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Body Count Nation

Judging by our wars, we're not much more advanced than ancient civilizations.

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Looked at another way, the Bush administration's Global War on Terror and its subsidiary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have, in effect, been a giant Ponzi scheme. At a cost of nearly one trillion taxpayer dollars to date (but sure to be in the multi-trillions when all is said and done), Bush's mad "global war" simply sucked needed money out of our world at levels that made Bernie Madoff seem like a small fry.

Madoff, by his own accounting, squandered perhaps $50 billion of other people's money. The Bush administration took a trillion dollars of ours and handed it out to its crony corporate buddies and to the Pentagon as down payments on disaster -- and that's without even figuring into the mix the staggering sums still needed to care for American soldiers maimed, impaired, or nearly destroyed by Bush's wars.

With Bush's "commander-in-chief" presidency only days from its end, the price tag on his "war" continues to soar as dollars grow scarce, new investors refuse to pay in, and the scheme crumbles. Unfortunately, the American people, typical suckers in such a con game, will be left with a mile-high stack of IOU's. In any Ponzi scheme comparison with Madoff, however, one difference (other than size) stands out. Sooner or later, Madoff, like Charles Ponzi himself, will end up behind bars, while George, Dick, & Co. will be writing their memoirs and living off the fat of the land.

Eight years of bodies, dead, broken, mutilated, abused; eight years of ruined lives down countless drains; eight years of massive destruction to places from Baghdad to New Orleans where nothing of significance was ever rebuilt: all this was brought to us by a President, now leaving office without apology, who said the following in his first inaugural address: "I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility… to call for responsibility and try to live it as well."

He lived, however, by quite a different code. Destruction without responsibility, that's Bush's legacy, but who's counting now that the destruction mounts and the bodies begin to pile up here in the "homeland," in our own body count nation? The laid off, the pension-less, the homeless, the suicides -- imagine what that trillion dollars might have meant to them.

It's clear enough in these last days of the Bush administration that its model was Iraq, dismantled and devastated. The world, had he succeeded, might have become George W. Bush's Iraq.

Yes, he came up short, but, given the global economic situation, how much short we don't yet know. Perhaps, in the future, historians will call him a Caesar -- of destruction.

Veni, vidi, vastavi... [I came, I saw, I devastated...]

Tom Engelhardt, editor of Tomdispatch.com, is co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture .

 
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