There have been tons of books released over the last few years about the dangers and perils of the Bush Administration and their disastrous plan for American empire, but none has moved me to tears of anger and despair as What We’ve Lost, a powerful and massively detailed blow-by-blow account of the devastating effects of this current presidential administration. Written by Vanity Fair editor-in-chief and filmmaker Graydon Carter, this book is filled from cover to cover with facts, statistics, numbers and details about the way the Bush presidency has failed our children, destroyed our environment, crippled our economy, curtailed our Constitutional freedoms, mortgaged our economy, killed our soldiers and created a culture of hate, violence and religious-based power and greed that is unprecedented. This is not partisan bickering, but direct, truthful, fact-based research that needs no spin to point to the terrible truth the author suggests – that if we don’t wake up soon we will have lost the unthinkable. Integrity. Dignity. Privacy. Freedom.
Carter, who writes with a passion and clarity often missing from such Bush-bashing tomes, does the job of effectively presenting so many facts and documentations of the growing list of abuses of this presidency that it makes your head hurt even as it breaks you heart and brings you to your knees in despair. This painstaking account of how just four years can utterly destroy the basic goodness of our great nation is horrifying, and no more so than when the author lists the names of 833 soldiers who died in the Iraq war even as Mr. Bush himself was so arrogantly and disrespectfully claiming “Mission Accomplished.” These forgotten soldiers, whose own graves were not permitted to be photographed on orders of the Bush team, represent a growing number of the dead and dying at the hands of a very ruthless group of white, Southern Christian men who are now holding the fate of our courts, our environment and our children’s futures in their greedy, clenched fists.
The book covers everything from the bankrupt SuperFund toxic waste cleanup program, to the nearly bankrupt social security and Medicare funds, to the horrific wars and invasions prompted by this administration, mostly on false evidence and faulty intelligence, to the literal destruction of our environment and the leveling of our public school system in favor of Christian-based vouchers to the stolen elections and the news media’s complicity in covering up the truth.
Then there is the war against women, minorities and veterans, the ongoing battle of the right-wing judiciary to dismantle the Bill of Rights and roll back freedoms of speech, expression and personal privacy, and the battle to undo many of the laws that currently protect the disabled, children, domestic violence victims, rape victims and children who die from toxic waste in their neighborhoods. In fact, the most powerful punch this book makes, directly to the gut and heart, I might add, is the sheer level of hatefulness the Bush administration seems to feel toward regular working-class Americans, toward the poor, the less fortunate, the disabled and the struggling. This visceral hatred and disregard for basic human rights, and often for human life itself (despite claims of being “pro-life”) are detailed time and time again in this overpowering and often painful book.
Carter offers activists and freedom-seekers who believe in the truth and who wish to return America to its best and brightest self plenty of ammunition for the fight, especially in the chapter “The President By the Numbers,” which documents page after page of frightening and eye-opening facts, statistics and figures that truly show just how damaging this current president and his team of neo-conservative empire-seekers have been on the most precious things we hold dear. Things like good schools for our kids, affordable health care, a clean environment, violence-free streets, respect abroad, a government we can trust, corporations that give and not just take, freedom to be who we are, to speak our minds and not be arrested and imprisoned for simply attending a peaceful protest. Things like personal privacy, the right to own our own bodies, the right to love who we love. The right to worship as we choose.
What We’ve Lost is the most difficult book I have read in a long time, because it tells the bold and stark truth and it backs it up with research, fact and evidence that only the most dysfunctional among us could continue to deny. That is what is so scary, though: that so many millions will continue to refuse to look at these facts and deny the damage already done, much of which can never be reversed.
Still, all is not despair, for just having a book like this that educates is empowering and motivating. Those who are not afraid to look truth in the face will find in this book a reason to keep on fighting the good fight, this time armed with plenty of solid research to back up their battles.