The strong man with the dagger is followed by the weak man with the sponge.”Lord Acton
George Herbert Walker Bush died on Saturday. He was 94 years old. Thanks to decisions he made throughout his career, thousands – perhaps millions – of people never got near 94. He invaded Iraq in 1991, instituted sanctions that destroyed the country. He pardoned those involved in the Iran-Contra affair and was head of the CIA when Operation Condor launched the military coup in Argentina in 1976.
None of that makes it into The Guardian‘s obituary, of course.
Instead, Simon Tisdall – a mindless servant to the status quo, always happy to weave invective about our designated enemies – treats us to paragraph after paragraph of inane anecdotes.
Good old Georgie once gave him a lift in Air Force One.
Barbara gave him useful advice about raising Springer Spaniels.
The following words and phrases are not found anywhere in this article: CIA, Iraq, Iran-Contra, Argentinian coup, Iran Air Flight 655, NAZI, Panama.
Rather, Tisdall refers Bush’s term as “before the era of fake news”. Which makes him either a complete a liar or profoundly under-qualified to write on the subject – as the Bush-era spawned the original fake news: The Nayirah testimony. A pack of lies told before the Senate, and used to justify a war in the middle-east.
A Bush family tradition.
Tisdall talks of Bush’s family – “he enjoyed a privileged upbringing in a monied east coast family” – but doesn’t say that his father, Prescott Bush, was a known Nazi sympathiser and was even implicated in an alleged plot to overthrow the government of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Bush started two wars as President. Planned and enabled countless crimes as director of the CIA. pardoned all those implicated in the Iran-Contra affair. Refused to apologise when the US Navy “accidentally” shot down an Iranian airliner, killing over 200 civilians, including 60 children.
He was the original neocon – his administration brought us Cheney and Powell and Rumsfeld. Gave birth to the ideology that stage-managed 9/11, launched the “War on Terror”, and cut a blood-stained swath across North Africa and the Middle East.
We don’t hear about that.
What we DO hear about is Bush’s “deep sense of public duty and service” and that “Bush was a patriot who did not need cheap slogans to express his belief in enduring American greatness”. No space is given over to analysis, to examine the fact that “belief in enduring American greatness” is quasi-fascism, and responsible for more violent deaths this century than any other cause you can name.
In hundreds of words, a notionally left-wing paper has nothing but praise for a highly unpopular right-wing president. No space is given over even to the gentlest of rebukes.
The whole article is an exercise in talking without saying anything. Pleasantries replacing truth. Platitudes where facts should be. A nothing burger, with a void on the side and an extra order of beige.
It’s an obituary of Harold Shipman that eschews murder talk and rhapsodises about his love of gardening.
A eulogy to Pinochet that praises his economic reforms but neglects all the soccer stadiums full of corpses.
An epitaph to Hitler that focuses, not on his “controversial political career”, but on his painting and his vegetarianism.
Did you know Genghis Khan once lent me a pencil? He was a swell guy. The world will miss him.
We’re no longer supposed to examine the lives, characters or morals of our leaders. Only “honour their memory” and be “grateful for their service”. History is presented to us, not as a series of choices made by people in power, but as a collection of inevitabilities. Consequences are tragic but unavoidable. Like long-dead family squabbles – To dwell on them is unseemly, and to assign blame unfair.
Just as with John McCain, apologism and revisionism are sold to us as manners and good taste. Attempts to redress the balance and tell the truth are met with stern glares and declarations that it is “too soon”.
It’s never “too soon” to tell the truth.
John McCain was a dangerous war-mongering lunatic. George Bush Sr was a sociopath from a family of corrupt sociopaths. The world would be a far better, and much safer place if just one major newspaper was willing to say that.
Really, there are two obituaries to write here:
First – George HW Bush, corrupt patriarch of an old and malign family, passing out of this world to face whatever eternal punishment (hopefully) awaits those who sell their immortal soul in exchange for a brief taste of power.
Second – The Guardian, perhaps a decent newspaper once-upon-a-time, now a dried out husk. A zombified slave to the state, mindless and brainless and lifeless. No questions, no reservations, no hesitation. Obediently licking up the mess their masters leave behind.