Editorial: America’s worst president?
President George Bush is gone today and not many people will mourn him. Leave the world aside; most Americans will be relieved that he in no longer around. At home, the economy fell apart on his watch and has confronted America with a possible depression worse that the one that happened in the 1930s. As an increasing number of Americans line up in front of charity kitchens, they might adjudge him the worst American president in history. Some of the presidents indicted and one who had had to resign were better than Bush on all counts.
Welcomed as a “uniter”, he revealed himself as a president who wanted to go it alone, leaving the opposition out in the cold. He was non-intellectual, surrounding himself with people who would filter all sane views arising inside the country to prevent him from approaching the precipice. His big blunder was his reliance on neo-conservative realism in foreign policy and the appointment of Dick Cheney as his major domo vice-president with jaws gritted against any self-correction as things went badly with foreign policy. Inspired by 9/11 into unilateralism, he began relatively well with Afghanistan but soon deceived himself into the Iraq war against international law.
Bush Jr didn’t follow in the more discreet footsteps of Bush Sr; he blindly followed Ronald Reagan who had given America its first big budget deficit while beating the Soviet Union down to its knees. George W Bush thought he could build up another budget deficit for the prize of the Middle East and its oil riches. He attacked Iraq on false pretences and then got into a mess with the help of Donald Rumsfeld, his fatal choice for Secretary of Defence. Rumsfeld sacrificed innocent Iraqi citizens on the altar of his theory of conquering Iraq with as few troops as possible. What came out was the Abu Ghrayb torture factory that shamed America in the world.
The world did not accept his policy of avoiding the mischief of the American Constitution by keeping “terrorists” from all over the world and stuffing them in the camps of Guantanamo Bay. Details of what was done to the inmates of this prison have shocked the world and many Americans. Was even rough justice delivered? Inmates set free after a number of years of subhuman treatment told tales that are difficult to hear. Most of the people freed from Guantanamo after many years of incarceration have gone mad. Men who returned home from this camp are full of grievance and hatred for the United States, and many have joined the band of terrorists in Pakistan who want to attack the US again. Guantanamo has not stopped the onslaught of terror; it has sowed the seeds of more attacks.
In a way Bush made nonsense of the Clash of Civilisations by alienating Europe on the question of the Iraq war. Stealing from Hegel, Rumsfeld called it “Old Europe” totally out of context, then proceeded to seduce the new entrants to the European Union away in the direction of a foreign policy that mostly ended up benefiting America s enemies. By attacking Iraq and causing a three-way confessional division in it, it empowered the Shia community there and thus indirectly gave Iran the leverage there it never had. Bush’s blundering battle in Afghanistan, leeched out by the digression of Iraq, destroyed the government of Mullah Umar in Kabul and got Iran rid of another regional obstruction. The Iran-Arab divide that could play into American hands was actually postponed because of the wave of hatred experienced by the Arabs against America.
People around the world have nothing good to say about him. His supporters at home have dwindled and may have vanished after the economic crisis that has bankrupted the world’s largest economy. The economy will ultimately recover but not before the world has taken a few knocks from the failure of capitalism as presided over by the United States. The next president, Mr Barack Obama, will roll back much of what Mr Bush has wrought, but he may not be able to remove all the scars remaining from the Bush years. *
Second Editorial: Ominous signs for Long March
The prime minister’s adviser on interior, Mr Rehman Malik, on Sunday conveyed a special message from President Asif Zardari to PMLN chief Mr Nawaz Sharif seeking support of the Punjab government in handling the proposed coming lawyers’ Long March. He reportedly asked Mr Sharif “to extend only symbolic support to the lawyers and avoid making it a big show in view of the deteriorating law and order situation and tension on borders”.
Mr Malik came out praising the Punjab government on many counts, but there was no reciprocal praise for the governance of the PPP at the centre. A reference was made to the 17th Amendment which could not have filled the adviser with joy. A similar pall must have fallen on the issue of the disqualification cases being heard against Mr Sharif at the Supreme Court and Mr Sharif’s statement on what he thinks of the Supreme Court and the judges sitting inside it. Chances are that the Long March will be a tough phenomenon to handle and the PMLN will be squarely behind it, unless course the PPP delivers on the 17th Amendment.
The lawyers’ mood is ugly. Their statements following a decision at the Islamabad High Court and their opinion on the Supreme Court clearly goes beyond contempt. They want to take on the judiciary which they think will not be free unless it is headed by Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who presided over it till November 2, 2007. On Sunday, the lawyers put on record another of their angry adventures at the Islamabad airport. They attacked the car of Attorney General Sardar Latif Khosa who arrived in the same flight in which Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was returning from Karachi. When the lawyers saw Mr Khosa’s car coming from the VIP Lounge, they threw shoes at it and hit it with fists.
These are not good signs. Will the Long March in March be violent on the Constitution Avenue in Islamabad? The government policy will be same as it was last time: laissez faire. But this time, the restraint shown last time will be missing, despite Mr Malik’s request to the PMLN leader. *