Monday, June 02, 2008

Bloodthirsty George, American Emperor

It was early in Bush's first term and we were all getting used to his malapropisms and other grammatical blunders. It seemed that, whenever the president of the United States opened his mouth (and wasn't reading from a speech), something goofy was almost sure to come out.

Some took that as a sign that Bush was genuinely moronic. Yet we keep getting assured that the guy is actually fairly bright, not that there have been many tangible signs of that.

But early on I read a report of an American linguistics prof who anaylyzed Bush's candid speech and came up with a startling finding. There was one circumstance in which Bush always spoke with total clarity and coherence - when the topic was death.

Death has played a prominent role in little George's life. He used his dad's influence to get a posting in the air national guard in order to dodge the prospect of death fighting in Vietnam. When he was governor of Texas, condemned prisoners were toast. It was said that Bush never saw a death warrant he didn't like and he signed them all as they came across his desk.

But death has never been as central to Bush's life as it has since 2001, beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan. It was the conquest of Iraq two years later, however, that saw the Bush legacy really steeped in blood as tens, probably hundreds of thousands, of innocents died in the aftermath of the botched occupation.

It turns out that there were times when Bush's blood lust was blatant, at least to those around him. US Army general Ricardo Sanchez recounts the bloodthirsty bent of his commander in chief in Sanchez' memoir, "Wiser in Battle," in which he relates what passed during a video conference call between Sanchez and Bremer in Baghdad and Bush, Powell and Rumsfeld in Washington during the reduction of the Sunni city of Falujah. From AlterNet:

According to Sanchez, Powell was talking tough that day: "We've got to smash somebody's ass quickly," the general reports him saying. "There has to be a total victory somewhere. We must have a brute demonstration of power." (And indeed, by the end of April, parts of Fallujah would be in ruins, as, by August, would expanses of the oldest parts of the holy Shiite city of Najaf. Sadr himself would, however, escape to fight another day; and, in order to declare Powell's "total victory," the U.S. military would have to return to Fallujah that November, after the U.S. presidential election, and reduce three-quarters of it to virtual rubble). Bush then turned to the subject of al-Sadr: "At the end of this campaign al-Sadr must be gone," he insisted to his top advisors. "At a minimum, he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out."

Not long after that, the President "launched" what an evidently bewildered Sanchez politely describes as "a kind of confused pep talk regarding both Fallujah and our upcoming southern campaign [against the Mahdi Army]." Here then is that "pep talk." While you read it, try to imagine anything like it coming out of the mouth of any other American president, or anything not like it coming out of the mouth of any evil enemy leader in the films of the President's -- and my -- childhood:

"'Kick ass!' [Bush] said, echoing Colin Powell's tough talk. 'If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal.

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!'"

The last six years have been one long John Wayne moment for George w. Bush and he's relished them to the full. What remains to be seen is how many more commander in chief moments will Bush try to cram in before he's given his eviction notice. Could he "do" Iran, even if just for the fun of it?

And what sort of world awaits Bush come January when he's back at the ranch in Crawford and there's no one left he can kill? Not even a stack of death warrants to sign. How's the guy going to cope in a strange, small world in which everyone lives?

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