I don't like George Bush, never have. The first time he came to my notice I sensed something wasn't right with this guy, that there was both more and less to him than met the eye.
It struck me, when he first reached Washington, that this was a president without any deep-seated principles or values. His goals seemed focused on helping his pals, his base, which he once described as, "the 'haves' and the 'have mores'.
There was an intellectual vacuum to George Bush born out of the union of a lack of curiosity combined with a lack of accomplishment. He really was a frat boy president. And then Osama arrived.
When the Bush administration was caught napping on 11 September, 2001, Shrub went looking for someone to tell him what to do. That someone was his veep, Dick Cheney, who had already conveniently stacked the administration with a handpicked gaggle of political extremists we now know as neo-conservatives or neo-cons. Bereft of any other insight, any core beliefs, the president dutifully lapped up what his handlers put in the puppy bowl.
This bunch, who once called themselves The Project for The New American Century, seized their opportunity to take command of the Oval Office. With the approval of Dick Cheney, they rewrote their policy statements and relabeled them the "Bush Doctrine." This, of course, entailed the use of pre-emptive force and the military supremacy of the US to maintain the military supremacy of the US.
The scam worked for a while, much longer than most of us would have thought it could last. First it was Afghanistan, then the real prize, Iraq. Right up until the moment the first Abrams tank rolled into Baghdad it all went swimmingly. After that, it steadily turned bad, very bad.
The Rumsfeld army went into Iraq to overthrow Saddam, nothing more. It expected to be able to hand over the keys to Chalabi and split. No provision was made for an insurgency or an occupation and, accordingly, the US quickly lost control of both.
The last three years have seen a series of 'accomplishments' each, briefly, summoned up as evidence that the game plan was working. There was the killing of the Saddam boys. Then there was the election of a provisional government followed by the capture of Saddam and another election, this for a permanent, democratic government. America was 'staying the course.'
Then everything went sour. The insurgency blossomed. So did the guerilla campaign of the terrorists. Sectarian violence swelled into fullblown civil war. The democratically-elected government purported to rule over a country that would not submit to its rule. American and Iraqi casualties steadily mounted. In three years the Iraq war cost the US more, in adjusted dollars, than the entire Vietnam conflict of more than a decade that saw more than 500,000 soldiers deployed to the south.
As the war soured, so did American popular support for it. As American enthusiasm for the war tanked, so did the president's approval ratings. The Republicans lost both house and senate.
Now all those who once boldly surrounded George Bush have receded into the shadows. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz along with Perle and Feith are gone. Cheney seems to act like he's on someone's 10-most wanted list. Condoleeza Rice continues to try to fight the good fight but her act isn't working any longer either.
George Bush, POTUS, has to find some way to get through two more years. I'd bet he'd be delighted if only he had some means to hand it all off to someone else but that's not the way his country's constitution works.
He has advisors at his elbows, at his back, everywhere and they're all telling him to bail out but, like so many weak leaders before him, George Bush can't bring himself to accept that reality. He cannot accept the public verdict of defeat.
He has fallen back on spin which he believes has served him so well so often before. He looks around for someone to cling to and can only find the Iraqi prime minister, Maliki, who is possibly even weaker than Bush himself. Maliki, he pronounces, is the "right man" to lead Iraq. Isn't that the same thing he told the world so many times about Don Rumsfeld?
A long time ago George Bush lost the initiative in Iraq. Historians may someday conclude that happened very shortly after the occupation of Baghdad and the toppling of the Saddam statue. Everything since that tipping point has been a rearguard action, sustained mainly by clinging to this or that. Now George Bush finds himself having to cling onto Maliki but only because he has no idea who will be running the show in Baghdad this time next year.
You can detest George Bush if you like but at least leave a little room for pity. He deserves that.