Explaining Mr. Bush

February 27, 2006

Santa Fe

When one searches through the actions and decisions of the Bush administration for a rationale or a theme the picture is often confusing. At first, it might seem that Mr. Bush has been vigorous in the pursuit of democracy or freedom or the war on terror. He has fostered free governments in, say, the Ukraine or Kyrghistan, or even Uzbeckistan. But the record is not clear: he has been obviously less interested in democracy when it produced Hamas in Palestine, or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, or Aristide in Haiti. Democracy does not explain him.

Perhaps the rationale is protection of Israel, but here again, the record is inconsistent. The invasion of Iraq might suggest that and the pressure on Iraq, Syria, and Iran seems to point in that direction, but support of the United Arab Emirates (who advocate the destruction of Israel), or Saudi Arabia’s militant Wahabis is not consistent.

Most commonly Bush himself explains his disregard for US law by the war on terror. But again, there are glaring exceptions such as his continued affection for Saudi Arabia from which the majority of the 9/11 hijackers came, or the complete disinclination to protect our ports or seal our borders from control by the United Arab Emirates. Some 9/11-supporting countries are not dangerous, we find, while others are mortal enemies. The Saudi regime of princes and sheiks, a regime which is the standard bearer for oppression of women and promotion of Islamic fundamentalism is not dangerous, according to Bush, nor is the Dubai regime which has a record of laundering money for terrorists and from which came two 9/11 hijackers. Islamic fundamentalism is bad if it occurs in Iran, it is apparently not bad if it occurs in Saudi Arabia.

The best clue to the presidential mind may have come from his instant, knee-jerk reaction to Congress’ threat to interfere with the Dubai port take over. Without coaching, without taking time to think, Mr. Bush told reporters on a plane that he would certainly veto any legislation upsetting this deal. He has never vetoed a single piece of legislation in his entire term and yet suddenly became an advocate for non-racist, fairness in American trade. The man does not have a good record for non-racist fairness when it comes to jailing Muslims here at home. What is going on?

There is one thread that weaves through most of this: Mr. Bush will predictably support whatever policy furthers the unimpeded exploitation of global markets by a close circle of his family’s business associates.

Loyalty between and among the very rich is one of the keys to their survival. The Bush family and Saudi Arabian princes, therefore, treat each other according to an insider’s code. Moreover, the Bush family has a long record of business dealings with the bin Ladens and some members of that family were quickly protected and escorted out of the country after 9/11. There was no reprisal against Saudi Arabia, in spite of that country’s egregious connections to the hijackers. The Dubai government, similarly, is a friend of the family, having donated a million dollars to Bush senior’s presidential library. Given these connections, it is no surprise that we hear this president’s instant response that he will veto any legislation threatening his Dubai associates.

Mr. Bush is, it turns out, more rich than he is republican, more an insider protecting long-time business associates than he is for the spread of freedom to outsiders, more loyal to Dubai than he is committed to the war on terror, more interested in Iraqi oil than Iraqi democracy. (He remains in control today of the oil and has no control whatsoever of the democracy.)

Mr. Bush will therefore oppose progress in the fight against global warming, oppose or support democracy, oppose or support military action, depending upon whether the action furthers, or impedes, the exploitation of global markets by an elite circle of his family’s business associates. Saddam Hussein was not admitted to this circle, nor is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, nor are the oil magnates of Iran. Unfortunately for them, the code of inner privilege requires that outsiders be overcome and discarded.

No matter, that is, what their nationality or religion; whether they are democratically elected or princes wrapped in gold, the test of support by this administration will be whether a proposed policy will further, or impede, the exploitation of global markets by Bush family friends. When we know this, we can predict which way the president’s instinctive loyalties will lie. This, at last, is not Karl Rove. This is true George W. Bush.