by Charley Reese
The Bush administration seems to be genetically committed to deception, so if you believe what it says in the campaign, you will be just as deceived as you were about the reasons for going to war in Iraq.
A couple of examples will suffice for the present. In an attempt to smear Richard Clarke, whose book challenging Bush's credentials as a war leader has caused such a stir, Bush has said that if he had had any information about a pending attack, he would have done everything humanly possible to protect the American people.
Well, of course he would have. No one has suggested otherwise. This is a rhetorical device designed to imply that Clarke has said Bush had such information and failed to prevent the attack. That would be a ridiculous charge for anyone to make. But Clarke has said no such thing. No responsible critic has said that.
The point of Clarke's book is that the Bush administration showed no particular sense of urgency in dealing with al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden and was instead obsessed with Saddam Hussein. He charges further that even after the attacks in September 2001, the administration too quickly turned to invading Iraq rather than chasing down al-Qaida.
That, I believe, is a valid charge. Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and no ties to al-Qaida. The attack against Iraq has simply strengthened terrorism by further souring our relations with the Arab world, causing a huge drop in public approval of the United States in Europe and other parts of the world, and making it easier to recruit terrorists.
Bush now jokes about not finding any weapons of mass destruction, but it is no laughing matter. Taking the nation to war under false pretenses is a serious civic sin, and the absence of these WMDs has virtually destroyed the credibility of the Bush administration and U.S. intelligence. Like the little boy who cried wolf too often, Bush will play heck trying to find any allies at all the next time he wants to launch a pre-emptive war. Already, the Chinese have said they don't believe U.S. claims about North Korea's nuclear programs.
Clarke, by the way, is no party partisan. He is a professional who worked in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and the current George Bush. He is said by people who know him to be very smart, but abrasive and generally contemptuous of all politicians, regardless of party. Sounds like my kind of guy. He is the only person in the entire U.S. government who has had the decency to apologize to the loved ones of those killed in the attacks. Many of them were moved to tears by his simple and gracious act.
You do realize, I hope, that not one person, not even a clerk, has been fired for what is obviously the greatest intelligence failure and blunder in the history of the United States. All of the people who failed to prevent the attacks on Sept. 11 are still in power and boasting about how skilled they are in dealing with terrorism.
Another example of Bush deception is the claim that Sen. John Kerry proposed a 50-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline. In the first place, he considered it but did not propose it. In the second place, this occurred 10 years ago.
I point out the time frame because Kerry has been in public office a long time and, in the course of those years, has made decisions about and spoken on many issues. His record is fair game, but only if it is considered in context. I dare say that most of us have taken positions or considered some steps in the past that we would not take today.
The idea of a gas tax to wean America from Middle Eastern oil comes up periodically (usually when gas prices are low). That was probably the context in 1994. I've always opposed the idea, because a gas tax, like a sales tax, is regressive and hurts those who can least afford it. In any case, what counts is what Kerry and Bush are proposing today.
As an inadvertent consumer of political propaganda, and also as a citizen, you will have to think hard and sort out the truth from the falsehoods. I've always argued that democracy gives us the government we deserve, but the real question is, can we survive what we deserve?
April 6, 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. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.