Why George W. Bush Made Me Sick Yesterday

12/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If I wanted to write a longer title, it would be Why Bush Made Me Sick Yesterday and Why I Hope I Never Have To Apply A Double Standard to Barack.

Bush was on the tube talking at some military installation. Behind him sat the cream of America, as the politicians say, callow faced, largely expressionless youth, few of whom seemed to me to change their look as Bush called a roll of evident militaristic applause lines.

He kept at it.

Whenever he said something particularly ugly and militaristic, there emerged from the crowd in front of him a high-volume animalistic response, as though our country was built on the veneration of blood lust and attack. (Wistful chuckle.)

It was nauseating.

Today's New York Times calls the response of the soldiers at Fort Campbell thunderous applause.

I call it mindless, guttural, barbaric roaring and keening -- the sort of thing we associate with visceral athletic events.

After 9/11, which happened a few miles from where I live, I wrote something called Amnesia. It was my refusal to believe Bush had done what he did following 9/11. In Amnesia, Bush acted as any reasonable person should have. He took a step back and figured out what a decent and honorable response would have been.

Like sending some Sherlock Holmes into the mountains to find out where the hell Osama was, instead of beginning the ramp-up to Iraq. And setting the stage for a huge denouement of the very worst angels of our complex spectrum nature.

If anything, Bush, on the way out, is trying to salvage a few points for his actual, mindless, knee jerk response to 9/11. He has dressed it up in the simple, powerful idea that democracy is a value worth spreading around the globe.


For George Bush, democracy is bulling through a Florida decision which makes his government only borderline legitimate from the gitgo. It is forcing "change" with soldiers rather than friendly persuasion. It is pandering.

It is the worst sort of ego-bolstering, appropriate to totalitarian logic.


For George Bush the issue was never democracy, though he managed to doublespeak it in a way that elicits guttural cheers, even with his 20 percent popularity rating. The issue has always been America the Powerful, wrapped up in the language of the value of democracy. A sheer and palpable hypocrisy he himself believes. This belief enables him to sleep at night. And to dream that one day people will see him as a great man.


Will I eventually be watching Barack making the same mistake?

He has said what he will do. To "keep us safe", we must ensure that Afghanistan is not retaken by the terrorists.

Here are some things that might suggest Barack is not going down the road of George Bush. And that he will not sicken me with Bush-like patriot gore material.

1. He will have Hillary and others work to ensure that we are not more than one third of any force in Afghanistan going forward. We are currently almost half the total, so adding forces would amount to maintaining a "unilateral" interest.

The United States has about 32,000 troops in Afghanistan. Approximately 13,000 of them are in the NATO-led force of more than 50,000 troops. SOURCE

2. He will deal directly with the Taliban. This incidentally would be about his only way to get to Bin Laden. The Taliban are priest-motivated juvenile delinquents moving toward Hells Angel's venerability. They implement nasty things that penalize women and girls just for being. They are not poplular with the Afghans. Bin Laden for some form of amnesty, versus a take out effort by a resolute and unified force.

See the Agonist's thoughtful analysis of talking to the Taliban. SOURCE

3. He will present this to us not as anything other than a very messy solution to a very messy problem, venerating our services but never once trespassing into the pandering, guttural zone of George W. Bush.

I am a Barackophile who will go to the mat with many of the radical intelligentsia who pick at him daily and believe they have the right to organize him.

Afghanistan is the stickiest thing Barack faces, worse even than the economy. The nation happens to care about ten times more about the economy. Which means that this is the best time of all to think moderation and tamp down patriotic nonsense.

I hope I never have to witness the stony, somnambulant faces behind Barack as he tries to ramp up applause among military recruits who are part of the ignorant armies of Matthew Arnold's prophetic damningly prophetic Dover Beach:

... the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.