Overcoming the Bush Legacy: New Language Is Not Enough

When former US President George W. Bush left the White House, he left behind one of the most unpleasant legacies in history. He redefined the US’ role in world affairs, tainted the country’s reputation, and left his successor with a political inheritance that seemed almost irrevocable. This, of course, says nothing of the terrible toll Bush’s policies inflicted on millions of innocent people, many of whom have so unjustly suffered and perished, and many more who are still held hostage to unyielding pain.

While reputable author and world-renowned journalist Deepak Tripathi agrees with this grim view, he doesn’t think all is lost. He believes that there is still a chance, an opportunity even to redress the injustice and reverse the terrible mistakes that were made.

A compelling writer and a meticulous researcher, Tripathi’s work is both gripping and comprehensive. His latest book, Overcoming The Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan serves as a glaring reminder of what military power can do when it goes unchecked, and when it is combined with religious fanaticism or misguided political ideology.

The book’s first chapter starts with a quote by Abraham Lincoln, and it ends with another by Martin Luther King Jr, which serve as a clear indication of Tripathi’s own moral stances. Tripathi courageously exposes the policies of the Bush administration and its neoconservative clique, which took advantage of the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001 to reassert the authority of a weakening superpower. But the push to reclaim America’s standing actually preceded the terrorist attacks. In fact, Tripathi claims that “the ideological vehicle used to get George W. Bush elected to the White House in November 2000 was the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Several of its founders were close to Bush and secured key positions in his first administration.”

This assertion is of immense importance. In its statement of Principles, dated June 3, 1997, PNAC warned of the “danger of squandering the opportunity and failing the challenge,” because the US seems to lack “the resolve to shape a century favorable to American principles and interests.” One of the recommendations was to “increase the defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future.”

But with the Cold War being settled in favor of the US, there seemed little need to invest in what the neoconservatives saw as an acceptance of “responsibility of America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security.”

September 11 was the very opportunity which allowed the militancy of a small, detached and very influential group to define and eventually dictate the policies of the United States. “We stand together to win the war against terrorism,” Bush said on September 11. This was not simply a declaration of war against an elusive enemy, but also a declaration of unreserved violence and political imprudence, a blank check to reconfigure the world.

Tripathi has done a superb job in addressing this topic. His successful approach is largely owed to his ability to locate the book within a most suitable historical and intellectual, as opposed to a purely political or event-driven context. This approach is a direct challenge to those who wish to examine the Bush legacy with September 11 as a starting point. Such a point might be considered rational, but it in fact represents a reductionist approach to history, and can only allow a limited understanding of its consequences. Tripathi has no such illusions.

In ‘With Us or Without Us’, Tripathi emphasizes that a better understanding of the war in Afghanistan requires a historical analysis of the US-Pakistan relations that takes us to the Regan administration, and even earlier. Important names, dates and events appear in that historical examination, and are quickly tied into the immediate past and present. Without such context, there can be no true understanding of what took place in Afghanistan under the Bush regime, and what continues to unfold there. Tripathi’s narrative replaces the media’s caricatured account of both wars, and instead provides an objective study of rational events and those who shaped them.

Indeed, it was not Bush and his neoconservative friends alone who wrought such disasters to the world. A whole array of individuals provided political cover and even, to a lesser extent, material support. In ‘The Battle for Afghanistan’, Tripathi shows how the likes of Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi colluded with Bush’s War on Terror. The bombs began falling on Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 and are yet to cease falling, despite the fact that Bush is no longer in the White House.

This is largely what makes Tripathi’s book so important. It is not about Bush as a man, but Bush’s legacy. This legacy is an inheritance of other political legacies of various administrations and numerous interests. It continues to engulf, if not control US foreign policy to the present day. To detain that perpetual deterioration in world affairs, a proper deconstruction of history is a must.

But why should we reiterate what we already know? Isn’t enough that most of us at least acknowledge already that to link Iraq to al-Qaeda and September 11, 2001 is absurd? That the weapons of mass destruction allegations were a baseless concoction and a complete fraud? No, it is not enough. A better understanding of the world doesn’t automatically make it a better place. Whether we like it or not, Bush and the neoconservatives got away with serious crimes. And the peoples of both Afghanistan and Iraq continue to suffer.

The US must and will withdraw from both countries, largely because the stubborn resistance of their peoples will eventually prevail. However, Americans must discuss more than “an exist strategy”. They should also discuss how they got there in the first place, when they supposedly had a democratic system with political transparency and accountability. Obama might someday act upon his promises to shut down the US gulag at Guantánamo Bay, but the challenge will remain in understanding how America allowed few individuals to suspend such basic principles as habeas corpus, which Tripathi so ably traced to the Magna Carta under King John of England back in June 1215.

Deepak Tripathi’s Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan gives us a well structured understanding of a seemingly chaotic legacy, and answers many of the innumerable unanswered questions. It is an honest and formidable attempt at understanding one of the darkest periods in the history of America and the world. We owe him more than a thank you. He deserves an earnest attempt from us to understand his book, and to act upon his counsel.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). Read other articles by Ramzy, or visit Ramzy's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on May 22nd, 2010 at 10:43am #

    Casting a wider and longer look wld also reveal that just months ago, 98% of americans cast their votes for the war party, masters of war-people; even own oppression and diminishment.

    The fact is that US had been expanding since the first european landed on bufffalonia some 5C ago.
    If anyone thought that expansion wld stop, then, one had not studied history [human behavior] for its protreptic valuee; i.e., for what it teaches.
    So, socalled spanish war taught us that one more is coming. War against phillipines heralded anothes war.
    US aggression against germany ’17 heralded more wars. Afgha’n teaches us that more wars are coming.

    In fact, these are just the first baby steps for the new baby on horizon. Wait for the longer and much more strident strides from this new baby!
    And how ab that wretched piece of land called now israel? That god ‘gave’ hebrews as punishment instead of a lush continent like s.america as a reward.

    So, it’s drill baby drill and expand baby expand! Yes, there ares nuts among ‘jews’ also. But they live in US mostly; so, they are still americans!
    But is one going to expect from palin, bush, BHO to shout: expand baby expand??? tnx

  2. Max Shields said on May 22nd, 2010 at 11:10am #

    The US policy legacy long preceeds Bush. Look we’re bombing the hell out of 3 nations and threatening 2 potentially with nuclear thrashings.

    This is not new or Bush era. This is the legacy that goes back as bozh states to the early European expansion. If you haven’t see the film – End of Poverty? It amplifies what’s happened and continues. The kind of slavery that exists in the world today, which could be seen as worse than in the initial colonization projects. George W. Bush is the most recent post child and the guy in the office is doing the same thing.

    Whether it’s PNAC, AIPAC or neoliberals these are simply outgrowths in fertile soil in the United States of America. The seeds for fascism and imperialism grow easily here where the ground has long been fertilized with the blood of indigenous and African slaves.

  3. bozh said on May 22nd, 2010 at 1:45pm #

    Yes, no asocialistic [or with an undervalued and over valued people] empire had stopped expanding because i did not want to expand any more.
    An imperialistic expansion was stopped by another people or wld-be empire; which had been either better armed or was numerically stronger.
    Sumer had been stopped by akkad; akkad by assyria, Babylon had been conquered by persians and persians stopped by greeks. And so on!

    But let’s note, please, that asocialists are now uniting and not fighting one another. They now control [in]directly- is it?- 80-90% of the planet and its space.
    Nevertheless, all fascist empires have [as they do now seek] sought to maintain a classful society: broadly speaking, consisting of serfs and nobility-priesthood!
    So, that had not changed; labels have changed, of course! tnx

  4. Don Hawkins said on May 22nd, 2010 at 2:03pm #

    And now with knowledge the Internet being a big part big lies are getting harder to tell. Then of course what we have done in the last 100 years to the Earth must weight heavily when thinking up the big lie. Probably better to stay silent at least for a few more months.

  5. Deadbeat said on May 22nd, 2010 at 2:54pm #

    Deepak Tripathi’s Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan gives us a well structured understanding of a seemingly chaotic legacy, and answers many of the innumerable unanswered questions.

    Clearly articulating and exposing the justification for the U.S. involvement in the Middle East is extremely necessary in order to properly mobilize against it. There is a reluctance especially on the “Left” to analyze these forces or to write them off as “historical”. Despite yielding the same awful result for humanity every epoch has different set of forces that needs to be challenged. There are many on the “Left” who fails to understand this and unfortunately divert activists from confronting these new forces such as PNAC and AIPAC.

  6. mary said on May 24th, 2010 at 3:03am #

    Mark Perry describes opposition to US support for Israel, the rationale for this support and how American publishers cover it up.

    In early February of 2006, I submitted a book proposal about the wartime relationship between Generals George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower to a group of New York publishers. I had worked on the proposal for nine months and believed it would garner significant interest. Two weeks after the submission, I received my first response – from a senior editor at a major New York publishing firm. He was uncomfortable with the proposal: “Wasn’t Marshall an anti-Semite?” he asked. I’d heard this claim before, but I was still shocked by the question. For me, George Marshall was an icon: the one officer who, more than any other, was responsible for the American victory in World War Two. He was the most important soldier of his generation – and a man of great moral and physical courage.



  7. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 25th, 2010 at 3:53am #

    The notion that US aggression and violence somehow commenced with Bush the Lesser is quite wrong, in my opinion. Yankee elite desire to fashion a global empire can be traced back to 1776.Since then the US Empire has been relentlessly expanding, until today it covers the world with wars, bases, Quisling regimes in almost all countries, even major powers like Germany, Japan and France, total economic dominance mediated through bankster gangs on Wall Street and the technocratic child-killers of the IMF and World Bank and a cultural imperium of banal,dumbed-down ‘titietainment’ designed to brainwash and stupefy the masses. The US was just as treacherous, violent and aggressive under Clinton in the Kosovo aggression, based on lies,following on from the demonisation of Serbia as the means to finish the destruction of Yugoslavia. Kosovo is now a NATO protectorate replete with US bases, run by gangster thugs, drug runners and murderers to order for the human organ trade. Clinton and his hideous Secretary of State,the female and human impersonator Albright, also oversaw the utterly sadistic and vicious sanction regime against Iraq, an exercise in mass murder,particularly of children, that I can imagine even the Nazis blanching at. The US is even more dangerous today, under House Negro, confidence-man and ‘Tel Avivian Candidate’ Obummer, who is completely controlled by the Zionists, unlike Bush the Lesser who retained some independence. To look at Bush and see his arrogant and moronic struttings and frettings as some sort of deviation from US policy is, in my opinion,madness. With Bush at least you got US arrogance and imperialist bloodlust unalloyed by lies and PR sheen.Today Obummer commits exactly the same crimes, follows the same policies,obeys the diktat of Zionists just as closely, even more slavishly, than Bush,yet, because he has a dark face and a gaudy facility for cynical rhetoric, the suckers have convinced themselves that he is ‘different’. Such tragic self-delusion must end in tears, bitter recrimination and, Obummer’s controllers hope, a lifelong withdrawal from the sham of US ‘democracy’. I think that would be a good idea. As the system is absolutely unable to reform or be reformed, belief in ‘democratic change’ is a form of mass hysteria, and it is better, from the point of view of personal psychic and spiritual hygiene, not to waste one’s life in a pointless struggle that only legitimises an evil system run by and for evil psychopaths, to the detriment of the rest of humanity and the natural world.

  8. Don Hawkins said on May 25th, 2010 at 6:53am #

    Maybe we can change but so far I don’t see it. Can only imagine this next election and what we will be told to believe.