Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Very Bad Year

by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist

George W. Bush.
George W. Bush presided over a very bad year. (Photo: Getty Images)

There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now.
- Eugene O'Neill


The year 2008 began on a Tuesday. Matters went downhill swiftly from there.

On that first day of 2008, the Taliban threatened to further escalate attacks in Afghanistan, eight people died in Gaza amid the violence of the Fatah-Hamas conflict and US diplomat John Granville was murdered along with his driver in Sudan. After that first day of 2008, the price of crude oil jumped to $100 a barrel, five armed Iranian boats confronted US warships near the Strait of Hormuz and a Taliban attack upon the Serena Hotel in Kabul killed six people. The Pentagon announced they were sending an additional 3,200 marines to Afghanistan, the year's first significant stock market convulsion brought the Dow down 482 points, Barack Obama won Iowa and South Carolina, Clinton won New Hampshire and Florida and George W. Bush delivered the last State of the Union address of his presidency. Edmund Hillary died, Bobby Fischer died and Heath Ledger died. Forty American soldiers died in Iraq, seven American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in January of 2008.

At least 43 people were killed in Baghdad when bombs exploded in two marketplaces, the US military admitted accidentally killing nine civilians south of Baghdad and George W. Bush introduced a $3.1 trillion budget on top of a near-record deficit of $410 billion. Tornados killed 57 people in the Southern US, a $158 billion economic stimulus package failed to pass a procedural vote, but a subsequent $168 billion stimulus package was successfully passed. Hamas launched 20 rockets into Israel, a suicide bomber killed 20 people at a political rally in Pakistan and a car bomb killed 25 people in Iraq. The US Congress voted in favor of granting immunity to the telecommunications companies involved in the NSA surveillance scandal, voted against letting the CIA use "waterboarding" while interrogating prisoners and voted to hold Bush administration officials Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten in contempt regarding the fired US attorneys scandal. Obama won a bunch of states, Clinton won a bunch of other states and Ralph Nader got into the race. Roy Scheider and William F. Buckley died. Twenty-nine American soldiers died in Iraq, one American soldier died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in February of 2008.

A US submarine flipped at least one missile into Somalia, two bombs killed 54 people in Baghdad, a bomb was set off outside a US military recruiting center in Times Square and the US began talks with Iraqi officials about establishing the long-term presence of US forces in that country. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was implicated in the investigation of a prostitution ring and resigned his office, the US Congress failed to override Bush's veto of the anti-waterboarding legislation and Adm. William Fallon resigned as commander of the US Central Command over disagreements with the Bush administration regarding their posture towards Iran. The value of the US dollar dropped to its lowest point in 13 years, Bear Stearns received emergency funding from JPMorgan Chase and was later bought out by Chase for pennies on the dollar. Obama won some states, Clinton won some other states and McCain won enough states to become the presumed GOP nominee for president. Arthur C. Clark died, Richard Widmark died and Dith Pran died. Thirty-nine American soldiers died in Iraq, eight American soldiers died in Afghanistan and the total number of US soldiers killed in Iraq passed 4,000. That's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in March of 2008.

A suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint in Mosul and killed seven people, the US State Department renewed their security contract with Blackwater despite several investigations into that company's involvement in the massacre of Iraqi civilians, gunmen kidnapped 42 university students in Mosul, all of whom were later released unharmed. Twenty people were killed in Sadr City clashes, rockets fell into the US Green Zone in Baghdad, two bombings in Baquba and Ramadi killed 60 people and the massive $736 million US embassy in Iraq opened for business. The Bush administration brought back the one-year Treasury note to combat the onrushing recession, real estate prices plummeted 12.7 percent and consumer confidence dropped again. Clinton won Pennsylvania but lost Mark Penn, the GOP lost Alan Keyes and John McCain kept on rolling. Charlton Heston died and Albert Hoffman died. Fifty-two American soldiers died in Iraq, five American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in April of 2008.

The Fed auctioned off $24.12 billion in Treasury securities to try and blunt the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis, crude oil futures reached $130 for the first time in history, US home prices dropped 14.1 percent and the US Congress approved a $300 billion loan to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Cyclone Nargis killed nearly 30,000 people in Burma, dozens were killed and wounded in Iraq during fighting between Iraqi militias and US forces, suicide bombers killed dozens more in and around Baghdad and an independent investigation into Pentagon spending on Iraq contracts found that 95 percent of the billions of dollars spent could not be accounted for. Obama won some states, Clinton won some other states and the Democratic primary season inched closer to a final conclusion. Willis Lamb and Sydney Pollack died. Nineteen American soldiers died in Iraq, 17 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in May of 2008.

A suicide bomber killed eight people outside the Danish embassy in Pakistan, US forces accidentally killed ten Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike, two bombs killed 12 people at a train station in Algeria and a car bomb killed 51 people at a bus station in Baghdad. Wachovia fired its CEO over the subprime crisis, AIG fired its CEO over the subprime crisis, General Motors announced the closing of several factories and the elimination of 10,000 jobs, two Bear Stearns executives were arrested on criminal charges and the price of a barrel of crude oil spiked $11 in one day. A bill to lower greenhouse gas emissions died in Congress after being successfully filibustered by Senate Republicans, and flooding in Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa killed ten people. Clinton officially conceded defeat, making Obama the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. Bo Diddley died, Tim Russert died and George Carlin died. Twenty-nine American soldiers died in Iraq, 28 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in June of 2008.

Starbucks closed 600 coffee shops in the US, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke assured Congress that neither Fannie May nor Freddie Mac were in danger of failing and GOP Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was indicted. The Pentagon extended the 24th Marine Expeditionary Force's tour of duty in Afghanistan, an explosion near the Red Mosque in Pakistan killed ten people, a car bomb killed 41 people outside the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, another suicide bomber killed 18 people near a Pakistani police station, a suicide bomber killed 35 people in Baquba and Iran test-fired nine long- and medium-range missiles. A global study of coral reefs determined that one-third of the world's coral-building species faced extinction, wildfires in California forced 10,000 people to evacuate and George W. Bush lifted the ban on offshore oil drilling. Jesse Helms died, Tony Snow died and Estelle Getty died. Thirteen American soldiers died in Iraq, 20 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in July of 2008.

US unemployment rose to 5.7 percent, the highest level in four years, 12 people were killed when a minibus exploded in Baghdad and 21 street cleaners were killed by an explosion in Somalia. The Georgia-Ossetia conflict erupted, thousands of civilians were killed and GOP presidential candidate John McCain declared all Americans to be Georgians. Taliban fighters forced the retreat of Pakistani soldiers from the Afghan border and later attacked a US base in the Khost province. The US inked a missile shield deal with Poland, causing Russia to declare Poland a "legitimate military target" that had "opened itself to a nuclear strike." Conservative columnist Robert Novak retired, former Democratic Senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards admitted to cheating on his cancer-stricken wife, the Democratic National Convention nominated Barack Obama for president and GOP presidential candidate John McCain chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes died. Twenty-three American soldiers died in Iraq, 22 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in August of 2008.

The Republican National Convention nominated John McCain and Sarah Palin for president and vice president and Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the US lobbying scandal. The US economy lost 84,000 jobs, the US government took Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, Washington Mutual fired its CEO over the subprime mortgage crisis and HP announced they were eliminating nearly 25,000 jobs. In the space of 48 hours, AIG asked the US government for a $40 billion loan to save it from collapse, Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch, Citibank acquired Wachovia, Lehman Brothers filed Chapter 11 and the Dow dropped more than 500 points. The US government loaned AIG more than $80 billion, a car bomb in northern Pakistan killed more than 30 people, video surfaced implicating the US military in the bombing deaths of more than 90 civilians in Afghanistan, a car bomb killed 32 people in Iraq, five explosions in India killed 30 people, the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan was bombed and Hurricane Ike made its deadly landfall in Texas. David Foster Wallace and Paul Newman died. Twenty-five American soldiers died in Iraq, 27 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in September of 2008.

The Senate approved a massive $700 billion bailout plan aimed at salvaging the American economy, Bush signed it, the Dow dropped 800 points in its single largest loss on record and retail sales plummeted for the third straight month. A senior British military commander was quoted as saying that victory in Afghanistan would be impossible to achieve, a suicide bomber killed 27 people in Pakistan, a suicide bomber killed 25 people in Sri Lanka, the Taliban executed 30 people they had kidnapped in Afghanistan, a series of bomb blasts killed 66 people and wounded nearly 500 in India, North Korea threatened to turn South Korea into "debris" and US forces attacked a civilian building in Syria. The NSA was accused of listening in on thousands of telephone conversations between Americans at home and Americans abroad, including conversations between US soldiers serving overseas and their families and two white supremacists were arrested for plotting to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Tony Hillerman and Studs Terkel died. Fourteen American soldiers died in Iraq, 16 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in October of 2008.

The Alaskan legislature concluded that Gov. Sarah Palin acted improperly in the "Troopergate" scandal, which mattered little after the McCain/Palin GOP presidential ticket was soundly thrashed at the polls by the Democratic presidential ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The passage of Proposition 8 ended same-sex marriages in California and inspired protests by millions of people in 300 cities. An anonymous hold by a GOP senator disrupted the mandated oversight of the $700 billion bailout deal, an explosion on a Minibus killed 11 people in Russia, five Guantanamo detainees were ordered released by a US judge and terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India's financial heartland, killed hundreds of people. Unemployment levels in the US reached their highest level in 14 years, a second bailout of AIG cost taxpayers an additional $150 billion, retail chain Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 and the euro zone entered the first official recession in its history. Citigroup announced the elimination of 75,000 jobs and got $32 billion from the US government, Pepsi announced 3,000 layoffs and representatives from the "Big Three" automakers began pushing for a bailout of their crippled industry. Two people were shot to death in a Toys 'R Us in California and a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death in New York on the first official day of the Christmas shopping season. Michael Crichton and Mitch Mitchell died. Seventeen American soldiers died in Iraq, one American soldier died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in November of 2008.

GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss won re-election, O.J. Simpson was sentenced to prison and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested for his role in a vast pay-for-play bribery scheme involving, among other things, the open Senate seat recently vacated by president-elect Obama. The Tribune Company filed for Chapter 11, Sony announced the elimination of 8,000 jobs and the closure of 10 percent of its manufacturing facilities, the "Big Three" automotive industry bailout staggered to and fro in Washington, hundreds of thousands in New England lost electrical power for more than a week after a massive ice storm struck the region and the US consumer price index fell to its lowest point since the Great Depression. A suicide bomber killed ten people in Afghanistan, a bomb in Pakistan killed 17 people and rioters turned Athens into a war zone. A suicide bomber killed 48 people in Iraq, four Royal Marines were killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan deployed thousands of troops along the Indian border amid rising tensions after the Mumbai attacks, Israel launched a massive attack against Hamas and an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at George W. Bush. Odetta died, Bettie Page died, Deep Throat died, Harold Pinter died, Eartha Kitt died and Freddie Hubbard died. Twelve American soldiers died in Iraq, three American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that's not nearly all that happened, but that's some of what happened in December of 2008.

Happy New Year. Who else needs a drink?

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William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

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