Thursday, December 30, 2010

Madness and Civilization

If you have time to read only one thing this week, make it Eliot Weinberger's magnificently biting review of George W. Bush's "memoir."

This is a chronicle of the Bush Era with no colour-coded Terror Alerts; no Freedom Fries; no Halliburton; no Healthy Forests Initiative (which opened up wilderness areas to logging); no Clear Skies Act (which reduced air pollution standards); no New Freedom Initiative (which proposed testing all Americans, beginning with schoolchildren, for mental illness); no pamphlets sold by the National Parks Service explaining that the Grand Canyon was created by the Flood; no research by the National Institutes of Health on whether prayer can cure cancer (‘imperative’, because poor people have limited access to healthcare); no cover-up of the death of football star Pat Tillman by ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan; no ‘Total Information Awareness’ from the Information Awareness Office; no Project for the New American Century; no invented heroic rescue of Private Jessica Lynch; no Fox News; no hundreds of millions spent on ‘abstinence education’. It does not deal with the Cheney theory of the ‘unitary executive’ – essentially that neither the Congress nor the courts can tell the president what to do – or Bush’s frequent use of ‘signing statements’ to indicate that he would completely ignore a bill that the Congress had just passed.

It is astonishing how many major players from Bush World are here Missing in Action. Entirely absent, or mentioned only in passing, are Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Yoo, Elliott Abrams, Ahmed Chalabi, Ayad Allawi, Rick Santorum, Trent Lott, Tom DeLay, Richard Armitage, Katherine Harris, Ken Mehlman, Paul O’Neill, Rush Limbaugh. Barely appearing at all are John Ashcroft, Samuel Alito, Ari Fleischer, Alberto Gonzales, Denny Hastert, John Negroponte and Tom Ridge. Condi and Colin Powell are given small parts, but Rummy is largely a passing shadow. No one is allowed to steal a scene from the star.

The enormous black hole in the book is the Grand Puppetmaster himself, Dick Cheney, the man who was prime minister to Bush’s figurehead president. In Decision Points, as in the Bush years, he is nearly always hiding in an undisclosed location. When he does show up on scattered pages, he is merely another member of the Bush team. The implicit message is that Washington was too small a town for two Deciders.

Read it all; it's a hoot.


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