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© www.cosmopolis.ch Louis Gerber All rights reserved.
Bush for President?
2004 U.S. presidential election
Article added on November 1, 2004
If "ABB" (Anybody but Bush), is the only reason to vote for Kerry, that is neither convincing nor reassuring. It is true that since 9/11 there have been no more terror attacks on U.S. soil. However, there are plenty of reasons why Bush should not be reelected in the 2004 U.S. presidential election.
First, there is his disastrous handling of the post-war situation in Iraq. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's strategy was successful in quickly winning the war, but not the peace. Already in March 2003, the former Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki had demanded several hundred thousand troops for Iraq. Seymour M. Hersh did the same in an article reprinted in Chain of Command (review in German). In early October 2004, the former American civil administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, said that at no time were there enough ground troops in Iraq to insure peace. Looting and a situation of insecurity were the consequences.
In the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft both made an appalling figure (torture in Iraq).
Incidentally, Seymour Hersh, who broke the Abu Ghraib story in The New Yorker, does not even mention all the scandals in the context of 9/11 and its aftermath in his book Chain of Command.
Based on research by the U.S. human rights organization ACLU, the German political TV magazine Panorama presented on September 2, 2004 the scandal of the dubious people Ashcroft appointed in the Iraqi prison system.
Ashcroft appointed Lane McCotter as the chief of prisons in Iraq. Previously, the ACLU had filed suit against McCotter for the mistreatment of prisoners, resulting in the death of a schizophrenic prisoner. Because of this scandal in 1997, McCotter had to leave the prison in Utah he had been working at, and was moved to a private prison in New Mexico. In 2003, Ashcroft's office published a report on this prison, which included information on sadistic methods that were used. Shortly afterwards, McCotter, together with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, opened up Saddam Hussein's former torture prison Abu Ghraib, now under U.S. control.
Furthermore, Ashcroft appointed John Armstrong as vice-chief of the Iraqi prison system. Armstrong had previously worked for the prison system in the U.S. state of Connecticut, where several people died because of inhuman conditions, causing Armstrong to lose his job. Shortly afterwards, Ashcroft sent him to Abu Ghraib.
And there is the case of Gary DeLand, whom Ashcroft sent to Iraq in order to train the new prison wardens. According to the ACLU, previously DeLand had several times been indicted for mistreatment and poor medical treatment of prisoners.
Although there is no proof (yet), that these three Americans - McCotter, Armstrong and DeLand - had participated in cases of torture in Abu Ghraib, it is possible that the presence of these three people favored a climate which made a scandal such as Abu Ghraib possible.
In the end, the political responsibility for this situation lies with President Bush. He did not fire either Ashcroft or Rumsfeld. As Gore Vidal (who sometimes has a penchant for left-wing polemics) points out, the situation in Texan prisons is miserable. As in other U.S. states, one can find innocent people on the death row. DNA analysis and other research in the past has proven that innocent people have spent their lives in prison or had even been executed on the ground of false evidence or testimony. As governor of Texas, George W. Bush did not feel the need to reform the penitentiary and judicial system. As president, Bush has lacked the sensibility and competence to realize that the U.S. had adopted a policy heading directly towards Abu Ghraib - and this of course is the friendliest reading of events.
In Chain of Command, Hersh demonstrates that Bush's foreign policy is not coherent. Of course, the administration cannot handle all crises at the same time. However, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, and Israel/Palestine represent a series of poorly handled trouble spots. Scandalous is the administration's treatment of the danger of nuclear proliferation by the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, A. Q. Khan, who was pardoned by the Pakistani president.
Other foreign policy blunders include the "creative" handling of intelligence, the lack of troops to handle the post-war situation in Iraq and the Guantánamo prison camp. Furthermore, Hersh claims in Chain of Command that at the end of 2001 or early 2002, Bush secretly authorized the defense secretary to create a special unit authorized to arrest high al-Qaida members without respecting diplomatic customs and international law, with the right, if necessary, to kill.
Hersh reminds readers that after the revelation of the CIA attempts of the 1960s to kill Fidel Castro and other hostile heads of state, a U.S. senate committee concluded in 1975 that such conspiracies violated moral principles and that the U.S. should not take actions influenced by the standards of totalitarian regimes. A year later, President Ford issued an executive order still valid today prohibiting political assassinations. Hersh claims that President George W. Bush, with his signature on a secret document, has rehabilitated the practice of secret killing brigades, including secret prisons; it is possible that torture may be practiced there if needed. Hersh reminds readers that torture violates U.S. state laws as well as the UN anti-torture convention signed by the U.S. in 1994.
Hersh stresses that in the months previous to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, hawkish conservatives discussed sexual humiliation as the weak point of Arabs. They often referred to the 1973 study The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai, who died in 1996. It contains 25 pages about Arabs and sex. According to Patai, sex is a taboo subject for Arabs, loaded with shame and repression. According to Hersh, these right-wing hawks concluded from the study of The Arab Mind that Arabs only understand the language of violence and that sexual shame and repression is their cracking point. The photos from Abu Ghraib seem to confirm Hersh's thesis of this "inspiration" for the torture scandal.
In the epilogue to Chain of Command, Hersh's view of the Bush administration becomes clearest. He puts up the rhetorical question how it was possible that eight or nine conservative ideologues, who saw in a war against Iraq the answer to international terrorism, could completely impose their views.
However, let's not forget that the interventions both in Afghanistan and Iraq were needed. In the latter case, Saddam Hussein was the problem, not the weapons of mass destruction. He once not only had biological and chemical weapons, he also used some of them in the war against Iran as well as against his own Kurdish population. Once used, the inhibition is low to use them again if "needed". Furthermore, lifting the sanctions against Iraq, as France had planned instead of war, would have give Saddam Hussein and his regime not only billions of dollars to rebuild his conventional, biological and chemical arsenal, but also the financial possibility to build nuclear weapons in order to become "un-attackable", as in the case of Pakistan and North Korea.
Bush's domestic legacy is not very encouraging either. Some 45 million Americans still live without health insurance and, under Bush, the U.S. have registered the first net job loss in a presidential term for decades (over 2.6 million jobs lost in the private sector).
On the positive side, Bush has signed free trade treaties with several nations, which will benefit the world economy in the long run. The economy seems to be robust. However, both the federal budget deficit and the trade deficit are huge.
Before becoming president, Bush promised to be a uniter, not a divider as was Clinton in his opinion. In this regard, he could successfully refer to his positive Texas record. However, on the national level, he failed to deliver.
When Bush came to power, he did not seem to have a big national project that could galvanize the energy of the American people. Only 9/11 gave him a major task and, considering the circumstances of his election, a real mandate. Unfortunately, most Democrats and the majority of foreigners around the world will remember the (first) Bush administration as one of secrets, lies and Abu Ghraib videotapes.
More articles on politics: English and German.
literature, further reading
- Seymour M. Hersh: Chain of Command. The Road from 9/11 To Abu Ghraib. Harper Collins, 2004. Get the book from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. German edition: Die Befehlskette. Vom 11. September bis Abu Ghraib. Rowohlt, 2004, 399 S. Bestellen bei Amazon.de oder citydisc Schweiz. Hersh won't win a prize for elegant writing, there is no index and he often does not reveal his sources (but they are double checked by members of the staff on The New Yorker). However, the Pulitzer Prize winner of 1970 was the first to break the Abu Ghraib story. He remains one of the best if not the investigative U.S. journalist. In the book, he offered new material on the secret document allegedly signed by Bush which allows a secret squad to go after terrorists.
- James Mann: Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet. Viking Penguin, March 2004, 448pp. Get the hardcover book from Amazon.de, Amazon.com. Get the paperback from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
- German TV magazine Panorama no. 644 of September 2, 2004: "Sadisten aus Überzeugung? Die dunkle Vergangenheit der Gefängnischefs von Abu Ghraib."
- 9/11 Commission Report. The Full Final Report of The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States. W.W. Norton, Paperback, July 2004, 516 p. Get it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.