by the Gulf War ceasefire UNSCRs and enforced by 3 (4, including Obama) US presidents under US law.

    4. Add: This is spoon-feeding what should be obvious, but it seems necessary to correct Editor of the Fabius Maximus website’s fundamental false premise about the ‘why’ of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

      The UNSCRs that mandated the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” and the US laws that enforced the UN mandates are consistent and clear: the casus belli for enforcement was Iraq’s noncompliance with the spectrum of UN mandates, principally with the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687. The pre-war intelligence estimates were not casus belli.

      Public Law 107-243, October 16, 2002:

      The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to … enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

      UNSC Resolution 1441, November 8, 2002:

      Determined to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions and recalling that the resolutions of the Council constitute the governing standard of Iraqi compliance,
      … … Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein,
      … Decides that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 …
      … Decides, while acknowledging paragraph 1 above, to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council;

      UNSCR 1441 makes it simple to assess the decision for OIF: “Iraq has been and remains in material breach” (UNSCR 1441). As a first step, clearing the material breach required Iraq to prove “full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687” in Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply with [Iraq’s] disarmament obligations” (UNSCR 1441). If Saddam proved Iraq was compliant as mandated, then OIF was not justified. If Iraq failed to prove compliance as mandated, then OIF was justified.

      First (obviously) learn the “governing standard for Iraqi compliance” for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687.

      Then, based on the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” mandated by UNSCR 687, review the UNSCR 1441 inspection results summarized in the UNMOVIC Cluster Document (“UNRESOLVED DISARMAMENT ISSUES IRAQ’S PROSCRIBED WEAPONS PROGRAMMES 6 March 2003”). This State Department summary of the 173-page Cluster Document helps.

      The answer should be obvious: Saddam was required to prove compliance with the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” of UNSCR 687 in his “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441), yet Saddam responded with “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues” (Cluster Document). Iraq failed to prove compliance as mandated and OIF was justified.

    5. Eric,

      I really feel sorry for you. Saddam could not prove a negative (that he didn’t have nukes). Documents and statements released since the invasion have shown that the Bush administration intended to occupy Iraq — and the excuses given were just dressing for the proles. That you give such credence to the paper trail they created is evidence of what has been so often shown here — many Americans are gullible beyond the average, and will slavishly believe whatever the government tells them.

      However, all this about is in the dustbin of history. You’ve had your say, as absurd as it is. Go somewhere else, join the “The South left the union due to tariffs” in the oddballs of history club. There is nobody listening to you here. You’re wasting your time.

    6. The “paper trail” was 13 years long. It didn’t start with the Bush administration. It started with the 1990-1991 UNSC resolutions of the Gulf War, then raised with the Gulf War ceasefire (principally UNSCRs 687 and 688, April 1991) that Saddam agreed to abide by in order to suspend the Gulf War and stay in power. The “paper trail” then filled up due to Saddam reneging on the ceasefire for the next 12 years. In fact, the best source for understanding Operation Iraqi Freedom is President Clinton, not President Bush. Clinton’s whole presidency was preoccupied trying to enforce the Gulf War ceasefire, and passed down to his successor, Bush’s case against Saddam was really Clinton’s case against Saddam.

      If you read the controlling UNSCRs and US laws and determinative fact findings to correct your fundamental false premise, you’ll see that the nuclear-related mandates were only one part of the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687. The UNMOVIC finding of “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues” that was the principal trigger for OIF only tangentially touched on the nuclear-related mandates. IAEA covered the nuclear-related mandates with UNMOVIC assistance.

      According to the UNMOVIC and Iraq Survey Group findings, Saddam’s noncompliance with the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687 was more purposeful than “could not prove a negative”. I quoted upthread ISG findings corroborating Iraq’s noncompliance with UNSCR 687. Here are some more ISG findings that show Saddam purposely violated the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance”:

      Saddam had direct command of the Iraqi intelligence services and the armed forces, including direct authority over plans and operations of both. … The IIS ran a large covert procurement program, undeclared chemical laboratories, and supported denial and deception operations.

      • Huwaysh instructed MIC [military-industrial complex] general directors to conceal sensitive material and documents from UN inspectors. This was done to prevent inspectors from discovering numerous purchases of illicit conventional weapons and military equipment from firms in Russia, Belarus, and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.

      Through an investigation of the history of Iraq’s bulk BW [biological weapons] agent stocks, it has become evident to ISG that officials were involved in concealment and deception activities.
      ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs up to OIF by failing to disclose accurate production totals for B. anthracis and probably other BW agents and for not providing the true details of its alleged 1991 disposal of stocks of bulk BW agent.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.