A positive aspect of the Bush legacy

The international community has an important new motivating tool: Telling world leaders they'll "be like Bush" if they pursue aggression and tyranny.

Published November 14, 2008 2:09PM (EST)

The international community now has a potent new motivating tool to dissuade world leaders from engaging in tyranny and aggression -- tell them they'll be like George Bush if they do it:

Nicolas Sarkozy saved the President of Georgia from being hanged “by the balls” — a threat made last summer by Vladimir Putin, according to an account that emerged yesterday from the Élysée Palace. . . .

The Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. “I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin declared.

Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. “Hang him?” — he asked.

“Why not?” Mr Putin replied. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”

Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: “Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?”

Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah -- you have scored a point there.”

Diplomats and human rights activists could use that tactic for all sorts of noble purposes:  "You shouldn't detain people without trials; you don't want to end up like Bush."  "You shouldn't torture; you don't want to end up like Bush. "  "You shouldn't use secret prisons or invade countries that haven't attacked anyone or spy on your own citizens in secret; you don't want to end up like Bush," etc.  This would be the positive converse of the recent trend whereby thugs like Robert Mugabe and even Putin justify their internal repression by pointing to the use of such measures by the Bush administration.

It has been remarkable to watch the political elite in the U.S. spend the last several months expressing righteous rage over Russia's invasion of Georgia, given that this is the same group of people which remain unrepentant supporters of the U.S. attack on Iraq and the ongoing occupation of that country.  They thus vehemently condemn the Russian invasion (a) of a bordering country (b) which had attacked first and that (c) led to an occupation of two weeks which (d) entailed no bombing of any kind on the capital city and (e) resulted in deaths measured by the hundreds, even while the righteous condemners in the U.S. themselves cheered on and continue to justify:

an American invasion (a) of a country half way around the world (b) which had not attacked and could not attack first and that (c) led to a brutal occupation of six years and counting and (d) entailed massive bombing of the capital city and mass destruction of others and (e) resulted in the deaths measured by the hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions more.

Our self-loving foreign policy community actually still thinks it's in the position to be the world's leader in defining "justice" when, for much of the world, it's now the living, breathing definition of the opposite.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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