Nelson: A case of one-sided imperial blindness

Welcome to maudlin America, a curious mixture of sloppy sentimentality and one-sided imperial blindness. Former President George Herbert Walker Bush's passing brought forth, as did John McCain's recent death, a flood of unabashed adulation. Of course at any funeral we tend to overlook the deceased's faults and concentrate on the good, but these two instances verge on idolatry.

Bush had an extraordinarily accomplished life. He was a fighter pilot shot down during World War II, served in the House of Representatives and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, headed up the CIA, was vice president under Ronald Reagan, and succeeded Reagan as president. He was widely admired for his decency and manners. What both those of the left and right overlook, however, is that he had blood-soaked hands.

Bush as vice president was an integral part of the U.S. aid to Iraq's Saddam Hussein in the latter's war against Iran. America was in part responsible for the hundreds of thousands of casualties in that war. Later, unwilling to leave bad enough alone, now-President Bush proceeded under cover of blatant lies to make war against our ally Saddam, now “worse than Hitler.”

Hussein, a typical murderous dictator we gladly supported, was preparing to invade Kuwait. Oil was the main cause. U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie reportedly told him, as she was instructed to, that “we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” Saddam wanted to consult the U.S. before invading and took Glaspie's statement, as well as other evidence, as a green light.

Thus far no American interest was at stake, but Bush was furious. To establish a cause to go to war with Iraq he openly lied about Iraqi forces massing on the now-conquered Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia. But the media got hold of the satellite photos he adduced as evidence of an impendiing attack, and they showed nothing on the border at all. In fact, some of Hussein's forces in Kuwait were already returning to Iraq. Nonetheless we had our splendid little war, killing thousands of Iraqis and laying waste to Iraq's infrastructure (the latter being a war crime, if anyone's interested). That destruction and our refusal to allow Iraq to rebuild its facilities after the war led to a half million civilians' deaths.

Bush danced the flamenco on the Constitution, helped give rise to al-Qaida by staging American soldiers on Saudi Arabian soil, and needlessly killed a host of people. But we seem willing to forget anything when done by our government.

The legend of the captured pirate and Alexander the Great is appropriate here: Alexander asked the pirate: “What gives you the right to sail the seas, taking by force what is not yours?” The pirate retorted: “What gives you the right to travel the whole world taking what is not yours, just because you have an army and a navy? Who gave you the right to occupy other lands?”

Americans should ask themselves the same before praising evil done in our name.