From the desk of Laura Flanders:
I couldn't face thinking too much about George Herbert Walker Bush last week, but today I'm ready, so here goes.
My first real job in journalism was working with Dennis J Bernstein and Robert Knight on Contragate (later called Undercurrents), a radio show on WBAI 99.5 FM New York which began as a daily update on the twists and turns of the Iran-Contra affair (1985-87). With Bernstein, one of the first feature stories I researched was on G.H.W. Bush for Rolling Stone. (The story was killed, as I recall, and I think we never got paid.) While the obits have done their best to sanitize the record, it's beyond bloody. As Jeremy Scahill put it well this week, George H.W. Bush is one of the imperial saints of the national religion of US exceptionalism. As such, his hands are dripping.
The senior Bush's history with with the CIA began before he became director in 1976 and continued long after. He was their man, bucking them up after the pesky Church Committee tried to rein the agency in after Watergate. Bush kept the covert operators of the Vietnam-era in work, in the Condor assassination program that fed and fertilized the Central American wars. Dictators served American capital's interests, and so Bush's CIA worked hand-in-dirty-glove, facilitating the assassination of their opponents all over the Americas, including on US soil, in the terrorist car bombing of Orlando Letelier and the Institute for Policy Studies' Ronni Mofffitt which happened on his watch, at the behest of Chile's Pinochet.
Bush never saw a death squad he couldn't make peace with, not in Guatemala, not in El Salvador nor Nicaragua. He endorsed the US bombing of Libya, the trumped-up invasion of left-leaning Grenada and the invasion of Panama to arrest Manuel Noriega, a drug dealer he had had an asset-to-master relationship with for years (even as Bush unleashed the racist "War on Drugs" at home.) Throughout the 1980s, Bush propped up dictators and covered up the slaughter of freedom fighters in Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, and of course Iraq, until men like Duvalier, Noriega and Saddam Hussein no longer served their US purpose.
Part of what has made this funeral hagiography so awful are the ghosts that haunt it and should be heard and listened to. Ghosts like those of the women and men and children I met in the 1980s in Chile, and Nicaragua and El Salvador and Guatemala and Haiti, who lost their dreamed-of futures to terror, backed by Bush.
In Iraq, in 1991, after Bush's merciless war and bombing and sanctions regime, I met a woman in a Baghdad hospital who asked me to photograph her new born baby. It lay blue and dead in her arms for lack of electricity. Bush's bombers had destroyed the power plant that fueled the hospital incubator, and bombed the water purification plant that supplied the people. I also remember the chill that hung over me for hours after entering the Amiriyah shelter, where an entire neighborhood of civilians seeking safety had perished in an air-raid refuge targeted by laser-guided U.S. "smart bombs". Here's me, with Vivian Stromberg and Palestinian Camelia Odeh not long after, in June or July 1991. Survivors told us they'd been celebrating a child's birthday that night.
So no, I won't be sharing the nostalgia about good-guy "Daddy Bush" and his dog, and his socks and how he embodied "good" politics, especially not on my birthday but I can't let it go either. Thanks, Jeremy Scahill Arun Gupta and Kathy Kelly who gave voice to much of what I've been feeling this week, on Intercepted (https://interc.pt/2Ugh4TP). I only dug into my Iraq file today but here are a few old prints. MADRE has my Central American archives and pictures from Palestine and much more. Support them.
PS I'm not even getting into Bush's AIDS crimes or Clarence Thomas, or the Savings & Loans disaster, but enough for today. Those many years close to the grief and cruelty - with impunity - of the Bush era, are a big part of why for the last ten years I've been focussing on how the heck we shift power in our lifetimes, which is what we try to do on The Laura Flanders Show . Thanks for reading.
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