The evangelical in the White House crossed a milestone this week.
For the rest of the world, this milestone passes largely unnoticed in the midst of Middle East fear, death, and destruction in Iraq, in Gaza and the occupied territories, and now in Lebanon. Specifically taking a back seat to the Israeli-Hezbollah war is the ongoing and tragic status of American-occupied Iraq.
But in Washington, history was made when George W. Bush finally, and for the first time, used his presidential veto power to reject a piece of legislation from his loyal Congress.
The veto, as Bush explained in a public ceremony framed by chattering toddlers, was done to prevent American taxpayers from being "…compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos."
He went on, "Crossing this line would be a grave mistake and would needlessly encourage a conflict between science and ethics that can only do damage to both and harm our Nation as a whole."
Science and ethics are two areas where George W. Bush cannot be accused of knowing too much, thinking too deeply, nor retaining even a shadow of personal humility.
It may be that this historic veto on a domestic issue is unrelated to global politics. Perhaps it is just an attempt to consolidate the evangelical nanny-state supporters that constitute the Bush base within the Republican Party in advance of upcoming midterm congressional elections.
But the logic of this veto and Bush’s other actions in the past few weeks, and years, is worthy of examination. This is beyond lame duck. It may be the story of the lame dodo in the White House.
Bush, unlike the American Founders, believes that the state owns life — yours, mine, a frozen embryo’s potentiality, a criminal’s continued existence, lives of youthful American soldiers and Marines, and lives of Iraqis of all ages. One may extend this sense of ownership to the lives disrupted and destroyed by the American "business" in Afghanistan, also launched by this president, and the current evacuation crisis that has placed in extremis nearly 25,000 Americans in Lebanon.
Strangely, Bush also seems to be saying that the state, in accordance with its morals and ethics, must act to preserve life. What a concept!
Sadly, illogically and wickedly, Bush means to preserve only the lives of those Americans who cannot speak, cannot move, and cannot think. This intent is demonstrated the Bush-supported federal legislation passed to preserve the comatose life of a single individual in a single state — one of 300 million Americans, as well as in his recent veto to preserve several hundred embryos in freezers across the country.
If you can speak and move, as can Iraqis and Afghans, and you oppose the puppet governments and occupation armies the American military have imposed, then your lives are not worth preserving, or protecting.
If you can think, like Army Lt. Ehren Watadi, who opposes the illegal invasion and occupation in Iraq upon that basis, your life and freedom are not worthy of preservation.
If you can think, and God forbid, have a truly Christian set of ethics, you will be jailed, tarnished as an enemy of the state, and threatened. SSgt. Kevin Benderman is living proof of this Bush Administration interpretation of the duty to preserve life.
If you can think, and believe that you have certain unalienable rights to your homes, land, security and choice of political leaders, as do most Palestinians, you simply don’t count.
There was another historical George W. Bush moment this week. He told Tony Blair how to solve the security problem in the Middle East, specifically the one currently facing Lebanon, Syria, and 25,000 Americans.
The "it" as in "it’s over" is certainly nothing Bush himself can do anything about. Right? His administration is on record as not holding Israel accountable for civilian casualties, and for firmly opposing any effort to gain a cease-fire, or even to moderate or rationalize the apparent Israeli plan for the destruction of Lebanon as a functioning democracy. Remarkably, by American and Iraqi standards, Lebanon before this war of 2006 actually looked like a well-functioning democracy.
Likewise, Bush is apparently powerless to "do anything" about getting 25,000 American citizens out of Lebanon in a timely manner. The stories of days and days of bombing, apartments destroyed, medical care and U.S. Embassy incompetence are just beginning to trickle onto American TV sets as some of the Americans escape the carnage and return home.
Bush couldn’t even exercise the kind of international standing and esteem with the Israeli government required to get a friendly warning from Tel Aviv of pending attacks into both northern and southern Lebanon, in time to act to properly preserve and protect our own citizens.
Already, the horror stories of Americans and how they escaped a war zone courtesy of "America’s greatest ally in the Middle East," are uncomfortable to hear, painful to watch, and difficult to think about.
Most assuredly, Bush would be happier if the 25,000 American trapped in Lebanon would just stop talking, stop moving, and stop thinking about what it all really means.
As in 9-11 and the Katrina/Rita hurricanes, the leadership and the machinery of the U.S. government again fails spectacularly to prevent the utter devastation of humanity and infrastructure.
Perhaps this is why the administration is working so hard to legally preserve frozen embryos and the comatose. They have no memory, no intellect, and no ability to judge the grandiose hypocrisy of George W. Bush. They stand alone, the only ones on the planet who do not recognize the outrageous contempt this administration has for the lives and safety of Americans, and just about everyone else.
This article was first published at militaryweek.com.