Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How Will History Judge President Bush?

Recent reports say the Bush Administration bungled Iraq's reconstruction and that harsh interrogation techniques were approved at the very top. Karl Rove is in charge of positive spin. Today, on the To the Point radio program, will history be kinder to the outgoing president than current official—and public—opinion?

Join host Warren Olney as he discusses this topic with newsmakers and his audience. To The Point can be heard daily at www.kcrw.com and across the nation on public radio stations. Link live via Bosco Radio: News and Information at 12 noon PST/3 PM EST. The link is in the sidebar.

Also, today, over on Bosco Radio: Music listen in as Mercury Rev joins host Jason Bentley and performs live on Morning Becomes Eclectic. Also in the sidebar starting at 9 AM PST/12 Noon EST.

1 comment:

Doug Vehle said...

Well, I'm going to start telling people that the Boot Monument is a memorial to the 'Shoe Salute' in Iraq. Only in jest. Erected in honor of American Revolution 'Hero' Benedict Arnold after he was crippled in the Saratoga Campaign, the Boot Monument has no name, no commemoration at all, other than to the "most brilliant soldier." Pretty much what the Arab world is saying about the journalist who gave Dubya the boot. Even if he is imprisoned for it.

The real question is, who is the uglier figure in American history? Could it be Arnold? Who afterall led the legendary capture of Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point, and himself financed and led the undermanned Colonial force in the unsuccessful invasion of Canada but then proceeded to lead the U.S. Navy in their first ever battle at Valcour Island against a larger British force, and to defuse the Carelton incursion which would seem to have inspired Carelton's decision to protect Quebec and withhold forces from Burgoyne's offensive that would lead to the Battle of Saratoga.

But as Arnold returned to defend New York State, jealousies were already hard at work, as General Horatio Gates (A British deserter turned American General) was all too aware of the belief that Arnold, the Colonists most effective General up to that point, should be in charge. As Arnold succeeded in leaking bogus intelligence that delayed the British, and led skirmishes where his smaller forces took out 15% of the total British invasion force, Gates would respond to his request for reinforcements at the Battle of Bennington Farms by instead ordering some of Arnold's troops to withdraw, then at the point of an American VICTORY instead ordered the Colonial withdrawal and Arnold relieved of command.

Thus the contrast of styles between Gates, a basic desk jockey who led from his tent at a distance, and Arnold, who led from the front. Already suffering from a leg wound from the invasion of Canada, Arnold was off the battlefield as the main battle of Saratoga got underway. But rather than remain in his tent, Arnold rode off to battle, directing sniper fire to pick off British leaders and organizing the scattered militia that would have been expected to flee without him as was the routine of the Colonial militia at the time. Gates forces, meanwhile, were not even engaged in the battle as Arnold rode from unit to unit. This led to his leading the charge on the retreating Burgoyne at Bemis Heights, and Arnold being shot in the same wounded leg, which would also suffer a broken bone in the fall of his horse. Unable to continue leading the battle, Arnold went to bring other units to it, but orders from General Gates put an end to his efforts.

And it is for this that the Boot Monument was erected. History records that Benedict Arnold was, by 1777, the greatest American military leader of the revolution, and in fact the war would have been lost by then without his efforts. Horatio Gates attempted to bring about a court martial over Arnold's efforts in the Saratoga campaign, (Gates destroyed the careers of many a rival that way) but Washington himself would step in to prevent it. Arnold's career at the front was over, however. He would spend the winter recovering at Valley Forge with Washington's beleaguered troops, and would emerge a cripple.

Ironically, the British turncoat Gates himself would be facing court martial at the time of the West Point debacle. Did Arnold really intend to sell out the United States to the British, as the spy claimed? His fleeing to the British after the capture of John Andre, who had earlier been captured at Fort Saint Jean, an extension of the Fort Ticonderoga campaign and an old boyfriend of Arnold's wife, would seem to prove the point.

But might he also have himself feared yet another betrayal? Having suffered so many, might he have himself felt sold out again in a disinformation campaign? (Presuming the accusation was false, at least.) The jealousies in the new republic had continued through to Arnold's new job as the military administrator in charge in Philadelphia, and he fought an ongoing battle with the innuendo without any formal charges. This is held as the final blow to bring about the fall of an embittered Benedict Arnold.

Legend has it that Arnold asked American prisoners of the British what they thought would happen to him if he was captured, and that one replied "Cut off your right leg, bury it with full military honors, and then hang the rest of you on a gibbet." Arnold is said to have at times mused that he'd rather have died at Saratoga, still a hero of the Revolution, rather than merely wounded in the leg.

But whatever you feel for Benedict Arnold, can you hold as high an opinion of George W. Bush? Using his Congressman Father to avoid the draft and get in the Air National Guard, going AWOL because of his drug use and sentencing to a diversionary program, Dubya's betrayal of America to have his little adventure in Iraq came from a man who has always offered this country NOTHING; that being before you consider the dishonest business dealings that led to him facing indictment for securities fraud (As his brother Neil, also) while his Father was Vice President, and only the Father becoming President spared him. That is also not considering the downright daffy management of the country in general, based not on what was to be seen in front of him but on what he WANTED to see, and expected others to see on his orders.

How will history judge George W. Bush? History itself is honest. People may lie ABOUT history, as when a painter memorialized Arnold's efforts with the image of Gates in his place at Saratoga, but history itself tells the true story. Sometimes in silence, with not only the Boot Monument to Arnold without his name, but on the empty wall of the Saratoga Monument that features Gates, Daniel Morgan and Phillip Schuyler (Another rival whom Gates instigated the court martial of) on the other three walls.

Can you really imagine a monument to George W. Bush? Could there ever be a positive thing to say about a man who lauded bad economic decisions all about the country for their short term benefit while ignoring the long term costs? Who demanded that all who surrounded him see the 'Emperor's New clothes?' And whose lies have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands needlessly, and undoubtedly would cause the deaths of millions more, including those dying at the hands of others seeking revenge for the next century? Is there really a good place to leave a blank spot, commemorating a bright moment from this dark man?

One thing history will remember: George W. Bush is beneath Benedict Arnold. Some may try to lie about it, but history itself will tell the truth. Dubya recently made a speech where he said that all any of us can do is look at ourselves in the mirror and tell ourselves we did the right thing. I don't agree. We can DO the right thing, then let ourselves the truth when we look in the mirror. Though George W. Bush will never be able to do that. He will only be able to lie to himself in the mirror.

I could sooner see a monument to those shoes.