Ex-President George Bush: guilty as charged?

Former U.S. President George W. Bush has been known for what would become dubbed as “bushisms.” His incomplete grasp of grammar and other such relatively normal methods and ways of communication made him a fount of statements that bordered, in intellectual quality, on the best the current U.S. President has been known to utter.

But comparing Russia’s ways in Ukraine with what used to happen in the Iraqi war and saying the two conflicts were equal in their brutality would not have been expected from a guy who had actually devised, ordered and led America’s invasion into that Middle Eastern country.

Gee, true!

While facts could prove that Bush was right, his statement would make the good old psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud happy.

What Bush did was spectacular: he abused himself by calling himself a de facto (if not de iure) war criminal.

Not only that: when made aware of the misspoken statement, Bush repeated it.

Speaking on the importance of democracy and threats to democracy from abroad, Bush took aim at Russia.

“Russian elections are rigged,” Bush said. True, as much as facts could be proven.

“Political opponents are imprisoned or otherwise eliminated from participating in the electoral process,” he continued. “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean of Ukraine,” Bush concluded. True too, and not that America isn’t exempt.

Then Bush brushed the mistake aside and said, “Iraq, too,” insinuating that Russia was somehow involved in Iraq.

How, he wouldn’t say.

This is really awkward. In 2003, it was under Bush’s presidency and on his express orders that the U.S. invaded Iraq. A number of legal analysts called that incursion illegal then, and many maintain this position even today.

But even ignoring the legality of the entire military operation, it would cost more than a million Iraqis their lives within a couple of years.

The Bush Administration at the time tried to justify their actions by invoking Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

Here it is, in its full beauty:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Stripped of all legalese, all this article means is that, should a United Nations member feel threatened, taking a defensive action is well within their rights.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision is based on that same article, and for that same reason the Americans felt obliged to do something about Saddam Hussein and his band of merry murderers.

If you compare the two situations without any bias, here’s the outcome: both President Bush (then and now) and President Putin (now) are right. The countries their armies attacked both were (and, in the case of Ukraine, are) acting in manners not only uncivilised, but dangerous to pedestrians and traffic worldwide, too.

While some would claim that there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) found in Iraq and thus, the reason for the incursion was phony, facts differ: the Kurds faced Iraqi army’s attacks that used chemical and bacteriological weapons for mass murder. WMD as a category includes more than nuclear bombs. Besides, when the international inspectors’ push was coming to shove, most (if not all) of these weapons had been transferred to Syria. The inspectors’ reach stopped at that line.

Here’s the parallel: the U.S. has been accused of helping build and finance laboratories to research, develop and produce biological weapons in Ukraine. Current U.S. Administration ended up confirming that the allegation was correct. And it was unable to deny, either, that the dirty bombs developed in Ukrainian nuclear power stations (one of them the still-radioactive Chernobyl) wouldn’t be there without American money and input.

Nazism or not …

True, Putin rhetoric regarding the plight of ethnic Russians in ethnic enclaves inside Ukraine sounded like that of Konrad Henlein, the Nazi leader who tried to split (and ended up splitting) Sudeten German regions from what used to be Czechoslovakia and make them part of Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

Except: the Czechoslovak government of the day treated their minorities with disdain that forced those groups into opposition.

And successive Ukrainian governments, since the day when the country was made independent in 1991, were using military violence to crush ethnic Russians who had the misfortune of waking up on the Ukrainian side of the border following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Wars, all wars, are crimes against humanity. An ancient Roman saying puts it: inter arma silent leges (laws are silent when weapons speak).

This is to say that armies commit violence during wars, and innocent civilians are those crimes’ most visible victims.

But still, to see a man who presided over two horrible wars have the nerve to call out another country’s action is a display of narcissism, pure and simple. Yes, two wars: don’t forget the earlier attack on Iraq, following her attack on her neighbour, Kuwait.

Bush told all within hearing distance inside his Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas, (and, given today’s technology, he told the rest of the world) that “one man” can launch a military operation without checks and balances. Meaning: that’s what’s wrong with Russia and Putin.

That this was precisely what he himself had organised and launched during the Iraq War didn’t stop his peroration for a second.

All nibs agree that there exist international laws and institutions designed to prevent wartime types of crimes against humanity from happening.

Did anyone listen? Did anyone obey them perhaps? In both cases, and make the answer biblically simple: yes yes, no no.

Yes, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq there had been the 1990 skirmish over Kuwait.

But: prior to that fateful morning of February 24, 2022, when Putin sent his armies into Ukraine, Moscow had been sending her concerns including those involving the militarisation of Ukraine and the potential for Ukrainian NATO membership to the West. This has been going on since 2014. With what result? Another rhetorical question.

Russia says she has her very specific security concerns. Who’s got the inherent birthright to dismiss them out of hand? Who’s got the right to ignore them?

Speaking of security concerns, when the then-Soviet Union stationed a few missile units in Cuba in 1962, who would be up in arms to defend what then was seen as the free world?

A two-way street

If the Americans can defend their interests, why nobody else?

A couple of undeniable facts:

It has become a trend for the Americans to tell sundry world leaders that all they want to cooperate, build ties and reduce tensions.

That same trend would see them immediately enact policies that contradict their own words. In this case, Putin’s leadership has overlapped with several U.S. presidential terms. During that time, Russia has endured several cases of NATO expansion that has encroached right up to her doorstep and militarised her neighbourhood.

As if verbal promises that this would not happen never existed.

And who, pray, made those broken promises? President George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush’s own father.

Do the Russians have an iota of reason to trust the Americans?

And not that they are a bunch of innocent baa-lambs, as white as fallen snow. They are not, and they have never been. But still: war brings with it crimes worse than unspeakable.

No matter whether this was a mere Freudian slip: Bush’s admission of his own country’s guilt in the matter puts the entire affair into a very different light.

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