Sunday, December 2, 2018


Weekend Roundup

Any week since Trump became president, spend a day or two and you'll come up with a fairly long list of pieces worth citing, and the sense that you're still missing much of what is going on. For instance, my usual sources on Israel/Palestine have yet to catch up with this: Josef Federman: Israeli Police Recommend Indicting Netanyahu on Bribery Charges. Seems like that should be at least as big a story as Putin and Saudi crown prince high-five at G20 summit. But this is all I came up with for the week.

I probably should have written standalone pieces on GWH Bush and on Jill Lepore's These Truths, but wound up squeezing some notes here for future reference. Under Bush, I wondered how many articles I'd have to read -- critical as well as polite or even adulatory -- before someone would bring up what I regard as the critical juncture in his period as president: his invasion of Panama. I lost track, but in 20-30 pieces I looked at, none broached the topic. I had to search specifically before I came up with this one: Greg Grandin: How the Iraq War Began in Panama. When Bush became president, people still talked about a "Vietnam syndrome" which inhibited American politicians and their generals from starting foreign wars. Bush is generally credited as having "kicked the Vietnam syndrome," with two aggressive wars, first in Panama, then in Iraq. Bush and the media conspired to paint those wars as glorious successes, the glow from which enabled Clinton, Bush II, and Obama to launch many more wars: Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq (again), Syria, as well as dozens of more marginal operations. Woodrow Wilson once claimed to be fighting "a war to end all wars." Bush's legacy was more modest: a war to kindle many more wars.

Oddly enough, the story below that links up most directly to Bush's legacy of war is the one about the increasing rate of premature deaths (suicides and overdoses). That's what you get from decades of nearly continuous war since Bush invaded Panama in 1989. The other contributing factor has been increasing income inequality, which has followed a straight line ever since 1981, when the Reagan/Bush administration slashed taxes on the rich.

Recently, we've seen many naive people praise Bush for, basically, not being as flat-out awful as his Republican successors. They've done this without giving the least thought to how we got to where we are now. The least they could do is check out Kevin Phillips' 2004 book: American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush.


Some scattered links this week: