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Monday, December 25, 2006

He reads like he listens

I'd say that the odds that W will heed the message in the open letter sent him by the author of the book he just read are the same as the odds that he will heed the book itself. These are also the same odds that he will listen to any good advice whatsoever that differs in any way from what he already believes. I believe the word is "nil."

To explain: In a recent interview, Bush said that he had just finished reading King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild. The book describes the ravages of the brutal Belgian 1885 invasion ans subsequent occupation and plunder of the Congo, which lasted for decades, killing millions. Hochschild, in his open letter, asks Bush if any of the brutally obvious parallels to his own Iraq fiasco were at all visible to him.
If you send those additional troops to Iraq and don't swiftly withdraw the ones now there, I suspect that even the efforts of the twins, when their turns in the Oval Office come, or of Jeb's kids, when they get there, will not be enough to stave off a similar judgment on you 100 years from now. It's true that you've not slashed the population of Iraq in half, as Leopold and those who immediately followed him did in Congo, but that's small comfort.

For your next assignment, Mr. President, how about a different sort of reading? Ask Laura to stuff your Christmas stocking with books about people who've had the courage to change their minds. One former tenant of the house you live in, Lyndon B. Johnson, entered politics as a traditional segregationist but ended up doing more for civil rights than any American president of his century. Another, Dwight D. Eisenhower, spent half his life in the U.S. military but gave us (a little late) an eloquent warning about the military-industrial complex.

Another ex-military man, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler of the U.S. Marine Corps, won the Medal of Honor twice, but then ended up denouncing the oil companies and agribusiness corporations he realized that he had been fighting for in U.S. interventions in Central America.

History is filled with such people, and I wish you many inspiring hours reading about them. And, in the coming two years, I hope you'll act on their example.