“Sometimes the American people like the decisions I make, sometimes they don’t. But they need to know I make tough decisions, based upon what I think is right, given the intelligence I know.”
~ George W. Bush, 3 October 2003
It seems to me that Bush is standing at the edge of a great canyon. Pebbles under his feet are increasingly unstable, and a scramble instinct breaks out from his reptilian brain. Neophyte Gorge is deep, dangerous, and it hurts when you hit the bottom. It hurts on the way down, too. In a flash recognition of the desperation of his position, Bush experiments with truth-telling.
The president has for the first time in months violated the all too common coincidence in political speeches of "lips moving" and "lying through teeth." He speaks the truth. Some people like George’s decisions, and some do not.
And George does make tough decisions. As Abraham Lincoln could have advised young Dubya, it’s not easy to stoke a nation to war, using a few publicly popular and well-woven suggestions while keeping the investors and election donors happy and confident that the real reasons will be kept under wraps. It’s a tough job, and while nobody has to do it, George, like Abe before him, did do it. And as we can see from the angry columns by frustrated and frightened neoconservative mouthpieces, hiding the real reasons for the occupation of Iraq is a job that keeps getting tougher.
Bush said on October 3, 2003, that "the Iraq war was justified" and one of the key reasons for it was a vial of botulinum bacteria, kept in a scientist’s home refrigerator since 1993, cited in the David Kay report. Bush said this, among other things, proved we have ample signs that Saddam “was a danger to the world.”
Now, I don’t want John Ashcroft to come over for a visit, but I too tend to keep botulinum bacteria in the refrigerator. Now, I have to admit, I haven’t kept any single item in my fridge since 1993, and instead of vials, my stuff is usually found in old mayonnaise jars and partially eaten tuna sandwiches.
If I follow George Bush’s logic, that might make me a danger to the world, too. Of course, I don’t have any delivery mechanisms for my botulinum, no banned mid-range missiles, and certainly no sophisticated concealment techniques. We also haven’t built tank traps or fired up the anti-air batteries on the old farm, not yet anyway.
But back to Bush and telling the truth. Bush insists that he makes these tough decisions based on "what I think is right, given the intelligence I know." With these words, we have arrived at the line between truth and lies that politicians never fear to tread. Here, finally, we may discover what the real meaning of "is" is. Unfortunately, like the Knights of the Round Table seeking a chalice that once held holy blood, we find only the discarded shells of ideas littered around a middle-aged derelict, tottering and muttering in an intellectually and morally vacant White House.
Our President’s opinion of right and wrong is, of itself, problematic. His previous business dealings, whether failed oil companies or miraculously profitable baseball teams, his drunken decades, his avoidance of inconvenient National Guard duty, his reported personal callousness towards executions in Texas and his institutionalized callousness towards both American dead and maimed and Iraqi dead and maimed, and his apparent confusion between his (and our) own justifiable anger over 9-11, and God’s judgment over all of us — any and all of these ought to give us pause when George W. Bush says "he does what he thinks is right."
Beyond this, George admits that his thinking and tough decisions are qualified by "the intelligence [he] know[s]." The intelligence Dubya knows must indeed be the greatest mystery of the early 21st century. He told us last fall many things "he knew" and now he tells us many other things "he knows" contrary to last fall. Mushroom clouds and biological weapons delivered to America courtesy of Saddam’s UAVs, links between Saddam and 9-11, and Al Qaeda — all that was so last season. The new style is bleak and plaintive. It is singularly unattractive, more appropriate for today’s consumer spending attitudes instead of last fall’s swagger and strut.
The fascinating thing is that the United States intelligence community has not changed its assessment of Iraq’s capability to threaten the United States. Last year, this year, same story. If George Tenet is to be criticized, it should be for failing to publicly step down last winter as he observed the executive level repeatedly throw the trillion dollar intelligence community over for some easy sweet words whispered into the open ears of the administration by neoconservative imperialists and their Iraqi ruler wannabes. Saddam’s war-making capabilities had been degraded or destroyed, Ba-ath Party and Iraq societal vigor reduced by a decade of war followed by a decade of sanctions, and Saddam had already gone mellow with both the United Nations and his trading partners. This was the real story, then as now.
The lesson about the actual military or terror-related threat Iraq posed to the United States has been consistent, clear and strong. But still the student stumbles. Granted, Bush may understand the economically threatening ramifications of Iraq’s November 2000 switch to the Euro for its oil trade, compounded with Venezuela’s switch, Norway’s potential switch, and OPEC’s consideration of a shift better than I know. Certainly the petro-euro could be life-threatening for debt-financed AmeriBush, Inc. However, in presenting that argument to the American people, the student has again failed miserably.
This student is George W. Bush. He has shown us that he has unusual difficulty listening, comprehending and mastering the required material, even when this hearing, comprehension and mastery is all "we the people" have ever required of him in his current role.
To be fair, neophyte George is today facing the biggest challenge of his presidency. He got extra credit for 9-11, and after it was safe to return to Washington, he worked on leading the nation into satisfyingly vicious retributions. That was easy. Now, with the lies and fables all used up, Bush is left with ground truth. Too bad for all of us that it is only to be found at the bottom of an unsympathetic and unforgiving ravine.