Let Me Sum Up

Why do I have to wait for history to tell me what the Bush Center is full of?

Why wait for history to tell us what the Bush Center is full of?

I don’t have a problem that we’re dedicating the George W. Bush Presidential Center today. SMU benefits. We get a cool new library, museum and archive. Who is against such things?

My problem is with — gee, who can give voice to the attitude that is causing this gnawing pain in my gut?

Oh, hello, Steve Blow

May I make a suggestion? Instead of escalating emotions, the debut of the George W. Bush Presidential Center makes an awfully good day for both friends and foes of the former president to let them go. I’m not saying anyone has to change opinions on Bush. It’s just time to let both the vilification and the defensiveness pass. History has begun its inexorable work in rendering a judgment. Let’s trust that process.

[Takes long, deep breath. Tries not to seek out puppies to punch.]

Right. Let’s trust that process. Let’s not, more than a decade after going to war and more than four years after his presidency ended, ask a newspaper to be a part of that process.

Let me try to take that advice. [Closes eyes.] Kumbaya, my Lord! Kum-ba-ya!

Sorry, just doesn’t feel right. There’s something about the disparity here between how we treat someone like Jimmy Carter — a failed president who nevertheless is a man of great works of compassion post-presidency — and Neighbor George, a man whose obvious compassion should for some reason blind me to the horrific choices he made as president.

According to this editorial, today marks the next chapter of our love affair with the Bushes. According to this story, experts tell me that, don’t you worry, eventually we’ll get to talking more openly and honestly about Iraq. In, say, 50 years or so.

So I am instead to take at face value the Bush Center’s postscript on the Iraq war:

Iraq has a functioning democracy and security has improved. No stockpiles of WMD were found. Post-invasion inspections confirmed that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to resume production of WMD. Iraq has foresworn WMD and is an ally in the War on Terror.”

Weird! Because just a few weeks ago I read a portrait of Iraq today that painted a far different picture, from someone who was there when the invasion began a decade ago and who recently returned: 

Today, not to put too fine a point on it, Iraq is a failed state, teetering on the brink of another sectarian bloodbath, and beset by chronic political deadlock and economic disaster. Its social fabric has been all but shredded by nearly a decade of brutal occupation by the US military and now by the rule of an Iraqi government rife with sectarian infighting.

But … takin’ out terrorism? Trust the process? Twirling toward freedom? No? It continues:

The death toll of March 11th [2013] was one of the worst of late and provides a snapshot of the increasing levels of violence countrywide. Overall, 27 people were killed and many more injured in attacks across the country. A suicide car bomb detonated in a town near Kirkuk, killing eight and wounding 166 (65 of whom were students at a Kurdish secondary school for girls). In Baghdad, gunmen stormed a home where they murdered a man and woman. A shop owner was shot dead and a policeman was killed in a drive-by shooting in Ghazaliya. A civilian was killed in the Saidiya district, while a Sahwa member was gunned down in Amil. Three government ministry employees in the city were also killed.

This is not a unique occurrence. Dozens were killed this week too. Six bombs went off last week, killing 42. 

So, go ahead and celebrate the pretty building. Post your photos on Instagram. Just don’t give me this bullshit about how we need to hurry and have fun before the History Grump visits in 50 years and declares the Bush legacy to be one of destroying a fragile nation to further his cabinet’s pathological right-wing paranoia. That history is being written daily, in the blood of innocents.


Too late!

Now, this is the sort of Bush Center reporting I can get behind.

George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas
You must read what the George W. Bush Presidential Center says about Iraq. And, no, it wasn't written by the staff at The Onion. Photo by Peter Aaron
News_Carol Rust_Worst Events of Decade_Dec. 2009_Iraq Invasion_2003_101st_Airborne_Division_helos_during_Operation_Iraqi_Freedom
We have pulled out of Iraq, but the idea our invasion didn't destroy the country is being proven wrong every day. Photo by Sgt. Luis Lazzara, U.S. Army
Laura and George Bush at George W. Bush Presidential Center
I'm sure I'd love to have beers with George. His wife is doing fine work these days. That shouldn't whitewash his legacy. Photo by Paul Morse