Lying or Confused?

I confess — I’m not sure if President Bush lied or is just confused when he said in his recent speech that "full sovereignty" was to be handed over to an Iraqi government on June 30.

Full sovereignty would mean that the Iraqi government could tell us to get out of the country, and we would have to either go or go to war against the new government. Full sovereignty would mean, as the British said, that the Iraqi government could veto any decision by the U.S. military commander.

It’s obvious that the president doesn’t intend for the new government to have that much authority. His draft of a United Nations resolution makes that quite clear. So was he lying, or does he just not know what full sovereignty means?

In another part of his speech, one has to say that he told a deliberate fib. He said that the American embassy in Baghdad would operate like any other embassy. No, it will not. The embassy in Baghdad will have 1,000 employees. No one’s embassy in any country in the world has that many employees, I venture to say.

Despite the president’s words, what is clearly contemplated is a continuation of American occupation under another name. It’s hard to reconcile the president’s statements with the statements of several military men who have spoken of U.S. forces being in Iraq for as long as 10 years, let alone an embassy with 1,000 employees.

So the question remains: Is Bush the most deceptive president in recent decades, or is he some incredibly nave empty suit who reads without understanding whatever words someone puts on his teleprompter? I don’t know. He’s certainly not stupid in the medical sense, but he does appear to be dangerously undereducated and lacking in curiosity. And he has trouble with the English language.

To watch Bush’s speech, you would never dream that 800 Americans have been killed and nearly 4,000 wounded, and that attacks against coalition forces continue at the rate of 50 per day. Nor would you guess that polls show that a majority of Iraqis want us out of their country now. One fellow has quoted an Army captain just back from Iraq as saying he met only two kinds of Iraqis: those who hated Americans and those who wanted Americans to get out of the country.

The president also misrepresented the situation in Fallujah. He called it a decision to share responsibility for security. Well, the Iraqi forces that "share" responsibility have not turned over any weapons or any members of the resistance, both of which we once demanded.

The oddest thing about his speech was that he has not the foggiest idea who will be in this new government he spoke so glowingly about. The people are being chosen by a United Nations official, but he apparently has not yet come up with a list of names. The president certainly has high expectations for people who are entirely unknown to him. Either he knows they will have no choice but to do what he wants them to do, or he is in for a big surprise, and for George Bush, this whole Iraqi venture has been nothing but one unpleasant surprise after another: no weapons of mass destruction, no welcome, no links to al-Qaida, but instead heavy resistance, a $200 billion bill, huge delays in reconstruction, high casualties and falling approval ratings.

Never fear, though, for our president has not made a single mistake. We have his word on it. He is apparently one of those people who believe that they have merely to say something and it becomes true. Thus, he doesn’t hesitate to praise a program in his speeches and try to cut it out of the budget altogether. Most people with such a disconnect from reality end up in houses other than the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Charley Reese [send him mail] 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 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.