George Bush I's "Tender Heart" and His "Little Leaguer's Rough Game": More Missing Irony at the New York Times*
TEARFUL MEMORIES OF A TERRIBLE DEFEAT
There was some interesting news about George H.W. Bush (George Bush I) recently on the front page of the New York Times According to Bush's I's daughter Doro Bush Koch, the Times reports, the ex-president is "growing more emotional as he ages."
"He has a tender heart that is getting tenderer," Mrs. Koch told Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg.
Last December, the Times reports, Bush I's growing "tenderness" was seen at an event honoring his son Jeb Bush in his final days at the governor of Florida. The ex-president "broke down crying at the memory of Jeb's bitter defeat in 1994," when the current president's younger brother failed in an early bid for his current job.
"A LITTLE LEAGUE FATHER WHOSE KID IS HAVING A ROUGH GAME"
The growing warmth of Bush I's "heart" is making it harder, Stolberg reports, for him to "take the criticism" George W. Bush (Bush II) is receiving over the Iraq fiasco and other ongoing White House failures and/or crimes. It hasn't been easy on the senior Bush to hear his eldest son disparaged across the land.
Late last year, at the christening of the U.S. Navy's newest Nimitz aircraft carrier, "The George H.W. Bush," the elder Bush "made a point of saying he supports his son 'in every single way with every fiber of my body.'"
"At 83," Stolberg reports, Bush I "finds it tough to watch his son get criticized from the sidelines; often, he likens himself to a Little League father whose kid is having a rough game. And like the proud father and angry Little League dad who cannot help but yell at the umpire, sometimes he just cannot help getting involved" (Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "First Father: Tough Times on the Sidelines," New York Times, 9 August 2007, pp. A1, A8).
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT, MR. EX-PRESIDENT?
Call me jaded, but I really have to wonder if the Times' Stolberg was able to write this story without succumbing to recurrent fits of hysterical laughter and/or tears.
Those of us who pay reasonably informed attention to recent history and current events can certainly think of many more relevant things to get weepy about than Jeb Bush's election loss in 1994! So surely can the writers and editors of The New York Times.
If the increasingly "tenderhearted" Bush I is looking for a place to focus his emergent loving kindness, he can start by visiting some of the many thousands of U.S. soldiers who have lost limbs and/or sight, hearing and peace of mind while enlisted in his son's criminal war of colonial aggression against Iraq.
He could also visit the homes of some of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families who have lost loved ones in that brazenly imperialist invasion (1). Or those of the many Afghan civilian families who are losing children and other loved ones to indiscriminate air attacks being called in by U.S. Special Forces - participants in another and all-too forgotten mass-murderous invasion ordered by Bush I with Democratic support (2).
I'm sorry, but Bush I's edlest son (the former owner of a Major League Baseball team) was hardly a Little League batter having a rough day at the plate when he put O.I.L. ("Operation Iraqi Liberation") into play.
He was the arch-criminal and messianic-militarist master of the world's only Major League Empire.
Of course, if Bush Senior is looking for historical events to shed tears about could also revisit his own imperial war on Iraq. He could review films and accounts of his military's vicious slaughter of surrendered soldiers on the notorious Highway of Death, where American planes and helicopters pulverized defeated Iraqi troops attempting to return from Kuwait.
Speaking of Floridian electoral tragedies worth weeping about, the elder Bush could revisit Jeb's pivotal role in helping Team Dubya steal the 2000 presidential election in Florida.
Bush I could also revisit:
- Bush II's failure to act on intelligence that might have helped prevent the terrible jetliner attacks of September 11, 2001.
- Bush II's determination to use 9/11 as a fraudulent pretext for launching the petro-imperialist invasion of Iraq and violating civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad.
- Bush II's inability and/or unwillingness to act while hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens were marooned in flooded New Orleans
- His wife's racist and classist claim that Katrina's poor black victims were better off now that they were privileged enough to sleep on the artificial turf of the Superdome.
MASTERS OF OIL WAR
Truth be told, the list of terrible events that can be linked to George W. Bush and the whole blood- and petroleum-soaked military-industrial Bush clan goes on and on.
We should be so lucky that Bush Senior's "tender heart" was being jabbed only by a bad day on the ball-field for George Junior.
The harsh historical realities of oil, empire, hyper-militarism, class rule, false Christianity and dynastic politics mean that Junior's "rough game" is no small or laughing matter. It's a matter of life and death for millions at home and abroad.
It's not for nothing that I always flash to the Bush crime family when I hear the following lyrics from Bob Dylan's 1962 folk-dirge "Masters of War":
You fasten the triggers For the others to fire You sit back and watch While the death counts gets higher You hide in your mansions While young people's blood Flows out of their bodies And gets buried in the mud Let me ask you one question Is your money that good? Will it bring you forgiveness? Do you think that it could? I think you will find When your death takes its toll All the money you made Will never buy back your soul
So go ahead, ex-President Bush, cry us a river. If your declared religion's scriptures are correct, there's nothing but tears and anguish where you and your oldest son are going when your deaths take their tolls.
* See my essay "Deleting Irony and Hiding Truth: Reflections on the New York Times and the Narrow Spectrum of Debate," ZNet (December 12, 2006), read online at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=11614.
Paul Street (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer, speaker and activist based in Iowa City and Chicago. Street's latest book is Racial Oppression and the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, July 2007). It can be ordered at http://www.amazon.com/Racial-Oppression-Global-Metropolis-Chicago/dp/0742540820/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-5609845-5411032?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186717313&sr=1-1.
1. Bush I might want to have a look at the July 30th edition of The Nation, where Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian report that his son and Empire's bloody oil occupation is "a dark and depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory." Many of fifty U.S. occupation veterans interviewed by Hedges and Al-Arian have "returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the U.S. government and media." By returning GIs' account, the war on the ground includes the gratuitous killing and torture of Iraqi civilians, including children. The invasion involves the routine "indiscriminate" application of U.S. force and numerous "disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops."
"I guess while I was there [in Iraq]," one returning occupation soldier (Jeff Englehart, former Specialist, Third Brigade, First U.S. Army Infantry Division) told Hedges and Al-Arian, " the general attitude was ' a dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi.' You know, 'so what?'"
Numerous veterans "described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses."
"We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs," Hedges and Al-Arian report, "that some soldiers had so lost their moral compasses that they mocked or desecrated Iraqi civilian corpses."
Twenty four veterans "said they had witnessed or heard stories from those in their unit of unarmed civilians being shot or run over by convoys. These incidents were so numerous that many were never reported."
The killing of "unarmed Iraqis" is "so common many of the troops said it became an accepted part of the daily landscape."
Several interviewees told Hedges and Al-Arian of cases where U.S. soldiers would "plant AK-47s" next to the bodies of unarmed Iraqis they had butchered "to make it seems as if the civilian dead were combatants" (Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, "The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness," The Nation, July 30, 2007).
"Mom, we killed women on the street today," one U.S. soldier recently reported from Iraq. "We killed kids on bikes" (Ian Urbina, "Even as Loved Ones Fight On, War Doubts Arise," New York Times, 15 July 2007, p. A1).
Such criminality is ultimately and most relevantly traceable to top decision-makers in Washington.
2. Carlotta Gall, "British Criticize U.S. Air Attacks in Afghan Region," New York Times, 9 August 2007, pp. A1, A5.