by Charley Reese
It is now about as clear as it's going to get that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Secretary of State Colin Powell even contradicted himself (in his U.N. speech) by admitting recently that there is no evidence of any link between Saddam and al-Qaida.
Prior to the Iraq War, the Bush administration asserted as fact that Saddam had huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons and was actively pursuing nuclear weapons. Administration members ridiculed people who expressed any doubts. Today, after spending millions of dollars looking for the weapons, they haven't found anything. And every Iraqi official captured, none of whom has any reason at all to lie, has said the same thing: There are no weapons of mass destruction.
In fact, the Iraqis had been saying that for years, and the Bush administration replied, "You're lying." Now we have this situation. The facts on the ground prove that the Iraqis, whom President Bush called liars, were telling the truth. What does that make Bush? It makes Bush either very badly mistaken or a liar.
It seems to me that if Bush were merely mistaken, he would admit it. He would say to the American people: "Look, I thought Iraq had those weapons based on intelligence, but apparently the intelligence was wrong. I apologize for misleading you." But the president will not do that. He gets huffy and defensive when asked about weapons of mass destruction. Before the war, he never opened his mouth without talking about weapons of mass destruction. It might be that there is simply an arrogant gene in the Bush family. It might be that he was just lying.
It is true that the intelligence reports contained a lot of reservations, expressions of doubt and uncertainty, but when this came out of the political process, it was told to the American people as unquestionable fact without reservations. "Intelligence gathered by this government and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and to conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," Bush said on March 17. All the Bush people were asserting this to be a fact.
Now we have nearly 500 dead Americans who died to protect the United States from weapons that don't exist. And more will die, and for what reason? So Halliburton and other big corporations can make a lot of money? So Israel can feel safer? So we can have permanent military bases in Iraq? So the president can strut about and call himself the Conqueror of Iraq? One thing you can be sure of: They won't die defending the United States, because Iraq is not now and never was a threat to the United States.
It's no wonder Bush avoids military funerals and has barred the press from the airport where our dead come home. It's no wonder he has clamped a lid of secrecy on the search for weapons of mass destruction. What he ought to do is write a letter of apology to the families of every dead and wounded soldier. That'll be the day.
I don't know about you, but I'm damned angry that the president took this country to war on false pretenses. He has now dreamed up all these other reasons for going to war, but he sold this war to Congress and to the American people on the basis that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
This is far more serious than anything Bill Clinton did. He lied about dillydallying with a young girl. This president apparently lied about the reasons he wanted to take this country to war. He is, behind his fašade of good old boy, apparently a man so arrogant that he does not think the American people deserve to be told the truth.
Maybe he's right. If the American people are not offended enough to throw him out of office, then apparently — in this country, anyway — the truth no longer matters.
January 19, 2004
Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.
© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.