Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...


Thursday, March 25, 2004  

George W. Bush is running for re-election based principally on his foreign policy "successes." I agree, he should run on that record. But lest we get caught up in the gauzey, soft-focus patriotism of 9/11, why not review that record for what it is? What I've compiled isn't exhaustive (though it is nevertheless overlong), but I think represents the President's record fairly well.

January 20 to September 10, 2001

  • Before the election, Bush argues against "nation building" and is swept into office by -500,000 votes. "I mean, we're going to have kind of a nation building core from America? Absolutely not. Our military is meant to fight and win war. That's what it's meant to do. And when it gets overextended, morale drops."

  • Bush meets Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time, looks into his eyes and sees his soul.

  • By all accounts, the President dinks around on foreign policy, content to build up a cold-war defense in the age of terror. He begins by immediately putting Star Wars back on track. Even though NATO opposes it, the Bushies declare it necessary. It appears to contravene the ABM missile treaty, but never mind--Rummy immediately dismisses this criticism, even though a little less than a year later, the US will pull out of that very treaty.

  • Bush damages the US’s foreign policy position by thumbing his nose at international cooperation--the Kyoto agreement on environmentalism, the war crimes treaty (in 2002), and arms control treaties, including the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

  • On the Korean Peninsula, Bush abandons any policy, saying he’ll neither support the ‘Sunshine Policy’ nor negotiate with the North Koreans.

    September 11, 2001

  • Shortly after planes crash into the world trade center, Bush makes a brief announcement that he "unfortunately, will be going back to Washington after my remarks." Following the announcement, he leaves a Sarasota schoolroom and flies not to Washington, but Nebraska. Meanwhile, Rudolph Giuliani goes quickly to the site of the bombing and calms the nation.

  • Later that night, Bush gives the most-lauded statement of his presidency. In retrospect, it is akin to his usual speeches ("A great people has been moved to defend a great nation."), but notable for a line that is later used as a major feature of Bush policy: "The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts? We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."


    September 12, 2001 and after

  • Following the 9/11 attacks, the White House enjoys unprecedented support from around the world. It is a mood of surprising evanescence.

  • In early October, Bush cites 9/11 as the cause for proposed tax cuts. But to make sure that the economy gets the boost it needs, Congress ought to come together quickly and accept the ideas that I've just laid out. We believe that will be the best way to make sure that America recovers from the terrorist attack of September the 11th."

  • Also in early October, Bush proposes an office of Homeland Security.

  • The 342-page Patriot Act is rushed through Congress and signed by the President on Oct 26.

  • October/November - US and allies invade Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and install Hamid Karzai as President. At the eve of 2002, Bush is still confident of capturing Osama bin Laden. "We're going to get him and it's just a matter of when."

  • December 14th, 2001--Bush pulls out of the ABM treaty with Russia.

  • Bush introduces a new legal concept: "unlawful combatants." In January of 2002, the first prisoners from Afghanistan are imprisoned in Guantanamo, Cuba. In all, over 600 are detained from 40 countries, none with legal standing or recourse. Rumsfeld: "As I understand it, technically unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Conventions." World support for the Bush foreign policy declines.

  • In the State of the Union, utters the famous "axis of evil" phrase. "Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens -- leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections -- then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world. States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."

    The Bush foreign policy takes a unilateralist turn, and world support for the Bush foreign policy declines further.

  • Terror gradually becomes a fuction of the Homeland Security Department, and Iraq begins to dominate the foreign policy of the President. The last time he mentions the name of Osama bin Laden publically is in October 2002.

  • The Department of Homeland Security gets off to a poor start. In March 2002, it introduces a color-coded terror alert system, but no actions are associated with the alert levels. Security Secretary Tom Ridge later suggests that people have on hand duct tape and plastic sheeting in case of terrorist attack. (Advice that's still available on the White House website.

  • More ominously, DARPA suggests an invasive information tracking system to follow the activities of citizens. Another proposal would turn public servants like postal workers into government spies. On the legal front, Attorney General rounds up Muslims, subjects "suspects" to random detainments, tortures detainees, and holds uncharged detainees on the "material witness" clause. Although the President expresses his desire for secret military tribunals, it so far remains legally or politically untenable. Source.

  • In September 2002, Bush introduces the pre-emption doctrine as part of the US policy for National Security. It claimed for the US the power to defend:

    ". . .the United States, the American people, and our interests at home and abroad by identifying and destroying the threat before it reaches our borders. While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country."

    Shortly after its introduction, Bush started pushing for an invasion of Iraq.

  • UN drafts a resolution to force Iraq to comply with weapons inspections and declare all aspects of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and ballistic missiles systems. Iraq complies and announces in 12,000-word document that it no longer has WMD. Inspections commence.

  • In December, North Korea reactivates its nuclear plant and two weeks later expel UN inspectors. The President, occupied by Iraq, ignores this second member of the "axis of evil."

  • The US continues to threaten an invasion, despite a wholesale lack of support from the rest of the globe and negative results from Hans Blix’s inspection team. On September 5, Colin Powell makes the case that Iraq does indeed have WMD. Eleven days later, Blix announces that Iraq has been cooperative, removing any clear casus belli on the part of the Bush Administration. Only Britain supports the US, who invades on March 19.

  • No weapons of mass destruction have ever been found. Iraq appears to have been in compliance with UN resolutions when the US and UK invaded; certainly it did not meet the criteria necessary for invasion even in the extremely liberal Bush pre-emption doctrine.

  • April 30th, Bush proposes a "roadmap to peace" in Isreal. The situation continues to worsen. Over the course of the following year, Bush attends very rarely to the situation in Israel.

  • Over the course of late 2002 through 2003, the situation in Afghanistan worsens. President Karzai becomes a target for assassination and loses effective control beyond Kabul. Terrorism becomes increasingly common, but the US can’t provide much support.

  • The situation in North Korea worsens. In February, North Korea fires a test missile; in March, it intercepts a US plane. And in July, Pyongyang announces it has enough plutonium to make 6 nuclear bombs. The President's approach is to engage in multilateral talks, though little progress has been made.

  • On May 2, 2003, with a "Mission Accomplished" banner in the background, Bush announces the end of "major combat operations" from the deck of the USS Lincoln. A day earlier, Bush dressed in a flight suit and rode in an airplane as a PR stunt. Six months later, Bush claimed the White House wasn't responsible for the sign, though he admitted they had printed it. Of course, the situation in Iraq was far from resolved.

  • Late July, rebels stage an uprising in Liberia. Bush doesn’t respond.

  • Following the war, Iraq, now destabilized, becomes a focal point for terrorists, who stream into the country.

  • In December, US forces capture Saddam Hussein in a "spider hole" in Baghdad.

  • The plan for transfer of authority to Iraq remains unclear, even as the June date approaches. 3,354 troops have been wounded in Iraq, and 690 coalition troops have been killed.

  • In the war on terror, Bush claims to have captured 2/3rds of the leaders of al Qaida, though he does not mention what new permutations of leadership may have replaced those captured. Libya recently agreed give up pursuit of terrorism, one of the President's only clear successes in the war on terror.

  • posted by Jeff | 11:38 AM |
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