The Iraq War didn't have to end. President Bush talked openly of staying in Iraq for 50 years. The Republican Party, led by 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, vowed as president to continue the war for even 100 years. Imagine the sort ceremony President Bush's library would require with American servicemenbers dying during his speech. Imagine the news coverage under a cloud of new reports of IED's exploding, more flag-drapped caskets arriving by the day, billions and billions more of taxpayer dollars spent, and a continuation of a war that the great majority of Americans now consider a major mistake. We can only speculate as to what he might say. Given his character, it would probably involve a great deal of pride and no guilt or sense of responsibility. I'll speculate and say that his library would be a tribute to shame, as is fitting for the worst president America has ever known. The American people were given a clear choice in 2008 and absolutely rejected President Bush's sole claim to a legacy. Fortunately for him, President Obama graciously decided not to bring it up.
Still, it would have been appropriate for him to do so, even in front of Bush's father and mother, his family, all of his supporters, and the entire state of Texas that brought him forth. The final accounting of the Iraq War is a case study in disaster: Almost 4,500 military servicemembers killed; Over 10,000 Iraqi military and police allied with the United States killed; well over 100,000 innocent civlians killed; many thousands more on both sides maimed and disfigured; millions more displaced from their homes; vastly increased sectarian and ethnic violence; damaged American relations with the people and governments of the whole world, including some of America's closest allies; diversion from the pursuit of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden; the hostile regime in Iran strengthened; a quadrupling of the price of oil since 2002; and almost $2 trillion dollars spent, all of it added to the national debt. The absolute catastrophe of the Iraq War cannot be overstated. It should have been presented directly to President Bush's face, in a high profile setting, with his entire base of support looking on. They all deserve every bit of ridicule and shame that these facts compel. They are all, especially President Bush, responsible for it.
Of course, such an honest accounting would have been pilloried in the news media. They don't want to talk about the war that they supported as well. Especially on occasions when the media demands the dishonesty of decorum. To them, it is better to pretend that none of this ever happened, like one does at a funeral for someone everyone knows was a really awful human being. Perhaps at President Bush's actual funeral, some future president will dismiss such diplomatic niceties and present the true record, without worry of how the media will interpret its appropriateness. But make no mistake, what we saw at this dedication was a thoroughly dishonest event. The man to whom this library was dedicated deserves nothing but scorn, defiance, slight regard and contempt.
The great gift George W. Bush received last week was not a library in his name, but that nobody brought up what his name will forever stand for: disaster.