It has become fashionable for American presidents to set up a library upon leaving office. There is a library for virtually every president indicating that he is somebody important. With so many libraries one would think Americans would be educated, but their ignorance is legendary. One cannot lightly dismiss the importance of the US but whether such importance, for whatever reasons, can automatically be transferred to the president is debatable. There may have been merit in this when past American presidents entered the Oval Office possessing some grey matter but how should one consider George W. Bush who obtained a “C” grade at Yale? He was admitted to Yale only because his father was an alumnus. While at university, Bush was known for his hard drinking and membership in the Skulls and Bones Society, hardly attributes that would qualify him for having a library named after him.
Lest this raises concerns about how the library would be financed in these difficult financial times, especially in the US, it should come as relief that money for such grandiose projects will not come from US taxpayers. American presidents have traditionally relied on foreign friends to finance their megalomaniac projects. Bush Jr. in particular need not worry about money; his Saudi friends will be more than happy to fork out whatever he asks for. Bush had cultivated close relations with King Abdullah; remember Bush holding hands with him during the king’s visit to the US? The Bush family has long ties to the Saudi dynasty. Then there is Bandar bin Sultan, currently serving as National Security Advisor to the Saudi king. Bandar never misses an opportunity to demonstrate to his rival royals that he is well connected within the US establishment. This is important in the kingdom where intense jealousy and rivalry keep the hordes of royals at each other’s throat. Being in the Americans’ good books is important for rising up within the Saudi hierarchy.
“If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.”
“There’s an old saying… that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
“We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.”
“I glance at the headlines just to kind of get a flavor for what’s moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who probably read the news themselves.”
Bandar is a billionaire in his own right. Two years ago, the British government quashed an inquiry into billions of pounds paid to him as kickbacks in the Yamamah arms deal. The argument advanced by the British government was that this would jeopardise British interests in the region. This is certainly true; the British, indeed other Western governments, routinely indulge in kickbacks to win lucrative contracts from foreign governments by greasing the palms — or fattening the numbered bank accounts — of corrupt foreign officials. Bandar is no exception; he is in a class by himself.
Thus, finances are not an issue for the Bush library. So what is the problem? It is the very idea of a library named after an intellectually challenged person that could seldom string a dozen-word sentence without making a mistake. Until the very end, he continued to insist that people “mis-underestimated” him. One of his memorable quotes relates to his war on terror. “The enemies are plotting to harm the US. We are not idle either; we are doing the same.”
The George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation had decided on February 22, 2008, that a library will be set up at the Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. SMU is a small, non-descript university with about 11,000 students. Perhaps, its modest size is appropriate for a small man like Bush. Interestingly, this will be the second presidential library in the state, the other being George Herbert Bush’s at Austin. While George W’s has not opened yet, the library website makes the fantastic claim, “The George W. Bush Presidential Center is advancing the ideals of freedom, opportunity, responsibility and compassion through study of the Bush presidency and ongoing research, discussion and scholarship. The Bush Presidential Center uniquely integrates the records of a Presidential Library and Museum, the intellectual capital of a policy institute and the resources of an independent foundation.” Phrases like “advancing the ideals of democracy” and “compassion” appear completely out of place given Bush’s sorry record of visiting death and destruction upon innocent people.
His library project aside, Bush made his first speaking foray on March 17 into Calgary, Alberta, the Canadian province that is the support base of the rightwing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Canadian, a Bush fellow traveler, is perhaps even more rightwing than Bush. Bush’s Canadian tour was arranged by the Washington Speakers Bureau but taking no chances, the event was closed to the media. Even participants were barred from speaking to the press. Despite the tightly controlled event, hundreds of protesters, waving shoes and placards, were on hand to denounce him as a war criminal. Lawyers against the War (LAW), a Canadian group, had lobbied the government to prevent Bush’s entry into Canada because of his past record. If this was not possible, then he should be arrested and charged with war crimes. LAW has prepared a huge dossier on Bush’s crimes but only the Canadian attorney general can lay charges. This was perhaps expecting too much from a rightwing, albeit minority government.
One attendee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bush criticized the financial community, saying, “Wall Street got drunk, and we got the hangover.” He forgot to mention that it was Bush and his cronies that had supplied the booze by deregulating the financial industry. He even had to gall to suggest that if his successor, Barack Obama, needed help, “he is welcome to call me.” Obama has more sense than calling a man who single-handedly drove the US economy into the ground and brought America to such a story state that it is the most hated country in the world today. Bush may have to wait a long time before he hears from Obama, if at all.