Monday, December 26, 2005

Bush's Brain (no, not Karl Rove)

One of the most perplexing difficulties with settling on a coherent rationale for America's presence in Iraq has always been President Bush's inane attempts at justifying his decision to go to war.

Yes, I know. WMD was so 2002. These days we're all about nurturing democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and thereby transforming that region into a bastion of freedom from which all manner of good things will follow. Whatever.

But Bush keeps mucking up the message with his mindless forays into inexplicable blather.

Now--finally--Bush has publicly admitted that the prewar intelligence on WMD was all wrong. But in practically the next breath he will tell you that Saddam Hussein was still a threat, although he never exactly explains how. And so the decision to preemptively invade was still correct. Even knowing what he now knows, says Bush, he'd do it all again.

Say what?

We now know, and Bush now admits, that Iraq had no WMD--not even garden variety chemical and biological weapons, let alone any kind of nuclear program. WMD aside, we also know that Iraq's conventional forces atrophied dramatically under a decade of U.N. sanctions. Indeed, Iraq was utterly contained, and grew ever weaker with each passing year under the sanctions and inspections regime. We also know, and the administration does not deny, that Saddam had neither operational nor fraternal ties to al Qaeda. Given all this, how is it that Mr. Bush can still conclude that Saddam was a threat worthy of this war?

It would be one thing were the president to come clean and admit that all the prewar hysteria over WMD was just a convenient smokescreen; that democracy in the Middle East was the real programme all along. (Paul Wolfowitz has suggested as much.) At least that, while despicable, would have the ring of truth.

Or he could say that he made an honest mistake--that the original war justifications turned out to have been wrong, and so the essential nature of the mission has consequently changed. Fair enough.

But it seems the big guy just can't--still can't--bring himself to admit that he was wrong in any important way. Maybe I'd have similar difficulty if I'd taken a nation to war on what turned out to be false pretenses.

The problem, however, is that we're left with the nonsensical proposition that the intelligence was wrong, but the decision based upon it was right. Right not because Saddam was a bad guy, or because Iraqis need to be free, or because as freedom loving people we need the Iraqis to be free--no, none of those things. Right because, while Saddam admittedly had no way of threatening us, he was still a threat. What sense does that make?

It is most unhelpful when our president spouts absurdities, but absurdities are what we continue to get. For example, Mr. Bush still says that, in essence, Saddam brought the war onto himself. We told him to disarm, says Bush, and he didn't disarm. And so we had no choice but to disarm him. (Please refer to the section above which notes the absence of WMD, and the deterioration of Iraq's conventional forces.)

This kind of talk makes my head hurt. Are Americans so uninformed, or so disengaged, that statements like these go straight over our heads without even registering? What kind of mental zombies must we be to swallow this tripe without a peep of protest? Wait a minute, Mr. President. Did you really say what I think you said?

Absurdities? It's been crazy from the beginning. Recall the prewar photo-op at the White House with Kofi Annan. With the U.N. Secretary-General practically rolling his eyes in incredulous disbelief, Mr. Bush proceeded to explain that war was justified because we told Saddam he had to allow weapons inspectors into Iraq, and he wouldn't let the inspectors in. But as anybody with a newspaper knew at the time, Saddam had, in fact, allowed U.N. inspectors into Iraq in the fall of 2002. (Bush readily admits that he does not read newspapers.) Those inspectors remained in place until the invasion was imminent, at which point they were removed for their own safety.

And so it goes. Apparently President Bush operates quite comfortably in a logical dimension where neither truth nor rational thought are particularly necessary. But it sure is hell on those of us who still expect two plus two to make four.

Copyright (C) 2005 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved


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