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Sunday, December 03, 2006


They Keep on Killing In the Name of God

Shias and Sunnis * Arabs and Jews * Hindus and Muslims * Bushworld

The Catholics did it during the Spanish Inquisition; the Germans did it during Hitler's Third Reich; the Hindus and Muslims did it after the partition of India (sporadic incidents of communal violence still plague the sub-continent at times). Turks killed Armenians. Kurds in Iraq were killed during Saddam Hussein's reign. In more recent times, the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda killed each other in thousands.

In Somalia warring factions of Muslims have been engaged in an orgy of killings for over a decade. The CIA was reported to be involved in supporting one of the groups. Last summer, Israelis killed a thousand or more civilians in Lebanon but failed to make a dent in Hezbollah's predominance. Now there are signs of trouble brewing between the Christians and supporters of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Violence is not far from the surface.

And in Iraq a bloodbath is going on between the Shias and Sunnis -- bloodbath that George Bush's war is largely responsible for creating.

If there are sane voices among Islamic religious leaders,we do not hear them speaking out against the atrocities. They either approve of what is going on or they are powerless to do anything about it.

The extremists (fundamentalists) have the same mindset whether they are in Baghdad, Teheran, Mumbai, or Boise, Idaho. They are right; their god is the true god. God, if there is one, must be sleeping through all this or just plain sick of the carnage.

See: Shia-Sunni Bitter Divide (BBC)
Religion and Ethics - Islam (BBC)

The Worst President Ever

For some of us there is no question about G.W. Bush being at the bottom of the scale. In "Move Over, Hoover" Douglas Brinkley writes in the Post: "Shortly after Thanksgiving I had dinner in California with Ronald Reagan's best biographer, Lou Cannon. Like many historians these days, we discussed whether George W. Bush is, conceivably, the worst U.S. president ever. Cannon bristled at the idea.

Bush has two more years to leave his mark, he argued. What if there is a news flash that U.S. Special Forces have killed Osama bin Laden or that North Korea has renounced its nuclear program? What if a decade from now Iraq is a democracy and a statue of Bush is erected on Firdaus Square where that famously toppled one of Saddam Hussein once stood?"


There is wisdom in Cannon's prudence. Clearly it's dangerous for historians to wield the "worst president" label like a scalp-hungry tomahawk simply because they object to Bush's record. But we live in speedy times and, the truth is, after six years in power and barring a couple of miracles, it's safe to bet that Bush will be forever handcuffed to the bottom rungs of the presidential ladder. The reason: Iraq.

At first, you'd want to compare Bush's Iraq predicament to that of Lyndon B. Johnson during the Vietnam War. But LBJ had major domestic accomplishments to boast about when leaving the White House, such as the Civil Rights Act and Medicare/Medicaid. Bush has virtually none. Look at how he dealt with the biggest post-9/11 domestic crisis of his tenure. He didn't rush to help the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina because the country was overextended in Iraq and had a massive budget deficit. Texas conservatives always say that LBJ's biggest mistake was thinking that he could fund both the Great Society and Vietnam. They believe he had to choose one or the other. They call Johnson fiscally irresponsible. Bush learned this lesson: He chose Iraq over New Orleans.

So Bush's legacy hinges on Iraq, which is an unmitigated disaster. Instead of being forgiven, like Polk and McKinley, for his phony pretext for war (WMD and al-Qaeda operatives in Baghdad), he stands to be lambasted by future scholars. What once were his two best sound bites -- "Wanted dead or alive" and "Mission accomplished" -- will be used like billy clubs to shatter his legacy every time it gets a revisionist lift. The left will keep battering him for warmongering while the right will remember its outrage that he didn't send enough battalions to Iraq.

There isn't much that Bush can do now to salvage his reputation. His presidential library will someday be built around two accomplishments: that after 9/11, the U.S. homeland wasn't again attacked by terrorists (knock on wood) and that he won two presidential elections, allowing him to appoint conservatives to key judicial posts. I also believe that he is an honest man and that his administration has been largely void of widespread corruption. This will help him from being portrayed as a true villain.

This last point is crucial. Though Bush may be viewed as a laughingstock, he won't have the zero-integrity factors that have kept Nixon and Harding at the bottom in the presidential sweepstakes. Oddly, the president whom Bush most reminds me of is Herbert Hoover, whose name is synonymous with failure to respond to the Great Depression. When the stock market collapsed, Hoover, for ideological reasons, did too little. When 9/11 happened, Bush did too much, attacking the wrong country at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. He has joined Hoover as a case study on how not to be president.


Douglas Brinkley is director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University.


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