Open LetterPolitics

op-ed: george h.w. bush was a terrorist, not a hero

December 3, 2018
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“Turn this shit over like Bush did a boatload of Haitians” – The Coup, Dig It

Can someone please explain to me why we’re mourning this asshole? If you look at the rapturous national coverage, you’d think Jeff Goldblum just died. George H.W. Bush is the human embodiment of the civility debate. Sure, hundreds of thousands died due to his actions (and deliberate inaction), but at least he was polite about it. George H.W. Bush spent his political career terrorizing Black, Brown, and Queer communities with a smile and a handshake. The lives his policies destroyed will never get wall to wall coverage on CNN or The Atlantic. So maybe he had a sense of humor about himself on SNL, but his legacy is a legacy of death. Let’s take a look at the Bush family’s real legacy, shall we?

George Herbert Walker Bush’s father, Prescott Bush helped finance Hitler’s rise to power as part of his work with the firm Brown Brothers Harriman. His company’s assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Bush’s mother’s family, the Walker family from whom he took his middle name, ran a successful slave trading business.

During his long career in politics, Bush helped back the rise of authoritarian dictators in Central and South America, setting the stage for the political violence that continues to drive refugees north to this day. In his business dealings, he helped fund the Bin Laden family in the 1980s, supporting their outspoken opposition and military resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He enjoyed a long and financially remunerative relationship with the repressive Saudi regime, and actively backed the rise of the Taliban. During the first Gulf War, Bush allowed the use of depleted uranium weapons, drastically increasing civilian casualties. Bush spent a billion dollars per day on the Gulf War while at the same time saying the government had no further funds for HIV relief.

Though his PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) initiative is rightly praised for its role in eventually curbing the AIDS epidemic, Bush spent a decade in positions of significant power before taking any action on AIDS/HIV. During which time, 156,143 people died. ACT UP organizer Jay Blotcher noted in a response to a 1991 protest that Bush “expressed more compassion for the merchants whose holiday weekend business we had disrupted.”

Despite his desire to be seen as a proponent of Civil Rights, Bush spent much of his career actively undermining them. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, calling it “politically inspired” and “bad legislation that transcends the Constitution.” During his work as chairman of the Harris County, Texas Republican Party in the early ’60s, Bush worked to absorb members of the white supremacist John Birch Society into the mainstream Republican Party. During the 1988 presidential campaign, his supporters produced the notoriously racist “Willie Horton Ad.” That television spot used dog-whistle politics to stoke racial fears in an effort to shore up the white vote, creating a template for decades of race-baiting Republican get-out-the-vote tactics.

In 1989, he oversaw the creation of The Office of National Drug Control Policy. The office of the so-called “drug czar” oversaw the War on Drugs which led to the incarceration of millions of Americans, disproportionately Black and Brown, for non-violent offenses. In a speech on September 5th of that year, Bush laid out the “zero tolerance” policies calling for “more jails, more prisons, more courts and more prosecutors.” The bag of crack that was famously used as a prop during that speech was said to have been purchased in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, an example of the crack epidemic; it was later reported that government agents actually lured the dealer there.

Bush had a long history of groping young women during photo ops. Most notably actress Heather Lind, to whom he tepidly apologized in 2017 through a spokesperson, saying “he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind.”

George H.W. Bush is survived by his children, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Dorothy and George W. Bush, another war criminal. But, yes, the 41st president was well-spoken, and, other than his disregard for many people’s lives, he did seem like a nice-enough guy.