August Alert

So, what's with August? Since George W. Bush became president, August has either been a month when terrible things happened or it has foreshadowed a precedent. Let's look at the evidence year by year:


During the President Bush's month-long vacation at his Crawford ranch, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice presented him with the memo "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S." September 11 resulted.


The rumblings of war began in earnest as Bush started talking about Saddam's threat to the United States. Troops and materiel began moving en masse toward the region. On March 19, 2003, war began.


Americans were impatient that the war had not yet ended. And neither Saddam, the WMDs, or Osama bin Laden had been found. A July Gallup poll showed that 42 percent of the public thought the war was going badly, up 13 percent since May when Bush proclaimed that major hostilities in Iraq had ended. The United States was spending about a billion a week on the war and Bush lobbied Congress for an additional $87.3 billion, which he got in October.

This was the first of many installments he would request. So far, the war has cost $448.67 billion, according to and some say it is expected to reach between $1-2 trillion before it's over.

Bush's approval ratings had nose-dived to 50 percent as people began to feel that they had been duped into war. Nevertheless, the mainstream media were reluctant to dig out the truth on this matter. Meanwhile, Bush supporters defended him and called the peace activists traitors whose demonstrations were responsible for the deteriorating situation in Iraq.

There was so much discord in the country that people were lulled into denial, said New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. By September 11, people were apparently so weary of war that many skipped the second anniversary observances. World opinion of America was plummeting because of Bush's unilateral, preemptive invasion of Iraq. This action would come back to haunt the president in October when he failed to enlist the aid of our allies and the United Nations in Iraq.


The presidential race between George W. Bush and John Kerry got dirty early when the Swift boat veterans, who allegedly served with Kerry in Vietnam, kicked off an advertising campaign against him. First, they accused him of having been unfit to lead them. Then they trashed him for criticizing U.S. policy in Vietnam before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971. Finally, they disputed Kerry's claim about being in Cambodia on a secret mission. Kerry delayed addressing these ads and his wait affected the election's outcome in November.


Cindy Sheehan camped outside of the president's ranch requesting a meeting with him regarding the death of her son, Casey, who was killed in Iraq the previous year.

She drew worldwide media attention to the callousness of Bush who refused to meet the mother of a dead soldier. He also had not and still has not attended one funeral of a fallen Iraq War soldier or marine. Sheehan's standing up to Bush re-energized the peace movement. The movement's presence had been made invisible partly because it was largely ignored by the administration and the mainstream media and partly because peace activists were demoralized that they had not prevented the war from starting and can't get it to end.

On August 29, Hurricane Katrina blew away New Orleans and Americans discovered that the federal government was not only unprepared to deal with domestic emergencies, it was unwilling to help Americans, especially if they were poor. National Guard troops who would have been there to help with disaster relief were in Iraq. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) completely botched its rescue duty and Director Michael "Brownie" Brown, resigned his post in disgrace in September. He would be one of the first incompetent Bush appointees to go.


Preparations stepped up for the November elections that would result in the Democrats winning both houses of Congress. The war in Iraq was the single issue that brought people out to vote against the president and Republican Party candidates.

War broke out between Israel and Lebanon. Amnesty International said Israel violated international law by deliberately destroying Lebanon's civilian infrastructure. The United Nations' humanitarian chief accused Israel of its "completely immoral" use of cluster bombs. Israeli reserve soldiers protested their country's provocation of the attacks and called for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's resignation as well as an investigation over the failures of the conflict. Meanwhile, Hezbollah captured and held two Israeli soldiers.

It was discovered that former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had originally revealed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak in 2003. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (who was born in August), Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, would be indicted in March 2007 for his role in disclosing Plame's identity. Libby was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and $250,000 but President Bush commuted his prison sentence because, he said, it was too severe. Such action coincided with a growing list of situations where Bush would claim "executive privilege" as a way of evading responsibility.

Virginia Tech closed its campus and canceled classes as police searched for a man suspected of murdering a hospital security guard and a police officer. Eight months later on April 16, Seung-Hui Cho, a senior majoring in English, killed 32 people before he took his own life.


This year we started the month of August with the collapse of the Minneapolis I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River. Such a tragedy calls attention to the safety of America's nearly 600,000 bridges. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that one-quarter of the nation's bridges, including the 40-year-old Minneapolis bridge, were considered "structurally deficient and functionally obsolete" in 2005.

Bridges are part of the nation's aging highway infrastructure that is in desperate need of repair with an estimated cost of $68 billion, according to NBC News. After all the tax cuts-both state and federal-and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where is the money going to come from? Let's not forget that the Republicans gained control of government in 2004 by promoting tax cuts. It's chilling to think about what the Minneapolis bridge collapse might foreshadow.

Olga Bonfiglio is a professor at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and author of Heroes of a Different Stripe: How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq. She has written for several national magazines on the subjects of social justice and religion. Her website is Contact her at

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.