Since everyone is using the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential library to reflect on his tenure, I thought I would share what I believe is truly the greatest of his many sins. Bush told us to be afraid.

If FDR’s presidency could be summed up with his famous line “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” the years under Bush basically consisted of the message ‘fear everything.’

On 9/11 we were attacked by terrorists who wanted to create irrational fear in the American public in the hopes it would cause us to make terrible decisions. Bush’s response to that event played right into their hands.

After 9/11 Bush didn’t tell us to stay calm and carry on. He didn’t tell us to be more vigilant but not let terrorists change what makes us great. He told us to be scared, not just scared but irrationally terrified.

His administration not only preyed on our fear but created fictitious dangers behind every corner. At a moment of national panic we were told to buy duct tape and plastic. We were constantly told to worry about color coded “threats” that were never specified. At airports 90 year old men were treated as threats and we were told nail clippers were too dangerous to carry aboard.

We were made to fear “dirty bombs” even though they won’t really do serious damage. We were told to worry about “suitcase nukes” even though technological it is not even possible to put a nuke in a suitcase. We were made to fear yellowcake, aluminum tubes, and Saddam’s mobile “WMD” factories despite them all just being fantasies. We were at war not with a group of terrorists but terror itself. We faced an “axis of evil” even though the impoverished members of this axis basically never worked together.

Bush exploited this fear he helped fuel relentlessly. He used it for political gain. He use it to strip us of our civil liberties. He used it to get us into war. He used it to bankrupt the country by dramatically expanding our defense industry while also enriching his friends.

This promotion of fear by Bush was his greatest sin, because it made all the rest possible.

Photo by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha under Creative Commons license