Timothy Egan's September 5th Op-Ed in The New York Times Opinionator is a thing of beauty.
Lurking beneath every action--or inaction--that this Administration takes, or does not take, regarding Syria is a singular, haunting presence:
You may think George W. Bush is at home in his bathtub, painting pictures of his toenails, but in fact he’s the biggest presence in the debate over what to do in Syria.Egan weighs every aspect of the Syrian debate and finds that all roads, pro and con, lead back to Bush:
His legacy is paralysis, hypocrisy and uncertainty practiced in varying degrees by those who want to learn from history and those who deny it. Let’s grant some validity to the waffling, though none of it is coming from the architects of the worst global fiasco in a generation.
Time should not soften what President George W. Bush, and his apologists, did in an eight-year war costing the United States more than a trillion dollars, 4,400 American soldiers dead and the displacement of two million Iraqis. The years should not gauze over how the world was conned into an awful conflict. History should hold him accountable for the current muddy debate over what to do in the face of a state-sanctioned mass killer.The point Egan makes is just how deeply the Bush rot has suffused the nation's fabric so that all considerations of military involvement are viewed through the lens of the Iraq fiasco and the lies that led up to it:
The isolationists in the Republican Party are a direct result of the Bush foreign policy. A war-weary public that can turn an eye from children being gassed — or express doubt that it happened — is another poisoned fruit of the Bush years.In emphasizing the "domino effect" bad geopolitical decisions can create, Egan draws parallels between the Iraq fiasco and World War I, whose unforeseen consequences and ill-conceived decisions led to an even more aberrant and violent regime. In fact the disastrous consequences of the Iraq war have manifested themselves in the actions and attitudes not only of those who oppose military action against Syria, but also in the actions of those who support it. The shadow of Bush's Iraq catastrophe can be divined in every action, every public statement, in the behavior of the Congress, the reaction of the international community, and in the harsh critique of American public opinion. Its ultimate impact may very well be more profound than that of the Vietnam War, which colored Americans' perception of American military adventurism for decades.
Until the Syrian crises came to a head, we had yet to see just how much the Bush fiasco in Iraq would sway world opinion. We know now that his war will haunt the globe for decades to come. Future presidents who were in diapers when the United States said with doubtless authority that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction will face critics quoting Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney with never-again scorn.From the isolationist impulses that--at least on the surface--drive the Tea Party's opposition, to the skepticism that the President encounters at every turn as he now fairly desperately seeks out approval abroad for military strikes, the overriding, unspoken failed legacy of George Bush suspends over all, like the sword of Damocles. The depressing fact is that none of the architects of the still-unfolding Iraq disaster appear to have learned a thing, the Cheneys and Rumsfelds fanning out on the pundit circuit, as if their poisonous disregard hasn't done enough damage to the country and the world. Perhaps they feel that history has let them off the hook. Egan reminds us that we shouldn't:
But for all of these neocons stuck on the wrong side of history — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, say the names loud and clear — it’s not a change in conscience at work; it’s a change in presidents.And the blindest and most arrogant among them, History's own useful idiot, responsible for it all, has nothing whatsoever to say, except that he refuses "to be roped in" to taking a side in the debate.
This is cowardice on a grand scale. Having set in motion a doctrine that touches all corners of the earth and influences every leader with a say in how to approach tyrants who slaughter innocents, Bush retreats to his bathtub to paint.