Helping Along History

Sunovabitch. Maybe this guy is all right after all.

Hard at work already

Hard at work already

So what does Obama do on his first day in office? He grants me one of my wishes (discussed here) and rescinds the Bush executive order that kept presidential documents locked up for years. Now, to most people, the original order probably meant very little, but historians and reporters loathed it. And the clampdown on releasing those papers was an early indication of the secrecy and attempts to manipulate reality that became Bush Administration trademarks.

The new order (have fun with the legalese) removes the most onerous parts of Bush’s decree, bringing us back, I believe, to the status quo ante, which was set down by President Reagan before he left office. It was then kept in place by Bush I and Clinton – suggesting that the Bush II changes were a sign of his and Cheney’s warped, ideological thinking. Making documents available for history should be a bipartisan issue in this country. Unless, of course, you have something to hide.

A model of the new Bush Li - oh, wait, that's not right...

A model of the new Bush Li - oh, wait, that's not right...

And speaking of manipulating history: I just can’t wait for the new Bush library/museum/think tank/water park to rise up from the ground at SMU in Dallas. The Washington Post reports that the presidential edifice’s “Freedom Institute” will be a place where debate can continue about the issues that marked his presidency. But critics say Bush plans to use the Institute as a place to defend his administration and bolster his reputation. First question: Ya think?  Second question: Is that remotely possible? And third question: You really believe this man has an interest in objective scholarship? In scholarship in general?

So the farewell tour of the news outlets wasn’t enough. Trying to spin your two terms of anguish will take years of hard work, and the fine men and women at the Bush Center will be the ones to do it. Uh huh. We will never be able to forget the last eight years, will we?

Of course not, and here’s why: Bush has created a mess in the Middle East and South/Central Asia that is just waiting to explode. I am so sick of the blog comments and letters to the editor from Bushites who attack his detractors by saying. “Well, he kept us safe after 9/11.” OK, there were no more terrorist attacks on US soil. But read William Dalrymple’s review of Descent into Chaos, the new book by Central Asian expert Ahmed Rashid, and tell me how safe you feel for the future (shout out to my friend Hugh for sending me this). Yes, Pakistani policies, particularly those of its ISI intelligence agency, and Saudi funding of madrassas helped create the instability that has defined  Afghanistan and the border region the last two decades (and that now threatens Pakistan itself – and beyond). But it was Bush policies and attitudes that threw gas on the fire.  Now Obama gets to try to deal with the coming conflagration. It might not be pretty.

George, you can build all the Potemkin libraries you want. We know behind the facades stands the reputation of a failed presidency. No spin or passing years will hide the truth, as you tried to do with your executive order back in November 2001. But even when we learn the whole truth about your actions, it may not matter. The United States might already be screwed in many more ways than it is now.

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~ by mburgan on January 23, 2009.

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