August 10, 2007
My very old and good friend Sir Alistair Horne, the British historian, is now deep into writing the official biography of Henry Kissinger. Alistair is the man to do it right. He’s written the French trilogy of the post-Napoleonic period, the Harold Macmillan official bio, and the 1973 classic of the Algerian war of independence against France, A Savage War of Peace; Algeria 1954-1972. It was this opus that got Horne recently invited to the White House to meet the president, after W had brandished the book before CNN, declaring that he was reading it, and studying its lessons with benefit.
Horne reports that he was treated with the utmost courtesy, “Even though the president knew that I was critical of his policies, not just in Iraq but over the Middle East as a whole. Bush away from the TV cameras and the press is charming, relaxed and nice, not at all the robotic figure that appears in our screens.” Although I have never met Bush 43—I know Bush 41— I am not surprised at Alistair’s assessment of the man. Of course he is a gent, and of the old school at that. Yet historians will rate him the worst president since Harding, a real tragedy as far as this writer is concerned. Bush is an honorable man who would have made a great commander in chief without Iraq and immigration. His great fault was to heed to the voices of the Zionist lobby in Washington and to listen to the Circe-like sounds of the neocon Fifth Columnists. When Vito Corleone of Godfather fame advised his sons to keep their friends close and their enemies closer, he knew what he was talking about. Of course, he was an outlaw, not the president of the most powerful country on earth. Bush is going to be judged a disaster by history because he listened to and followed the advice of forked tongues a-la-Feith, Wolfowitz, Kagan, Podhoretz, Abrams, Perle, Pipes, Cheney, Abraham and the worst and most treacherous of this miserable lot, William (Iago) Kristol. Sublimely blind to the disaster of Iraq, these double-agents keep asking for more American and Iraqi blood to be shed, and are lobbying hard for an attack on Iran. In fact, these impudent louts have not only refused to apologize for their actions, they have the gall to paint those of us who saw the coming disaster long before we went to war as unpatriotic. Unpatriotic to whom? The Israeli Likudniks?
I am reading, as I write, the history of the Greco-Persian wars by Tom Holland. It was really the battle for the West, and we Greeks won it. In a later column I will quote from Professor Holland’s description of the Battle of Marathon, and how—outnumbered by more than ten to one—Athenians aristocrats, citizens, farmers and free men advanced on Darius’s undefeated hordes, and slaughtered them while driving them into the bay of Marathon and defeat. I am an Athenian with a Spartan mother and with German military ancestors on my father’s side. While reading the passage of Marathon I got goose pimples and felt proud of my heritage. And thought of these other great fighters, the Kagans and Kristols and Frums, and wanted to throw up.
Poor President Bush. Hippias tried to betray Athens to Darius, but we Athenians took care of his plans in time. Bush failed to see the cancer on his presidency—a severe case of hubris, whose worst symptom is Iraq, a disease brought on by the Iagos with whom Bush surrounded himself. Hubris is an ancient illness, and Bush is not the first leader to suffer from it. There might still be time to change course, but I doubt he ever will. Kristol would not approve.