The continuing disgrace of the George W. Bush Administration

President Wilson and King George V leaving Charing Cross, December 26, 1918. (Graphic Photo Union.)

When Woodrow Wilson arrived in London on Boxer Day in 1918 (as part of the first presidential visit to Europe) he was escorted by King George in a horse-drawn carriage with a cavalry escort from Charing Cross Station to Buckingham Palace. Along the route 20,000 soldiers with polished bayonets stood at attention. Tens of thousands of spectators came to witness the historic event. When the carriage first emerged from the Charing Cross Courtyard a roar went up and it got louder around West End all the way to the palace. This is how the Guardian described the event:

“In a long memory of London street scenes one cannot recall anything quite like this welcome in its mass and impressiveness, its spontaneous cordiality. All the gaiety pent up through the cruel four and a half years seemed to be released in the great noise of cheering that rose round the leader of the world’s peace. Londoners flocked by the tens of thousands into the narrow two miles of street to see him. There was not nearly room for all and multitudes would know that the President had come only by hearing the boom of the saluting guns.” (“London’s memorable Boxing day: A triumphal progress to the palace,” Manchester Guardian, December 27, 1918.)

Kennedy before adoring throngs in Berlin, June 26, 1963 (National Archives, John F. Kennedy Library).

It was the beginning of many rapturous receptions for various heads of state of the one country universally regarded for its respect for the rule of law and its promotion of freedom and justice, or so it was occasionally believed. Eisenhower in Berlin and London, Kennedy’s Ich bin ein Berliner speech, Reagan in Berlin to “tear down that wall,” Obama in Cairo and Europe. And even ex-Presidents were accepted with respect  that comes from genuine trust and affection, such a Carter in Africa and Clinton in Haiti.

Even when we occupied the office with duplicitous schemers and their immoral advisers like Nixon and Kissinger, the residual respect for the principles of the country prevented any untoward incidents, and even they had a triumphal tour of China.

And then we had the misadventure of 2000, when we installed (by a ruling by the partisan Supreme Court) a group who lacked any respect for American history, tradition, justice, law or in fact anything beyond money and power. The lies they engaged in to institute a war they had long-planned and the means of conducting it put a significant stain on the honor and good will of our country. And it lasts not only for the country but the very leaders of that unfortunate “government.”

We saw not too long ago that the former Vice President, Dick Cheney, was indicted by corruption prosecutors in Nigeria for his alleged involvement as head of Halliburton whose wholly owned subsidiary paid a substantial, illegal bribe to secure a lucrative energy deal with that Third World country. Even the current Secretary of State was drawn into this sordid spectacle. Halliburton was able to pay a paltry $35 million (probably because the prosecutors expected obstruction by the US Justice Department) to prevent a former Vice President from having to face extradition proceedings.

But that was for behavior before Cheney became Vice President. I suppose it would be asking too much these days to expect our national leaders not engage in international felonies before considering themselves suitable to be our rulers.

But just this week, Cheney’s nominal boss, George W. Bush, had to decline an invitation to speak in Switzerland for fear of prosecution for his conduct as president. Bush had been invited by the United Israel Appeal to address their meeting in Geneva. There had been protests planned and significantly a human rights organization had planned to ask the authorities in Switzerland to apprehend Bush for violation of the international treaty on torture. The organizers claim that the cancellation was over security concerns (evidently Switzerland is unable to protect a former President of the United States from human rights protestors), but the human rights group insists he cut and run in fear of arrest. The group plans on hounding the former president if he sets foot in any signatory to the treaty.

The Washington Post, that bastion of “grown up” pronouncements of the powers-that-be, canvassed the “experts” and concluded that George Bush is not in danger of being arrested. It is undoubtedly true that the current administration would throw its weight behind the disgraced former president, but it’s not at all clear that the law would allow him immunity. The Treaty itself says that a violator can be arrested anywhere he is found. The arrest of Augusto Pinochet (that great friend of Nixon and Kissinger) in 1998 in London shows that there is no immunity from prosecution accorded a former head of state and that there is universal jurisdiction for cases of human rights violations. It is also clear that George Bush’s recent admission that he ordered waterboarding (as part of his tour to drum up sales for his autobiography) shows that he committed torture. Waterboarding has been universally regarded as torture by everyone (from Reagan to Obama) in this country and beyond except for the high-ranking executives who ordered a legal “opinion” to cover their trail.

So whether he is ultimately convicted or not, it’s clear that our former leader cannot set foot in another civilized country without at least being dragged through allegations and procedure that a true American patriot would never have exposed himself too. I hope the ultra-wealthy consider their tax savings worth the disgrace their client inflicted on this country. I suspect that they have as little interest in justice as he does, however.

  1. July 4th, 2011

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