So everyone is mad at Ellen for being sociable and friendly to the former President who has rarely shown his face or made a public statement in the 10 years since he left office. That’s fine. I get that everyone hates George W. Bush, considers him a war criminal and such, and wish nothing but ill on him. It makes total sense that you would be driven to a blind rage whenever he pops up in your media consumption.
So why haven’t we actually done anything about him and his supposed crimes against humanity?
No really, we’ve had ten or more years to hold George W. Bush accountable for starting his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and all the humanitarian violations that came with it. We’ve had almost two decades to end the war in Afghanistan, but we are still there. The only people convicted of torture and war crimes in the U.S. military stemming from his actions have been a handful of enlisted soldiers. We’ve had years to pay reparations, to investigate, to atone to the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the other places around the world his actions have caused grievous harm to.
So why haven’t we pushed for any of this? Why hasn’t this been a central issue for every election since 2004? Why haven’t we sent Bush to the Hague for a war crimes tribunal? Oh, I know that we aren’t part of that legal system because our government hasn’t signed the necessary treaties, but we could easily have tried him internally, right? So, why haven’t we?
I’ll venture a guess. It’s because performatively being outraged at anyone smiling in Bush and cohorts general direction and relegating him and others to public exile is a far cry better than coming to terms with the fact that for the most part, we as a nation and society never truly had a problem with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That we overwhelmingly supported those wars. That once we realized we weren’t going to have to shoulder the burden as a collective society, that once our concerns became centered on our financial issues, we honestly quit giving an actual shit about any of it.
In 2015 an Economist/YouGov poll showed that only 38% of Americans supported the war in Iraq, the war that seems to make people the angriest of all of Bush’s actions. What’s interesting is that in February of 2003, Gallup polls showed 63% of Americans supported the war, with that number climbing even higher after the war began.
When the Econ/YouGov poll dug deeper, they found the largest change in support came from self-identified Democrats.
That is a hell of a beautiful graphic right there. Sure, it seems like Democrats didn’t care to really go into the war then, but they sure say they never liked it later. Of course we always thought it was a mistake, those dastardly politicians got us into the war! We never liked it! Eh, not really according to Gallup polls.
You think those numbers are crazy? Check out the same poll from the period of the actual invasion through early 2006!
I mean, what the hell man? We support it more now than at the height of it. How did we end up supporting this war so much? Well, first off according to the polls, we have a lot of confidence in our troops! We love us some troops don’t we? Always have, always will!
Of course we shouldn’t be *forced* to be soldiers, right?
Well, when you consider that as Americans we love our troops so very much, but not enough to be drafted, or even really enlist when you consider that for much of the past fifteen years the U.S. Army has been so desperate for recruits that they lifted age and criminal background waivers at the height of the war in Iraq, it’s like we have some sort of love for soldiers, and frankly for military conflict, that we honestly aren’t even willing to shoulder the burden on. It’s been reported that people are more likely to enlist in the service if there is a family member who has served. It’s becoming a family tradition.
For most of us, the war was not a major issue in the 2008 election. According to Pew polling, among all age groups, the economy, energy, and education were the top priority for voters.
You see, once the economy began to shit the bed, our focus became our wallets. We no longer cared about the war in Iraq. In the 2012 election we cared even less about terrorism and Afghanistan. You know, Afghanistan. Bush’s other war? Yeah, that one that we’re still fighting eighteen years later.
Hell, even in 2019, we generally think invading Afghanistan was a good thing.
So you see, America isn’t exactly as against the wars Bush started. We generally are pretty okay with them. Hell, we’re kind of okay with them as a nation. But if you look at this poll about Afghanistan, you start to see something here…
Democrats seem to be more negative about the war. That’s interesting when you recall this Pew study conducted this year that says that Twitter is overwhelmingly younger and more “Democratic”.
They’re also more educated and wealthier than the average American.
Throw in that study published in the New York Times earlier this year that Twitter lost it’s collective shit over, it appears that Twitter is a bit more progressive than the average “Democrat”
Really weird huh? It’s almost like Twitter and social media, which drives a lot of online news reporting is more interested in progressive issues and feelings than the average American. When you tie that into the Pew and Gallup polls from earlier you start to see that not only are more Americans okay with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were’t even a major issue for the progressives on social media.
Another interesting series of polls adds a bit of credence to this. Bush’s approval rating while in office.
That huge spike there? That was of course 9/11, and that second huge spike was the start of the war in Iraq. Now, look at where his polls start to tank. Was that Abu Gahrib? You know, the torture prison? No. Was that the height of the surge in Iraq? Was that the Iraq Civil War we were caught in? Nope. Bush only really began to sink after his egregiously incompetent performance with dealing with the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina.
(Note: I was a soldier who was there for the invasion of Iraq, and my town was devastated by Hurricane Katrina less than a months after I got out of the Army)
What does this all mean though? Well, taking the sum total of all the polls, the things that were and are our focuses in our society for the past few elections, along with where Bush’s approval really began to tank, it starts to become clear. We never really hated Bush for those wars. Not in the entire time of his Presidency, nor after have we as a nation collectively hated the man for the war in Iraq to an overwhelming degree. Not even in the most current polls do we show a collective outrage and disgust with those wars. Even among those who are extremely progressive and very online has Iraq, Abu Gahrib, Guantanamo Bay, torture, black sites, weapons of mass destruction, and all that it’s not been the top priority for some time.
Since Bush left office, our major concern in progressive circles has been healthcare, education, and the environment. We really have had no major interest in accounting for the wars that most of America were and are generally okay with.
Yes, the social media sphere does skew younger and Millennial, but even among that group, atonement and accountability for the wars has never been a priority and really only comes up when we’re reminded of Bush and the wars. Whether it’s fighting over who voted for the war in a spat between Bernie or Hillary, remembering the late John McCain, or when Ellen DeGeneres sits next to Bush in a public social setting. The majority of the time the wars come up, is in a largely performatively progressive way to demonstrate outrage online at politicians or the 1% of Americans who served in the military for the past twenty years (many of whom do not fit into the more wealthy, educated, white, or coastal urban demographics of social media). This isn’t even the most talked about period of George W. Bush in the past five years. We talked about him more when his father died.
No. This whole thing with Ellen and Bush. It’s not outrage at his wars. It’s not a righteous indignation about war crimes. We really don’t care about any of that as much as we want to pretend we do.
This was about Ellen reminding us that Bush existed. That for the most part we don’t care about those wars, the torture, the crimes he’s supposed to have committed. We’re angry that a celebrity we think should be on “our side” and behave like we claim we would if we were in their place shouldn’t have been so cordial to a man we say we hate but don’t really even think about, we want to punish but not enough to make it a priority, and remind us that he even exists while we focus on other things that are more about our own interests than the things he did to someone else.