So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish is the fourth book of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy tetralogy written by Douglas Adams. Its title is the message left by the dolphins when they departed Planet Earth just before it was demolished to make way for a hyperspatial express route. The phrase has since been adopted by some science fiction fans as a humorous way to say "goodbye."
George W. Bush gave his farewell address to the nation last night and continued in the grand Republican tradition of creating his own reality. I'll highlight and challenge a few of his assertions and then, it is hoped, we will close the door to what I believe is a failed presidency and open a new one to hope.
GWB: "Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school."
AFGHANISTAN -- Acid thrown in faces of five young women in Kandahar, "guilty" of going to school. Responsibility for the crime is attributed to the Taliban, who have an extensive presence in the area
. During their government, they imposed an absolute ban on any form of education for females.
In Afghanistan, rampant government corruption a way of life
Thursday, January 1, 2009
– When it comes to governing this violent, fractious land, everything, it seems, has its price.
Want to be a provincial police chief? It will cost $100,000.
Want to drive a convoy loaded with fuel across the country? Be prepared to pay $6,000 per truck, so the police will not tip off the Taliban.
Need to settle a lawsuit over the ownership of your house? About $25,000, depending on the judge.
"It is very shameful, but probably I will pay the bribe," Mohammed Naim, a young English teacher, said as he stood in front of the Secondary Courthouse in Kabul. His brother had been arrested a week before, and the police were demanding $4,000 for his release. "Everything is possible in this country now. Everything."
Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid, the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and graft. From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President Hamid Karzai, the state often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it.
GWB: "Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States."
REALITY: Dec. 15, 2008 -- BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at -- but missed -- President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit.
Bush ducked, and the shoes, flung one at a time, sailed past his head during the news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his palace in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
While pinned on the ground by security personnel, he screamed: "You killed the Iraqis!"
Al-Zaidi was dragged away. Hurling shoes at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult among Muslims.
As for democracy taking root in Iraq, that is still debatable. As we've seen in other areas of the ME, having elections does not necessarily guarantee democracy--they can sometimes guarantee the election of terrorist groups.
Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni
believes that the creation of democracy in Iraq does not call for short-term solutions. As a matter
of fact, political philosopher Chantal Mouffe develops Zinni’s ideas by arguing that "democracy is never going to be completely realized, but it is something which will always need to be a project which we are going to fight for…be aware that there is no final goal – democracy is a process which we are continually working towards. So we are clearly facing a difficulty in terms of the way passion can be mobilized." To Adam Garfinkle, another Middle East scholar, experiencing difficulty in establishing democracy in Iraq is an understatement. Adam M. Garfinkle
argues that attempting to promote democracy in Iraq and the rest of the Arab World will fail and only exaggerate feelings of anti-Americanism within the Arab world.
GWB: "A new Medicare prescription drug benefit is bringing peace of mind to seniors and the disabled. "
REALITY: Millions of the poorest and most vulnerable beneficiaries now pay more for drugs than they did before.
According to the Medicare Rx Education Network – a group heavily financed by the pharmaceutical industry – 23 percent of seniors and people with disabilities are paying more for prescription drugs than they did before enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan [Medicare Rx Education Network Survey of Seniors, KRC Research, 04/03/06]. A majority of those paying more received prescription drug coverage through Medicaid last year, but were this year automatically enrolled in Part D. Copayments were generally lower under Medicaid than they are for Part D and did not rise annually as they will under Part D.
GWB: Funding for our veterans has nearly doubled.
Simultaneously, Bush was resisting congressional efforts to beef up the VA’s budget. In May 2007, Bush threatened to veto legislation that sought a 10 percent—$3.2 billion—increase, calling it too expensive. Bush proposed a 2 percent increase, far below what lawmakers and VA officials said was needed to treat a dramatic increase in traumatic brain injury and PTSD cases.
After Congress passed the legislation with the higher VA spending, Bush backed down on his veto threat but that was largely due to the fact that every Republican in the Senate with the exception of Jim DeMint of South Carolina, supported the measure.
Amid the growing scandals about substandard VA treatment and inept management, Nicholson resigned in July 2007.
Paul Sullivan, the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a veterans’ advocacy group that sued the VA in federal court, said attempts by the White House to portray Bush as an advocate for veterans is beyond shameful.
“Bush is the worst failure for our veterans since Hoover,” Sullivan said, expressing shock that the President “would shamefully continue his legacy of lies to the American people as he and his political cronies are forced to leave office on Jan. 20.”
Sullivan disputed some of Bush’s claims as misleading, such as the assertion that he doubled funding for the VA. “However, President Bush failed to disclose that the number of veterans seeking VA healthcare doubled, from 2.7 million to 5.5 million, and that rising healthcare inflation actually resulted in a net decrease in spending per veteran by VA during the past eight years,” he said.
“If not for the intervention of Congress to substantially increase VA funding beyond Bush's inadequate budget requests, especially in the past two years, the situation would have deteriorated from a serious crisis to a catastrophe at VA.”