George W. Bush discovers—rather late in the game—empathy for soldiers he destroyed

More than 10 years, six-thousand+ body bags, and hundreds of thousands of physically and psychologically wounded veterans too late, George W. Bush may finally be feeling a twinge of something resembling regret over the deaths and injuries caused by the Iraq War–the war he created based on a lie—and the war in Afghanistan. Last week [February 2014], Bush emerged from his self-portrait-in-bathtub-painting, post-Presidential hibernation to announce that his foundation plans to help veterans who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD].

About 2.5 million U.S. service members served in the Bush-initiated Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001, according to the Department of Defense.  Nearly 7,000 U.S. military personnel were killed. More than 50,000 U.S. and coalition service members were wounded in more than a decade of war. More than 270,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are thought to suffer from PTSD. To date, the Veterans Affairs Department has awarded disability benefits to more than 150,000 PTSD patients.

In a speech delivered last week, Bush outlined his plans. According to the Dallas News, he noted that “the Bush Institute hopes to create a set of best practices that can be applied to business, non-profits and other groups that are working with veterans and their families…Bush is expected to focus on three areas: the civilian-military divide; the employment prospects for post-9/11 veterans; and the stigma surrounding post-traumatic stress.”

I think it needs to be said that among the “best practices” that ought to be deployed is the practice of not sending people into unnecessary wars, and that such a “best practice” would preclude the need to deal with hundreds of thousands of people experiencing the “stigma” of post-traumatic stress.

Later, in an interview on ABC News, Bush talked more about the new initiative. He didn’t actually apologize for the physical and emotional destruction his fake war created. I doubt that he’ll ever be big enough to do that. As a person born to privilege, propped up as a puppet of a politically cynical entourage, and never really held accountable for his behavior (including ducking out on his own, cushy military tour of duty), W is not prone to introspection or regret. But he did say that helping veterans was his “duty,” and he did seem to be pursuing a positive impulse—unlike much of what he did as President.  So, perhaps in the years since he left office, the boy president has finally matured enough to put some of his presidential swagger behind him, and get some perspective on the long-term effects of sending millions of soldiers into a cooked-up, bloody battle with no justification and no acceptable outcome—just years of extended suffering for its physically and emotionally scarred veterans and their families.

At least, I hope that’s what has happened. Unless this is all just convenient, empty, legacy-building baloney from a former President who never really understood–and wasn’t curious about–the world around him or the consequences of blindly following the dictates of Dick Cheney. Or maybe as he ages, Bush’s testosterone level is falling a bit…Or maybe what he really regrets is that his legacy is going to be that of an empty-headed dolt who did a shitload of harm. Or perhaps, as has been suggested to me, the Republican party is hoping to elevate Bush’s brother to presidential status and needs George to do something–anything–to clean up the family image he totaled.

As Bush talked about his plans, he choked up a bit, and a single tear coursed down his cheek in what he called a “slightly emotional” reaction. It didn’t make me like him, or respect him, or forgive him for all the damage he mindlessly and callously inflicted. It’s far too little, far too late. But it was a heckuva lot better than “Mission Accomplished.”