View Full Version : "The Boy President"

Good Doctor HST
07-12-2005, 09:36 PM
Portion of the article shown written by Tom Englehardt, courtesy of Zmag.org

Playing at War

More than anything else, as I watched him that morning in Gleneagles, Scotland, I was filled with a sense of sadness that we had reached such a perilous moment with such a man, or really -- for here is my deepest suspicion -- such a man-child in power. Yes, he genuinely believes in his war on terror, even as he and his advisors use it to his own advantage. And yes, he's good at being, or rather enacting with all his being, the role of the War on Terror President. And yet there's something so painfully childlike in the spectacle of him. Here, after all, is a 59 year-old who loves to appear in front of massed troops, saying gloriously encouraging and pugnacious things while being hoo-ah-ed -- and almost invariably he makes such appearances dressed in some custom-made military jacket with "commander in chief" specially stitched across his heart, just as he landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln back in May 2003 in a Navy pilot's outfit. Who could imagine Abe himself, that most civilian of wartime presidents, or Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Dwight D. Eisenhower, a real general, wearing such G.I. Joe-style play outfits?

Let's face it. George Bush likes dress-up. What a video game is to a teenager, the Presidency seems to be to this man. It's a free pass to the movies with him playing that brave warrior part. All in all, I'm afraid to say, it must be fun. When he so cavalierly said, "Bring 'em on," he was surely simply carried away by the spirit of the game. What it wasn't, of course, was the statement of a mature human being, an adult.

I don't usually say such things, but there's something unbelievably stunted about all this. He and his top officials seem almost completely divorced from any sense of the actual consequences of their various acts and decisions. They live in some kind of dream world offshore of reality, which would perhaps not be so disturbing if they didn't also control the levers of power in what, not so long ago, was regularly referred to as the "lone" or "last superpower" or the globe's only "hyperpower." (Even in their own terms, it's a sign of their failed stewardship that almost no one uses such phrases any more or, say, Pax Americana, another commonplace of 2002 and 2003.)

It may be that nations deserve the leaders they get and perhaps it's no mistake that George Bush ended up as our leader -- twice no less -- in a period that otherwise seemed to cry out for having your basic set of grown-ups in power, or that his Secretary of Defense likes to play stand-up comic at his news conferences, or that his first Attorney General just loved to sing songs of his own creation to his staff, or that none of them can get it through their heads that it's not just the terrorists who, in our world, have been taking "the lives of the innocent."

I keep thinking: Who let these children out in the world on their own? Obviously the American people, in some state of global denial, did. It's strange, but I can't get out of my mind an image that Bush administration officials, from the President on down, were using regularly back in 2003-2004. They often quite publicly compared the Iraqis to a child taking his first wobbly bike ride (assumedly on a democratic path) under the administration's tutelage. There was Washington, the kindly adult, stooped over, helping balance that ungainly kid, or trying to decide whether this was the moment to take off those training wheels and let the child take an initial spin on his own, chancing of course a spill.

In May of 2004, for instance, the President, according to a CBS News report (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/01/19/iraq/main594228.shtml), "sought to rally Republican lawmakers around his Iraq plan..., saying Iraqis are ready to 'take the training wheels off' by assuming some political power." Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld spoke similarly in March of that year: "Getting Iraq straightened out (http://www.sundayherald.com/40703), he said, was like teaching a kid to ride a bike: 'They're learning, and you're running down the street holding on to the back of the seat. You know that if you take your hand off they could fall, so you take a finger off and then two fingers, and pretty soon you're just barely touching it. You can't know when you're running down the street how many steps you're going to have to take. We can't know that, but we're off to a good start.'" And from Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to L. Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, others chimed in similarly.

Of course, all of this was a lie of an image and not just because it was classically patronizing and colonial. After all, if you wanted to extend the image, you would have to say that the American parent helping that sweet child learn how to bike was also plundering the child's future college fund (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n13/harr04_.html), looting his future patrimony, and turning his life into a swirl of deadly chaos. Take off those wheels and let him wobble around that first corner and he was likely to be knocked off his bike by an RPG round and find himself in a hospital without supplies run by doctors who were either being assassinated or fleeing the country.

Perhaps this image, now retired by the administration, came back to me as the President spoke because, only the day before, on a wet and slippery Scottish road, riding his own special sports bike, George had crashed (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4658327.stm) into a policeman guarding him, scraping his hands and arms, and sending that policeman briefly to the hospital.

Now, anyone can fall off a bike, but I had to wonder who had taken those training wheels off the Bush administration bike -- al-Qaeda by its 9/11 attacks, would assumedly be the answer -- and let its officials careen off on their first wild rides, all of which have left them skidding off the road and someone else in the hospital. I wondered what the inhabitants of Baghdad, the capital of our failed state of Iraq, might have been thinking about the President's statement on the London bombings or all the media attention that was given over to them. After all, 7 to 8 car bombings (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/08/AR2005070802182_pf.html) a week now take place in Baghdad alone -- and this figure is held up proudly by the American military as an accomplishment of the moment (being down from 14 to 21 before a recent offensive in that city). And yet in our press there are never stories about how Baghdadis keep stiff upper lips or carry on with life amid the carnage, though somehow they evidently do.

If you'll excuse another image, it was as if our child leaders had taken off, ridden directly into someone else's neighborhood, seen a wasp's nest, promptly stomped on it, and then stood around praising themselves and waiting to be stung. If you judge a war by its results, then our president's war on terror has led only to ever more terror and ever more war. Just the other day, the Bush administration did some new figuring and reported that terrorist incidents globally in 2004 had increased five-fold over the previous figures it had released to the public. For that year, the National Counterterrorism Center (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-1684077,00.html) now counts up 3,192 attacks worldwide, with 28,433 people killed, wounded, or kidnapped -- and Iraq led the list by a mile even though attacks on the U.S. military were not counted in the tally.

In the meantime, as Dilip Hiro points out, bombing attacks (http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article298048.ece) -- Bali, Turkey, Madrid, London -- are moving ever closer to the heartland of our particular world, of George Bush's imperium. Once upon a time it was a trope of American presidents to claim that we were fighting there, wherever there might be -- in the case of Lyndon Johnson Vietnam, in the case of Ronald Reagan Central America -- so that we might not fight on the beaches of San Diego or in the fields of Texas. When a president said such a thing, It sounded fierce and threatening -- and it was inconceivable. Armed Nicaraguans were never going to punch through Texas, nor were Vietnamese guerrillas going to slip ashore in Southern California, nor Panamanians in Atlanta; nor Grenadians in Key West; nor, for that matter, Iraqis of the First Gulf War era in Boston.

George Bush now uses the same punch lines as those former presidents, just as he did recently in his national television address to the nation on Iraq. But for the first time, they have an actual meaning. They have perhaps even more meaning over "there." Riverbend, the eloquent, young Baghdad Blogger (http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/2005_07_01_riverbendblog_archive.html#112017374927 547660), recently put the matter this way from the perspective of a resident of the Iraqi capital:

"Bush said: 'Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. ... The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq, who is also senior commander at this base, General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said, "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us."'

"He speaks of 'abroad' as if it is a vague desert-land filled with heavily-bearded men and possibly camels. 'Abroad' in his speech seems to indicate a land of inferior people -- less deserving of peace, prosperity and even life. Don't Americans know that this vast wasteland of terror and terrorists otherwise known as 'Abroad' was home to the first civilizations and is home now to some of the most sophisticated, educated people in the region? Don't Americans realize that and the place we hope to raise our children -- your field of war and terror."" 'abroad' is a country full of people -- men, women and children who are dying hourly? 'Abroad' is home for millions of us. It's the place we were raised."

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07-12-2005, 09:42 PM
he does like to play dress up.....

07-13-2005, 04:33 PM
If you factor in that GW has not had a responsibility until he was 40, then his psychological age is 19, tops:)

While i personally thought i knew the ways of the world at 19, when i was twice that age i realized i didn't know shit.....but the saddest thing in this whole debacle is that a nation of dittoheads think him the alpha and omega:superman: