– Yeah, We Waterboarded : Still Dubya After All These Years


You’ve heard, no doubt, that the Pride of Preston Hollow—former president, governor and international war criminal George W. Bush—”joined” Facebook, as the term of art would have it, on Wednesday morning. (Thrill to the experience here.)

As far as I can tell, damn near every news outlet and blogger in these United States had taken notice of this auspicious event within the space of a few hours. Bush on Facebook: Talk about newsworthy! And wait, there was more—he might be on Twitter too! (Not so, it turns out, but a couple of fake Twitter accounts were good for a few thousand more posts and stories.)

Never mind that the PR minions who put up the Facebook page—clearly designed to garner free advance buzz for W’s upcoming memoir—made no attempt to even pretend like the man was actually typing his own entries. (I’ll grant you: That would have been newsworthy). Never mind that the two entries so far are written in the third-person, with all the charm and intimacy of a Wikipedia entry. Never mind any of that. When I checked the thing at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, 105,486 virtual human beings had already made known that they “like this.” (Not all, of course, like him; “What is a War Criminal doing with an internets connection?” one “fan” wrote.)

And here, now, is what you might not have heard.

As news of his Facebook account was spreading like wildfire, Bush spoke on Wednesday night to the Economics Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan. And said this: “Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I’d do it again to save lives.”

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, you may recall, was waterboarded 183 times. The false “intelligence” he provided as a result saved no lives. Not a one. But Bush’s authorization of torture—Sure thing, Master Cheney, do your worst—cost untold numbers of lives in Iraq and elsewhere.

So: Here was the former president of the world’s most powerful nation, a man who repeatedly insisted, “We Don’t Torture,” acknowledging a war crime as flippantly, as casually, as you or I might describe a trip to McDonald’s. Yeah, I had the Angus.

Here in America—and here in the state that nourished this “pro-life” viper in its bosom—Bush’s Grand Rapids admission was barely remarked upon. A few outraged voices were raised in the usual places, like HuffPo. But according to a quick-and-Googley calculation, I’d estimate that for every story in the U.S. about Bush’s “big deal” acknowledgement of a war crime, there were at least 100 items about Bush’s PR people’s Facebook page.

In the international press, Bush’s Grand Rapids Shrug was a different story—meaning that it was a story. “George Bush admits US waterboarded 9/11 mastermind” was the fairly typical headline in the Guardian.

What explains Americans’ profound lack of interest—our own shrugging indifference to this stark, fresh evidence of the sociopathic tendencies of a man we allowed to serve eight years in our highest office? And why are we all agog about W. on Facebook, and resolutely disinterested in the history-making atrocities he committed?

I’m not asking these questions rhetorically. I have no good answers to offer, only dark and dire suspicions. I’m not sure anybody could fully explain it. Human understanding is far too limited to plumb such depths of collective guilt and blind-eye-turning.

We’ve long known what lies at the bottom of Dubya’s character. Molly Ivins nailed it, in several places including Mother Jones, where she wrote in 2003: “In order to understand why George W. Bush doesn’t get it, you have to take several strands of common Texas attitude, then add an impressive degree of class-based obliviousness. What you end up with is a guy who sees himself as a perfectly nice fellow—and who is genuinely disconnected from the impact of his decisions on people. …

“Bush’s lies now fill volumes,” Ivins concluded. “He lied us into two hideously unfair tax cuts; he lied us into an unnecessary war with disastrous consequences; he lied us into the Patriot Act, eviscerating our freedoms. But when it comes to dealing with those less privileged, Bush’s real problem is not deception, but self-deception.”

Bush’s “problem” became ours, of course—and the world’s. It still is, no matter how hard we work to ignore it. And the larger and more pressing question, now, is this: What the hell is our problem?