JS: The other aspect of this is this idea that somehow George W Bush is all of a sudden a great friend of the #Resistance because he didn’t vote for Trump and has said a few critical things about Trump. Let’s be clear here: George W Bush presided over wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. They ran a global torture program. They said the Geneva conventions were quaint. They warehoused people at Guantanamo. But point this out online in response to someone praising George W Bush for not voting for Trump and you are bound to get immediate pushback from someone saying “Hey, Trump is unprecedented, we need all hands on deck and we have to be able to see the utility of alliances even with people like Bush. It’s necessary to defeat this unprecedented threat posed by Trump.” Somehow David Frum and Bill Kristol and George Bush: they’re our friends.
I reject that completely. You cannot erase the murderous past of George W Bush and his allies and act like all that matters is opposing Trump. Without a whataboutism in that conversation, it is a vapid, bankrupt embrace of a man who destroyed literally countless lives across this planet. I wouldn’t embrace Charles Manson as my ally if he published an op-ed calling for Trump’s impeachment. No thanks. The leader of the Democrats in the House, Nancy Pelosi, has said she prays that George W Bush was still president.
Nancy Pelosi: So sorry president Bush, I never thought I’d pray for the day that you were president again.
JS: Chuck Schumer said Bush’s response to 9/11 was worthy of praise. And Keith Olbermann, he’s one of the leading #Resistance generals, he actually went on TV, on the View, and apologized to Bush!
Keith Olbermann: Probably owe George W Bush an apology and I would happily take a third term of George W Bush rather than this —
JS: History matters. Context matters. Part of why the U.S. war machine keeps going unchecked at Mach speed is because of the mythology that has been aggressively promoted by Democrats and Republicans alike and that every child in this country is taught from the time they start going to school.
That’s why we got the PATRIOT Act, that is how we got the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force — that gave a blank check for global, borderless, unaccountable war — that is how we got the Iraq war. It was all bipartisan and done in the name of protecting our security and protecting our exceptionalism. That is why the US has constantly blocked the establishment of an International Criminal Court that would have jurisdiction over all nations, including the United States, when its forces commit war crimes. But Our lives are worth more, our crimes matter not at all. It all boils down to this demonstrably false notion of American exceptionalism.
Donald Trump is a horrid president and has shown fascist and authoritarian intent in both his words and policy ideas. But let’s not pretend that he is some alien who landed here speaking a different language. Mostly Donald Trump’s crimes consist of saying things out loud that a lot of right wingers prefer to be whispered in private. Or of trying to impose destructive policies by fiat that a lot of Republicans want but can’t exactly get through Congress. And Trump definitely acts as an oligarch and he certainly has aspects of his presidency that are unique just to him.
But Trump has not yet killed anywhere close to the number of innocent people that Bush and Cheney killed. Now he may well surpass them, but he has a long way to go. Obama maintained a secret kill list and asserted the right to kill American citizens who had not even been charged with a crime. That is the epitome of acting like a king or an emperor. Trump is continuing a program Obama put on steroids for him. So, let’s stop with this revisionism. And I am perfectly fine with whatabouting anyone who tries to tell me that Bush is our ally. The correct answer is “what about all of the people he killed? What about the damage he did to our civil liberties and security? What about your own conscience getting into league with someone viewed by many across the globe as a war criminal?” Yeah, I’m guilty of whataboutism because facts matter, context matters. The truth matters.
If we, as a society, were actually honest about what happens in our wars, about who actually gets killed, how often we do the very things — albeit in our own American way — as those we condemn as despots or tyrants or terrorists, then the whole dialogue would change. We might actually learn from our own history. The same is true about the Democrats and their role in all of this. We should be talking about it all.
So, let’s stop this bullshit of dismissing history and context from everything. Let’s have an honest conversation about the real policies and the real history of this country. Let’s talk about the wars, election interference, the way the U.S. economy functions — our health care, our schools, our housing, our guns, our prisons. From now on, when someone accuses you of engaging in whataboutism, just imagine that what they’re really saying is, “Shut up, I don’t want to hear inconvenient facts.” Imagine that is what they are saying because that is what they are really saying. And then decide how to respond.