New Year’s Eve Letter From President George H.W. Bush

Slices of history from former presidents as they entered a new year make for a couple of interesting posts on this blog as we enter 2022. History never fails to strike a chord for me, and this letter is evidence as to why that is true.

The following letter was typewritten by President George H.W. Bush on New Year’s Eve in 1990 and addressed to his five children – George, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Doro. In the letter, he writes about the family time spent at Camp David over Christmas and his feelings about going to war with Iraq.

Baath Party Archives Are Back in Iraq

This is one of those intriguing and years-long stories that has kept many interested for the next development.

Here is that next part of that story of the much-traveled Baath Party documents.

A US military cargo plane arrived in Baghdad on Monday carrying more than 6 million pages of Iraqi government records dating from the Saddam Hussein era and prior.

The papers, including intelligence files and administrative records, were discovered in a basement under the Baath Party headquarters in the Iraqi capital in 2003 before being transferred to the United States for safekeeping in 2005.

The Wall Street Journal first revealed that the documents had quietly been returned on Monday, fulfilling a long-held hope of successive Iraqi governments since the United States overthrew the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003.

For my readers, due to a paywall, I photo the story below.


Why it matters: The trove is an invaluable and minutely detailed record of Iraq’s painful history under the Baathist regime. Its return is a sign of the US government’s trust in Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government.

Back in 2003, Kadhimi, then a human rights advocate who had fled Hussein’s regime nearly two decades prior, along with Iraqi scholar Kanan Makiya helped to preserve documents after they were discovered in a Baghdad cellar.

What’s next:Iraqi officials hope to one day make the documents available to the public but say that will take time.

Some of the information is highly sensitive, containing names of informants for the Baathists’ violently repressive regime and raising concerns that the documents could be used for revenge.

The archives are being held at an undisclosed and secure location in the Iraqi capital, The Wall Street Journal reported.

War Fever In Trump White House

We are not at the point of the 3:00 A.M. phone call in the residence of the White House which is often a talking point in presidential campaigns.  But we are probably well past two in the morning.  And that is most concerning, given what now sits in the Oval Office.

The explosions yesterday which has ratcheted up tension in the Middle East is particularly troubling given the fact Donald Trump has sought to confront and contain Iran since he took office.  He has made deals with the Saudi Kingdom which underscores the larger game plan in the region.  The international community is breathing tightly to see how the most unhinged and erratic holder of the White House will respond to this latest episode.  There was a determination yesterday to assign blame for the explosions on Iran amid skepticism about what really happened.   That mindset continues today.

But that is not the whole story, obviously.  While Trump wants to sell his version of events, it is necessary to know what actually happened.

The Japanese owner of a tanker attacked in the Gulf of Oman states that it was struck by a flying projectile, thereby contradicting reports by U.S. officials and the military on the source of the blast. U.S. Central Command said the two vessels were hit Thursday by a limpet mine, which is attached to boats below the waterline using magnets. Central Command released video it claimed showed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers, the Kokuka Courageous.

But the owner of the Courageous said sailors saw something flying toward the vessel just before the explosion and that the impact was well above the waterline. “We are absolutely sure that this wasn’t a torpedo,” he said. “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”

This is all most serious.  And history is proof as to why there needs to be strict attention to facts.  The international community is most mindful of Washington’s exaggerations and outright misrepresentations of intelligence leading up to the Iraq war.  All have seen the fast and loose nature of how the Trump Administration abuses the truth and is disdainful of facts.

That last point is something I have long stressed on this blog.  The absence of truth on a daily basis from this White House is dangerous when events occur where the integrity and confidence in their leader matters.   No citizen can claim they have trust in what Trump says.  And the clock is ticking towards that morning phone call.

Hard evidence which can be shared with constituencies worldwide is the only way to proceed.  Nothing short of that will be tolerated by voters as a whole.  Not after the invasion of Iraq which was predicated on lies.

War fever warms parts of the Trump base, and there can be a political rationale as to why bombastic moves by Trump on the military front will find much appeal with that segment of the electorate. I readily admit that as a reason the Trump reelection campaign would salivate over such a policy move.

But such a drastic and costly move must not be made on anything other than absolute facts. This time we must not allow for a war based on gut feelings or a messianic complex.

President Bush Makes Blood Money On Needless War He Started In Iraq

Hat Tip To Dan.

There is no way to state how galling and unseemly this news is concerning President Bush.   For lying to America and invading a nation based on political calculations should have placed Bush in front of the Hague.  Instead he is making money on his actions.  There is just no end to what one can read about in the news!

Bush charged $100,000 to speak at a charity fundraiser for U.S. military veterans severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and former First Lady Laura Bush collected $50,000 to appear a year earlier.  The former President was also provided with a private jet to travel to Houston at a cost of $20,000.

If Bush is going to take blood money he should at least fess up and admit in his speeches that ideological priorities took precedent over sound public policy. More often than not there were serious lapses in judgment and worse when it came to the Bush Administration.   But over time there has never been true accountability for their actions.  The out-of-control mess as a result of the political decision to invade Iraq is creating worldwide concerns about terrorism and leaves the Middle East in chaos.  Too many soldiers on both sides of the conflict in Iraq died for nothing but an uneducated man sitting in the White House as a result of the Supreme Court granting him the election only to then have him place this nation into a needless war.

And now Bush is making money on that hell he placed our nation and our soldiers into!


Thanks For Nothing, Donald Rumsfeld

When it might have mattered had former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke up about the horrible idea of waging war on Iraq he instead offered reasons why it should proceed.   Now in order to cover his backside he offers useless schlock.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Times of London “that efforts to oust Saddam Hussein and replace his tyrannical regime with democracy were unworkable, and that he had concerns about the plan from the beginning.”

Said Rumsfeld: “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories. The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words.” 

Call me old-fashioned but I strongly feel that if one has the power to act and does not then there is no way to backtrack and plead some other case once the deed is done.    Rumsfeld will only have history to gauge his actions, and his lack of candor when it would have mattered.

His words mean nothing now but to show how spineless he was.

George Will–“2003 Invasion Of Iraq The Worst Foreign Policy Decision In U.S. History”

I do like to read George Will because he is smart.  I do not always agree with him but I always know he writes from an educated point of view.

What he wrote this week is surely a must read for Washington policy-makers.

The last 11 years have been filled with hard learning. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history, coincided with mission creep (“nation building”) in Afghanistan. Both strengthened what can be called the Republicans’ John Quincy Adams faction: America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

Now, however, Americans generally, but Republicans especially, are thinking afresh about the world. Henry Kissinger’s new book, “World Order,” deftly diagnoses America’s bipolar mental condition regarding foreign policy, a condition that is perennial because it is congenital. “The conviction that American principles are universal,” Kissinger says, “has introduced a challenging element into the international system because it implies that governments not practicing them are less than fully legitimate.” This “suggests that a significant portion of the world lives under a kind of unsatisfactory, probationary arrangement, and will one day be redeemed; in the meantime, their relations with the world’s strongest power must have some latent adversarial element to them.”

Last American Soldiers Left Iraq Early Sunday, War Caused Nearly 4,500 Americans Killed, More Than 30,000 Injured

I have no reason not to state the obvious.

The Iraq War was a needless military operation that wasted the lives of nearly 4,500 Americans, cost the nation untold financial resources, and dealt our credibility on the world stage a mighty blow.  

Early Sunday morning (Iraq time) the last U.S. troops in Iraq crossed the border into Kuwait, ending almost nine years of a deadly and divisive war.  About 500 soldiers based in Fort Hood, Texas, and 110 military vehicles made the journey south from Camp Adder, near Nasiriyah, to the Khabari border crossing, from where they will head to Camp Virginia in Kuwait before flying home.  They were the last soldiers in what amounted to the largest U.S. troop drawdown since the war in Vietnam.

Over the past years I have allowed this space on the internet to be used as a place to vent against the war, and those who lied our nation into conflict in Iraq.

I voiced opposition to the government when it tried to limit photos of the coffins of dead soldiers returning to the country, and praised the right of journalists to finally be able to report the story.

I have been one of those who have complained about the lack of visibility most citizens have in regard to seeing the full impact of war. I have argued that it is a reporters right to view, photograph, and print images of the flag draped coffins that result from war. More importantly it is the right of citizens to see the full impact of our foreign policy decisions. Over the past eight years the political decision to hide the results of an unneeded war, and to sanitize the results of misguided leadership under President Bush, resulted in such coverage being disallowed.

Over the years I have touched on side angles to the Iraq War such as the one raised by Stephen King and why education matters.  After all, the more educated one is the less likely it is one joins the military.

Bangor author Stephen King has found himself the target of e-mailers and phone callers for what he told high school students while stressing the importance of reading at the Library of Congress on April 4: “The fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that.”

What part of this statement is so hard for folks to understand? Education is the only vehicle that either propels one forward with purpose, while the lack of it stymies all hopes and aspirations. It is that simple. Well, one would think it was pretty straightforward, except if you are a troop greeter in Bangor, Maine.

I have raised the issue many times about the cost of this war, and posted the words from Nicholas Kristof to make a most valid point.

For all the disagreement, there appears to be at least a modest connection between spending in Iraq and the economic difficulties at home. So as we debate whether to bring our troops home, one central question should be whether Iraq is really the best place to invest $411 million every day in present spending alone.

I’ve argued that staying in Iraq indefinitely undermines our national security by empowering jihadis — just as we now know that our military presence in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s was, in fact, counterproductive by empowering Al Qaeda in its early days. On the other hand, supporters of the war argue that a withdrawal from Iraq would signal weakness and leave a vacuum that extremists would fill, and those are legitimate concerns.

I posted  a letter from my home to a member of congress about the conflicting issues in the Middle East.

The Middle East has always been a highly contentious and volatile area. The history and religions of the area have often blinded both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from finding common bonds. Generations of Palestinians have lived with the knowledge that America funds Israel and supplies them with armaments that are often used against Arabs and Muslims. The utter frustrations and anger that have festered in the Middle East have helped to radicalize many against Israel and the United States. Even the moderate elements of the PLO along with nation-states in that region are facing a more difficult time in urging restraint against the radical elements. And if America strikes in a fashion that only makes it more improbable for moderate voices to be heard, the future looks bleak.

I made note often of the uncomfortable position I was placed as an American when forced to deal with President Bush’s jingoism.

And then President Bush and Company took our country on a nationalistic joy ride where he used the flag as a bumper sticker of support for his war, and his foreign policy. There is no way that I support his foreign policy, or his cowboy mentality on the world stage. Therefore after 9/11 I stopped wearing those clothes, and in fact during our recent move got rid of them. For me the jingoism from Bush and Company is pure rubbish.

I know that I am not alone in my concern about how the symbol of the American flag has become a Republican tool to show support for their causes. During the 2004 election Howard Dean repeatedly told throngs of supporters, as he lifted up a flag, “this is not owned by the Republican Party, this is our flag!” The crowds would roar their approval and understand in their hearts what he meant.

I am troubled by our nationalistic mindset that seems to have trapped so many in America. So I was surprised, and heartened, when a clear minded Obama gave the following response when he was asked about the lack of a flag on his suit jackets.

“Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.”

History will judge all that has happened to America and to Iraq from the actions that President Bush took, and equally important that the citizens of this nation allowed him to take.

When the future generations look back on this episode they will do more than rebuke a president or congress.  They must also lay the stain of war and destruction at the feet of the American people for not speaking louder and acting bolder to prevent the war in the first place.

Democrats Should Not Over-React To ‘Vulnerability’ With International Relations

With the killing of Osama bin Laden it is argued that Democrats have a chance to again define their leadership with foreign policy.   I am a bit perplexed at the ‘need’ to showcase a muscular stance in an effort to demonstrate a thoughtful way forward with international affairs.  While I understand that there are many voters who view the Clint Eastwood approach as the ‘manly’ way, I have always found the kid on the playground who could talk his way out of a fight with words and a powerful presentation to be much more the hero.  That is the type of person I want leading my nation.

So the past week’s back and forth about the way Democrats need to latch onto the killing of bin Laden to underscore Democrat’s resolve to ensure the nation’s security seems rather lame.  While I am pleased that bin Laden was dealt with in a most dramatic fashion, I am also very content with the step-by-step leveraging that seems to be underway regarding peace efforts in the Middle East.  It is after all that slow and seemingly stodgy way of working through international disputes that we should encourage.

At the end of the day it is the brains, and not the brawn, that will allow our nation and world to work more harmoniously together.  It will be the efforts with our international partners at limiting climate change, or curbing  cyber-terrorism that will require the best minds and the most creative options.  While we will always need the military to step in when all else fails, and the Libya air campaign is one such example as after all we are far from perfection as mere humans, we should always first mightily strive to reach diplomatic accords with those we have issues with.  To do that we need the best and brightest engaged in government, and especially in the diplomatic corps.

I am not sure exactly what those who would have the Democrats present themselves more forcefully on international relations have the party do to look more like leaders.

Lets recall the brawny Republican adventure of invading Iraq squeezed needed resources from the real war on terrorism in Afghanistan.  As a result of the Iraq War instability continued bubbling in Afghanistan, and the Taliban was able to refocus their efforts at controlling regions of that country.

On the flip side of how international affairs can be handled, and even using Republicans to make the case, was the opening to China that President Nixon and his most able Secretary of State Henry Kissinger accomplished in 1972.  If there was ever a time to praise the efforts of dialogue and out-reach that would be such an example.   That would be the model that our government, political party aside, should work to emulate.

The world needs a lot of things right now, but more political/military bombast is not one of them.  To attempt to beat the Democratic chest harder and prove we growl louder than those on the other side of the aisle is short-sighted and not worthy of the voters time.