This is a really frustrating day for me. My coming of age politically and historically (and musically, for that matter) mirrored what was essentially one long GHW-Bush-infused scandal … beginning with the 1980 Presidential Campaign and the October Surprise that put a CIA man in the White House … which, in turn, gave birth to Iran-Contra … which then spawned the BCCI Scandal and dovetailed with the illegal arming of Iraq, a.k.a. Iraqgate … which ultimately led to the Gulf War. Then there was the 1988 Campaign, which gave us the Willie Horton ad and ingrained into my consciousness a deep anger about, and greater awareness of, the power of American racism. And finally, there was the Savings & Loan Scandal his son helped to start and, not coincidentally, also helped me to understand the banal, repetitive scam at the heart of America’s financialized economy.
In effect, my understanding of America was forged during the apex of George H.W. Bush’s career and my sense of American political power was perpetually informed by my often angry observation of his impact on America and the world. My life’s coincidental cohabitation with his ascendancy and use of power was like a long, drawn-out graduate seminar on the seedy underbelly of American empire and the use of covert means to alter the course of history at home and abroad.
His name starts to pop-up in and around pre-Bay of Pigs Cuba and his cadre of political operatives and imperial minions, like the members (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle) of the intelligence altering group called “Team B” he promoted as CIA director, continued to wield deadly and criminal power throughout my adult life. It’s a long trail of tears that was punctuated by one of the four great crimes of American history … the wanton, profiteering destruction of a bystander nation (Iraq) under false pretenses.
That brutal coda to GHW Bush’s legacy continues to distort American politics, but the real price has been paid in Iraqi blood … much the same way Central Americans and those now fleeing Honduras remind the few who dare to look past the two-dimensional cut-out of a genial, grandfatherly public servant to see the real breadth and depth of the rot his hagiography conveniently papers over for a nation hurtling deeper and deeper down a comforting memory hole.
For me, his Iran-Contra pardons cemented his place in my mind as one of the great villains of the post-WWII era. It also kept me perpetually on guard … forever skeptical of official stories, always probing the secrets and the lies that infused the building of empire, and cynically focused on puncturing the politically-crafted myths the establishment feeds a willing population who always seem to seek out the salve of ignorance instead of the hard-to-digest truth that we’ve all benefited from the crimes men like GHW Bush committed … however ostensibly … in our names.
JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, radio co-host, documentary filmmaker, and…