The death of George H.W. Bush: making another genocidal American leader great again
- Yonden Lhatoo counters the mainstream narrative about the ‘greatness’ of former US president George H.W. Bush, arguing that it stems from a low base of comparison with and opposition to President Donald Trump
I was expecting plenty of flak from John McCain’s fans and assorted American nationalists upon his death in August when I questioned the postmortem lionisation of the veteran politician and justification for celebrating him as a “hero”.
They delivered right on cue, condemning my “lack of humanity and decency” for speaking ill of the dead. Since I’m doing it again in this column, let me start with a pre-emptive defence by quoting Sigmund Freud’s Reflections on War and Death, in which he devotes one section to mulling over the rather curious human trait of suspending criticism and overlooking a man’s misdeeds when he dies.
“This consideration for the dead, which he really no longer needs, is more important to us than the truth and to most of us, certainly, it is more important than consideration for the living,” was how the father of psychoanalysis explained it.
In the same vein, I feel no compunction about objecting to the nauseating veneration of another undeserving American icon, George H.W. Bush, following the former US president’s death last month at the age of 94. The breathless mainstream media coverage of his funeral this week was as hyperbolic as it was hypocritical.
Family members, friends, political allies and foes alike, foreign governments and writers of repute fell over each other to pile on the accolades: “a man of the highest character”, “a thousand points of light to illuminating the greatness, hope and opportunity of America to the world”, “a tireless humanitarian”.
They waxed eloquent about how “a great man has left the Earth”, how he tried to “create a new international order based on justice and equality among nations”, how his “ethos of public service was the guiding thread of his life and an example to us all”, and how he “saw America’s obligation to the world and honoured it”.
“Yeah, right”, I say to their “yee-haw”.
This is George Herbert Walker Bush we’re talking about, the man who engineered the first Gulf War in the 1990s using a playbook of skulduggery and mass murder that has cemented his status in the annals of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
After first encouraging Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait, the Bush administration sold a pack of lies to the American public to justify dropping 88,500 tonnes of bombs on Iraq and Iraqi-occupied Kuwait. It cost around 158,000 Iraqi lives. That is some “tireless humanitarian” effort.
Americans in general may not care about Arabs being massacred in the desert, but they would do well to look at history on the home front to judge this one-term president’s true worth.
That includes his ramping up of the racist and self-defeating war against drugs, his total lack of action during the Aids crisis, and his great cover-up of that cesspool of corruption, obstruction of justice, and perjury known as the Iran-Contra Scandal.
Oh, and let’s not forget all the groping allegations that surfaced as a result of the #MeToo movement. Senility does not excuse sexual harassment.
As in the case of McCain, it’s more than obvious that the deification of this warmongering dinosaur after his extinction stems mostly from the low base of comparison that is Donald Trump, the man currently occupying the White House.
Trump’s upending of presidential conduct and the impact it has on America’s image on the global stage has understandably created this throwback fantasy about how the country used to be some kind of Camelot before him. It’s utter nonsense.
I did feel a twinge of pity watching George Bush Junior break down on television while eulogising “the best father a son or daughter could have”.
Then I remembered what Junior did, following in daddy’s footsteps to complete the genocide he started in the Middle East. I’m fine with forgoing my sense of decency and humanity over this one.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post