"To know my deed, 'twere best not know myself."-Shakespeare's Macbeth
With those words, Macbeth tells us that to judge ones impact on history you need to be a little bit blind as to what that impact was. The former president took these words to heart in ‘Decision Points’. The Presidents memoir was released yesterday and though I haven’t read it in it’s entirety, I did manage to get through a few key chapters. I’ve also read reviews and responses from both sides of the Atlantic from some of the other world leaders that are key characters in this account.
The first thing that comes to mind is clueless. There is an alarming off-handedness about the implications of what's being said. About the unfolding financial crisis at the end of his presidency. About the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. About the use of “enhanced interrogation” better known as torture.
The book is surprising in the fact that apparently it is not ghost written but is an unexpectedly engrossing memoir. But, you quickly get the feeling that reality and his memory are two different animals. For instance, he states, "Their interrogations ( of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport, and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States," British officials have said there is no evidence to support this claim. The Heathrow alert in fact happened a month before his (Mohammed’s) arrest. In fact, British Counter-Terrorism officials have said that the most useful information provided by Mohammed was mainly related to al-Qaida's structure and was not extracted under torture.
Later on Bush writes that German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder told him in January 2002 that the US president had his full support when it came to his aggressive Iraq policy. Bush wrote that Schröder indicated he would even stand behind Bush should the US go to war against the country. Gerhard Schröder has said that George W. Bush is not telling the truth.
On the other hand, he does sound sincere when he talks about his decision to stop drinking, and when he talks about his religion. But then he blows it when he goes on to present his anti-abortion stance and how he adamantly had to “convince Pope John Paul II not to waver in his pro-life convictions.” Uh huh, gotcha…..
You are left with the feeling that Bush, like Macbeth, need not know himself to judge himself. He constantly seems shocked and disappointed at the many failures of his presidency; Not finding WMD’s in Iraq, the financial melt down, the failure to capture bin Laden, leaked identities of CIA operatives, but then he turns around and blames these failure on others. Indeed, he judges his biggest failure in his administrations response to Hurricane Katrina. And his biggest accomplishment as “After the nightmare of September 11, America went seven and a half years without another successful terrorist attack on our soil.” So, to summarize, in his own eyes and words, his failure was in not dealing correctly with an act of god, and his fait accompli was in what terrorists didn’t do…..
I guess reality really is subjective.
The Dirty Lowdown