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The Maundy Monday Newsletter - This Week in History January 22-29.
Happy Monday, my friends. Thank you for supporting Okay History and beginning your day by reading the Maundy Monday newsletter.
Late January tends to be when the president of the United States gets invited to a joint session of Congress to deliver an update on the country and lay his legislative agenda. We call it the State of the Union (or SOTU for short). The update used to be a document the president sent over, fulfilling his Constitutional obligation, spelled out in Article II somewhere.
Woodrow Wilson began the practice of delivering his written words in person, and that will surely cost him when I get around to ranking the presidents again. With the advent of radio and television, it has turned into an event that only political nerds enjoy watching while proving that this meeting of our national leaders could be done by email.
I want to highlight one particular address. It was twenty years ago this week when George W. Bush delivered his second State of the Union on January 26, 2003, and it was a doozy.
After 9/11, the United States bombed Afghanistan fiercely, trying to eliminate the Taliban, the group who protected al-Qaeda, the terrorists who were behind the attacks. For the most part, we were successful.
The Bush administration leveraged that success and went into full war mode.
In the SOTU the year prior, Bush called Iraq, along with Iran and North Korea, an Axis of Evil, mainly because it sounded scary. It also sounds like a bad novel or a movie starring Austin Powers. After playing his version of Madison Avenue Ad Man, the president then spent a year building a case to invade Iraq, which cumulated at the 2003 SOTU.
During the 2003 speech, Bush provided the usual narrative of why Iran and North Korea are awful. Pretty standard stuff, but if you read the text, when Bush gets to Iraq, he immediately launches into grand conspiracy theories.
Everyone knew that Saddam Hussein was a nasty dude. Heck, we invaded once already. But for some reason, Bush wanted to attach 9/11 to Iraq, and since none of the terrorists were Iraqis or had connections to Saddam or Iraq, Bush went ahead and made up a connection. This brought us the idea of weapons of mass destruction, which sounds like an 80’s metal band.
Bush suggested to the nation that night to imagine a world where terrorists could get their hands on chemicals Saddam was producing, and therefore we will take down Iraq.
A month later, Secretary of State Colin Powell presented faulty intelligence to the United Nations. The UN didn’t buy it, but that doesn’t stop us. We formed a Coalition of the Willing, which sounds like something a guy who created phrases like Axis of Evil and Weapons of Mass Destruction, and we overthrew Saddam and created a big old mess we are still digging ourselves out of.
President Biden presents his SOTU on February 7, and let’s hope he rambles on about whatever.
Okay, let's highlight what else happened this week. Here's what I got:
Thurgood Marshall died on January 24, 1993. The Supreme Court’s first African American was a civil rights lawyer who argued the famous Brown vs. Board of Education case, which rid us of “separate but equal” nonsense. We replaced this icon with Clarence Thomas. So um, yeah. Bit of a letdown.
President Clinton lied on National TV on January 26, 1998. The 42nd president told us he did not have sexual relations with that woman, while the narrator said he did have sexual relations. Clinton would be impeached, and if I remember correctly, two straight Speakers of the House resigned because they had dipped into the adultery bowl themselves.
Vietnam War Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973. The peace treaty ended the War in Vietnam, but for only a day. Everyone went back to bombing each other, and Saigon fell two years later. At least the delegates got to see Paris.
Anonymous and I are going on our honeymoon beginning on Friday. We are headed to a secluded island, where they serve excellent French food, and every house has a pool. Don’t worry; I have loaded up the old internet machine for a few more Maundy Monday newsletters while I’m away, sitting on the beach, drinking mojitos while getting my Irish tan on.
Finally, a happy birthday shoutout to a longtime subscriber, BJ, who celebrated his 58th birthday over the weekend. Maybe he’s 60. Either way, he’s way older than me, that’s for sure. Hope you had a great day!
Have a great week, everyone!