This evening I watched news clips of former President George W. Bush talking about his decision to both commute the sentence of Scooter Libby and invade Iraq. In both cases not only did he rewrite history to excuse his poor judgment, but he did so in a way that deepens the wounds he has brought to contemporary America and the wider world, too.
+ First, re: Scooter Libby: yes, Mr. Bush challenged Dick Cheney who wanted Libby pardoned; President Bush refused and chose to let the conviction stand. But contrary to what Mr. Bush says this is not the same as honoring the will of the court who found Libby guilty of two counts of perjury, two counts of lying to federal investigators and one count of obstructing justice. The court had intended to make Libby pay for his crimes, but Mr. Bush commuted his convictions to time served claiming this was the compassionate thing to do. And now, in his memoirs - and the marketing campaign that accompanies the big sell - Mr. Bush is trying to have it both ways claiming that he not only honored the will of the court but also acted compassionately. This is simply untrue.
+ Second, re: the invasion of Iraq: Mr. Bush continues to claim that although no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq, it was still the right thing to invade because it has kept America safe from further terrorists attacks. This is the same twisted subterfuge that drove the Bush administration's prosecution of this cruel and unnecessary war from the start. And the fact that he continues to link the September 11th attacks with Iraq - all the while celebrating that the war is what kept America free from further attacks - is unconscionable for moral vindication is never the result of ideology or propaganda. Jesus puts it like this in the Sermon on the Mount:
Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don't be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned. (Matthew 7: 15-20)
Mr. Bush's cynical manipulation of our fears would be tragic enough if the costs were simply limited to the social chaos he has caused to the United States as we struggle to pay for education, infrastructure and adequate health care for the most vulnerable of our citizens while the war drags on. But the US invasion has killed over 107,000 Iraqi civilians in addition to the 4,427 US military deaths and the nearly 320,000 vets who have sustained brain injuries in Iraq.
What troubles me boils down to this: President Bush continues to try to mask his deceptive and destructive decisions with personal charm and down home sincerity. Look, I know that good people can make bad choices; it happens every day and does not mean the person's soul is corrupt. And I understand that in the heat of the battle truly bad decisions can be made or mistakes can happen. I've been there and done that myself. We all have.
But there comes a time of reckoning - a time when we must face our worst actions with honesty and humility - a time to own the pain we have created in confession so that we can make amends and atone for our actions. And Mr. Bush appears to be choosing the cheap way out of the terror he has cause hoping that a marketing campaign of personal sincerity will hide the horrific consequences of his profoundly twisted decisions. Again, the former president's "favorite philospher" - Jesus of Nazareth - cut to the chase:
Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure—'playactors' I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
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