Rose Garden of Good and Evil

Article excerpt

[A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, Glenn Greenwald, Crown, 303 pages]

Rose Garden of Good and Evil

By Tom Piatak

THE BOURBONS were famously said to have learned nothing and to have forgotten nothing. In A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, Glenn Greenwald makes a persuasive case for applying the same description to the Bush administration. Greenwald ably chronicles its pervasive incompetence and stupidity-and the object on which most of that incompetence and stupidity has been lavished, the needless war in Iraq. Proving that it has indeed learned nothing and forgotten nothing, Greenwald demonstrates that the administration is seeking to magnify the disaster in Iraq by pushing for war with the country that may well have been the major beneficiary of our invasion, Iran. Overall, he offers some genuine insights into the sorry state of contemporary American politics.

The author notes that the drive to attack Iraq began long before Sept. 11. Bush's motivations for signing on to this adventure are not entirely clear, but probably stemmed, at least in part, from a desire to avenge Saddam Hussein's defiance of his father and reported attempt to assassinate him, just as Bush's desire to seek the presidency in 2000 was related to his wish to avenge Bill Clinton's victory over the elder Bush in 1992. Whatever his motivations, Sept. 11 was critical to Bush's success in convincing Americans to join his vendetta against Hussein, with 70 percent of Americans telling pollsters in September 2003 that they believed Hussein was directly involved in the terrorist attacks and countless millions clinging to that belief today, despite a complete lack of evidence.

The Bush administration is trying to use the same sort of sleight of hand to generate support for war with Iran, making much of its associations with terrorist organizations. But, as Greenwald notes, the groups Iran supports are Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are focused on attacking Israel, not the United States. He argues forcefully that hostility to Israel should not, by itself, be grounds for war with Iran: "If there are valid arguments for deeming Israel's enemies to be enemies of the U.S., then they should be made explicitly and clearly, without the type of misleading obfuscation that President Bush and his supporters clearly intend to create by implying that Iran supports anti-U.S. terrorist groups." And it can also be noted (although Greenwald does not) that since Iran poses a far graver threat to Israel than the United States, Israel can reasonably be expected to use its regional military superiority to deal with it.

As Greenwald observes, the Bush administration could not have succeeded in convincing many Americans that Saddam Hussein was "another Hitler" without the complicity of the media: "our country's most influential media outlets turned into little more than glorified megaphones for amplifying government claims." He rightly places the blame for this on the cozy relationships among the members of the overclass in our imperial capital: "the most powerful political officials in Washington and the most influential media stars are part of the same system and nearly all are abundant beneficiaries of it." Despite the lip service all Republican politicians now pay to Ronald Reagan, virtually none has shown any willingness to emulate him and confront this corrupt system-or even to leave Washington after making it to the Promised Land.

Bush is certainly no Reaganite. As Greenwald documents, Bush has "presided over massive increases in domestic spending, the conversion of a multibillion dollar surplus into an even larger deficit, the creation of vast new bureaucratic fiefdoms, [and] an unprecedented expansion of the powers of the federal government." That Bush is no conservative was obvious long before he steamrolled his way to the GOP nomination in 2000 on the basis of little more than his name and an unprecedented amount of corporate contributions. …