Why We Can’t Let Jeb Bush Pretend His Brother’s Wars Never Happened

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So Jeb Bush wants to be president. He’s banking on his family name. But he says he’s going to pretend his brother’s destructive and pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan never happened. We’ve spent six years digging out way out of the mess his brother created, and now he wants a free pass?

At a press conference Friday he announced,

I won’t talk about the past. I’ll talk about the future. If I’m in the process of considering the possibility of running, it’s not about re-litigating anything in the past. It’s about trying to create a set of ideas and principles that will help us move forward.

He is wrong. He is 100% wrong. It is about re-litigating the past. President Obama letting his brother’s war crimes slip by is one thing. Pretending the wars never took place is another. America deserves better than that. Iraq certainly deserves better than that. The world deserves better than that.

We must examine the past if we don’t want to repeat the catastrophic mistakes his brother made. We want to be especially sure he learned something personally, and it is by no means apparent that he has.

For example, in a March 10, 2013 interview with CNN’s State of the Union, he said,

A lot of things in history change over time. I think people will respect the resolve that my brother showed both in defending the country and the war in Iraq, but history will judge that in a more objective way than today. The war has wound down now, and it’s still way too early to judge what success it had in providing some degree of stability in the region.

What success it provided? What this shows is that he doesn’t pay much attention. Just under a month later, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham,” or ISIL/ISIS.

And so far – and you can hunt high and low for this – he has not enunciated one single original set of ideas or principles. In fact, the more you listen to him, the more he sounds like his brother, or worse, like any other potential Republican candidate you care to name.


Jeb Bush is not fooling anyone with a functioning brain. And as Steve Benen wrote at The MaddowBlog on Friday, “Obviously, this is more than unsatisfying. It’s also unacceptable.” And not only because it destroyed Iraq, gave rise to ISIL, and brought economic ruin on the world’s economy.

A funny thing about the past: it happened. And it matters. We may not like what happened; it may not suit our ideological needs today, but it still happened. Worse, it happened the way it happened. We can’t change that.

So instead we finesse the past, we repurpose it. Not just Bush. Not just Americans. Every human event is interpreted and reinterpreted in light of current events, attitudes, and needs.

Let’s look at an example with some long-lasting consequences just to illustrate the dangers of ignoring the past.

Take slavery. Nothing puts the white ethnic nationalist neo-Confederates of the GOP into a tizzy like slavery. They go into full-on denial mode.

Don’t like the fact that the Bible condones slavery? Be like Bryan Fischer and pretend it doesn’t. Be like David Barton -this is one of my favorites – and pretend the Bible actually opposes slavery! Or try another Bryan Fischer tactic and blame it on the Muslims

! Nobody likes them anyway.

Don’t like that slaves were once legal in this country, and condoned by the United States Constitution – the Three Fifths Compromise? Hah! Who needs facts when you’re Glenn Beck, you know, the guy with the show where truth lives? Just lie, dammit: say the Founding Fathers opposed slavery. Yep! That’s why they put it into the Constitution! And owned slaves…

Is it inconvenient that we fought a bloody war over slavery? Easy solution: Pretend we ended slavery voluntarily! Heck, don’t like that the bloodiest war in American history was fought over slavery? Pretend it wasn’t – pretend it was fought over states’ rights. The only problem is, the state right in question WAS slavery!

Heck, they’re still so sore about that old war they have called Abe Lincoln a Commie! (Probably Obama’s fault). And they are celebrating Lincoln’s assassination. Now THAT is patriotism. Southern patriotism, but patriotism! Look at how that Maryland Republican, Michael Peroutka, led a crowd in singing what he called the National Anthem – no, not the Star Spangled Banner, but Dixie – back in 2012

Heck, while you’re at it, tell black Americans they don’t know what the word “slavery” means! It worked for Sarah Palin – you betcha! Or pull a Bobby Jindal and teach kids that slavery was good! Like Republican state Rep. Jon Hubbard said back in 2012, slavery was a blessing in disguise for black folks!

Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh sure love themselves some slavery. The GOP consensus is in: Black folks were better off as slaves anyway.

Bottom line? Make like Rush Limbaugh and tell white folks not to feel bad about slavery. You sure as heck don’t apologize for it! Honestly? I’m surprised the GOP isn’t billing black folks for overdue room and board and the cost of transporting their ancestors over from Africa.

These are the consequences of ignoring the past. And they’re ugly. Now take the lesson to the global stage. It’s catastrophic.

Now here is the thing, and it is a thing Jeb Bush might want to think about: He says he doesn’t care about the past, that he wants to think about the future only. But you can’t find your way into the future unless you understand the past. It’s called plotting a trajectory. You have to have a point of origin or you aren’t going anywhere.

And far from understanding it, Republicans can’t come to grips with it. They can’t even talk about it without lying about it. We saw Monday how according to another presidential hopeful, Ben Carson, there aren’t even any war crimes to talk about. War crimes are just another form of political correctness.


For Ben Carson, the ends justify the means. Turns out Ben agrees with the Nazis at Nuremberg. What a defense for those immune to the past.

So let’s ask Jeb, since his brother birthed those war crimes with his illegal war in Iraq, if he agrees with Ben. After all, if we pretend it never happened, can’t we with impunity do it again? How, if he wants to ignore the past, how does he figure he is going to lead us into the future?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Photo released by the United States Navy with the ID 030526-N-4048T-025

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