Open Letter to George W. Bush

With the recent passing of your close associate Donald Rumsfield, we felt compelled to share with you our many thoughtful remembrances.  Many of us are also approaching our final years, and have already suffered the first indications of failing memory.  (In public figures of Rumsfeld’s and your high stature, the condition is termed “I do not recall syndrome.”)  Despite your outstanding impact on the state of the world as of 2021, you too, like any other 75-year-old, may already be experiencing the tragic signs of failing memory.  It is in this spirit of helpful remembrance that we write to you, determined to remind you of some of the highlights — notably in your first term — of your astonishing career.

Your carefully chosen collaborators were outstanding — in “enabling” you to realize your dreams regarding “preventive war.”  Does the date of August 26, 2002 ring a bell?  That was the day that your vice-president, armed with a speech that must have been fine-tuned by an army of P. R. geniuses, stood at the podium of the VFW Convention, solemnly declaring — to repeated applause and cheers — that “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction…to use against our friends, against our allies, against us.”  This world-historic speech — packed with unusual facts-and-figures which had been uniquely re-arranged, modified, and interpreted in a highly original way — heralded the end of that halcyon summer.  Fall — the ideal time, according to your P.R. adviser, Andrew Card, to promote a “new product” — had officially begun.  And the product you were selling was War, war against Iraq, war against a sovereign state — its people already beaten down and impoverished by the first Gulf War and the draconian sanctions imposed in its aftermath.

Can you remember that time?  The moment in the Oval House when you made one of those terribly difficult decisions that presidents so often make.  (Did you decide that the people of Iraq had not suffered enough?)  In any event, you proceeded boldly, not to say impudently: soon the media was flooded with your voice, an urgent voice that became almost a chant that went something like this:  “Saddam Hussein!!…Weapons of Mass Destruction!!… Saddam!!…WMD!!”  Several months of this “sales campaign” ensued, climaxed by your order to invade and attack — on March 19 of the following year.

Can you even remember those hapless UN inspectors?  Or the ever-polite, ever-so-cautious Kofi Annan?  Probably not — and certainly Americans can’t.  (By now — and you no doubt confidently expected this — most can barely even remember the War itself!)  Anyway, as you might still recall, by 2002 or so the inspectors were coming up empty; it appeared, notwithstanding your innuendos, that Saddam had indeed complied with the Security Council Resolution 687.  What did you do then?  Was this one of your famous “decision points”?

Your advisors quickly offered an alternate (if wildly far-fetched) “reason” for invading Iraq.  Within the shadow of Israel’s large nuclear arms arsenal, and despite the terrible condition of his nation, Madman Saddam was nonetheless tirelessly at work 24/7 — feverishly building an Atomic Bomb!  In those months of 2003, you spoke with great urgency (if not logic) about the diabolical Saddam — a shadowy mastermind who by then had even eclipsed the devilish Osama bin Laden as the personification of pure evil!

Those few conscious, coolly sceptical Americans dimly recalled that an A-bomb requires a good supply of uranium “yellowcake,” which is refined using powerful centrifuges designed for that purpose.  Maybe you “don’t recall” the rather slipshod, forged sales documents involved.  Ambassador Joe Wilson, dispatched to Niger to confirm the sale, found no such thing, and — remarkably — refused to play along with your charade.  Too bad — and on top of that, the supposed centrifuge-arms Iraq had purchased were actually not designed for that purpose at all.

Are you beginning to remember?  It’s surprising how many elderly people, convinced that “it never happened,” are unpleasantly startled by the return of some (unwelcome) memories.  But we who write to you today are among your biggest admirers.  As a machiavellian, you outrank Machiavelli in history (and in notoriety).  Why try to truthfully educate confused Americans — your employers, if we recall the Constitution — when you could, with breathtaking mauvaise foi, ignite a wildfire of fear, hatred, and bellicose vengefulness?

You focused your heroic call-to-arms especially on young Americans, often out-of-work and looking to serve a Cause they could believe in.  Such young people, who were proud to “serve their country” and follow their president’s call, believed you — and why shouldn’t they have? — when you appealed to their patriotic duty to defend the nation against such an Imminent Threat.  But it’s more than a little sad that thousands later returned to the U.S.– under secrecy and at night — in body-bags.  And tens of thousands, maimed physically and/or emotionally by battlefield trauma, returned to the U.S. as shadows of what they once had been.  Tens of thousands more, depressed and despairing veterans, have already committed suicide — but maybe you overlooked that recent news item on your way to the golf course.

In the latter half of 2003, the Occupation Force — having bombed, ravaged, and vandalized Iraq (again) — nonetheless were unwilling to announce the discovery of any (non-existent) WMDs.  You found this absence of WMDs, as you later told a baffled journalist (Helen Thomas), “disappointing.”  But undaunted even by this, you boldly (shamelessly? insolently?) decided on another term.  One can only marvel, once more, at your reckless daring: once again, strutting your lying, boasting personage in front of the beleaguered electorate, you were re-elected!  And, on top of that, you even proved the sanctified Abraham LIncoln wrong: as you no doubt brilliantly predicted, it turns out that “you can fool (most of) the people all the time.”

Even in these benighted and morally confused times, very, very few persons could have mastered, to such a superlative degree, the fine art of being — a scoundrel.  To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “patriotism is the first resort of a scoundrel.”  After the tragedy of 9/11, you were buoyantly energized in your eagerness for — revenge (no matter how misdirected).  You were, you proudly proclaimed, a “war president.”  Therefore, and in closing, we have formally nominated you to join the exclusive ranks of legendary commanders-in-chief, a truly select company of bold, impetuous conquerors — including Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Julius Caesar, Cesare Borgia, Adolf Hitler, and, last but not least, our hero, George W. Bush!

William Manson is the author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press). Read other articles by William.