To the Editor,
I received an excellent education in history at Andover, studying under such greats as Chris Gurry, Derek Williams, Ed Quattlebaum and Peter Drench. After reading the revisionist, anti-historical letter regarding George H.W. Bush ’42 written by recent Andover alumni and published on October 9, 2015, I can only conclude that they did not similarly avail themselves of the Academy’s history department.
The letter in question contains four claims about President Bush’s record, all of which misstate or dishonestly manipulate the historical record. To address them in turn:
The letter writers first state that “[t]he invasion [during the First Gulf War] amounted to nothing short of a violent and devastating instance of neoimperialism.” Unless by “invasion” the writers are referring to the Iraqi invasion of sovereign Kuwait, it is difficult to see how an international effort to liberate an invaded and brutally occupied country, undertaken with the explicit authorization of the United Nations, can be considered an act of neoimperialism. Astoundingly, the letter writers then take President Bush to task for not deposing Hussein after the liberation of Kuwait, seemingly adopting the position that Bush was not “neoimperialist” enough. As an aside, with respect to neoimperialist theory more generally, I recommend against taking one’s ideological cues from Kwame Nkrumah or his ilk. No good can come of it.
The letter writers then proceed to vastly overstate Bush’s involvement in the Iran-Contra affair. Neither Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh nor any other credible source has ever alleged anything more than that Bush was generally aware of Israeli arms sales to Iran and a number of quid pro quo arrangements with foreign governments and groups supporting the Contras. More pressingly, while identifying the Contras as terrorists the letter writers conveniently ignore the human rights record of the Sandinistas, which included mass killings, execution of political dissidents, and the near-genocidal ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Miskito. Claiming the moral high-ground while endorsing Sandinista rule of Nicaragua is a bit like wearing stilts to a basketball game – you look great walking up to the tip-off, but it’s all downhill from there.
Bush was not a Congressman when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was brought to a vote. He was when the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was brought to a vote, though, and voted in favor, against the wishes of most of his constituents. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment, and signed into the law the bipartisan Civil Rights Act of 1991. But Bush’s actual record on civil rights contrasts with the apparent pre-conceived notions of the letter writers, so I of course understand why they omitted it almost in its entirety.
Ah, yes. That old canard that being pro-life means that one is anti-woman makes its appearance. I was wondering how long it would take the letter writers to reach this leftist staple. Alas, a majority of women in America oppose abortion in all or most cases according to a 2013 Gallup poll. As for AIDS, Bush signed into law the Ryan White Act, the first AIDS-specific legislation in American history. He then championed and signed the ADA, which prohibited discrimination against people living with AIDS.
As the great Democratic Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” The letter writers and their companions-in-outrage are entitled to protest one of our greatest alumni if they so choose. But, they are not entitled to distort his record to achieve their ignoble ends.
Will Scharf ’04
Correction: A previous version of this letter omitted several of the original authors of last week’s letter to which Will Scharf ’04 is responding. Grace Tully ’15 and Lily Grossbard ’15 were not the only authors of last week’s letter.