A taste of how some influential Irish writers feel about America was also evident in that same issue of The Irish Times. The issue under discussion was whether George W. Bush is the worst president ever. Fintan O'Toole, perhaps Ireland's most influential columnist, strongly disagreed with that label and stated there had been so few good ones that Bush was much more in line with other presidents than an anomaly. Even the greats of American history such as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln did not escape O'Toole's sharp pen. "Even the indisputably great George Washington was known to the Iroquois as 'Town Destroyer,'" O'Toole wrote. O'Toole quotes an Indian chieftain as saying that "our children cling to the necks of their mothers" when they heard Washington's name. "The equally great Thomas Jefferson created a "civilization program" for the Indians which amounted to a choice between adopting European ways or, in effect, being exterminated. "The towering Abraham Lincoln, probably the greatest of U.S. presidents, ordered the largest mass execution in U.S. history - of Dakota Indian prisoners - and presided over a concentration camp for the Navajos," wrote. O'Toole also takes grave issue with the 20th century U.S. presidents too. "Even within the last 40 years, the violations of international law, the U.S. Constitution and common decency overseen by other presidents rival, and in some cases outstrip, Bush's misdeeds. Is the Iraq invasion really worse than the Vietnam War, for which presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon bear responsibility, and in which perhaps a million civilians died? "Is it worse than the repression and terror in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile and Argentina, supported, directly and indirectly, by Nixon and Reagan?" Obviously not a fan of American presidents, it will be interesting to see what O'Toole makes of Obama in a year or two.
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