defend liberty and justice abroad, we must always honor those
values here at home.
George W. Bush, October 28, 2003
W. Bush came to the presidency promising prosperity, peace, and
humility. Instead, Bush has spawned record federal budget deficits,
launched an unnecessary war, and made America the most hated nation
in the world. Bush is expanding federal power and stretching prerogatives
in almost every area that captures his fancy. Though Bush continually
invokes freedom to sanctify himself and his policies, Bush freedom
is based on boundless trust in the righteousness of the rulers and
all their actions.
is a lagging indicator in politics. A president’s promises and speeches
receive far more publicity than subsequent reports and revelations
about how his cherished programs crash and burn. This book does
not aim to analyze all Bush policies. Instead, it examines an array
of his domestic and foreign actions that vivify the damage Bush
is inflicting and the danger he poses both to America and the world.
governs like an elective monarch, entitled to reverence and deference
on all issues. Secret Service agents ensure that Bush rarely views
opponents of his reign, carefully quarantining protesters in “free
speech zones” far from public view. The FBI has formally requested
that local police monitor antiwar groups and send information on
demonstrators to FBI-led terrorism task forces. Thanks to the campaign
finance act Bush signed, Americans have also lost much of their
freedom to criticize their rulers – at least in the 60 days before
9/11, privacy is a luxury Americans supposedly can no longer afford.
The administration has left no stone unturned, giving itself powers
to sweep up people’s e-mail with the FBI’s Carnivore system, unleash
FBI agents to conduct surveillance almost anywhere, allow G-men
to secretly search people’s homes, bankroll Pentagon research on
creating hundreds of millions of dossiers on Americans, expand the
military’s role in domestic surveillance, and vacuum up personal
data to create a federal “color code” for every air traveler. The
administration is defining freedom down, pretending that protection
from federal prying is no longer relevant to liberty. Americans
are supposed to accept that freedom from terrorism is the ultimate
freedom – and nothing else matters any more.
is dropping an iron curtain around the federal government. The Bush
administration is hollowing out the Freedom of Information Act,
making it more difficult for citizens to discover government actions
and abuses. Bush invoked executive privilege to block a congressional
investigation into the FBI’s role in mass murder in Boston and in
framing innocent men for those murders. The Supreme Court tacitly
endorsed the Bush doctrine that the feds may carry out mass secret
arrests and suppress all information about the roundup (including
names of those detained, charges, and details on prison beatings).
is wrapping himself in a flag drenched with the blood of Americans
who died due to the failure of the federal government he commanded.
The Bush reelection campaign is running television ads showing an
American flag flying in front of the ruins of the World Trade Center
towers and a flag-draped corpse being carried out of Ground Zero
by firefighters. The Republicans will hold their national convention
in New York days before the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Bush exploits the 9/11 dead while he stonewalls the 9/11 Commission.
The Bush reelection team seems convinced that Bush’s actions on
that day entitle Bush to rule Americans for four more years.
OF ALL BOONDOGGLES
will be forced to pay trillions of dollars in higher taxes in the
coming decades to finance George Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.
Bush browbeat Congress into enacting the biggest expansion of the
welfare state since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. The White House
blatantly deceived Congress about the cost of the new Medicare prescription
drug entitlement, withholding key information that would have guaranteed
the defeat of Bush’s giveaway. The administration launched a federally
financed ad campaign showing a crowd cheering Bush as he signed
the new law; federal auditors ruled that the ads were illegal propaganda.
The new drug benefit will expedite Medicare’s bankruptcy and do
nothing to improve medical care for most seniors.
is the prime motive of many Bush policies. Bush signed the most
exorbitant farm bill in history in 2002, bilking taxpayers for $180
billion to rain benefits on millionaire landowners and other deserving
mendicants. Bush repeatedly bragged that his farm bill was “generous”
– as if Washington politicians have carte blanche to redistribute
Americans’ paychecks to any group they choose. Bush imposed high
tariffs on steel imports, wantonly destroying thousands of American
manufacturing jobs simply because he wanted to try to snare the
endorsement of the United Steel Workers and to boost his reelection
9/11, almost every expansion of government became a coup for homeland
security. When Bush announced plans to bloat the AmeriCorps “paid
volunteer” program, he declared: “One way to defeat terrorism is
to show the world the true values of America through the gathering
momentum of a million acts of responsibility and decency and service.”
While Bush portrays AmeriCorps recruits as heroes, AmeriCorps members
busy themselves putting on puppet shows to persuade three-year-olds
of the value of smoke alarms, hoeing corn at tourist farms, and
sanctimoniously picking up litter in bad neighborhoods. Bush summoned
every citizen to give four thousand hours of “service.” After dubious
federal statistics showed a marginal rise in volunteering, Bush
hyped the uptick as proof that his leadership is morally rejuvenating
Transportation Security Administration and its 45,000-member airport
occupation army is one of the Bush administration’s biggest shams.
Despite more than $10 billion spent since 9/11, airport screeners
are not any more competent than they were in 1987. Yet, as long
as TSA brags about seizing millions of pointy objects each year
from grandmothers and other scofflaws, Americans are supposed to
believe that the endless delays are worthwhile. TSA is punishing
critics, slapping fines of up to $1,500 on airline passengers guilty
of showing the wrong “attitude” as they pass through TSA checkpoint
of Bush’s cherished reforms consist of little more than finding
new names for old boondoggles. Bush sharply boosted foreign aid
and created a new program, the Millennium Challenge Account. Bush
denounces traditional foreign aid for bankrolling corruption, and
insists that his program rewards governments for being honest. Even
though the aid still goes to many of the same Third World politician-looters,
the new program’s lofty rhetoric automatically converts the money
into a force for goodness.
cosmetics pervade many Bush policies. The No Child Left Behind Act
is perhaps Bush’s biggest domestic fraud. The act was falsely sold
as giving freedom to local school officials. In reality, it empowers
the feds to effectively judge and punish local schools for not fulfilling
arbitrary guidelines. Many states are “dumbing down” academic standards,
using bureaucratic racketeering to avoid harsh federal sanctions.
Though the No Child Left Behind Act promised to permit children
to escape “persistently dangerous” schools, most states defined
that term to claim that all their schools were safe. As long as
people believe Bush cares about children, it doesn’t matter that
his education policy is a charade.
Bush hypes himself as a “compassionate conservative,” his drug policy
relies on wrath and harsh punishment (except for special cases like
his niece Noelle Bush and talk show host Rush Limbaugh). John Walters,
Bush’s drug czar, demonized drug users in federally funded TV ads,
portraying people who buy drugs as terrorist financiers threatening
America with complete destruction. Federal drug warriors have arrested
cancer patients who smoke marijuana to control their chemo-induced
nausea, busted doctors who give suffering patients more pain killers
than the DEA approves, and carried out high-profile crackdowns on
targets ranging from hemp food makers to comedian Tommy Chong (busted
for bong trafficking).
IN THE NAME OF ANTITERRORISM
appears determined to force Americans to pay almost any price so
that he can be a world savior. He declared in December 2003: “I
believe we have a responsibility to promote freedom [abroad] that
is as solemn as the responsibility is to protecting the American
people, because the two go hand in hand.” But the Constitution does
not grant the president the prerogative to dispose of the lives
of American soldiers any place in the world he longs to do a good
deed. Though Bush is adept at destroying freedom in America, he
has yet to demonstrate any ability to create it in foreign lands.
greatly exaggerates the benefits of his conquests. After the Afghan
war, Bush repeatedly told Americans that they had liberated Afghan
women and that Afghan girls were now going to school. Yet, women
are still heavily oppressed in most of Afghanistan and most Afghan
girls still do not attend schools. While Bush portrays Afghanistan
as a liberated new democracy, most Afghans are brutalized either
by warlords or the resurgent Taliban. But the Bush White House rarely
allows cold facts to impede a warm and touching story line.
Bush, the right to rule apparently includes the right to lie. In
his 2004 State of the Union address, Bush proclaimed that, as a
result of actions such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq, “No one can
now doubt the word of America.” A year earlier, in his 2003 State
of the Union address, Bush rattled off a long list of biological
and chemical weapons that he claimed he knew that Iraq possessed.
No such weapons have been found. Bush has never shown a speck of
contrition for his false prewar statements. Instead, he acts like
a clumsy magician who assumes his audience is too feebleminded to
recognize the elaborate trick that fell to pieces in front of their
war in Iraq is the most visible debacle of the Bush war on terrorism.
The president pirouetted in a flight suit on the deck of the USS
Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, in front of a giant banner proclaiming,
“MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.” But Iraq subsequently became far more treacherous.
On July 2, when asked about Iraqi attacks on American forces, Bush
issued a taunt: “Bring ‘em on!” In the subsequent months, more than
600 American soldiers were killed and thousands were wounded and
maimed as Iraqis took up the Bush challenge. While Bush continually
brags of how the United States “liberated” 25 million Iraqis, the
U.S. military government vigorously suppresses television stations
and shuts down newspapers that criticize American forces or U.S.
policy. While Bush rhapsodizes about winning Iraqi hearts and minds,
U.S. troops carry out crackdowns with names such as Operation Iron
Hammer, conduct thousands of no-knock raids in people’s homes searching
for weapons, routinely demolish the houses of suspected resistance
fighters, imprison people solely for being relatives of insurgents,
and kill hundreds of innocent civilians. Bush-style benevolence
was best captured by U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Nathan Sassaman, commanding
a battalion that enclosed an entire Iraqi town with barbed wire,
when he observed: “With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a
lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people
that we are here to help them.”
proudly declared last year: “No President has ever done more for
human rights than I have.” In reality, Bush has done more to formally
subvert rights than any American president of the modern era. Bush
claimed the right to label people as enemy combatants and thereby
nullify all of their legal rights. Once detainees had no rights,
torturing them apparently became permissible – at least in the
eyes of some Justice Department and Pentagon officials. The Bush
administration ignored warning after warning of the gross abuses
that were being committed against detainees in Afghanistan, Cuba,
and Iraq. After the torture photos from the Abu Ghraib prison became
public in April 2004, Bush repeatedly falsely claimed that the abuses
were the result of a few wayward soldiers. In speeches in his reelection
campaign, Bush continued to brag about ending Saddam’s torture.
military “victories” have done nothing to increase the competence
of homeland security. Even though federal agencies’ failure to combine
terrorist watch lists helped allow two known Al Qaeda members to
enter the United States before the 9/11 hijackings, the federal
government still does not have a single, up-to-date terrorist watch
list. The General Accounting Office concluded in late 2003 that
the feds are still doing a lousy job of pursuing terrorist finances,
despite a vast increase in the financial surveillance of average
Americans. A federal commission on terrorist threats reported in
December 2003 that federal, state, and local government agencies
are still doing a very poor job of sharing key information about
terrorist threats. And some of the information that the feds do
send along – such as the FBI warning that people carrying world
almanacs could be terrorist plotters – aids only late-night television
foreign policies are creating more terrorists than he is vanquishing.
There are far more terrorist attacks in the Middle East now than
before the United States invaded Iraq. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.),
the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, declared
in early 2004 that “Al Qaeda remains as dangerous as it was before
September 11.” British intelligence experts warn that Al Qaeda is
a greater threat than before. Bush’s interventionist policies and
meddling are spurring intense animosity throughout the Arab and
Muslim world. And there is no evidence that the Bush administration
is competent to protect Americans from all the new enemies its policies
George W. Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and other administration
officials continually remind Americans that everything changed after
9/11. But does that include the Constitution? Are the myths of 9/11
undermining the truths of 1776?
Founding Fathers taught Americans that power is dangerous regardless
of who wields it. Bush would have people believe that, after 9/11,
America will perish if the president lacks boundless power. The
Founding Fathers saw individual rights as bulwarks against government
abuses. Bush acts as if individual rights are barriers to public
safety. The Founding Fathers sought to deter tyranny with checks
and balances within the federal government. Bush acts as if the
only legitimate check on his power is people’s chance to cast a
ballot once every four years. Bush perennially talks as if tax cuts
are the only protection people need against Big Government.
Bush presidency is continuing and accelerating many of the noxious
trends of the Clinton era, most of which started long before William
Jefferson Clinton became president. Many of the abuses of the last
few years would likely have occurred regardless of who was elected
president in 2000. However, the glorification of Bush after 9/11
would not have reached such extremes without the slavish efforts
of many Republican congressmen and much of the conservative news
media. The president’s rarely challenged power grabs revealed the
cravenness of many of Washington’s avowed champions of freedom.
this book focuses primarily on the blunders and deceits of Bush
and his team, Democratic members of Congress are either complicit
in or acquiescent to most of Bush’s abuses. Most of the budget disputes
in Washington involve how to waste tax dollars, not whether tax
dollars should be wasted. Some Democrats did yeoman work – such
as Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in opposing the war on Iraq, Sen.
Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) in opposing the Patriot Act, and Rep.
John Conyers (D-Mich.) in opposing Ashcroft. Yet Democratic members
of Congress as a group have been less vigilant and courageous in
opposing misgovernment than were Republicans during the first Clinton
of who wins in November 2004, Americans must recognize the damage
the federal government is inflicting on their rights, liberty, and
safety. Even if Bush wins reelection, the more Americans who recognize
the failures and frauds of his first term, the more difficult it
will be for Bush to perpetrate new abuses in his second term. Americans
must understand the Bush Betrayal if they are ever to rein in the
To read the rest of this book, buy
Bovard [send him mail] is also
the author of Terrorism
& Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace to Rid the
World of Evil (Palgrave MacMillan).