It's been a busy time in the afterlife. James Brown, Saddam Hussein and Gerald Ford all showed up at once.
Meanwhile, the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq passed the 3,000 mark. At this writing, President Bush was reportedly planning to send 20,000 more troops to Baghdad. "Surge" and "sacrifice" were the keywords of this gory plan.
That's America: We're all about human sacrifice now. While the White House and the fallen majority of congressional Republicans treasure embryos, stem cells and brain-dead patients, they dispatch Americans barely out of their teens to dismemberment and death for utterly no reason except to preserve their own delusions in a river of blood.
Terrible ironies abounded in the deaths of Saddam and Ford. It was Ford, of course, whose administration gave us Cheney and Rumsfeld, the architects of the Iraq war. And yet, weirdly, Ford declaimed his disapproval of that pair and their boss, Bush, by way of a posthumously published interview with Bob Woodward.
Eerily, most of those whom Ford castigated, including Henry Kissinger, had roles in his memorial services. They sang his praises and toted his casket while the dead man's biting words mocked them for their imperialistic policies.
Every dead man must assume his myth and Ford, predictably, was eulogized as a decent guy who ended up president by happenstance. He was clumsy -- he hit golf balls into crowds of spectators frequently -- and, besides that, he will be most remembered for pardoning Richard Nixon. TV pundits, always anxious to engage in hagiography, depicted Ford as the most amiable president in our lifetime. "He brought America together," the pundits repeated to one another. Actually, the country was divided and enraged when he pardoned Nixon.
True or not, the characterization of Ford starkly compares with the current president. Until recently, the media treated Bush as a good ol' bubba-turned-commander in chief. Now that so many -- including a majority of U.S. soldiers -- disapprove of his job performance, Bush looks like pure evil and incompetence standing beside the memory of Ford.
Bush looked no better in respect to Saddam Hussein. With new allegations of sanctioned torture of detainees in Guantanamo, America's reputation as a civilized republic received a double whammy with the lynching of Saddam.
Although unidentified American officials told the press that they tried to convince the Iraqis to delay Hussein's execution until the religious holiday had passed, Bush himself refused to comment on the event except to mumble about justice and the "sovereignty" -- yeah, right -- of the Iraq government.
A cell-phone video of the hanging, replete with the sounds erased from the official video, depict an inhumane scene, with witnesses chanting the name of an insurgent murderer indirectly backed by the Bush administration. Wingnuts predictably accused anyone objecting to the lynch-mob scene of touchy-feely misalignment of priorities. Why, they ask, should we have any empathy for a man raucously executed in the space he created to execute thousands himself?
That this question even arises demonstrates how far democratic ideals have slipped under George Bush's reign. At Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, we have directly engaged in practices similar to those of Saddam's government. And in our support of the current Iraq government, we have enabled not merely barbarism but our own brand of it operating under a perverse definition of democracy. That "democracy" has come to violate the Geneva Accords and our own Constitution, by suspending habeas corpus, is of no concern to Bush.
So, once again, the Bush administration has managed to pour kerosene on terrorism by authorizing barbaric behavior. Saddam is now a martyr throughout the Middle East.
While he didn't have anything of substance to say about Saddam, Bush did issue this deeply thoughtful remark about the death of James Brown: "For half a century, the innovative talent of the 'Godfather of Soul' enriched our culture and influenced generations of musicians."
True enough, but Brown was also a convicted felon with a long history of violence and drug abuse. No, I don't think that necessarily should have been part of the eulogies he inspired. But it's fascinating to see how death transformed all three of these men in the eyes of enemies and friends alike, according to the narratives to which they subscribe.
For George Bush, of course, truth is irrelevant. As he prepares to send 20,000 more men and women to the hellhole of Iraq and continues his policy of torture, it's hard to imagine that his own obituary should be anything but the profile of a tyrant.
Cliff Bostock holds a Ph.D. in depth psychology. For information on his private practice, go to www.cliffbostock.com.
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