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Ralph Nader > Special Features > Open Letter to George W. Bush In The Final Days of His Presidency

January 14, 2009

Dear George W. Bush:

You may have had your last softball news conference at the White House, but judging by the many people in our country who have serious criticisms of your eight year tenure, there are additional numerous unanswered questions which should be addressed to you for the record and for your possible contemplation during retirement.

1. How could you have presided daily over the invasion and war in Iraq yet have allowed over 900 American soldiers to die and more injured for the lack of body armor or vehicle armor? With billions of dollars going to Halliburton and other companies and much money available for such soldier protection, why have you never explained such a serious widely reported dereliction of duty?

2. Why did you and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld define injuries by U.S. soldiers in Iraq so as to exclude two thirds of them? Your definition of official injuries is ones incurred in the midst of battle, even though most of that country became a theatre of war, with much unilateral, unopposed action by the armed forces. CBS’ Sixty Minutes on October 2004 demonstrated the feelings of seriously injured U.S. soldiers, who were not officially counted, in order not to arouse further the opposition to the war by the American people. One quadriplegic solider used the words “a disgrace.” What is your response?

3. You have made one last lap speaking to military audiences but you did not speak to one peace audience or group. This is not surprising, given the observation that your role as commander-in-chief was your most pleasurable task. However, for the historians, if not for your own sense of balance and example, you could have spoken to a gathering of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, D.C. USIP is a national institution established and funded by Congress to help prevent, manage, and resolve international conflicts. You could have broken new mental ground for yourself in preparing for such an address. Why did you not do something like this in the interest of focusing on waging peace, not just waging war?

4. Why have you prohibited at all times the families of their fallen sons and daughters from going to Dover, Delaware to pay their respects to their loved ones? Mothers and fathers have been deeply hurt by your desire to avoid any public focus or associations with this destination for political reasons. You have not explained this inhumane exclusion. Why not?

5. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, who worked with the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and therefore jeopardized, have tried to emigrate. Some became refugees in nearby countries. For their reasons, whether economic need or support, they provided critical civilian services for the U.S. occupying facilities. Yet you have allowed very few to enter the United States as immigrants. Sweden has received more Iraqi refugees by far than has been permitted under your Administration. Recall how over 150,000 Vietnamese refugees were admitted in the mid-Seventies. Less than ten percent of those numbers of Iraqis have been given immigrant visas. Those Iraqis have been widely praised by U.S. soldiers for what was essentially civil service work. Why have you turned your back on these people when you describe yourself as a person of personal loyalty?

6. In the last few days, you finally admitted some mistakes but in a backhanded way. You have made many very destructive mistakes here in the United States that have harmed American workers and consumers.

There is far too much to recount here regarding your antagonism to vigorous enforcement of regulations for consumer and worker health, safety and economic justice. Their neglect and subversion in favor of corporate demands have cost many lives, injuries and illnesses among innocent American people, children and families. Your oft-repeated statement that your highest priority is to “keep America safe” obviously did not include the 58,000 American workers who lost their lives to occupational diseases and injuries annually (OSHA estimate) or to the 65,000 Americans whose lives are taken yearly due to air pollution (EPA estimate) or to the nearly 100,000 people who die from medical malpractice just in hospitals (Harvard School of Public Health study) every year. You have devoted massively more rhetoric and capital in your chosen role as the ruler of Iraq than to the plight of these three categories of preventable violence to innocent Americans. You have regulatory duties here that you swore to uphold. Why did you not do so?

Instead you kept harping about taking the federal cops off the corporate damage beat (deregulation) and even made a speech in Louisiana about medical malpractice tort litigation that may set a record for the insensitivity of a monetized presidential mind.

7. During your continuing blanket support of anything and everything militarily that the Israeli government does to the helpless and defenseless Palestinian Arabs and Lebanese civilians (including cluster bombs), did it ever occur to you (most recently in devastated civilian Gaza) that such actions, funded by the U.S. taxpayers, could accurately be called “anti-semitism against Arabs?” Did you ever consult with your father’s advisors, James Baker or Brent Scowcroft on this continuing conflict?

8. Hardly a week goes by without reports of food contamination or food poisoning affecting innocent Americans. The most recent tragedy involves salmonella sickness affecting hundreds due to contaminated peanut butter. Both the FDA and the USDA suffer from lack of funds, authority and will power. You did very little to change this situation—which would have been heralded by 99 percent of the people and opposed by a handful of companies and China. Chinese imports have been shown to be contaminated (eg. farm-raised fish and medical ingredients) and lethal. Yet you spent your time as an American Caesar focusing on Iraq and neighboring lands without attending to the necessities of the American people. Why?

9. It remained for the final weeks of your regime to inform our country just how deep is your ruinous “corporations uber alles” character. Lou Dubose, editor of The Washington Spectator (Jan 15, 2009 issue) issued a partial recounting of what he called your “final run at environmental safeguards and what remains of protections for American workers.”

In an utterly shameless and cowardly obeisance to your corporate masters, you have overturned worker protections, allowed the coal mining barons to dump more easily rock and dirt from the gouging of sacred mountains into valleys, streams and rivers in Appalachia.

You have weakened the Endangered Species Act for the mining, drilling, logging and damming interests. Promoting further water pollution, you issued a rule allowing corporate factory farms to bypass the Clean Water Act and dump hundreds of thousands of tons of fecal waste into waterways without obtaining EPA permits.

In recent weeks you have issued rules allowing the burning of hazardous wastes as fuel, emitting more toxic benzene and toluene into peoples’ lungs, opening a million acres of federal land near the Grand Canyon for uranium mining and two million acres of federal land in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado to oil shale mining and refining with future devastation to the region. In addition, you issued a rule that will obstruct the Mine Safety and Health Administration and OSHA from their duty to collect information pertinent to dealing with workplace hazards.

You must know that these rules may be challenged and probably repealed by a Democratic Congress because they are so extreme and cruel. Why did you further defile your exit with such cruel and inhumane decisions?

10. How would you characterize the political fortitude of the Congressional Democrats, most of whom believe you have committed many repeated impeachable offenses but never did uphold their Constitutional oaths to do anything about their documented evaluation of your “unitary” presidency?

11. The non-treatment and mistreatment under your Administration of returning veterans are filling books written or about to be published. The problem of “recognition of injury” remains a serious one. Follow up rehabilitation is too often missing in action. Long waits leading to impoverishment are not infrequent. Also, as reported in the award-winning series by the Hartford Courant, soldiers with serious mental stress and damage were redeployed back to Iraq due to the shortage of manpower. Two hundred thousand of all our veterans are homeless.

Why haven’t you given them the kind of attention you rhetorically give to these soldiers when they are on their way to Iraq or Afghanistan?

Should you wish to catch up on your correspondence, kindly consider responding to these questions which are on the minds of millions of people here and abroad? You are not known for exchanging letters—to put it mildly—but sometimes the post-presidential period affords opportunities for modest measures of redemption.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph Nader