There have been some screaming matches on Washington-bound flights between people coming for Trump’s inauguration versus the Women’s March the following day. A dozen years ago, I saw – well, maybe sparked – similar fracases on a flight from Washington to Dallas, Texas, two days after Bush’s second inaugural speech whooped up forcibly spreading freedom & democracy all over the world.
The flight was stockful of Texans returning after attending Bush celebrations. One dowdy looking lady loudly gushed to an acquaintance in the next row: “Laura looked so wonderful with that designer dress at the ball.” Her comment failed to fill me with remorse for not having been invited to that event.
I was stuck in a middle seat between a chubby little 14-year-old boy and a tripwire-tense Air Force enlisted man.
The kid asked me, “Did you go to the inauguration Thursday?”
I smiled and said no, and asked if he had gone.
His eyes lit up, his face awoke, and he declared, “Yes!” He told me he was from Bush’s hometown, Midland, Texas.
“What did you think of the speech?” I asked.
“I loved every word of it!”
“So you think it is a good idea for the U.S. to be spreading freedom?”
“Oh yes. We have to do that.”
“Are you concerned about going to war to spread freedom?” I asked nonchalantly.
The Air Force dude erupted, “Don’t listen to him! This guy hates America! This guy hates our president! Don’t listen to a single thing he says!” Maybe he didn’t like my beard.
This guy – early to mid 30ish, with a borderline jarhead hair cut – was adamant that the Bush administration had never made any false statements on the road to war.
I shrugged. “Cheney said Saddam had a reconstituted nuclear weapon.”
“HE NEVER SAID THAT ! HE SAID NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM!! THAT’S WHAT HE SAID!!!”
“Actually, it was on March 17, 2003 – on Meet the Press – and …”
“THAT’S A LIE! THAT’S A LIE! SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE!!!”
“Well, if I had my book with me, I could show you.”
“THAT’S A LIE!” He was absolutely convinced that I was determined to smear the nation, the military, and Bush – of whom he proudly said: “He’s my LEADER!”
“You people are going to proven all wrong next week!” he declaimed very fervently for someone practically sitting on my elbow.
“Who is ‘you people’?” I asked.
“People like you that hate America and oppose the Iraq war!” Effortlessly slipping into full rave, he declared that I was “one of those people who thinks that Arabs don’t want to be free – you don’t care about liberating the Iraqi people. Next week, when the Iraqis go out and vote and become a democracy, you and your kind will be proven totally wrong!”
The Bush administration and the U.S. military were doing a full-scale propaganda push, touting upcoming parliamentary elections as vindication for the invasion. But the vote – which was largely a charade – merely accelerated Iraq’s descent into civil war. (I debunked that electoral fraud in a piece the following year for American Conservative.) The U.S. government had done everything possible to fix the election outcome except march Iraqis at gunpoint to the polls.
In this Air Force guy’s defense – maybe he was edgy because he saw what I was editing on my flipdown tray – a couple printed out chapters for Attention Deficit Democracy. My hunch was that the torture chapter’s sardonic humor flew over his head.
A few hundred miles later, the boy told me he was considering going into politics. I asked: “Who is your congressman?”
He gave me a blank look – “I don’t know” – followed by a slight grimace as if just maybe he should have a better answer.
I nodded silently – this kid was definitely not in the league of Lyndon Johnson, another ambitious Texan.
Nearing landing, the boy asked a question or two about my political views. I gave him some tame versions of my views but he squinted and said warily: “You sound like you hate the government.”
I smiled. “No. I don’t hate the government. I just think its power should be limited.”
My answer did nothing to placate his suspicions.
“What do you think the government should be doing? What is its main purpose?” I asked.
The kid paused, struggled briefly, and then replied, “Keep people under control.”
That was the new American vision of freedom that Bush sought to impose around the world, so that boy was backing the right politician.
Looking back a dozen years later, many people have forgotten the backlash those who doubted Bush’s majesty and wisdom. When Bush Betrayal came out in 2004, it provoked a tidal wave of angry emails. Here’s some humorous highlights courtesy of Lew Rockwell.com https://www.lewrockwell.com/2004/10/james-bovard/bush-supporters-vindicate-the-president/ –
H/t to Philip Crincoli Sr.