Friday, June 20, 2008

Bush Farewells Europe, No Sign Of Regret For Wars Or Torture

Dan Froomkin notes that President George W. Bush is still, after almost eight years, unable to avoid disturbing and hilarious gaffes when he dares to be interviewed by anyone other than American corporate media :

President Bush's contempt for those who question him or doubt his accomplishments has been on full display lately.

That two thirds of Americans are now in that category apparently hasn't made him any more receptive to their concerns-- quite the opposite.

When British Sky News reporter Adam Boulton today challenged Bush on his dedication to freedom, suggesting that Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib represented "the complete opposite of freedom," Bush accused Boulton of "slander[ing] America."

Evidently still smarting about the Supreme Court's rejection of his detainee policies last week, Bush noted defensively that the lower courts had agreed with him -- as if that mattered.

While Americans increasingly blame him for record-high gas prices and the toll on their pocketbooks, Bush dismissively referred to domestic concerns about those high prices as "squawking."

And in an interview on Friday with Ned Temko of Britain's Observer, Bush actually joked that he was "still looking" for the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that were the main reason he
gave to the public for going to war.

From the transcript of the Boulton-Bush Sky News interview :

Boulton: "I mean, you've talked a lot about freedom. I've heard you talk about freedom -- I think every time I've seen you."

Bush: "Yes."

Boulton: "And yet there are those who would say, look, let's take Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and rendition and all those things, and to them that is the, you know, the complete opposite of freedom."

Bush: "Of course if you want to slander America, you can look at it one way. But you go down -- what you need to do -- I think I suggested you do this at a press conference -- if you go down to Guantanamo and take a look at how these prisoners are treated -- and they're working it through our court systems. We are a land of law. "

Boulton: "But the Supreme Court have just said that -- you know, ruled against what you've been doing down there."

Bush: "But the district court didn't. And the appellate court didn't."

Boulton: "The Supreme Court is supreme, isn't it?"

Bush: "It is, and I accept their verdict. I don't agree with their verdict. And it's not what I was doing down there. This was a law passed by our United States Congress that I worked with the Congress to get passed and sign into law."

Boulton: "But it looked like an attempt to bypass the Constitution, to a certain extent."

Bush: "This was a law passed, Adam. We passed a law. Bypassing the Constitution means that we did something outside the bounds of the Constitution. We went to the Congress and got a piece of legislation passed."

Boulton: "Which is now being struck down, I think."

Bush: "It is, and I accept what the Supreme Court did, and I necessarily don't have to agree with it.

"My only point to you is, is that yes, I mean, we certainly wish Abu Ghraib hadn't happened, but that should not reflect America. This was the actions of some soldiers. That doesn't show the heart and soul of America. What shows the heart and soul of America is the sacrifice of our troops willing to defend our country and liberate 50 million people, or the generosity of America when it comes to providing money for HIV/AIDS in Africa, or the fact that America feeds more of the hungry in the world than any other country. That's the true America."

Froomkin also notes that most who interview Bush "try to get Bush to express some remorse" on the War On Iraq, and its consequences. From the Temko (UK Observer) interview :

Temko : "One of the questions, of course, [Britons] ask, is, do you feel a sense of personal pain --"

Bush: "Course I do."

Temko: "-- over the Iraqi civilians who have --"

Bush: "I feel a sense of pain for those who were tortured by Saddam Hussein, by the parents who watched their daughters raped by Saddam Hussein, by those innocent civilians who have been killed by inadvertent allied action, by those who have been bombed by suicide bombers. I feel a sense of pain for death. I feel a sense of pain for the families of our troops. I read about it every night. Or I used to read about it every night; the violence has changed. But I get a report every day about whether or not the U.S. has suffered casualties. And when I get those reports, I think about those mothers and fathers."

Much of the pain Bush feels, of course, comes from the media coverage of his presidency, and its wars. Bush remains obsessed by how historians will view his presidency, and sounds more and more like the American extremist right bloggers who believe that every kid who joins the Army knows full well what they're in for :

"This is a volunteer army, and these kids are in this fight because they want to be in the fight and they believe in it. And yet these poor parents are looking at -- often times looking at negativity, just people quick to report the ugly and the negative. But it's hard to report on the schools that are opening or the clinics that are opening or the playgrounds that are filling up, the society is coming back."

From the Temko interview :

Q : "Gordon Brown a couple weeks ago phoned a voter who was upset about Iraq, and apologized on behalf of the government, not for the war, which he still thinks was the right thing, but for the kind of suffering of the Iraqi people. Do you think that's a wise thing to do?"

Bush : "I think the Iraqi people -- yes, some have suffered, no question. But they're living in a free society. Everybody is going to have to handle their own internal business the way they want to. I'm not going to second-guess one way or the other. But my view is, is that when you talk to Iraqis, they're thrilled with the idea of living in a free society. Do they like the fact that violence is still there? No. But every society reaches a level of violence that's tolerable. And has that reached Iraq? I don't know yet. But I do know life is improving. . . ."

Temko: "But the existence of the war has led to the deaths of innocent people, and the fact is --"

Bush: "It has, but before the war, hundreds of thousands were discovered in mass graves."

Temko: "So on balance, you have --"

Bush: "Freedom trumps tyranny every time. And it's hard for people to see that."

Temko: "[W]hat's your greatest achievement or your greatest pride as President? And what's your greatest regret?"

Bush: "Well, first of all, just so you know, I'm not going to be around to see it. There's no such thing as objective short-term history. It takes a while for history to have its -- you know, to be able to have enough time to look back to see why decisions were made and what their consequences were. So, you know, I'd hope it'd be somebody who would use the influence of the United States to help transform societies by working on disease and hunger and freedom. And the liberation of 50 million people from the clutches of barbaric regimes is noteworthy, at the minimum. "

Temko: "Does this job take its toll on you? I mean, can you --"

Bush: "My spirits are pretty high. I mean, I'm -- you got to believe, you know? You got to have a set of beliefs that are the foundation for your very being. Otherwise these currents and tides and 24-hour news and politics will kind of leave you adrift."

From the UK PM Gordon Brown-Bush press conference :

Q: "Mr. President, in his last major speech, Tony Blair said on Iraq, 'Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right. But if I got it wrong, I'm sorry.' Is it possible you got it wrong? Would you share at this point those slightly more reflective sentiments? And in particular, should you, in retrospect, perhaps have concentrated a little more on Afghanistan?"

Bush : "History will judge the tactics. History will judge whether or not, you know, more troops were needed earlier, troops could have been positioned here better or not. Removing Saddam Hussein was not wrong. It was the right thing to do.

"[T]he fundamental question is, will we work to see [freedom] have a transformative effect in the Middle East? Now, there are many doubters. I understand that, because there is some who say that perhaps freedom is not universal. Maybe it's only Western people that can self-govern. Maybe it's only, you know, white-guy Methodists who are capable of self government. I reject that notion. I think that's the ultimate form of political elitism."