By Stephen Lendman – Chicago
George W. Bush. US president: January 20, 2001 – January 19, 2009. Born of privilege. Unimpressive by every measure. A history of underachievement. Chosen by big money. Arranged through electoral fraud. Installed by the Supreme Court. Empowered by a dubious "terrorist" act, and ending with a record unmatched by the worst of his predecessors. Assessing the Bush legacy – from its illegitimate birth; through its lawless, belligerent years; to the world potentially on the brink at its end. Exploring it fully as a change of command approaches, and an unenviable task awaits the new incumbent.
The Measure of the Man and His Administration (Part II)
The Special Relationship between America and Israel
It began in March 1948 when Harry Truman met secretly with Chaim Weizmann (Zionist leader and first Israeli president) and pledged support for a new Jewish state. On May 14, 1948, the British Mandate ended at midnight. At the same time, National Council members in Tel Aviv signed the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. Minutes later, Washington followed through on a 1922 congressional resolution in support of a Jewish homeland and became the first country to extend recognition. Harry Truman signed the following statement:
"This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof.
The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel."
It established an enduring alliance under successive administrations that became more special than ever under George Bush. At its core, realgeopolitik in a strategic part of the world. The mutual advantage for both sides, and how the influential Israeli Lobby cemented it. James Petras explained it in his important 2006 book: "The Power of Israel in the United States."
At its heart is the high proportion of wealthy and influential Jewish families in the country – despite the small percentage of Jews in the population overall. Allied with others, they created a "tyranny of Israel over the US" that threatens world peace and security and the future of democracies in both countries and elsewhere.
At least since 1967, the Lobby secured Washington’s unconditional support for Israel’s wars of aggression. Also the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 Iraq War, and a scheme to isolate and possibly blockade and/or attack Iran to solidify regional dominance for both countries and a lock on that nation’s vast oil and gas resources.
Most important is what Washington provides in aid. Shirl McArthur explained the direct part in his July 2006 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs article titled "A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct US Aid to Israel: $108 billion. He used data from a January 5, 2006 Congressional Research Service Report to Congress from 1949 through a 2006 FY estimate. It totaled $98.72 billion. McArthur then added further DOD "special projects" amounts of $9.24 billion for a grand $108 billion total. Far and away, Israel is the largest recipient of US aid in all forms.
— around $3 billion annually in direct aid;
— billions more in low or no interest loans;
— millions annually for immigrant resettlement on expropriated Palestinian lands;
— multi-billions in waved loan obligations; at least $45 billion since 1974;
— special multi-billion loan guarantees for aggressive wars and to militarize and occupy Palestine;
— billions more in military aid; financial help to develop Israel’s defense industry; state-of-the-art technology; and the latest US weapons;
— US guarantees for Israel’s access to oil; and
— open-checkbook amounts for joint initiatives in or outside the region – all with imperial aims plus special requests honored, including secret ones.
The US-Israeli relationship has always been special. More than ever under George Bush the way Ariel Sharon once boasted. With good reason he said: "We have the US president under our control." It advantages both sides but gravely harms most others. Another chilling side of the Bush legacy to be continued under Barack Obama, who’ll be even more committed according to James Petras. He calls him "America’s First Jewish President" in a compelling new article easily accessible online.
The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) North American Union (NAU)
It’s another Bush administration grand scheme to merge three nations into one – controlled by Washington and the corporate interests behind it. It’s a coup d’etat against the sovereignty of three nations enforced by militarizing the continent for exploitation. If implemented, it will create a borderless North America without barriers to trade and capital – mostly for US corporate giants. It will ensure America gets free and unlimited access to Canadian and Mexican resources, mainly oil and gas, and in the case of Canada fresh water as well.
It will also militarize North America under US dominance in the name of national and continental security, control it with police state powers, and empower corporate interests to pillage it. It’s a secretly crafted scheme to:
— make the region "safe" for business;
— ruthlessly exploit workers; and
— steal their future.
Its worst features are withheld from legislators. It’s public language is deceptively benign. Its real design is well hidden. Growing opposition is significant but way short of stopping it. If in place, it will take Police State America to a new level. More potential fallout from George Bush’s legacy.
Bush’s War on Working Americans
Taking from the poor and middle class. Giving to the rich. That explains a lot about Bush’s plutocratic scheme, his "ownership society." To transfer trillions of public and private dollars from millions of working Americans to giant corporations and the wealthiest segment of society.
Corporations alone are hugely concentrated and virtual monopolies. Of the world’s largest economies, at least 51 are corporations. Most are US-based or controlled and function as what Noam Chomsky calls "private tyrannies." More than ever under George Bush. They’re run by well-connected, powerful figures comprising the top 1% of the nation’s affluent.
According to economist Michael Hudson, they (and others in the top 1%) own around 70% of the country’s wealth in the form of stocks, bonds, land, business assets, natural resources, and other investments. They’re interlocked for even more dominance and well served by an administration delivering most everything they want.
In contrast, 90% of American families have little or no net worth with all their debt burdens taken into account. And millions now face the potential loss of their homes because of unaffordable mortgages and the nation’s grave economic conditions afflicting them. More as well. Since the mid-1970s, wages haven’t kept up with inflation, and benefits have declined and are disappearing.
Jobs are offshored for greater profits. High-paying manufacturing and other good ones are lost, replaced by lower-paying, less skilled, many part-time ones, and a huge reserve army of unemployed and underemployed to contain wage pressures. Union membership has plummeted from a post-war 1950s 34.7% high to around 12% now and only 7.4% in the private sector.
Credit recent developments to George Bush. Post-9/11, he declared war on working Americans. He took on public sector unions straightaway; denied 170,000 DHS employees civil service protection and the right to bargain collectively; and targeted all federal workers for lower pay, fewer benefits, loss of unionized rights, and in many cases their jobs.
He one-sidedly supports business. Stripped workers of their bargaining rights. Denied pay raises for 1.8 million federal workers on the pretext of a "national emergency" and millions more overtime pay. He appointed anti-union officials. Tried to weaken and end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social services; and exploited undocumented immigrants as a wedge against organized labor but failed to secure "immigration reform" to fully implement it.
Since 1999, and especially under George Bush, consumer debt grew twice as fast as income. Millions live in poverty, many millions more just above it. At least 47 million Americans have no health insurance. Millions more have too little of it, and in some portions of every year at least 80 million Americans are uninsured – and it’s getting worse at a time of economic crisis and skyrocketing unemployment.
The nation’s 140 million working population has been gravely harmed. Opportunity in America is disappearing. Today’s wealth gap is unprecendented. According to the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), one in three jobs (around 47 million) pay low wages (defined as two-thirds the median wage or $11.11 per hour or less) with few or no benefits, including pensions or retirement accounts. One in four workers (around 35 million) earn poverty wages. Millions of others as well because official statistics mask the problem of big city workers earning too little to support their families. They comprise a permanent underclass that’s growing – and a dying middle class that’s eroding.
These conditions have accelerated under George Bush. He shamed the nation by:
— targeting the poor, middle America and people most vulnerable;
— stripping away opportunity;
— shifting wealth to the rich;
— making speculation even more of a growth industry;
— designating everything for privatization;
— aiming to end public education and hand it to profiteers for plunder; and
— creating the grimmest and most unparalled economic conditions since New Deal reforms improved things in the 1930s.
More of his shameless legacy to be handed to the incoming administration with faint hope it’ll improve things.
Early Corruption Scandals to Today’s Economy in Disarray
Besides the above, the Bush legacy has two other "distinctions." Its first two years were tainted by huge corruption scandals, and its final two by far greater criminal fraud and the greatest ever financial/economic calamity – a truly unprecedented event. First the scandals with many familiar names.
Most prominent was Houston-based Enron. It began in 1985 shipping natural gas through pipelines; then transformed itself over the next 16 years into one of the country’s most dominant energy traders – aided and abetted by its close relationship with Texas Governor George Bush. In return for privileged favors, he got huge financial contributions and a jump-start for his presidential ambitions.
Enron prospered and had $111 billion in 2000 revenues. Fortune magazine named it "America’s Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years. But by the end of 2001, a corruption scandal sunk it and forced it into bankruptcy protection from its creditors.
It turned out that the company engaged in illegal, off-the-books transactions and partnerships to maximize sales and profits and conceal growing debt problems. By the time evidence emerged, it was too late for investors and employees. Top company officials were charged and convicted of securities, wire and mail fraud. Money laundering and conspiracy as well.
Its accounting firm Arthur Anderson was convicted of obstructing justice for destroying evidentiary files and preventing the court from seeing financial records, transactions, emails, memos and other fraud-related documents. On May 31, 2005, the pro-business Supreme Court reversed the conviction on the spurious grounds that jury instructions were inappropriate. Merrill Lynch was just as fortunate. On January 22, 2007, the High Court dismissed a huge lawsuit for restitution from colluding with Enron to defraud investors. It immunized other bankers as well from any liability in the company’s malfeasance. Enron wasn’t as lucky and no longer exists.
For every uncovered corporate scandal, countless others exist and remain hidden. Here are a few Forbes.com lists during 2001, 2002 and an earlier 2000 one:
— Adelphia Communications (2002) involving billions of illegal off-the-books loans to top executives; also overstating financial results by inflating capital expenses and concealing debt;
— AOL Time Warner (2002) for inflating sales by booking barter deals on advertising; AOL may have overstated revenue by $49 million, and the company took a dubious $54 billion writedown for "good will" to end 2002 with the largest loss ever in corporate history – $98.7 billion;
— Bristol-Myers Squibb (2002) for inflating its 2001 revenue by $1.5 billion by so-called "channel-stuffing" – the practice of forcing wholesalers to accept more products than they can sell to clean out company inventory and claim added sales;
— CMS Energy (2002) for illegally executing "round-trip" trades to artificially boost energy trading volume;
— Duke Energy (2002) for the same offense;
— Dynergy (2002) for the same one;
— El Paso (2002) – the same one also;
— Global Crossing (2002) for engaging in network capacity "swaps" with other carriers – to inflate revenue and for destroying evidentiary documents to hide them;
— Halliburton (2002) for inflating sales by booking barter transactions as revenue;
— Kmart (2002) – regarding anonymous letters from company employees alleging the company’s accounting practices intended to deceive investors about its financial health;
— Merck (2002) – for recording $12.4 billion in consumer-to-pharmacy co-payments the company never collected;
— Mirant (2002) – for fraudulent accounting practices that boosted revenues and understated expenses;
— Peregrine Systems (2002) – for overstating $100 million in sales by improperly recognizing revenues from third-party resellers;
— Quest Communications International (2002) – for illegally engaging in "round-trip" trades to boost trading volumes and revenues;
— Tyco (2002) – for its CEO’s indictment for tax evasion, improper use of company funds, and illegal merger accounting practices;
— Xerox (2000) – for falsifying financial results for five years to boost income by $1.5 billion, and last but not all
Worldcom (2002) – the second most notable scandal after Enron for overstating cash flow by $3.8 billion; booking operating expenses as capital ones; for SEC charges of $9 billion in fraudulent accounting practices; and for founder and CEO Bernard Ebbers illegally taking $400 million in off-the-books loans.
By late 2002, the Afghan and Iraq wars created an illusion of prosperity. Alan Greenspan engineered it with 1% interest rates and huge liquidity infusions. Ben Bernanke continued it. The administration supported it. The result was predictable. A bubble economy and credit/debt crisis was allowed to build and mushroom. It was structured on a foundation of speculative greed and fraud and is imploding because of excess. It’s spreading contagion globally; creating unparalled risks; and threatening millions around the world with financial ruin. It reveals predatory capitalism’s dark side and shows nothing this pernicious is sustainable.
Here’s a brief look at George Bush’s eight year (economic) balance sheet:
— an unprecedented $8 trillion housing bubble now imploding;
— millions of foreclosed homeowners and millions more at risk;
— the likely deepest economic calamity since the 1930s and potentially one even worse;
— skyrocketing job losses;
— rising bankruptcies;
— failing banks;
— consumers maxed out on credit and strapped by debt;
— the American dream an illusion; from eroded household wealth, declining wages and benefits, and soaring expenses;
— trillions of dollar losses; likely many trillions more ahead;
— a potential devastating deflation and eventual potential serious inflation from excess money creation;
— multi-trillions in toxic debt; from asset backed securities (ABS); not by mistake; by design; as F. William Engdahl explains in his new book: "Power of Money;" to profit hugely and create a banking panic; for greater concentrated "financial and economic power in a few private hands;" globally under JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup (if it survives), Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America; masters of the universe;
— an unrepayable national debt; in the tens of trillions;
— speculative finance turned more than ever into a growth industry;
— toxic waste derivative schemes in place of legitimate investments;
— massive unchecked fraud;
— "banksters" rewarded instead of punished;
— the economy reeling from mountains of debt, frozen credit, mortgage delinquencies, growing defaults, rising unemployment, and the possibility of something much more serious ahead.
It’s spreading everywhere, touching businesses and households. The result of speculative finance, corruption, and irresponsible governance, now threatening the nation with economic decline or possible ruin.
Today’s problems are multi-fold and causing at least three simultaneously imploding bubbles; ones responsible governance and corporate oversight could have avoided:
— a property, mainly housing one;
— a mortgage finance one; and
— an alphabet soup of toxic CDOs, SIVs, SPVs, CMOs, CMBSs, and a whole menu of levered-up, high-risk securitized assets amounting to financial alchemy; defrauding millions, including sophisticated investors and sovereign ones.
No one’s sure how this can be resolved or how long it may take. It’s a deplorable administration’s final chapter. An odious one as its end approaches. From stolen elections to corporate scandals. Ruinous militarization, permanent wars, and imperial madness. Reckless spending and unrepayable debt. An environment of reckless finance, massive fraud, and unprecedented wealth transfers to the rich. A war on working Americans. Repressive police state laws. An absence of checks and balances. Democracy reduced to fantasy. The nation in decline, and a lawless state with no regard for the greater good.
Congress is largely supportive. So are federal courts, now stacked with repressive right wing justices. Nearly two-thirds are from or affiliated with the extremist Federalist Society. Its advocacy is chilling:
— rolling back civil liberties;
— ending New Deal social policies;
— opposing reproductive choice, government regulations, labor rights, and environmental protections;
— allowing the nation’s prison population explode to the world’s largest; mostly affecting nonviolent offenders; largely poor blacks and Latinos, and overall subverting justice to defend privilege.
A full Bush legacy accounting requires volumes. The above is just a sampling. For good measure, however, more examples are below from the many during his tenure. They range from neglect to outrage to scandal to high crimes and misdemeanors:
— sending young men and women to fight illegal wars; then provided the sick and wounded with third world health care on return; some even charged for it; others get little or nothing;
— irradiating vast areas of Iraq and Afghanistan with depleted uranium contamination and other deadly toxins; they cause every imaginable health problem to those exposed and their families;
— issuing an executive order (EO) revoking Gerald Ford’s ban on assassinations and thus making the practice (along with torture) official state policy;
— willfully leaving New Orleans vulnerable to what FEMA in early 2001 called the most likely potential US disaster – a major hurricane and flood in the city; ethnically cleansing poor blacks post-Katrina to let corporate predators seize their land and property for profitable development;
— rejecting the Kyoto Protocol ratified by 182 countries as of May 2008;
— showing contempt for environmental issues and giving corporate allies license to pollute;
— increasing defense spending to over $1 trillion dollars annually with all budgeted categories included plus multi-billions more in secret off-the-books allocations;
— at the least, having full knowledge and allowing the 9/11 attack to happen; then rigging the 9/11 Commission to whitewash the investigation and leave the most important questions unanswered;
— promoting the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act; now hurting homeowners in trouble and facing foreclosure; others as well from lost jobs and illness;
— trying to privatize Social Security for Wall Street; to end the most important federal program keeping millions of seniors out of poverty;
— ending Medicare through huge annual premium increases; gradually eliminating Medicaid as well for the indigent;
— hiring journalists to be paid propagandists;
— supporting ending Net Neutrality and allowing service providers to censor content;
— vetoing stem cell research legislation twice;
— supporting the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 to give loggers license to clear cut;
— spening billions on "missile defense" that, in fact, is for offense; provocatively installing it close to Russian and Chinese borders;
— wanting a constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be only between a man and a woman;
— adding a signing statement to the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act asserting executive authority to open US mail;
— supporting the 2005 Energy Policy Act and 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act that mandate biofuel production and use; a scam to create food shortages; let prices rise and enrich agribusiness; they’re also a genetic Trojan horse for Ag biotech giants like Monsanto to colonize our fuel and food system, raise prices, control output, and make it all GMO – known to harm human health;
— favoring the abolition of the separation of church and state;
— supporting nuclear proliferation for commercial and military purposes;
— signing the 2006 Secure Fence Act to build a multi-billion dollar barrier on our southern border with Mexico to deter unwanted Latino immigrants;
— in 2003, exempting 20 million acres of wetlands and streams from Clean Water Act (CWA) protections;
— letting the dollar depreciate 40% from 2002 – 2008 and now manipulating it higher to facilitate reckless money creation and borrowing; and
— allowing market manipulation to let oil and gasoline prices skyrocket to benefit Big Oil allies.
There’s more as in the administration’s final days George Bush is rushing through new "midnight regulations" that will be very hard to change. They include:
— allowing uranium mining near the Grand Canyon;
— permitting loaded firearms in national parks;
— prohibiting injured consumers from suing negligent manufacturers in state courts; requiring pro-business federal ones to handle them;
— further gutting the Endangered Species Act by no longer requiring government scientists to assess how imperiled species will be impacted by mining, logging, drilling, highway building, and other development; climate change and other environmental considerations will also no longer apply;
— opening two million new acres of mountain state lands to shale oil development;
— opening additional acres of undeveloped lands to mining;
— letting Big Coal dump waste from mountaintop mining into neighboring streams and valleys; letting the industry build plants next to some sites formerly restricted for environmental safety;
— trashing the Clean Water Act by letting Agribusiness dump, or let seep, animal waste into US waterways; another new regulation will exempt factory farms from reporting air pollution from animal waste;
— exempting big chemical companies from monitoring their lead emissions; also classifying three billion pounds of hazardous waste as "recycling" and letting another 200 million pounds be reclassified as "fuel;"
— restricting the government’s ability to protect workers from exposure to toxic chemicals and other substances; also weakening the Family and Medical Leave Act to make it harder for workers to have time off for serious illness; another favor to truckers to permit longer driver hours on the road – up to 11 hours a day with only 34 downtime hours between hauls;
— a vaguely written rule to make it harder for pharmacies and health care providers to participate in abortions; also to provide information on contraception, family planning and artificial insemination;
— limiting vision and dental care for over 50 million low income Medicaid recipients to make hard-pressed states and poor people cover more of the cost;
— relaxing air pollution standards near national parks;
— enlisting state and local police to illegally spy for the federal government; and perhaps more still in the administration’s final days – to add an exclamation point to an ugly legacy.
Once these rules are published in the Federal Register, the new administration will be hard-pressed to expunge or change them. Doing so takes time, in some cases years, at a time the economic crisis, foreign wars, and other priorities take precedence.
The Center for Public Integrity published its "Broken Government By the Numbers" under George Bush. Some include:
— 45 million (more likely 50) with no health care and tens of millions more with too little;
— 60% of EPA scientists report political interference with their work;
— of 1273 whistleblower complaints from 2002 – 2008, all but 17 were dismissed – a mere 1.3%;
— 190,000 missing US-supplied weapons in Iraq;
— $212.3 million in Halliburton overcharges for oil construction work in Iraq plus countless millions more for its other services and products; much the same is true for other companies with close administration ties;
— record fiscal deficits, expected to reach or exceed $1 trillion for FY 2009 and successive years thereafter;
— a record $9.91 billion for government secrecy in 2007;
— 800 government laptops with sensitive information lost by FBI, DEA, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives;
— 30 million pounds of tainted beef recalled in 2007 and concern for how much more is never found or reported;
— DOD weapons acquisition budget exceeded by over $300 billion plus trillions of unaccounted for defense allocations;
— less than 3% of US electricity needs provided by alternative energy;
— the horrific toll in Iraq and Afghanistan – to US forces and local populations;
— $100 billion or more in annual federal tax revenues lost by letting corporations and the rich use off-shore tax havens;
— $60 billion in annual Medicare fraud;
— lax FDA, FAA, OSHA and other government agency enforcement endangering public health and safety;
— 20,000 annual US deaths from power plant and diesel vehicle pollution;
— 60,000 newborns a year at risk for neurological problems because of mercury emissions from coal-fired plants;
— 935 "demonstrably false statements" in the run-up to the Iraq war;
— 760,800 disability claims backlogged and awaiting hearings by the Social Security Administration as of October 2008, and
— 806,000 veterans’ disability claims in 2006 (mostly from the Iraq and Afghan wars); the backlog reached 400,000 in February 2007.
These and other policies, measures, rules (or lack of them), actions, and shoddy under-performance favor the rich and harm most others. In addition, militarizing the nation is heading it for insolvency, tyranny and ruin – from overreach to lawlessness to massive corruption and fraud.
The Bush legacy. Tainted from start to finish. Herbert Hoover, Augustus Caesar and Caligula combined, and now on Barack Obama’s plate to handle. It’s doubtful he can or will try. Beware of promised change. It usually guarantees little, and none on what matters most. A lot rides on that being wrong at the most perilous time in our history when the task awaiting the new president may be more than any new head of state can handle.
Given Obama’s rogue team, what James Petras calls "ambitious power-driven operatives (who represent) the biggest threat to world peace and to US democratic values in recent history," expect his policy initiatives to advance the worst of them under George Bush, and soon enough we’ll know we were "Fooled Again."
A Final Comment and Tribute to Iraqi Journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi
We heard the story and saw the clip. It’s all over the world about a man who’s now a hero to millions. Al Jazeera explained that: "In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt and (al-Zaidi’s action) is likely to serve as a lasting reminder of the widespread opposition to the US-led invasion (and occupation) of Iraq – the conflict which has come to define Bush’s presidency."
At the same time he shouted: "This is the farewell kiss you dog….this is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." According to Musa Barhoumeh, editor of Jordan’s independent Al-Gahd newspaper: "Throwing the shoes at Bush was the best goodbye kiss ever….it expresses how Iraqis and other Arabs hate" this man.
Al-Zaidi is now imprisoned. He faces prosecution by the Iraqi "government" under three articles of the country’s criminal code and may be sentenced to up to 15 years – for insulting a foreign head of state, the Iraqi prime minister, and possibly the more serious charge of assault.
He’s been badly beaten, struck on the head with a rifle butt, has a broken arm and ribs, facial and other cuts, and reportedly has been tortured. A signature campaign is circulating to free him. It’s easily accessed online. Sign it in solidarity with him, for the many others he represents, ending the Iraq occupation, liberation and human rights for its people, and as a powerful parting gesture against George Bush, his ugly administration, and its tainted and criminal legacy.
– Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: email@example.com. (Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions on world and national topics with distinguished guests.)