Now that the 9/11 remembrances have ended for another year, let’s remember what happened afterwards. Let’s remember how Bush Jr. used our weakness and hysteria to reshape America on a scale achieved by few presidents.
Self-government begins with memory. Remember the America that George Bush Jr. inherited. The economy was growing rapidly (+4.4% in 2000. Unlike today’s Trump growth, fueled by drunk-like deficits, the Federal government was running a surplus (+2.3% in 2000) and paying off the debt (the debt/gdp ratio peaked at 65% in 1995; it was 54% in 2000). Spending on defense was under 3% in 1999 and 2000 for the first time since WWII.
Then we elected George W. Bush. His first major act was to cut taxes for the rich, sending the Federal budget back into the red (the 2001 and 2003 bills). This was also done by Reagan and Trump. Useful idiots on the Right say that the GOP is the fiscally responsible party, in the long tradition of America politics featuring declarations that up is down. The tax cuts were sold to us as a growth-booster, but began a decade-long period of slow growth and ruinous deficits..
Then came 9/11. With Bush’s help, it was the most effective military op ever. Bush used it to ramp up military spending (reaching 4.6% of GDP in his last budget). Much of it was spent on high-tech weapons of little or no use fighting terrorists. He began a major domestic surveillance program (much of it illegal), continued by his protégé Obama. He began a major program of foreign wars, continued by Obama – and now Trump. He soiled our reputation – even in our own eyes – by embracing large-scale use of torture (Obama, the good protégé, tinkered: ended torture, began assassinations – even of an US citizen).
Using his increased public support after 9/11, he made decisive changes in America.
- 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, indefinite detention without trial) or centuries-old (e.g., preemptive war, use of mercenaries).
- He initiated the regime of security theater at airports, training America to act like sheep before government employees.
Bush continued some trends in US foreign policy. Reagan overthrew a secular regime in Afghanistan, allowing Islamic radicals to take power. Bush Jr. overthrew a secular regime in Iraq, allowing an Islamic regime to take power. Obama helped overthrow a secular regime in Libya, allowing radical Islamic elements to take over. Trump is trying to overthrow a secular regime in Syria, so Islamic jihadists can take over. Perhaps someday our rulers will tell us why.
We so loved Bush Jr. that we re-elected him and his claim that He Made America Safe (because Up is Down). We gave him the ultimate compliment of electing Obama, who continued so many of Bush’s policies (expanding some, toning others down). We elect to Congress people that support these policies. This is the America that we have built.
After memory, self-government consists of learning and a resolve to do better. These are the simple three steps to political reform. Let’s begin soon. The steps after those are much more difficult.
Other posts about Bush Jr., a transformational president
Tom Engelhardt’s Still Living in Cheney’s World .
Also see these about Obama’s policy of “Hope and Change.”
- A guide to our Middle East Wars – change you cannot see.
- Stratfor looks at Obama’s foreign policy, sees Bush’s foreign policy.
- Motto for the Obama administration: “The more things change, …”.
- Change, the promise and the reality.
For More Information
- Lies about 9-11 that justified our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.
- Thoughts about 9-11-01 by Rebecca Solnit — Remember what happened on that day, and imagine what could have followed if we had been wiser.
- The vital things to know about 9-11, painful and so seldom mentioned today.
- About the mysteries of the 9-11 attack — Articles questioning the standard story.
- Bin Laden won, with our assistance. Our applause shows the scale of his victory. — About “Zero Dark Thirty”.
- It’s not too late to learn from 9/11. But soon it will be.
- Commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11 by understanding what followed.
- Remember that 9/11 was the most effective military op, ever.
Books to help you more clearly see our America.
All that has changed since these were written is that we have accepted the new America as our America.
Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World by Tom Englehardt (2014).
The United States of Fear by Tom Englehardt (2011).