by Patrick Baker January 19, 2009
The corks are set to pop here in the provinces as the most unpopular president in the history of American empire is set to go back to doing what he does best: clear brush from the Texas version of the Neverland Ranch. Thankfully, his grotesque series of exit interviews has barely touched us on this side of the proverbial pond, but the smugness with which the Bumbler in Chief prepares to relinquish power cannot be ignored. And so we are pleased to take this last chance, on his very last day in office, to mark the scorecard of the Bush presidency for how it has affected life in the provinces of our great empire.
I will not make the mistake of trying to generalize about all the countries in the American sphere of influence but instead will limit myself to the outpost I have come to call home: Germany. One advantage to this narrow focus is a greater likelihood of accuracy, as my finger lies closer to the German pulse than to any other. But the real benefit will be the opportunity to relish in the nearly universal hatred felt for Bush in Germany, and thus to participate in a quintessentially German emotional experience: Schadenfreude, the joy taken in the suffering of another. One might feel bad for indulging in such a dubious form of catharsis but for the fact that Bush himself obviously enjoys it, considering his satisfaction with the job he has done setting the world aflame. My only regret is an uncertainty about whether Bush’s sociopath psychology allows him to suffer from the suffering he has caused others. Unlike Clinton, he does not appear to feel anyone’s pain.
Disintegrating decades of goodwill banked from the Marshall Plan, Bush turned adulation into hatred almost overnight by making Germans feel like the unwilling provincials of an oppressive empire. From Colin Powell’s lying to the U.N. to the unspoken extortion involved in assembling the “coalition of the willing,” Germans have detested the heavy hand of American imperialism and unilateralism. They hate Bush for causing them to waste their tax dollars on military action in which they do not believe, money they otherwise devote fanatically to social programs and education. They hate Bush for sending their sons to war, and for the body bags some have come home in. They hate Bush for the tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Germans hate Bush because he is a symbol for all that is vulgar and predatory in America’s image the world over. Although crisis after crisis toned Bush down towards the end, he has traditionally been a big talker and the kind of listener that only a lonely mute could appreciate. “You’re either with us or with the enemy” is a phrase that lacks the nuance Germans are used to from the politicians they expect to lead, not terrorize, them. Bush’s advisedly few diplomatic visits have turned German cities and even unfortunate strips of the countryside into barbed-wire police zones. Germany belongs politically and culturally to the “Old Europe” that Bush belittled and tried to boss around. Germans hate Bush for Guantanamo, for Abu Ghraib, and for the new policy on torture. Germans hate Bush for the Bush Doctrine.
Germans hate Bush because they view him as the greatest force of destruction in their world. Europeans of all stripes have become the victims of terrorism at home and abroad, terrorism they believe would not exist in this form if Bush had not pursued a reckless program of war and intimidation in the Middle East beginning on September 12, 2001. America’s actions cause reaction the world over. Furthermore, Bush’s willful denial of the climate crisis, and his unwillingness to let the world’s foremost economic, military, and political power play any role whatsoever in finding a solution to it, are seen as the greatest stumbling block to concerted action to save the planet. American inaction enables inaction the world over. Germans hate Bush for serving corporate interests that make money off war and oil rather than serving the greater cause of worldwide peace and prosperity.
Germans have been waiting to exhale for about seven years now. When Barack Obama takes over tomorrow, their collective sigh might just have the force to reach Bush’s ear. And if he listens closely, he might hear the foghorn blowing: Good riddance, du Arschloch, and don’t ever come back to the provinces.