Posts Tagged 'George W. Bush'

Experiments with Truth

Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave

“When a thing is true, there is no need to use any arguments to substantiate it,” wrote Vinoba Bhave. Oh really?

Like so many of the wonderful aphorisms spun by Gandhians about the nature of truth (and, principally, by Gandhi-ji himself) this inspiring line from Vinoba-ji is itself true only in the most metaphysical and therefore trivial sense. Truth, it seems, isn’t a requirement for a socially, politically, or spiritually stirring catch-phrase, even when the very subject is truth.

Naturally, we give guys like Gandhi-ji and Vinoba-ji the benefit of the doubt. They were not only among the most brilliant men of the twentieth century, but were impressive in both the purity of their motivations and clarity of their ethics. The moral certitude of the line quoted above would, however, feel quite a bit sketchier were if it were attributed to, say, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or George W. Bush, all of whom might be equally plausible authors.

There are good reasons not to be too hard on Vinoba-ji. Sure, he failed to recognize that almost all the fun lies in the argument and very little of it resides in the ultimate truth of the matter. But fun wasn’t really his big thing. And we must readily acknowledge that it is convenient to be able to offer the occasional pronouncement without having to “show your work”, as though all of life were a high school math exam.

I spew this kind of unsubstantiated crap all the time. Sometimes I get called on it; often, when the things I say have the veneer (if not the deep resonance) of truth, I get away with it. Which brings us back to Vinoba-ji – and to our story.

Continue reading ‘Experiments with Truth’

Lebanon Once Again Ignites While on America’s Back-Burner

Beirut Gunman, May 2008
Photo: Associated Press

Beirut is once again in flames as Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias and Lebanese government forces clash in the worst outbreak of violence there since the end of the fifteen year civil war in 1990. The underlying political stalemate between the government and Hezbollah-led opposition parties, which has left the country without a president for nearly a year-and-a-half, is still unresolved. And, once again, America stands idly by and watches.

Continue reading ‘Lebanon Once Again Ignites While on America’s Back-Burner’

One More Year to Endure

Asshole

Seven long years of American constitutional nightmare down, one long year to go.

McClellan “Candid”. Unprecedented!

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan

A couple weeks ago, commenting on the stunning idiocy of White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, I wrote the following assessment:

We are used to hearing less-than-the-truth from Mr. Bush’s spokes-people. As with her predecessors – the heinously disreputable Ari Fleischer, propaganda automaton Scott McClellan, and grinning liar Tony Snow – the crap Ms. Perino spews is recited from the White House’s meticulous disinformation script. With the guys before her, one at least had the sense that they understood what they were dissembling about. With Ms. Perino, one gets the distinct feeling that she rarely has a clue.

Now, deceit-bot Scott McClellan steadfastly denies being half as smart as the credit I gave him. It seems Scotty has a new book coming out, unpoetically titled What Happened, in which he blames the lies he routinely told at his press briefings on his superiors in the White House. He claims complete ignorance.

Continue reading ‘McClellan “Candid”. Unprecedented!’

The Quiet American and the Cost of Civic Disengagement since 9/11

Protest circa 1963 Non-Protest circa 2006

George W. Bush likes to say the world changed on September 11, 2001. He’s absolutely right, of course. But then, he should know. He and his administration were the chief architects of that change.

Six years later, it is fascinating and horrible to trace the course of those transformations, and to assess our culpability as citizens of a democracy. We have looked-on like a herd of docile sheep as the Bush administration emasculated Congress, radically altered our conceptions of life in a free society, and embarked on a war contrary to nearly every national value or policy objective one might have otherwise articulated.

Continue reading ‘The Quiet American and the Cost of Civic Disengagement since 9/11’

John Yoo for Attorney General

AshcroftFredoYoo

Remember the good old days, when John “As the Eagle Flies” Ashcroft was the least competent Attorney General since John “Federal Prisoner” Mitchell?

Then came Alberto “I Can’t Recall” Gonzales, who made Mr. Ashcroft look like a lawyer and Mr. Mitchell look like an honest man. What he lacked in ability and character, however, he made up for in toadyism and the ability to take a punch. I guess everyone is good at something.

Continue reading ‘John Yoo for Attorney General’

Good War Gone Bad

Soldiers in Afghanistan

In May of 2006, I posed the question: how could the United States allow the pointless and probably illegal war in Iraq derail the imperative and morally justified conflict in Afghanistan? Mine was not an up-to-the-minute, breaking news sort of analysis. It had long been clear that Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq was draining precious resources from the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda, and, more importantly at that point, the reconstruction projects which would create the economic and social stability to allow the feeble Kharzai government to consolidate political authority throughout the county. The game had already turned by the time I wrote:

America failed to eradicate the Taliban, failed to deliver development aid in the amounts promised, and diverted troops which might have helped to secure the problematic southern provinces — all to focus on Iraq. Any reasonable semblance of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan would have been cheap and easy, especially when compared against the invasion of Iraq. Now, Afghanistan is under siege by a resurgent Taliban and religious fundamentalism again dominates social behavior in Afghanistan’s cities. The appallingly corrupt Kharzai government has never been able to exert its authority much beyond Kabul. Opium production is at record levels. The people of the country are poor, hungry, and frustrated. Each day the situation gets worse.

Continue reading ‘Good War Gone Bad’

Democracy Envy

Five years ago, President Bush, looked Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin in the eyes and pronounced him a worthy soul. Mr. Putin, having looked into Mr. Bush’s eyes, clearly saw the lights on, but no one home. In the years that have passed, Mr. Putin has made the most of his new-best-friend’s disengagement.
Continue reading ‘Democracy Envy’

Bush Speaks with God, World Suffers

God speaks through me. Without that, I could not do my job.
– George W. Bush, 9 June 2004, in meeting with Amish leaders

I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, “George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.” And I did, and then God would tell me, “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …” And I did…
– George W. Bush, June 2003, in meeting with Palestinian Ministers

The imbecile president seems an unlikely prophet. And the occupation of Iraq does not exactly seem divinely inspired.

Which is it, Mr. Bush: are you delusional or is god fucking with you?

Making Haste and Waste in Iraq

Baby we can do it
Take the time – do it right,
We can do it, Baby –
Do it tonight.
– S.O.S. Band, Take Your Time

I said, I hope you get your constitution written on time, and he agreed… He understands the need for of a timely write of the constitution.
– George W. Bush, On his conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, 28 April 2005

It is depressing to watch the US government pressure the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly to complete the drafting of its country’s constitution. As always, the Bush administration places higher priority on partisan politics at home than the successful democratization and governance of Iraq. If constitution drafting can be checked off the to-do list, then Republicans standing for re-election in 2006 can point to a tangible accomplishment of the new Iraqi government, and try to strike a hopeful note about the abysmal situation they and their president have created.

But will a constitution created in haste really signal a positive achievement? In all likelihood, it will simply codify, in the nation’s supreme legal document, the sectarian divisions that already threaten to rip the country apart. The Sunis remain largely estranged from the process. The kind of negotiation and compromise necessary to build sufficient cohesion to avoid civil war will take time.

But now the first arbitrary deadline has been passed and the Bush administration wants the constitution done yesterday!

The drafting of a constitution is the single most important political act in the governance of a country. If America is, as our politicians like to tell us, the greatest nation on earth – and, indeed, if that phrase has any discernable meaning beyond its hollow, prideful jingoism – it is entirely down to the fact that it has an absolutely beautiful constitutional system. Sure, the US Constitution contains the quirks borne of compromise and historical context. Sure, Madison and others agreed, even at the time, that it was an imperfect document. Sure, the Constitution is more principled and noble in conception than it is in practice, given the careless disregard our politicians sometimes have for it. But no other country in the world has so ably defined the mechanisms of self-governance, finding the delicate balance between effective administration of the public welfare and curtailing the awesome power of the state over the rights of the individual.

The American experience itself shows that these things take time. The Philadelphia Constitutional Convention of 1787 commenced on 25 May. It was not until 29 September – more than four months later – that the Constitution was approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. This is more than a month longer than the Bush administration mandated for the drafting of Iraq’s Constitution. And let’s not forget that the work of the Constitutional Convention was preceded by the Annapolis Conference in 1786 and by weeks of crucial advance work by James Madison and the delegates of Virginia; or that the Bill of Rights, the crowning achievement of American constitutionalism, wasn’t ratified until 1791. The Iraqis were starting from scratch on 16 May, and were asked to be done by 15 August.

You may also have noticed that the Iraqi’s are working under somewhat more difficult circumstances than the American delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. America was enjoying peace and prosperity unheard of in a newly-minted, formerly colonial country. The delegates to the convention were all established legislators and included some of the most brilliant political minds of their day – or of any day, for that matter. The issues dividing the delegates were well-drawn, with the country having had the benefit of nearly a decade of experience with democratic self-governance under the Articles of Confederation. Iraq, on the other hand, is a shambles. It’s all the constitutional delegates can do to get themselves to the meetings alive!

It is patently unrealistic to expect an inexperienced, cobbled-together, sectarian, shell-shocked group of would-be politicians to do in three months what James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Roger Sherman, and their colleagues could not do in four.

If only President Bush weren’t on another protracted vacation, he might be able to lend them a hand.


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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