President Bush looked tired. His hair gray. His neck visibly thin, barely filling his starched white collar. His farewell address last night revealed that certain charm that initially created a brief bond with a certain swath of America. He thanked Dick Cheney, had loving words for his wife, daughters and even mom and dad. You almost felt sorry for him. Some tender part of you might miss him -- maybe not his policies -- but his goofiness, his rebellious smirk and the ubiquitous notion of him as the Everyman-in-Chief.
Empathy for President Bush only goes so far, though. He can't hide from his cocky hubris. It is so much a part of his soul that he cannot stifle it. Many early news reports of the address focused on one quote: "We must never let down our guard." It was as if we were transported just for old-time's sake back to 2003 when the mainstream media walked in line with everything we now know was false about the invasion of Iraq. Bush is still fighting the terrorists while the rest of us are fighting the debt collectors.
Bush's retro bravado is not the most intriguing part of the speech. Instead, three sentences beforehand, he says, "America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict." The United States did nothing to provoke the ire of the perpetrators of 9/11 and the Middle East? The line is a sharp jab in the eye to the entire region.
(For an earlier look into the president's thought process on defense and America's priorities, read the text of Bush's 2002 speech to The Commonwealth Club, or listen to the audio.)
If this was the rationale for the crumbling of the next six years, was it all worth it? I don't think so. Actually Bush's imperviousness to the facts is the hallmark of his presidency. His perception in a highly insular world allowed him to think he could repeatedly lead the nation wherever he wanted to take it, but like he once said, "Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. It fool me. We can't get fooled again."
I don't think there was a singular event that caused al-Qaeda to attack seven years ago, but over 50 years of American intervention in the region. Arrogance that continually slapped the region's downtrodden adherents of Islam in the face, though in a usually covert manner, rarely as upfront as the style Bush preferred. The U.S. overthrew the democratically-elected leader of Iran because he wanted higher earnings from the oil he sold to the West. We have bankrolled the seats of power, at some point, of nearly every nation in the region, more often than not, propping up murderous despots who ruled their nations with iron-fists. Since seas of oil were first discovered on the Arabian Peninsula, it has always been about oil.
I think the U.S. did plenty to deserve 9/11. It did not deserve the loss of 3,000 innocent people, but then again, our government has not been very careful in differentiating insurgents from innocents, either. Bush long ago staked his presidency on the invasion of Iraq. By stubbornly clinging to the idea the U.S. was attacked without reason, the arrogance that so many Muslims sense from our government continues to permeate until Bush's last days in office.
--By Steven Tavares
Do you agree with Tavares that the U.S. provoked the 9/11 attack? Do you think President Bush is correct that it was unprovoked? Are you sad to see President Bush exit the national stage, or are you eager to have him gone? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
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