by Greg Method
"I believe this war is more akin to World War II than it is to Vietnam."
Those words were spoken by Bush on March 22 in Wheeling, West Virginia during a Q&A. And with that statement, he is trying to miraculously change the public's perception of not only the farce in Iraq, but also his term in office.
Bush's latest fixation has been, that is besides Mexicans, World War II. That's right, the "Good War." "The Big One." "The War." Umm..."Old Smokey."
Another comparison came a week later on March 29 in Washington. Bush was at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill to address the folks at Freedom House for the diplomatic work they've done for the last couple of decades, capped by their declaring that 2005 was "one of the most successful years for freedom" since they began measuring such thirty years ago. So naturally this meant that three-fourths of Bush's speech focused solely on his vendetta against Saddam Hussein. Whatever.
Here is an excerpt from that speech:
In our history, most democratic progress has come with the end of a war. After the defeat of the Axis powers in World War II and the collapse of communism in the Cold War, scores of nations cleared away the rubble of tyranny and laid the foundations of freedom and democracy.
Today, the situation is very different. Liberty is advancing not in a time of peace, but in the midst of a war, at a moment when a global movement of great brutality and ambition is fighting freedom's progress with all the hateful violence they can muster. In this new century, the advance of freedom is a vital element of our strategy to protect the American people, and to secure the peace for generations to come. We're fighting the terrorists across the world because we know that if America were not fighting this enemy in other lands, we'd be facing them here in our own land.
On September the 11th, 2001, we saw the violence and the hatred of a vicious enemy, and the future that they intend for us. That day I made a decision: America will not wait to be attacked again. We will confront this mortal danger. We will stay on the offensive. America will defend our freedom.
So, which is it? Is the situation similar, or is it "very different?"
Even Cheney got into the comparison act on the 2004 campaign trail, such as in this speech on August 25 at Bloomsburg University in (ironic enough) Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania:
Today we face an enemy every bit as anxious as the Axis powers were in World War II to destroy us, or the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This enemy, in the words of the 9/11 Commission report released recently, is "sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal."
Again, which is it? Are they anxious or patient and disciplined?
Bush's latest little kick began last year, when he would draw comparisons and parallels between WWII and Iraq War II wherever he saw fit, usually in the context of holiday or special event commemorations. Such comparisons were made on May 5 at the White House in a speech on the National Day of Prayer (oy) and even on December 1 during the lighting of the National Christmas Tree!
But last summer was when Bush had really hit his stride in comparing the two wars. Here's an excerpt from the July 1 proclamation to celebrate Independence Day:
In the midst of World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reminded our troops that our Nation believes in the "right to liberty under God--for all peoples and races and groups and nations, everywhere in the world." Today, a new generation of Americans continues to defend our Nation and spread freedom.
Of course, why they're doing both of those things in a country that had not attacked us is another question.
And here's part of his August 30 speech at the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of V-J Day (I hate Martha Quinn). As discussed before, this was what Bush was doing while the people of New Orleans were screaming for help. In the speech he had just finished talking about two WWII vets:
And today, their grandson, Captain Randy Stone, carries on a proud family tradition. Captain Stone is a Marine officer now serving in Iraq. He knows that he and his generation are doing the same vital work in this war on terror that his grandparents did in World War II.
So it's pretty clear in Bush's eyes that today in Iraq we're doing the exact same work as we did around the world in World War II. Why?
Although Bush's rhetoric in invoking World War II has been virtually the same for the last several years, as late as January 10 of this year in a speech at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, perhaps one of the most prominent periods of this repetition came in the fall of 2004, during the final weeks of that year's campaign. In campaign speeches Bush often used World War II, particularly its aftermath, as a way to justify the war in Iraq amid dissent from Senator Kerry.
If I may veer off into a tangent for a moment here, I need to address something that I found to be a little disturbing. While researching the speeches made during the aforementioned period, I noticed some curious additions to the official speech transcripts as posted on the White House web site.
Unless someone is asking a direct question in a Q&A, White House transcripts don't usually include every single bit of audience reaction to moments of a speech. Usually the random applause or group laugh is noted here and there, and that's about it. Yet, for the speeches made from about mid-August 2004 to Election Day, both of these increased tenfold. The transcripts started to note when the audience would applaud or laugh at specific key moments in Bush's remarks, often in mid-sentence. Not surprisingly, the "(Applause.)" tag would immediately follow talking points previously outlined as goals by the Bush campaign, while the "(Laughter.)" tag would immediately follow talking points, or rather supposed talking points, from Kerry's campaign.
The number of speeches in which the "(Applause.)" tag appeared increased incredibly that year, by twenty-two times in fact. Granted 2004 was an election year, but did Bush really give twenty-two times as many public addresses that year than in just the year before? C'mon, this is George W. Bush we're talking about. The man can't pronounce most words in the English language, yet we're going to believe that he's going to increase his workload by that much? I don't buy it.
These are soft calculations, but if someone was to crunch some numbers from the White House web site they would find that in 2004 Bush made only about twice as many speeches than he did in 2003, and only about one and a third times as many as in 2002. So, Bush makes on average one and a sixth times as many speeches as he would during a normal year in his term, yet the audience reaction apparently increases by twenty-two times? How did he ever get a word in edgewise?
The increased occurrence of the "(Laughter.)" tag is even more interesting. Usually it can be found in the more jovial Bush remarks, such as the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon or when he's trying to speak Spanish. You know, those giddy, silly, "Look maw, I's da prez-o-dent!" moments. Yet in 2004, the "(Laughter.)" tag's appearance increased by almost nineteen times than in previous years! What, did this guy somehow become nineteen times funnier that year? How come whenever I hear him speak, his jokes amount to nothing more than nicknames and jabs at the people who hosted the event he's attending? Is he secretly Don Rickles or something (well, that wouldn't explain the funny factor, though)?
Check out this excerpt from his speech in St. Cloud, Minnesota on September 16. This is exactly as it appears in the White House transcript, word for word:
See, I don't think you can be pro-doctor and pro-patient and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. (Laughter.) I think you have to choose. My opponent has made his choice and he put a trial lawyer on the ticket. I made my choice: I am for medical liability reform--now. (Applause.)
See, I think the problem in this campaign that my opponent has is that it's a plan that is massive and it's big and it puts the government in control of health care. And you can tell it's massive by the price tag. This week an independent group estimated the cost of Senator Kerry's plan would be $1.5 trillion--that's trillion with a T. (Laughter.) And that's big even for a senator from Massachusetts. (Laughter.) The only possible way for him to pay for this plan is to tax you.
I'm not concerned all that much about the "(Applause.)" tag. After all, at pre-screened campaign rallies people are going to go ape-shit at the drop of a hat. It's the "(Laughter.)" tags that, to me, stick out like a sore thumb. They seem strategically placed in the transcript, like they're meant to underscore the supposed ridiculousness of Kerry's campaign (and his state for that matter...isn't it interesting that a "president" can run a campaign that bashes one of the fifty states he professes to love with all his heart?).
Sure enough, in almost every speech made from mid-August to about mid-October, the "(Laughter.)" tag appears in the exact same spots in the corresponding White House transcripts. The whole "I don't think you can be pro-doctor and pro-patient and pro-trial lawyer at the same time" spiel gets it every time (a concept, by the way, that is not only confusing and misleading but also quite self-contradictory...don't the lawyers protect the patients??), but so does Bush's impression of the oft-repeated "I actually did vote for the $87 billion right before I voted against it" explanation (such as during the August 13 speech in Beaverton, Oregon, to cite one). Sooo, I guess it's funny that the troops are without necessary armor and supplies? I guess I missed the set-up.
Then there are other Bush moments during the speeches that for some reason warrant the "(Laughter.)" tag. These are usually those little bits in which he fields pre-selected questions from the already pre-screened members of the usually paying audience. When asking a citizen a yes-or-no question, he would make the aside, "I'm not a lawyer, I'm going to lead the witness. Does it help?" (such as in the September 10 speech in Portsmouth, Ohio and elsewhere). And for some really strange reason mentioning that his Crawford ranch has trees always seems to knock 'em dead. Again, this tag usually appears in the same spot every time.
Yeah, I know these were just stump speeches, in which the same shit was repeated over and over again every time, but still why would the reaction be the same each time? Even Republicans are unique individuals, despite their curious group love of Survivor and hatred of oral sex. Why would the reaction repeatedly be the same without variation?
I mean, let's be honest here. These speeches weren't interactive. They were barely spontaneous. The people who attended these things were pre-screened. Pretty much anyone whose support the Secret Service or the Bush campaign didn't have concrete evidence of were ejected immediately. And those who did get to ask Bush a question didn't really ask him a question. They would be these simpering, intended patriotic tearjerkers like "I, too, want to say God bless you, Mr. Bush. My husband and my twins and I pray for you daily" (Beaverton) or "Because you are my President, I'm making more money and I'm in a 15-percent tax bracket, thank you very much" (Portsmouth). And after every single "question" Bush would say, "I appreciate that." Bush didn't actually answer anything; he was lucky if he understood what was being said to him in the first place.
It's heartbreaking to see the kind of people who show up to offer their support for this creep and his party. These are the same people whom this party routinely screws in the ass, and they all just take it and believe that it's all part of something great. How do these people on the bottom rung of the ladder get convinced that they are better off because of someone who gave more money to the people keeping them at that bottom rung? Why do we let these sheep become the face of the public at these rallies? These passive, uneducated, underprivileged, manipulated, illiterate, stubborn, paranoid, backward people get completely taken advantage of by this administration and its party, and all they want is more of the same. What is it? Is it a fear of something else out there waiting for them? Are they that accustomed to getting screwed that they're literally afraid to live their lives without something large and intruding in their ass?
The Bushes know this all too well; they're counting on it. They were counting on it in 2000, and then again in 2002 and 2004, and you can bet your bleeding ass that they're counting on it again this year. They know what buttons to press to get the poor, uneducated sheep out there to clap their hands and laugh like town drunks. But again, why would the reaction be the same at the same exact moments? That's too much to be able to predict. It's almost like the specific reaction was a calculated part of each speech.
That's sort of when it hit me. Adding the "(Laughter.)" tag to the transcripts was meant to convey something that mere text couldn't alone, those moments when Bush is trying to joke around and come off as an "everyman." The "(Laughter.)" tag is there for those who can't imagine Bush speaking in that lazy, dim-faced, hick-drawled, sarcastically slurred speech he does when he's trying to be all cocky and smarmy...you know, like the rest of us really funny millionaires, right? It's all about his image. Funny, I always thought the White House web site was meant to be this public resource, not an archive for campaign propaganda.
The small passage I quoted above is also interesting because it contains one of the few times that Bush actually referred to Kerry by name. Often this anti-war hero and political leader got brushed off as just "my opponent" or "a senator from Massachusetts." You know, he's such a cowboy and a brave warrior for invading a sovereign nation, yet he won't address a chief rival by name. Coward.
There is one other major addition to the White House transcripts of the speeches from the fall of 2004. It's another audience reaction, one that shows up more and more with each new speech:
That's it, and there's never any variation. "Booo!" is spelled the exact same way each time. No "(Booing.)" tag. No "(Groaning.)" tag. It's "AUDIENCE: Booo!" It becomes an actual spoken line. Evidently the exact same "AUDIENCE" attended every one of these speeches.
And of course, this line only appears after Bush addresses a part of Kerry's campaign plan, even if only in passing. The line shows up even before Bush has a chance to criticize it, as if the very notion or fact prompts it.
It not only appears in the actual transcripts, but as the fall progressed it appears in them with an ever-increasing frequency. At first, it turned up maybe once or twice, but by the October 15 speech in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, "AUDIENCE: Booo!" was added to the official transcript sixteen times! Was this a campaign rally or a lynching??
In 2004, "AUDIENCE: Booo!" appeared in 393 speeches. It only appeared once in 2002, and it never appeared in any remarks in either 2001 or 2003! And just for comparison, it has only appeared in one post-election Bush speech, one in October 2005. Funny enough, it has since appeared twice in Cheney speeches, though.
I asked the White House exactly whose job it was to transcribe speeches for the web site. I didn't want a name, mind you, just a position title. The White House web site credits them to the "Office of the Press Secretary," but I would like to know the specific job there that handles transcripts. I'm just curious, because regardless of who it is that means that taxpayer money was being used to create negative propaganda to boost an unelected leader's image. What country is this again?
Not surprisingly, I never got a response from the White House.
Anyway, I digress. Here is an excerpt from the aforementioned Beaverton speech on August 13 (bracketed addition mine):
You might remember after World War II, there were a lot of people who doubted whether or not the Japanese could self-govern, could possibly shirk their militaristic ways, that they could possibly be a friend of the United States. But fortunately, predecessors of mine and Gordon's [Smith, Oregon senator] and the Congressman believed in the power of liberty to transform the attitudes and ways of people. And because we stuck to that belief, that firm belief that is ingrained in this nation's soul, Japan is now an ally. Some day, an elected leader of Iraq, whether it be prime minister or president, will be sitting down with an American President talking about how to keep the peace. (Applause.)
And the evolution of this passage began. Here is how it was presented at the aforementioned Portsmouth speech on September 10:
And after World War II was over, a President named Harry Truman believed in liberty, believed that liberty had the ability to transform societies. So did a lot of Americans. And they worked with the Japanese to develop the democracy.
Now, there's a lot of people in our country during that period of time that didn't believe it could happen...But my predecessors believed in the power of liberty. And as a result, some 60 years later, I sit down with Prime Minister Koizumi--50 years later, whatever the number--right number is. I think it's 50 years since they became a democracy, maybe a little less than that....
Ooo-kay. When you two are done figuring it out, let us know.
And not even a week later, here is how that bit mutated during the St. Cloud speech on September 16:
Yet after World War II was over, my predecessor, Harry Truman, citizens of this country had great faith in the ability of liberty to transform an enemy into a friend. And so they worked with Japan to build a democracy. There was a lot of skeptics during then...I believe in freedom. I believe in the transformational power of liberty because freedom is not America's gift to world, see? That's not what I'm telling you. I believe in the transformational power of liberty because freedom is the almighty God's gift to each man and women in this world. (Applause.)
Here is the obligatory WWII mention at a campaign luncheon in Washington, just a day later:
I believe in the transformational power of liberty...Japan was the sworn enemy of the United States of America. Yet, after World War II, Harry Truman believed that liberty could transform societies. Fortunately, a lot of Americans agreed with him. I'm sure some didn't. You can imagine how hard it would be to say, after having lost a loved one in a war against the Japanese, to say, why do we care? Why do we want to work to help them become a democracy?
But Truman did.
Three days later, on September 20, this routine would morph a little again during a speech in Derry, New Hampshire at The SportsZone, which is this indoor sports complex where one can play in batting cages or check out a soccer game. This was where our nation's leader felt he could make the best use of his remaining campaign time for an election that was a shade over a month away. I shit you not. Derry is home to not only Pinkerton Academy but also the Robert Frost Farm, both of which would no doubt provide excellent backdrops for speeches, yet this dumb shit-kickin' hick picks a glorified adult Discovery Zone to campaign for the country's highest office. No wonder so many people abstain from voting; who the hell would want to participate in this kind of monkeyshit?? Anyway, here's the damn excerpt:
Yet after World War II, Harry Truman, Harry S. Truman believed that we should work to help Japan become a democracy. He believed that liberty could transform societies. There was a lot of skeptics then, a lot of people who doubted whether or not the hard work that went into that--to changing Japan was worth it. You can understand that. First of all, there are skeptics in every society.
On September 22 Truman's role would be restated differently again in this speech in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. And just in case you were wondering, this event was called "Focus on Education with President Bush," so you can surely understand why he would need to discuss the Iraq war and invoke World War II:
And after the end of World War II, Harry Truman, my predecessor, and other Americans, believed that Japan could self-govern, it could be a democracy. That's what they believed. And they believed that because they believe every person desires to be free. And they believe that because--and they hope that because they knew free societies would be peaceful societies.
And there were skeptics, of course, just like there are in any society.
Truman's belief changed once again on October 4 in Clive, Iowa:
And after World War II, after we won, Harry Truman believed that liberty could transform an enemy into an ally. That's what he believed. And I bet there was a lot of skepticism, don't you?...But Harry Truman cared, because he had a vision that was a long-term vision about world peace.
And one more of these, I promise. Here is what seems to be Harry Truman's final vision, as indicated in the October 15 speech in Oshkosh:
And after we won that war, President Harry S. Truman believed in the transformational power of liberty to convert an enemy into an ally. And so they worked to build a democracy in Japan. And there were a lot of skeptics in America then...But fortunately, he believed in the power of liberty to transform.
So let's pick these little moments apart to examine how this point evolved. Nondescript "predecessors of mine" (plural) became "a President named Harry Truman" to then "my predecessor, Harry Truman" (singular) to "Harry S. Truman" to finally "President Harry S. Truman." This is marketing research at its essence. Hey, how could Bush be wrong? He's not following the example of nameless "predecessors." He's following the example of "President Harry S. Truman!"
Now let's move on to the doubters. First he claims "there were a lot of people who doubted whether or not the Japanese could self-govern," which then became just "I'm sure some didn't." When that didn't sound convincing enough, his rationale was "there are skeptics in every society." Ah, so therefore there had to be some skepticism somewhere, right? His claim then goes back to "there were skeptics, of course" before later turning to "I bet there was a lot of skepticism, don't you?", which ultimately became "there were a lot of skeptics in America then."
Sooo, which is it? Was he guessing, or did he have concrete knowledge of this rampant American skepticism? I personally couldn't find anything that pointed to the notion that many Americans didn't believe in Japan's future, so was I just looking in the wrong places from where Bush had looked? There's no question that Japan faced numerous economic and democratic challenges following their defeat in World War II, but they were pretty much going to be okay. Heck, we were holding their hand through every step of the way until 1952, having pumped as much as $2 billion into their economy. By the time they were on their feet on their own, they were already heading in the right direction.
Considering he was an infant when Japan was starting to pick up the pieces after being blown to bits, how exactly was he "sure some didn't" believe that Japan could self-govern? As you can see, he retracted slightly from assurance to mere betting. So again, which is it? I mean, a person speculating is one thing, but to then say something they were only betting on as fact? Bush more or less assumed that Americans didn't have faith in Japan's capabilities. What does that say then about how much he personally believes in the American people?
Why would he even believe something like this? Surely he had to hear such anti-Japanese sentiment from somewhere, right? I certainly doubt his nanny discussed such things with him while changing his diapers. So where does such a bigoted attitude come from?
In every speech in which he invoked World War II, Bush almost always surrounded the reference with two other points. One was about how he had recently eaten Kobe beef with Prime Minister Koizumi, which was meant to be another one of those "dang, ain't I cute?" funny moments of his. But the other was about his own personal connection to the war, about how he had a certain relative fight the Japanese during that time. Yep, you didn't really think World War II comments would ooze out of his simian-like lips without an obligatory mention of his daddy, did ya? Surely his papa, who had just finished a job annihilating Japanese soldiers, would never have spoken ill of them in the privacy of his home with his family, right?
There is probably another, more relevant reason why Bush would imagine the possibility of numerous doubters of post-WWII Japan, and it took place earlier that year at the Rose Garden.
On April 30, Bush was welcoming Canadian Prime Minister Martin to the White House for the usual photo-ops and dual press conferences to show that he's a man of the world of sorts. The inevitable question of Iraq came up, specifically "could you tell us what you'd like to see Canada doing on Iraq, both diplomatically and in terms, eventually, of getting possibly police and troops on the ground there?"
After some of the usual posturing about how important success in Iraq is and how big of a help Canada had been in both Afghanistan and Haiti, Bush had this to say:
There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily--are a different color than white can self-govern.
First of all, who the hell ever said that non-whites cannot self-govern?? I want names. This is a tactic that the Republican Party has been using for the last couple of years, with an even greater frequency lately: they attribute some made-up argument to a policy with "some say" or "a lot of people may think" or similar variations. This is a very easy, very lazy way to create soundbytes that sound like they're responding to a criticism of the plan in question. It's a way to defend and debate an idea without actually hearing or considering the other side.
And I am hardly the first person to be bothered by this, but who is the "ours" when Bush says "people whose skin color may not be the same as ours?" Is he referring to just whites, or all Americans? The reason I ask is because if it's the latter, then the last time I checked 18.3 percent of the citizens in this country are not white. Is he suggesting that there are supposedly people out there who believe that almost a fifth of this country cannot be free and self-govern?? Or is he suggesting that white is somehow the preferred race to be??
Sure enough, toward the end of that same press conference Bush decided it was time to pack up and leave, just as a couple of questions were being asked to Prime Minister Martin...in French. Face it, the guy doesn't like them there foreigners, regardless of how he tries to debunk it.
As far as what Truman believed in, even that varied from stop to stop. According to Bush, at first he "believed in the power of liberty to transform the attitudes and ways of people," which then changed to the belief "that liberty had the ability to transform societies." Okay, so we've moved from people's attitudes to entire societies. He then supposedly "had great faith in the ability of liberty to transform an enemy into a friend" and then that "every person desires to be free...because...free societies would be peaceful societies." Finally Truman reverted back to believing "in the transformational power of liberty to convert an enemy into an ally." Wow, I didn't realize that dead guys can be that indecisive!
If this really was such a core belief that Truman held dear to his heart, then surely it would be well documented, right? Um, right?
Evidently not. Bush must have really done his homework on Harry Truman, because I couldn't find Truman saying anything of the sort in the usual resources. Not even the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum & Library had any such passage in their online archive!
Then I finally found it. It was a signing statement from May 22, 1947, in which he said:
We are guardians of a great faith. We believe that freedom offers the best chance of peace and prosperity for all, and our desire for peace cannot be separated from our belief in liberty. We hope that in years ahead more and more nations will come to know the advantages of freedom and liberty. It is to this end that we have enacted the law I have now signed.
The law that was signed was the famous Truman Doctrine. Unfortunately, the Doctrine had nothing to do with Japan! It was a bill to grant $400 million to Turkey and Greece in order to protect them from communist aggression. In Truman's address to Congress to propose the measure, Japan was only mentioned once in passing!
When it comes to Japan, Bush might be instead thinking of the Potsdam Declaration, which was this statement of terms issued on July 26, 1945 by Truman, Winston Churchill, and Chinese President Chiang Kai-Shek. It was essentially a proposal to Japan that said "agree to these terms or we will blow you back into the Stone Age." So Bush's big inspiration is an ultimatum to an already destroyed island nation? Big man, eh?
And I'm going to be such a nice guy that I'm not even going to go into the fact that in June 1941 Truman briefly entertained the notion of the United States backing the Nazis if it looked like they were going to win the war!
Anyway, here are excerpts of the terms that were laid out in the Potsdam Declaration:
There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.
The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.
Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to re-arm for war.
The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.
So there you go. It was "either behave or die."
And why exactly does Truman get all the credit for this way of thinking? Where's the love for Winston Churchill or Chiang Kai-Shek? Well, we know why he wouldn't give props to the latter, even though one would think he would be the perfect example of those who can self-govern whose skin color isn't the same as "ours," but why not the former? We know Bush has no beef against the British thanks to their subtly homosexual prime minister, so what gives? Why is he only crediting an American president? More on Churchill in a bit, I promise.
Meanwhile, the Truman Doctrine also highlights another little entity that Bush often chooses to ignore, the United Nations! You know, that small group of nations that was formed during World War II to help maintain worldwide peace? The organization Bush outright ignored and defied in order to invade Iraq?
Here's a key excerpt from Truman's speech:
One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion...To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States has taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations, The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members. We shall not realize our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.
It should be noted that all transcripts of Truman's speeches never needed to include an "(Applause.)" tag. A strong enough idea doesn't need a laughtrack to back it up.
So pretty much what Truman said was that the United States should have a role in helping nations find freedom, and that our involvement in the United Nations was essential in doing just that. He never said, though, that we need to just up and invade other countries!
Here's another bit from Truman's March 1947 address to Congress:
I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.
How does any of that apply to Iraq? They weren't resisting, Saddam was in full power and not a minority, and then we became the outside pressure! You can't point to a policy to defend our actions if our actions contradict that very policy.
Truman wasn't necessarily against nation-building, and in fact today many credit that as one of his more "out there" qualities. Heck, that's what the 1947 Marshall Plan was all about. BUT, the key thing to note is that he was helping to rebuild countries that were devastated during the war. He didn't just point to a country on a map and say, "Let's liberate New Zealand." His attitude was more, "Well, we kinda blew up their land because we were all fighting on the same side. The least we can do is offer them financial aid."
And here's one more passage on nation-building:
I don't think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very careful when we commit our troops...I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.
Oh wait, that wasn't Truman. That was Bush during an October 2000 presidential debate in Boston.
So which is it then? Is Bush against using our troops to build and liberate nations, or is it our job to spread freedom all over the world...or does his viewpoint change depending on whoever's paying for his public appearance?
And it's not that Truman's ideology was bad. It's a great concept that freedom can lead to peace. But, why is this the only thing Truman believed in that Bush can side with? Truman also believed in universal health care and civil rights. Ask any homosexual who wishes to marry, like anyone else in this country, if they're more concerned about whether or not the Iraqis can self-govern.
It's perhaps no big surprise that all of Bush's pro-Truman speeches across the country coincided with his big speech at that year's Republican National Convention in New York on September 2. Doesn't it make you just feel all warm and gooey inside to know that Republicans are willing to masturbate over the political advantages of September 11 so much that they held their convention just a few blocks away from Ground Zero? It makes me feel ill. It would be like if the 1944 Democratic National Convention was held in Honolulu (it was actually in Chicago that year, by the way).
Here is a little excerpt from that very long, very empty speech:
I believe in the transformational power of liberty...America has done this kind of work before--and there have always been doubters. In 1946, 18 months after the fall of Berlin to allied forces, a journalist wrote in the New York Times, "Germany is a land in an acute stage of economic, political and moral crisis. European capitals are frightened. In every military headquarters, one meets alarmed officials doing their utmost to deal with the consequences of the occupation policy that they admit has failed." End quote. Maybe that same person's still around, writing editorials. Fortunately, we had a resolute president named Truman, who with the American people persevered, knowing that a new democracy at the center of Europe would lead to stability and peace. And because that generation of Americans held firm in the cause of liberty, we live in a better and safer world today.
So wait a minute here. Wait just a god damn minute! He believes "in the transformational power of liberty?!?" Everywhere else he spoke he attributed that specific belief to Truman and then just kind of went along with it! In Oshkosh he even said, "President Harry S. Truman believed in the transformational power of liberty to convert an enemy into an ally." So what's going on here? Is he actually stealing Truman's supposed beliefs and claiming them as his own, or he is attributing his own beliefs to Truman so people won't hate them outright??
And where the hell is the mention of Japan in that excerpt?!? In every other speech Bush gave that addressed all those supposed "doubters" out there, he was referring to whether or not Japan could self-govern, not Europe! The passage from the New York Times article he quoted certainly didn't mention Japan anywhere. What a gyp!
This is the Karl Rove machine of the ol' switcheroo at its simplest. Bush goes around the country telling people that back in the '40s people doubted whether or not Japan was going to survive, and all this time the apparent source of his information was actually talking about Europe?? I'm a big fan of the New York Times, but even I would say that article amounted to nothing more than someone being a worrywart. Of course Europe was going to be able to self-govern after the war...they did it once before, remember?
But to suddenly change that to instead refer to Japan is deceptive. Japan was in infinitely worse shape than Europe was after the end of the war. You know, two atomic bombs kinda does that to a small island nation. As I said earlier, America was there to help them through every step of the way, but the possibility of failure was clearly there. It wasn't there in Europe.
I'm pissed about this. I'm trying to seriously argue and debunk what this clown's saying about American post-war history, and all this time he didn't even know which continent he was talking about! What is the old phrase about those too stupid to not know a damn thing about history being doomed?
And in all of this, there is one key difference between what happened with Japan and what's going on with Iraq: Japan started it!
Here is the text of the Congressional Declaration of War on Japan on December 8, 1941, just twenty-seven hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor:
JOINT RESOLUTION Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial Government of Japan and the Government and the people of the United States and making provisions to prosecute the same.
Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial Government of Japan; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
Key words here: "Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America."
We declared war on Japan because Japan had attacked us. Seems pretty simple, doesn't it?
By using the same parallel that Bush has been pushing, then logically we also declared war on Iraq because Iraq had attacked us, right?
That seems to be how Bush sees it. Check out this exchange he had with PBS personality Jim Lehrer during the first 2004 presidential debate at the University of Miami on October 1:
LEHRER: Mr. President, a new question, two minutes. Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another preemptive military action?
CHIMPMAN: I would hope I never have to. I understand how hard it is to commit troops. I never wanted to commit troops. I never--when I was running--when we had the debate in 2000, I never dreamt I would be doing that. But the enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people, to do everything I can to protect us.
Did I miss some big Iraqi attack on our soil?
Of course what Bush was referring to was September 11, which for those of you too young to remember was the day of that series of unwarranted terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that will be dramatized in big-budget movies for the remainder of the year. Kerry pointed this out about Bush immediately during the debate, but I feel it needs to be asked again: He didn't know who really attacked us??
Evidently not, indicated by this excerpt from a speech he gave on June 2 of that year at the United States Air Force Academy graduation ceremony:
Like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless, surprise attack on the United States. We will not forget that treachery, and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy.
Uh, no, sorry, wrong answer there, Clyde. There is no way for this analogy to work. If he meant the Iraq war as the "present conflict," then it doesn't work because Iraq didn't provide the "ruthless, surprise attack on the United States." If he, however, meant the "war on terror" as the "present conflict," then it doesn't work either because in World War II we actually went after the very people who attacked us. The only way the latter analogy would work is if we had gone after China as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
There have been a laundry list of constantly changing reasons why we invaded Iraq, both stated and assumed, but the one constant has always been September 11. Despite a lack of evidence even suggesting a connection, Bush has continually lumped the attacks of September 11 with the war in Iraq. Why? Withheld evidence? Geographic convenience? Or does it just go back to Bush's apparent contempt for people whose skin isn't the same color as "ours?"
When Bush does this lumping, he says that we're fighting a "war on terror" rather than a war on an actual country. I believe I've said it before on here, but such a euphemism is just ridiculous. If we're really out there fighting "terror" in all of its forms, then how come we haven't intervened in Darfur? Or gone after North Korea? Or Iran for that matter? I think most people would refuse to believe that all the "terror" in the world comes from just one sovereign nation and one loose-but-organized band of roaming Saudi terrorists. So please, don't give me the "war on terror" line. It's demeaning to those who have actually been a victim of terrorism.
Regardless, the fact remains that Iraq never attacked us, nor did it ever threaten to attack us.
To his credit, at least Bush understood the cause of our involvement in World War II. Here's another excerpt from the aforementioned King of Prussia speech:
Really, 60 years ago, Japan was a sworn enemy of the United States of America. A lot of people lost their life in fighting against the Japanese in World War II. They had attacked our country, of course, the last major attack on our country since September--prior to September the 11th.
I just find it funny that he's admitting to being the first "president" in sixty years to have a foreign attack on our soil happen on his watch. There's something to be said about wallowing in one's own failure, I guess.
But anyway, here he's trying to draw parallels between the two attacks, Pearl Harbor and September 11. Surely there are similarities in both the attacks themselves and the subsequent respective swellings of national pride. But still, why should the aftermaths be exactly the same? Our attackers on September 11 were of a different nationality with a different religion, a different goal, a different agenda, a different set of values, and a different kind of affiliation, among others. To try to emulate September 11 as nothing more than a twenty-first century Pearl Harbor, thus allowing the reaction to be the same, is to completely misunderstand both attacks.
But unfortunately, Bush is trying to emulate World War II, and that all leads to the man himself, the one Bush is trying to become in the eyes of history. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
And don't think it's because Bush is an FDR fan. The Bush administration is strongly anti-Roosevelt, and references to him in speeches are few and far between. Last year Roosevelt was usually brought up only so Bush could give him a back-handed compliment on the creation of Social Security, usually in the context of his sleazy plans to privatize it (his reasoning, as stated on April 29, 2005 in Falls Church, Virginia, was that "math is changing"). This year alone FDR has only been mentioned in passing, most notably to defend Bush's illegal NSA spying and wiretapping tactics.
Hell, the right alone hates Roosevelt so much that they've been trying to get him bumped off the dime--the dime, for cryin' loud!--in favor of their boy, incoherent gasbag Ronald Reagan.
Usually when the subject of Roosevelt comes up, folks in the administration feel compelled to mention his paralysis. This usually happens when Bush takes foreign reporters on a tour of the Oval Office. There have been other instances, but the one that's the most telling was back on November 12, 2003 when he was describing aspects of the office to members of the British press. When talking about the Oval Office's traditional presidential desk, the HMS Resolute, he added with a smirk, "It has some interesting features. Roosevelt put the door on the desk to cover up his infirmities. He didn't want people to know he was in a wheelchair." He may have thought it made him sound knowledgeable. To me, it sounds like a rich kid making fun of a "cripple."
Even Cheney, with all of his own "infirmities" (both health- and alcohol-induced), couldn't resist pointing out the obvious during a speech to veterans at the Arizona Wing Museum in Mesa on January 16, 2004, describing how Roosevelt commanded an army of 16 million men "from his wheelchair in the White House." And yet, FDR never shot anybody in the face.
So it seems as if the Bush administration only regards Roosevelt favorably if they need to use him for their own gain.
When it comes to the end of World War II, there is one man who Bush holds in a higher regard than both Roosevelt and Truman combined, Winston Churchill. In fact a bust of Churchill is one of only three Bush currently keeps in the Oval Office (the other two are of Lincoln and Eisenhower).
When asked about the bust during the aforementioned British press tour of the office in November 2003, Bush explained his love of all things Winston:
I am an admirer. I thought Churchill was a clear thinker, I thought he was a--the kind of guy that stood tough when you needed to stand tough; he represented values that both countries hold dear--the value of freedom, the belief in democracy, human dignity of every person. I admired his wit. I wish I could be as witty as he was, because he had a fantastic mind, and a charming guy.
And there's some interesting political lessons there. Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down, but you've got to do what you think is right. And that's the lesson of Winston Churchill, who was a strong leader.
And it wasn't just a sycophantic love, either. As Pierre Tristam wrote in the Daytona Beach News-Journal on April 11 of this year:
FDR, too, is beneath Bush: The contempt is written all over Churchill's busty presence in the Oval Office, and FDR's absence, except to underscore FDR's weaknesses...Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II last May, Bush belittled FDR's role at the Yalta conference of 1945, where FDR, Churchill and Stalin met together for the last time to sign off on the post-Nazi partition of Europe. The lazy student's version of the conference has a tired Roosevelt giving away half of Europe to Stalin, and Winston Churchill forever bemoaning the missed opportunity to stick it to the commies.
While speaking in Riga, Latvia last May, in commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the war, Bush, without naming names, pretty much blamed Roosevelt for the start of the Cold War. This is usually the criticism that taints FDR's role at the Yalta conference, that he looked the other way from Stalin wanting more control of Eastern Europe in the hope of growing the Soviet Union. People will sometimes go a step further and suggest that Churchill wouldn't have let such a thing happen if Roosevelt wasn't present. Of course, it's often overlooked that one of the main reasons Churchill was even there was to find a way for the United Kingdom to hang onto its vast empire of colonies around the world. I tend to believe Yalta pretty much would have ended the exact same way.
Here's a bit from Bush's Riga speech:
The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history.
The end of World War II raised unavoidable questions for my country: Had we fought and sacrificed only to achieve the permanent division of Europe into armed camps?
The rest of the speech then spiraled into a "This problem did not end until the end of the Cold War" rant, which seemed to be nothing more than a thinly veiled way to attribute the real end of World War II to (again) Ronald Reagan, even though he didn't actually end the Cold War himself, but I digress.
Two days before that speech, Bush was interviewed by the Russian television network NTV, and the subject of Yalta came up. Bush was kinda backed into a corner to acknowledge Churchill's involvement in the ultimate decisions:
NTV: The after-war Europe has been reshaped according to the Yalta Conference of 1943, by the decision of three very important personalities of this time, Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Churchill, and Mr. Stalin. How fair is it to hold only Russia responsible for all the misfortunes of Eastern Europe and Baltic states over the last--
MONKEYHEAD (interrupting): That's a very fair question. Obviously, it was a decision made at the end of the war. I think that the main complaint would be that the form of government that the Baltics had to live under was not of their choosing. But, no, there's no question three leaders made the decision.
So, it's wrong when people are forced to live under a form of government that was not of their choosing? Hmm, interesting. Now that's a parallel to Iraq!
Anyway, despite this love, and despite his frequent references to World War II, Bush only mentioned Churchill once on the 2004 campaign trail. And it was late in the game, too, on October 29 in Manchester, New Hampshire (at the Verizon Wireless Arena, a venue that just screams taste). How come, I wonder? If he valued Winston's role in the end of the war so much, why did he never bring it up? He won't credit Churchill in any of his speeches, yet he'll keep his severed head in his office??
Could it just be that maybe Bush was afraid that mentioning the impact of a foreigner, and not a fellow U.S. president (despite it being a world war), would scare off conservative voters? If so, then imagine the spot Georgie was in: he couldn't mention one of his heroes, yet he also wouldn't dare mention the accomplishments of that Democratic wheelchair guy. What's he ever to do? Enter Truman.
This is really reaching, but it reminds me of those lame Time-Life Music infomercials for their perennial '60s collections. You know what I mean, those paid programs that run late at night, usually hosted by Davy Jones or Roger Daltrey. Anyway, since these collections are often compiled as cheaply as possible, they usually can't get the rights to some of the bigger hits by the bigger groups. The Beatles and the Stones are almost always missing from these sets, for example. So when they do the little history lesson on the product that these infomercials always have, they have to sort of reattribute some of the big moments with "facts" like: "The British Invasion didn't really begin until the arrival of the Box Tops."
So as you can see, it all goes back to Harry Truman and what he may or may not have believed in. In the end, there is one other lesson Bush could learn from Truman:
"The buck stops here."
Truman also believed in accountability, something Junior has been able to avoid for the last six years. Truman knew that if you did a shitty job in office, people are going to want answers.
Let's go back to that speech in St. Cloud:
I went to Washington to fix problems, not pass them on to future Presidents. (Applause.)
I find such a claim amazing, considering just this past March he said he would let "future presidents" decide whether or not to pull our troops out of Iraq.
Bush has been saved again and again by the fact that many citizens today are apathetic and aren't asking the right questions to the right people. And it's this sort of "scott free" mentality that allows him to make desperate comparisons between one of the greatest periods in American history and his own personal blundering. He's counting on people not caring enough to say, "Hey, hang on a second...."
The only problem is that by the time everyone has finally woken up, it might be too late. In the meantime, Bush and his brood are trying to create the historical context in which they will be judged.
Here's yet another Bush passage, from the same August 2004 Beaverton speech as before:
These are historic times. We're living in historic times.
Didn't Ian McKellen say the same thing in The DaVinci Code?
Bush is already looking to how he will be regarded in the future; his legacy. And that's what he's trying to do with Iraq, create a legacy for himself. And not just any legacy, either. He actually wants to be known as the greatest president of them all; above Lincoln, above Roosevelt, above Truman. He's not only doing it at their expense, but also at the expense of those who lose their lives every day in Iraq.
Need some proof? Here is an excerpt of a speech he gave at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville on February 1 of this year. This was a part of his little tour to drive home some of the points he made during the State of the Union:
In my speech I mentioned Roosevelt and Kennedy, Truman and Reagan. I did so because I wanted to remind the American people that these leaders were one that acted in confidence in our values. They understood when America led, not only was America better off, but the world was. And we spreading freedom now.
Even Yosemite Cheney echoed this desire in the aforementioned August 2004 speech in Bloomsburg. Again, note the audience tags:
In this election, we face a choice between our President and a man calling for us to fight a "more sensitive" war on terror. (Laughter.) America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being "sensitive." America's great wartime leaders, like Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, did not seek to fight a "sensitive war," they sought to defeat our enemies decisively. (Applause.)
See what they're doing? Bush is positioning himself alongside great past presidents (or in the case of Reagan, perceived great past presidents). He's stepping on the legacies of truly great leaders in order to characterize his piss-poor term as something great or visionary. If he needs to constantly use the example of a great presidency to justify his own, then what exactly does that say?
I am reminded of a line from the classic political drama Inherit the Wind:
"Don't try to be a great man. Just be a man, and let history make its own judgment."
Hmm, okay, maybe it was Star Trek: First Contact instead. Still, great movie.
I like to think that history will be the ultimate decider on the legacy of George W. Bush. Although I'm sure when it comes to Bush, and no doubt Reagan for that matter, you will suddenly start to see more right-leaning history textbooks that will paint him as our generation's greatest individual, but in the end I truly believe that mainstream history scholars will instead find him to be a fraud, a deceiver, a warmonger, and easily among the worst presidents our country ever offered. And I can think of no better fate for him.
And depending on how many people we can wake up in the meantime, it all starts in November.
Quote of the Month
"I feel responsible for sending the troops into harm's way."
Bush on March 22 in Wheeling
Links of the Month
The War on Terror is Like WW II Except....
by Larry C. Johnson
A Little Perspective on $87 billion