During a disastrous week, with the country poised on the brink of financial collapse, the president stumbled through a series of appearances, the impact of which can only be described as ghastly. Clearly few believe him any more. And yet, in all the wreckage tumbling around him, he just couldn’t muster the moral courage to admit that his war in Iraq had played a major role in the epochal disasters befalling us.
In an event conveniently hidden under the rubble of the mushroom cloud of Bush’s blunders, the president’s last-ditch defense of his war in Iraq was finally exposed as a self-serving lie. "I rely on my commanders on the ground," he has obsessively and tirelessly recited. In a way, that made sense: After all, we can’t expect this Commander in Chief coherently to justify his own policy, can we?
Now that latest ignoble lie has been put to rest, with the firing of Admiral William Fallon as the head of Central Command in the Middle East.
Bush’s diehard fans, groping for some virtue in which to dress their naked emperor, often pretend to celebrate his fortitude. Apparently, that vaunted virtue failed him this time around. He assigned to Defense Secretary Gates, a lifelong bureaucrat, the smarmy task of firing Fallon. Typically, Bush did not have the C. O. Jones to do it himself. At least Harry Truman, one of Bush’s many left-wing militarist heroes, fired Douglas MacArthur personally. But not our own, brave Dear Leader.
Even the most ardent among Bush’s diminishing faction of supporters — including many who have made tens of millions as War Profiteers — grit their teeth when their Benefactor-in-Chief speaks. They are all undoubtedly grateful that it was Secretary Gates who smoothly lied through his teeth, insisting that there were no policy differences between Admiral Fallon and the rest of the Defense Department establishment. The reason is simple: as long as the war goes on, regardless of the kaleidoscope of justifications, the profiteers will continue to reap munificent rewards. When the war ends, they will have to lop off a zero or two off their incomes, and live normal, peaceful, honest lives — perhaps for the very first time.
God forbid! Where would they go to lunch? Wendy’s?
Bush’s supporters have known it for years, of course, but Admiral Fallon’s firing makes it clear to the rest of us: Bush has not been telling us the truth. Dick Cheney is the only “commander on the ground" that he relies on. Clearly, Bush and Cheney are both spiteful about the resentment and outright contempt that a growing number of Americans now harbor against them. With that in mind, as he leaves office, Cheney’s moral compass would have no trouble sticking the country with a war in Iran — to serve his personal agenda, yes, but also to make the next administration look even worse than this one. "History will vindicate us," they crow.
Perverse? Of course. But Americans now understand that these are today’s zeroes, where there once walked heroes.
Admiral Fallon, the last US senior military commander with Viet Nam experience, does not want a wider war. Bush claims publicly that he embraces the same desire for peace. But his actions (as usual) speak more loudly than his lies.
During the years of Clinton’s “I hate the military” 1990’s routine, many promising midlevel officers left military service. David Petraeus, an intelligent man, stayed on, laid low, and used his smarts to become a political general. Alas. He epitomizes the bureaucratic military, who will cover for his boss and do what he is told. To call him a political general is not a calumny: in fact, some of his strongest supporters insist that he should run for high political office.
Political Petraeus would not demand of Congress that, in order to consummate Bush’s (admittedly monstrous) strategy, he would need a quarter of a million more men in Iraq for three to five years. In contrast, Admiral Fallon is a truth teller. Bush reminds me of Paul Simon in the Boxer: “A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.” Given political power, such a man will act as an irrational ideologue, hardly fit for leadership — a moral wreckage, the rank carcass of a character. Yet, for ten more months, the president is free to betray once more his oath of office and start another unconstitutional war.
Bush has failed conservatives in so many ways, but especially in his shell game about the Middle East. He has sullied our symbols and our principles — liberty, small government, the Constitution, genuine patriotism, love of the fatherland, America’s position in the world, respect for our family members who have fallen in battle… the list is endless. What is there that Bush has not destroyed?
When my father started teaching at Notre dame in 1919, it was still a Catholic institution. Lying was still a mortal sin. Dad used to tell his law students, "if you tell the first lie, you may as well tell the rest."
It’s not hard to imagine a young George W. Bush sitting in that class, nudging the guy next to him with a whispered expletive, saying, "Hey, that sure sounds good to me!"