Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How hard is it to say that one was wrong?

President Bush is to be commended on his successes. Though I was somewhat critical earlier, the ever growing list of brilliant policy decisions and bold moral stances his administration has taken has convinced me that it is a pity he can not run for President again.

Allow me to give examples:

His dogged insistence on not taking more than minimal time off in what he sees as a crucial time for the country and the world.

The way he always listens to a broad range of opinions and is willing to change his mind and his policies based upon the informed views of others.

His principled stand on the separation of state and religion. Though a religious man he has never tried to gain political mileage out of his faith nor seen fit to base policies upon what he sees as his private religious opinions.

A policy of making government as public as it is possible to show that absolutely no favour is given to any special interests such as the businesses his friends and family are involved in. This has been mainly pursued by making sure that all government procurement proceeds by open tender. Of course, Bush’s decision to automatically exclude companies with close links to members of the administration was controversial but, in the end, correct.

His commitment to a balanced budget has not been easy politically. However, thanks to a refusal to allow pork-barrelling on any level, it has been made possible.

A unfailing support for the rights of citizens as well as for human rights in general which has been enshrined in the Patriot Act that expands the scope of these rights. As Bush said on the occasion of signing the act into law, “If we fail to support these rights we fail to support what makes America worth fighting for.”

His insistence that political campaigns must be fought on the issues and never allowed to involve personal attacks upon the opponents. How seriously he treated this commitment became clear when, during the presidential debate, he called Senator Kerry a ‘war hero’ whose hand he is proud to shake.

The way he has been up front with his own failure to fight in the Vietnam War and the way his father used family connections to bring this about.

His refusal to condone anything but fully humane treatment of self-avowed terrorists and his insistence that they be placed in facilities which the International Red Cross and the International Red Crescent monitor round the clock.

The way he publicly berated and fired the Head of the CIA the moment it was suggested by that man that the CIA could run secret prisons in foreign countries or hand over prisoners to states that have been accused of torture.

Bush’s untiring personal involvement in the effort to first ensure that everyone, including those too poor to afford transport, left New Orleans before Katrina struck and then to ensure the minor breaches in the recently strengthened dykes were quickly filled. Thankfully hurricanes are becoming more of a rarity thanks to the stringent environmental standards that Bush brought in upon becoming the President. Just like the waters of the Atlantic that for a time threatened the low-lying regions of Florida, the threat of global warming is falling.

The all-round success that is Iraq is another of Bush’s victories. After the initial enthusiasm with scenes of Iraqis throwing flowers at the soldiers who had come to free them with the backing of the UN some had foreseen a harder time. However, Bush’s insight into the nature of Iraqi society allowed him to plot a course which has brought about quick stabilisation and peace. Firstly, the forces made sure to protect Iraq’s historic treasures, public amenities and populace. Then they destroyed the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, including the nuclear warheads and the fleet of long distance drones that had been readied to attack cities around the world, including the US. Finally, they handed over much of the administration to an international body which respected Iraq’s Muslim culture while building a democratic nation. The old Abu Ghraib prison that was a symbol of Saddam’s dictatorship was immediately destroyed, the place turned into a public park of remembrance. What little opposition the international forces met after the initial period was dealt with by the international police force that was brought in to ensure safety and by dealing with the root causes of the disaffection. A prime example of the success story is the city of Falluja which is now a thriving metropolis, the centre of which has seen a burst of construction by international companies that have come in to build their regional headquarters. In the years since the international forces have left Iraq the democratically elected government has managed to unite the Iraqis behind a shared goal of building a secular democratic society, just as it was predicted by Bush’s advisors.

The only ones who have opposed the changes in Iraq have been the region’s undemocratic rulers. Thankfully, however, we have seen a number of them overthrown by peaceful revolutions. Indeed, in a move mirroring that made by the government of Iraq, several of them have been handed over to the International Court in the Hague.

Bush has also shown his mettle by pursuing the corporate criminals within the US. After the downfall of Enron and Halliburton he created a number of bodies whose task it was to root out other such examples of illegality and to find ways to ensure such things could not happen in the future. The resulting legislation has clarified the way business is done in the States.

A similar approach focussed upon the rule of law in the international sphere has brought peace and prosperity to ever greater parts of the world with the result that the US is now almost universally honoured and loved.

One could keep listing the many reasons (peaceful Afganistan, democratic Pakistan, successful economy, etc. etc.) for thinking Bush the greatest President the United States of America ever had. Still, I find that it is to September 11th 2001 that I think back when I have to justify my view of Bush. The way that, thanks to the administration’s support for effective anti-terrorist measures, the nation’s secret services stopped what would have been a catastrophic attack upon New York and Washington was an early example of just the kind of man that George W. Bush is.


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