A Humbling Reminder for Americans

Jon Roma got me thinking, by quoting a speech from Senator Robert Byrd:

We are at a dangerous time in our Republic. The Constitution — the very foundation of this great country — is under attack by a presidency that is bent upon secrecy, that has to be dragged kicking and screaming to answer questions, and that follows a path of utter recklessness. Its policies have changed the face of America around the globe from that of a giant peacemaker to that of a schoolyard bully. People who once declared strong allegiance with America now question our purpose.

I supported the war. A lot of that is because the Middle East has been dangerously stuck in the past, and the few Iraqis I’ve met all seemed seriously haunted by Saddam Hussein, and the unfinished Gulf War in 1991, when they thought “liberation” may have been at hand. I even defended the distasteful way that Bush went about starting the war — by being a unilateralist bully — because we have had a tendancy to invade other countries, throughout our history, whenever we found it politically convenient, and I don’t see this changing any time soon. The “benefit” is that Americans and those in other countries who love America are reminded that, despite our martyrdom on 9/11, we are not perfect — we are a reckless, arrogant people, and there should be some wariness in dealings with America. It curbs our awesome power, you see? Much as the Constitution sets limits on the powers of our government, it is good for Bush to remind us of the excesses of power, and the irresponsibility to which the United States is occasionally prone. It is painful, and divisive, but if the problem is there, it might as well reveal itself, and it might as well have a Republican face.

In the long run, this crazy expedition may well prove to be worthwhile. If that happens, Bush will go down in history as one of our more daring and visionary leaders. I hate to think of that today, because here in the present — he flat out sucks. But I agree that taking Saddam down was a good thing, because a lot of the responsibility for that had lain at our feet, unresolved. From the comfort of a computer terminal, far from the sweaty heat and deadly ambushes in Iraq, I have the luxury to view the problem as a tidy, abstract exercise — George Bush, the incompetent, illegitimate leader, gets to take credit for the liberation of a people that we had helped to enslave, and perhaps some day he will be credited for the liberalization of the Middle East — who knows — but in the short term he illustrates, especially to families of those who constitute the too few “boots on the ground” that lacked proper body armor, and who did not get their reinforced humvees in time, he reminds us of the worst excesses of how we conduct our foreign policy — the dangers of our self-righteous, fundamentalist arrogance.

I don’t think, in his heart, that he believes he is a two-term President. It is a big stretch to view him as legitimate for even one term. He is there by accident, so he might as well make accidents. (In this he excels.) How easily we might recall the trauma of 9/11 as something wholly undeserved, if we did not then explain it with our own stupid reactionary blunders. George Bush is there to make the reckless decisions, to push us too far in one direction, and make it hard for us to abuse our power. If anything he does is righteous, may we keep it when he is gone, and all the stuff that is just plain wrong, I’d like us to energetically dismantle upon his departure.

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Categories: Politics

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