November 11, 2005
In his Veterans Day speech, Bush took the low road.
Responding to critics who charge him with manipulating intelligence and hoodwinking the American people into war, Bush said: “It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the war began.”
And then he set about rewriting it.
He said, “Intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein.”
But at the time Bush launched the war, many intelligence agencies had severe doubts.
Britain’s did, as the Downing Street Memo of July 23, 2002, clearly illustrated. It noted that the Bush Administration had “already made up its mind” to overthrow Saddam and that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” The memo stated that “the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”
Why then did Cheney say, on August 26, 2002, that Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction “to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us”?
Why then did Bush say, on March 17, 2003, that Saddam Hussein had “some of the most lethal weapons ever devised”?
Nor did the governments of France, Germany, China, and Russia buy Bush’s arguments in February and March of 2003.
There’s a good reason for that.
The United Nations weapons inspectors had reported back to the Security Council that they could find no weapons of mass destruction. And Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency and is the current Nobel Peace Prize-winner, said in no uncertain terms that Saddam Hussein had not reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, much less the nuclear weapons themselves, as Dick Cheney falsely claimed just days before Bush launched the war.
Then Bush, in a desperate ploy, invoked John Kerry’s words when the Senator supported the October 2002 authorization of force. Bush quoted Kerry as saying: “When I vote to give the President of the Untied States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat—and a grave threat—to our security.”
That was an embarrassing and indefensible vote and statement by Kerry. But Kerry himself now admits that Bush cooked the intelligence.
“This administration misled a nation into war by cherry-picking intelligence and stretching the truth beyond recognition,” Kerry said after Bush’s speech.
What’s more, Bush said, “When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support.”
But that’s not exactly what Bush told Congress or what Congress was approving. The October 2002 authorization of force was not a declaration of war; Bush did not seek one. It talks about “support for United States diplomatic efforts,” though it does give the President ridiculous leeway to “use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” to defend against “the continuing threat posed by Iraq” and to “enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.”
Lowest of all, Bush suggested that even to question his veracity was to give aid and comfort to the enemy—the constitutional definition of treason.
“These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops, and to an enemy that is questioning America’s will,” he said.
That’s the last defense of this scoundrel: Wrapping himself in the flag, and denouncing anyone who dares to criticize him for deceitfulness as helping out the enemy and hurting the troops.
This is the tattered old Ashcroft card. Bush’s first attorney general, when questioned about his civil liberties infringements, said that such criticisms “only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends.”
But this ploy didn’t work for Ashcroft, and it won’t work for Bush. And it is profoundly un-American.
As citizens, we are entitled to question our President’s policies—and, yes, his truthfulness.
And he’s certainly given us plenty of reasons to do so.