Ask most people what is likely to be George Bush’s legacy after two terms as president of the United States, and they will almost certainly respond, “The Iraq war.”
After all, there may be much he failed to do as president, like dealing efficiently with the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, achieving a measure of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, or preventing the economy from sliding into recession, but the one thing he did manage efficiently was to transform a peaceful, non-aggressive nation into a hotbed of violence, suffering, and general mayhem that will take years to revert to normality.
It is fitting that George W Bush should be remembered as the perpetrator of one of the most dastardly acts in recent world history.
Unlikely as it may seem at this moment, that act may be something far worse, and with even more far-reaching consequences, than Bush’s invasion of the Middle East.
In January 2007, at his State of the Union address, George Bush mandated a seven-fold increase in ethanol production that caused farmers and producers alike to rub their hands with glee. Ethanol would take away America’s reliance on foreign oil, it was said, and raise a finger to all those nasty Arab sheiks who keep withholding supply and putting up the price of crude.
Even as Bush was making his speech, scientists, environmentalists, and aid charities were also rubbing their hands, but in their case, it was in despair.
Ethanol is produced from vegetable matter, largely corn, though other cellular products are being tested. Vegetable matter requires to be grown and harvested, meaning valuable land normally available for growing food is taken over for ethanol production.
This is exactly what is happening today.
All over the world, farmers are switching to ethanol crop production. Food shortages, with an inevitable rise in prices, are the result.
The western world is being hit by a combination of rising fuel costs and basic commodity shortages. The shopping bill of an average American family has jumped dramatically, but while hardship in the US and Europe is inconvenient, the impact of food shortages in the less developed world, where most people live on less than two dollars a day, is already becoming catastrophic.
Food riots are breaking out in many areas of the planet. The latest are happening now in Haiti, where cereals and grains – the staple diet – have risen in price by 50% in the past twelve months. In Africa, food riots have swept the continent causing serious explosions of violence and frustration. In most of West Africa, the price of food has risen by 50 percent—in Sierra Leone, 300 percent. Parts of Yemen, where the price of wheat has doubled in little over a month, are also effected.
Food riots in the United States have not been ruled out by some commentators.
The raison d’etre of George W Bush’s two terms as president has been the diversion of more wealth, from the poorest on earth to the richest. This has been his single great achievement. In fairness, we must look beyond George Bush to those who control him; true power manifests in the vice president, Dick Cheney. This is no reason to allow Bush off the hook, however, as he has always proved a willing participant to the schemes of his masters, whether it be the violent securing of Middle East markets, or ensuring further obscene wealth for his corporate cronies by depriving the world of much needed foodstuffs.
To the unwary, any full-scale diversion of crops to ethanol production may seem a relatively minor matter; after all, surely a balance will be found eventually between fuel and food production?
The answer has to be a resounding, “NO!”
The whole world grows crops that are marketed according to the capitalist system of ‘best price secures’. With the huge, and likely permanent, increases in crude oil over the last five years, ethanol producers can afford to outbid the food industry for corn and other cellulose crops, and still ensure vast profits.
Unless the American government steps in and caps the volume of food crops allowed for ethanol production, the future looks bleak indeed. To suggest such action is unlikely, given the huge investment in this industry, is an understatement.
George W Bush’s legacy, in the years after he leaves office, may well not be his war, but the actions he instigated to starve millions throughout the world, and the numerous wars and violent conflicts that erupt as a direct result of those actions.
 “Ethanol Industry Gets a Boost From Bush”, WP, January 25th, 2007
 ” Food riots turn deadly in Haiti”, BBC, April 5th, 2008
 “Food riots rock Yemen”, Intelligence Daily, April 4th, 2008
 “US Food Riots Much Closer Than You Think”, Rense.com, October 23rd, 2007
Filed under: Bush’s legacy