Former President Bush’s library officially opened last week in Texas.
Last week saw the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum – the 21st such structure erected to the memory of a former president in this country. While the act of erecting what amounts to a shrine to one’s legacy is something one might expect to be relegated to historical dictatorships in Ancient Egypt, at least former Presidents aren’t looked to as gods in their own right – even if some politics find themselves deified for decades to come.
As one would expect, the library is not merely dedicated to Mr. Bush and the events of his eight years in office, but they are conveniently whitewashed for the sake of future generations – the only thing helping Mr. Bush’s poll numbers these days being the actual distance in time between him and January of 2009. You will find plenty of exploitation of the September 11th terrorist attacks, but you’ll also find that since that time Mr. Bush kept the country safe so net-net, that’s a good thing. You’ll find a large painting of he and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – his #1 ally on the international scene when it came time for the Iraq invasion. Mr. Blair can probably not even count on similar admiration back home, the monarchy at least providing the one good service of preventing chief executives being anything more than the mere politicians they should be.
There is no wing of the library dedicated to his opposition for a woman’s right to choose. There’s no shrine to squeezing as much bigotry and hatred toward same-sex couples as he could from the countryside, riding that national tide of religious-based ignorance to a victory in 2004. Speaking of victories, there’s also nary a peep of the circumstances under which Mr. Bush first assumed office – complete with the legally mystifying ”this counts today and then it’ll never count again” ruling by the Supreme Court in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case.
There is a war room though!
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Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) addresses the media after the Republicans shut down a veterans jobs bill on 19 September.
Once upon a time, the United States was fighting a war half way around the world from home. Actually, despite the content of your nightly newscast, the United States is still fighting a war half way around the world from home – just ask any of the 68,000 troops still in Afghanistan. Military families know that there’s still a war going on, to say nothing of individual members of the armed forces. You may have a friend or friend-of-a-friend who has a family member either who is either fighting nor or was one of the many tours of duty in either Iraq or Afghanistan, now finally home. The evening news – well, most news in its entirety – has moved on from this reality onto much more pressing issues, like honeys that boo boo and new phone gadgetry.
After being a mainstay in political rallies and conventions – whether or not their ultimate value to the party platform was more negligible than a uniformed prop – the presidential election campaign this year has produced a rather remarkable occurrence: one of the top two contenders for the White House accepted his party’s nomination with a speech that went on to not mention our fighting men and women even once. What is even more remarkable is that the nominee to notch this dubious acheivement was from the Republican party. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the Republican party standard-bearer, did not give so much as a wink or nod to the military – even a fake one for optics.
Far from being a slip-up from the Romney campaign, the diminished care for the military carried straight over to the U.S. Senate, where in a remarkable vote on September 19, a bill to provide for a jobs program for returning troops was killed with a procedural vote after winning 58 – 40. In not-wonky-politic speak, that means that the bill was defeated, despite having more than enough votes to pass. All forty Senators voting against the bill were Republicans, including a handful of Republicans who had authored the language of the bill.
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Coming off the riots and deaths that resulted from the revealing of Koran burnings last month it was hard to imagine relations between NATO troops in Afghanistan and the local populace being able to sink much further, until today.
According to U.S. sources, a lone soldier wandered off base in the middle of the night, began entering the homes of civilians, and opening fire. There are conflicting totals as to the number killed, but reliable estimates are between 15 – 18. A number of the victims were also doused in flammable liquid and set on fire. A number of women and children are among the dead, and military forces are promising a full investigation.
Protests against the killings have already begun locally, but the news has likely reached the West much faster than it has the Afghan countryside:
The White House voiced “deep concern” and Nato-led forces in Afghanistan promised a rapid inquiry.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned the attack and demanded an explanation from Washington.
BBC correspondents say there could be a furious backlash when news of the attack reaches the wider public.
In Kandahar’s Panjwai district, local people have gathered near the base to protest about Sunday’s killings, and the US embassy is advising against travel to the area.
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The Afghanistan conflict continues, in the event anyone has misplaced that story in their list of priorities. While people in the U.S. power structure continue to debate among their selves if the surge of troops into that nation in 2009 has actually done any good, and while a tediously slow withdrawing process is set to kick off – getting us out of there by the early 2020s if we’re lucky, the day to day lawlessness and killing still goes on.
The Taliban have struck against the itself rather corrupt regime of Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai – killing his half brother, who was the most powerful person in the restive nation’s south:
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of the Kandahar provincial council, was shot to death while receiving guests at his home in Kandahar, the capital of the province that was the birthplace of the Taliban movement and was the site of a recent U.S.-led offensive.
Tooryalai Wesa, the provincial governor of Kandahar, identified the assassin as Sardar Mohammad and said he was a close, “trustworthy” person who had gone to Wali Karzai’s house to get him to sign some papers.
As Wali Karzai was signing the papers, the assassin “took out a pistol and shot him with two bullets – one in the forehead and one in the chest,” Wesa said. “Another patriot to the Afghan nation was martyred by the enemies of Afghanistan.”
The killing coincided with a visit to the capital, Kabul, by French President Nicolas Sarzoky.
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A soldier fires his weapon during Operation Mountain Fire on July 12, 2009.
This October 7th will mark a full ten years of United States involvement in Afghanistan. Already beaten is the previous record for longest modern involvement in Afghanistan held by the Soviet Union (9 years, 50 days), and at present the conflict continues to look like one with no discernible end in sight. With the cost of 2,269 coalition soldier lives (1,413 American), as many as 34,000 Afghan civilians, and more than 383 billion dollars later the war still has no discernible goal, end, or organized plan to get troops out of harm’s way.
While starting two years before the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the Afghanistan campaign found itself relegated to the back-burner for most of the last decade, mainly because the Afghanistan war was seen as the “just war” – we actually had reason to be there instead of Iraq. Most of the anti-war movements and protests throughout the 2000′s centered around this idea – choosing to target Iraq first and Afghanistan second.
Drawdowns to U.S. involvement in Iraq would eventually come, and that combined with a change in leadership in the White House seemed to satisfy a large portion of the anti-war movement – or at least the parts of the movement that did all the fund raising, organizing, and managed to get the media attention (however scarce and mocking, at times). The general feeling with the start of the Obama administration in 2009 was Iraq is winding down. Let’s finish up this whole Afghan thing, get out, and be on with our day.
The anti-war movement fell silent, and bodies kept coming home in coffins.
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Policy items accomplished? Sure, and many of them. What has been left behind, however, is inexcusable.
In the still-infant months of the Obama administration, April of 2009, the shine of hope and promise that was ushered in during the previous campaign began to see its first blemishes. While there was the embracing of releasing Bush-era memos detailing exactly how and when captives held by the United States could be tortured, and under what legal framework would be created to protect said behavior, any hope for actual justice for such heinous acts carried out in the name of the United States were quickly snuffed from existence.
Obama stated, back then, that CIA agents right on up to members of the Bush administration would not face prosecution for orchestrating, implementing, and justifying systematic torture of prisoners. Not now, and in theory not ever.
Within days, the enormous amount of power that was diverted to the Executive Branch during the Bush administration via the AT&T-led warrant-less wiretapping program also found a new voice of support stemming from the Obama administration. There would be no investigation of high-level Bush administration officials that pushed for the surveillance and there would be no investigation of the American companies that took part in the American government-sponsored spying on American citizens of every walk of life.
The reaction from the vast and general public was a collective shrug of the shoulder. The President took shelter behind approval ratings in the mid 60′s and continued to ride out the storm. Nearly two years later, the government can also now take nearly-nude photographs of you and feel you up – for your safety, of course.
Thus highlighted what would become an extremely depressing and long line of Very Important Things that the President would either ignore, capitulate on, reverse course, and – as much as the cheesiness of the phrase makes me cringe – flip flop on.
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