Monday, August 17, 2015

JEB and the Family Legacy: Political Dynasty or Plague on the Nation?

by Nomad

Has JEB given up trying to rebrand the discredited Bush brand? Certain remarks he made last week would suggest he is eager to pick up where his infamous brother left off.

When I consider what kind of president Jeb Bush would make, there are a lot of niggling questions that come to mind. I ask myself:
  • Would you really vote for a person who uses an assumed name? 
A lot of people- including journalists- incorrectly assume Jeb Bush's first name is a shortened form of the Biblical-sounding moniker, some kind of reference to the long suffering Job or Zebulun. Yet the truth is Jeb should be written in capital letter as it is actually the first letters of his real name, John Ellis Bush. If you think about it, it doesn't make sense to call the candidate Jeb Bush at all. It could be simply JEB, like JFK or FDR.
As it stands, it is like saying John Ellis Bush Bush.

Using an alias is hardly a standard practice for a candidate. Ask Rafael Edward (a.k.a "Ted") Cruz. To die-hard conspiracy theorists, it vaguely suggests deceit of some sort. After all, when filling out applications, many criminals use their nicknames or false names in the hope you will not be able to see their criminal history.
Anyway, it's his last name that creates a rotten egg smell for most voters.

Here's another question:
  • Could you ever vote for a person that misrepresents his ethnic background on voter forms? 
It's not like any Bush is going to forget that. As the New York Times reported, Bush listed himself as Hispanic on a 2009 voter-registration application in Miami-Dade County. (This must have been big news for Babs since his mother is about the whitest white woman imaginable!)

More Important Questions
There are more serious questions to ask when we look at the JEB candidacy. It boils down to:
  • Do we really need another waltz around the ballroom with a member of the Bush family? 
  • Haven't we- as a nation- endured enough of the false narratives and slippery use of language, the deceptions and the agendas? 
Taking the long view, the Bush family has become more of a national curse, a plague on all our houses, than a political dynasty. Now it is JEB's turn. From the evidence of the past weeks, JEB seems eager to carry on the family tradition.  

Indeed, it would be a different story if JEB attempted to portray himself as a new and improved version of the thoroughly discredited Bush presidents. And yet, as noted by his critics, he has surrounded himself with the same advisors that helped steer his brother down a political rat hole.
"What you need to know is that who I listen to when I need advice on the Middle East is George W. Bush."
As if to leave no doubts in anybody's mind, JEB told an audience in Iowa last week that Paul Wolfowitz was giving him advice on foreign policy.
You must recall that name. Wolfowitz, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005 is generally considered to be one of the "architects" of the war against Iraq. (Add your own exclamation points as needed.)
This is the very same Wolfowitz who said- with a straight face:
I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq. Those who want to come and help are welcome. Those who come to interfere and destroy are not.
Beginning from the first emergency meeting in the days after the 9/11 attacks, according to John Kampfner. both Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz thought and invasion of Iraq was a splendid idea- and that "breaking" the "brittle and oppressive regime" was "doable."
Any 5 year old would tell you that what is "doable" need not always be done.

Both-Ways JEB
What JEB really wants is to have it both ways. To say he disagrees a way with what his brother did but, then again, if confronted with the same scenario, he would have done pretty much the same thing. 
He dodged the crucial question of the Iraq War in the patented George W. Bush way. He said that "knowing what we know now, with faulty intelligence" he would not have launched the 2003 invasion. 

Yet, Bush was given more than adequate intelligence about Iraq. That intelligence that told him, for instance, that there was no link between al-Qaeda and Saddam. 
A Washington Post article from June 17, 2004  reported that the September 11 Commission, after reviewing all of the classified intelligence found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda.
Along with the contention that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top administration officials have often asserted that there were extensive ties between Hussein's government and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network; earlier this year, Cheney said evidence of a link was "overwhelming."
Cheney was the chief promoter of the idea that Saddam "had long-established ties with al Qaeda."And the President also jumped on the bandwagon. In a speech on May 1, 2003, Bush asserted:
"The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding."
(As late as 2008, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was still convinced of a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam.)
There were other lies that were used to scare the American people into consenting to an invasion of Iraq. Saddam's nuclear weapons program for example.
Even though McCain and other promoted the idea of a Saddam nuke, in actuality, intelligence revealed that Saddam was not capable of building a bomb and chemical weapons development were unlikely. By 2003, the same year as the invasion, USAToday was reporting that nuclear bomb program had been dead since 1991. Iraqi scientists had lied to Saddam about the possibility of ever building on a bomb and the North Koreans had apparently "stiffed" Saddam when he tried to buy one.

Intelligence surely must have uncovered that the sanctions had permanently defanged the beast.
The problem was nobody in the Bush Administration wanted to hear that. Instead of absorbing that information, deliberating on it and adjusting the Iraq policy, Bush and his crew chose to promote a radically different, self-justifying narrative. And based their all of their unfortunate decisions on that and nothing else.  

Bush and Cheney and others in the administration effectively twisted or misused prewar intelligence to justify the March 2003 bombing and invasion. It was never a question of faulty intelligence, it was a question of how the intelligence was handled and to what ends.

Torture is Not Debateable 
When it comes to JEB's wishy-washy statements, there are worse things just below the surface. For example when pressed on the issue, JEB refused to make "a definitive, blanket type of statement," on the subject of torture. 
Bush said.
"I do think in general that torture is not appropriate. It's not as effective and the change of policy that my brother did and then was put into executive order form by the President was the proper thing to do."
It's a very deceptive wording. The change of policy came after international outrage following Abu Ghraib and the disclosure of classified information. It was not a sudden epiphany of compassion within the Bush administration. Bad publicity- to put it mildly- drove President Bush to revise policy. 
Even then, Vice President Cheney humbugged about waterboarding being necessary and called the damning bipartisan report on CIA torture "crap." 

JEB managed to slip in another bit of deception: The president that issued the executive order was President Obama, not President Bush.

Abu Ghraib
More importantly there is a danger in the framing of the argument.
Proper and appropriate? Whether JEB wishes to acknowledge it or not, torture is a war crime. Trying to question the effectiveness of torture reduces it to merely policy debate. 
As UKGuardiancolumist Trevor Timm points out, it isn't about whether tortures "works."
It didn’t of course, as mountains of evidence has proved, but it’s mind-boggling we’re even having that debate considering that torture is a clear-cut war crime. It’s like debating the legality of child slavery while opening your argument with: “well, it is good for the economy.”
Even then JEB refused to categorically reject the use of torture. (Is that really so difficult?)
Instead of saying anything definitive, JEB added:
"I'm not going to go through the possible scenarios, at the moment, if it was a life or death question of protecting the United States of America and protecting its citizens - I think one of the most important duties, if not the most important duty of a president is to keep us safe." 
Just like his brother, JEB can always find the suitable justification for any abhorrent policy. When it comes to keeping the United States and its citizens safe, where is the limit? The same rationalization could be used to justify nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. 

Ultimately The Geneva Conventions are clear on prohibiting the use of torture. As one source observes
Torture not only dehumanizes the tortured, but the torturer... Torture has tarnished the soul of our nation.
The damage to America's image abroad will probably never be fully healed. A super powerful nation that can justify war crimes and human rights abuses - by a mere changing of the terms used- really doesn't deserve the world's trust. It's something that JEB still hasn't quite figured out. 

To add to the hypocrisy, Bush was heard to say just the other day that "taking out" Saddam was a "pretty good deal."
I suppose it boils down to how one defines a "good deal" but most sane people would say that the deal isn't so good if includes the loss of nearly half a million people, the abject destruction of an entire country, the fragmented chaos of the entire region all for the sake of taking out one man. No matter how evil that man might be. 
At the very least, it seems very inefficient. 

If one wishes to ignore international law (as well as common morality), then why not choose political assassination? That's something Pappy Bush as the former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) from would know oodles about.
Perhaps JEB is too ethical for that course, but I somehow doubt it.

As far as the "pretty good deal," let's ask the families of the dead and injured US servicemen and women their opinion. There are a lot of widows and orphans that might disagree with JEB on that.

Re-Imagined Timelines and Outright Lies
JEB also stated that when his brother vacated the White House, the "mission was accomplished in the way that there was security there." That statement is a clever attempt to twist the "mission accomplished" banner (which later proved to be an embarrassment) into a positive. 
It's pretty easy to tear that selective historical interpretation to shreds. The timeline for the US troop withdrawal was in place long before Obama took office. 
As others have already pointed out- including Hilary Clinton- it was, in fact, George W. Bush's administration which signed the status of forces agreement, on Nov. 17, 2008. Article 24 of that agreement stated:
“All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.”
Could President Obama have re-negotiated this arrangement? Of course. However it is important to recall that by an overwhelming majority, Americans wanted out of Iraq as soon as possible. Obama was elected president with a promise to do just that. (McCain was talking about keeping American troops in Iraq for the next 100 years.)

Clearly JEB is counting on the forgetfulness and ignorance of the American public. Why not? It's worked so well for the Bushes of yore.

Another one of JEB's deceptive narratives regards the 2007 surge in Iraq. The conservative revisionism runs something like "The surge had brought stability to the region.Everything was fine until Obama came along and fumbled the ball. Blame Obama! " 
Ryan Cooper, writing for The Week describes this scenario as "garbage history."
The surge did succeed in tamping down violence for a time, helped along by the Sunni Awakening. But the entire point of that effort was to make space for political reconciliation between the Shiite-controlled government and the largely Sunni insurgency. In that, it was a total failure. Nuri al-Maliki, then the Iraqi prime minister, was persecuting the Sunnis before the surge was even over, leaving them unwilling to fight ISIS when the time came.
The Iraqi people, by the way, understand how things went down with Maliki. Just in the past few days, an Iraqi parliamentary committee charged that the former prime minister and other officials were "to blame for allowing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to overrun Mosul last year," They have called for Maliki to stand trial. 
Clearly, the Bush administration blundered by putting too much faith in incompetent Iraqi leadership. 
Back in 2007, Bush was insisting that Maliki was doing "as well as can be expected" and that he still had the support of the United States. President Bush in 2007 stated:
"Prime Minister [al-]Maliki is a good guy, good man, with a difficult job, and I support him,"
JEB would have you believe that President Obama miscalculated, pulled troops out too early and chaos ensued. The truth, however, tells a very different story.

It seems that, for conservatives, if they keep repeating absurdities long and loud enough, (as long as the mainstream media keep nodding in agreement) they will claim that Bush was on the right track. Bush was never on the right track simply because there was no need to invade and occupy Iraq in the first place.

In the UN, on February 14, 2003, the French ambassador, Dominique de Villepin predicted that Bush's adventurism in this fragile region would lead to disaster, that the effects of this mistake would spread like a ripple to other nations and open door for people even worse than Saddam.
the use of force would be so fraught with risks for people, for the region and for international stability that it should only be envisioned as a last resort...Would not such intervention be liable to exacerbate the divisions between societies, cultures and peoples, divisions that nurture terrorism?
The Bush response? It was to mock the French as weaklings and change the name French fries to "freedom fries." How much more arrogant can one nation be to an ally?

JEB's fudging of the historical record depends on ever-shortening attention span and political amnesia of American conservatives. He definitely has his work cut out for him.
He might consider witchcraft.
Of course, Bush could always simply steal the 2016 election. 
Stranger things have happened.