Many have questioned how our current president, the lamest of ducks, will motivate himself for the nearly two years still left in his second term. A president at this stage ordinarily would be trying to set his party up for succession. But the Republicans’ leading candidates for 2008 have been conspicuously trying to distance themselves from the various messes their leader has created over the past six years. And so the best that George W. Bush can do at this stage, the experts say, is try to shape his “legacy.” For anyone who hasn’t been asleep over the last few years, however, that legacy is already clear: the Bush administration will best be remembered for its destruction of two of the world’s great cities, Baghdad and New Orleans.
Neither city needs to be in ruins, of course. Ignoring repeated warnings of post-Hussein chaos from insiders including Brent Scowcroft, Bush I’s national security adviser, and his own State Department’s “Future of Iraq” project (established in 2002), Bush II plowed forward with his reckless, unnecessary invasion. With the Green Zone now a protected fortress surrounded by war zones and rubble, Baghdad is a new vision of urban planning more chilling than even Mike Davis could ever imagine. In New Orleans, the warnings of impending danger similarly went unheeded. FEMA had stated in 2001 that a hurricane striking the city was one of the top three potential natural disasters waiting to happen, yet in 2004 Bush cut funding requested by the Army Corps of Engineers for the area’s flood control project. Why? To pay for the war in Iraq. As for why he fiddled despite the dire warnings he received in the days leading up to Katrina, that’s a matter for the “Decider” to take up with his maker.
Now is not the time simply to score easy political points by pointing to the Bush administration’s almost criminal negligence. Yet one fears that empty rhetoric about both New Orleans and Iraq is all that the Democrats will offer. That Bush neglected to mention New Orleans in his State of the Union speech is indeed a telling sign of his priorities, as the Democrats have consistently reminded us. But what, exactly, is the Democrats’ plan to rebuild the city? And what about the reconstruction of Baghdad? We do indeed owe it to the people of Iraq (and the rest of the world) to help restore the cradle of civilization. As the war turns four this month, the horrendous legacy of the current administration is already upon us—and will be for several generations to come.