Admit it, you haven't thought about George W. Bush in a while. Don't worry, no one will judge you. We've all fought long and hard to win the right to not have to think about him anymore. Who could blame you for taking advantage of his glorious departure from the national stage?
As is usually the case when nations emerge from the rule of the corrupt, the evil, or the incompetent, it is going to take quite a few years for America to come to grips with exactly what we were dealing with between 2001 and 2009. The left are tired of thinking about it. The right are trying to pretend like it never happened. And the great apathetic masses are in denial, lest they feel responsibility. But Frank Rich's Sunday op-ed in the NYT is the kind of must-read that forces us to recall 2003 and admit, "Holy shit…things got really bad there for a while."
Rob Draper, the author of the Bush biography Dead Certain (in which many top administration officials agreed to participate), has blown the lid off of just how creepy Donald Rumsfeld is and how easily the child-President was manipulated by those around him. During the first days of the Iraq War, Rumsfeld sent his daily Worldwide Intelligence Update to the Oval Office with covers adorned with "inspirational" pictures…and Bible quotes. Really, you have to see this slideshow to believe it. What were supposed to be the most elite, secret, high-level intelligence briefings available to anyone in Washington were adorned with covers that look like the photoshop work of a 12 year-old at Bible Camp. For instance, on April 3, two days after the Jessica Lynch story was revealed to be fiction and the former commander of CENTCOM took to the NYT editorial page to criticize Rumsfeld's prosecution of the war, the President received his intelligence briefing featuring Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
The scary part, of course, is that Donald Rumsfeld doesn't give a flying shit about the Bible. He was cynically manipulating someone who he believed, or knew, to be an empty vessel easily led around by the nose. Even some people within the Pentagon were alarmed by this tactic, which played directly into terrorist propaganda about the American messianic complex and holy war against Islam. Rich notes, "As one alarmed Pentagon hand told Draper, the fallout 'would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.'"
Look at that slideshow and remind yourself – audibly, if necessary – that these people were in control of the most powerful nation in the history of mankind. For eight years. The effect is chilling, not unlike the realization of how close one came to death in the aftermath of a bad car accident.