Clear and Present Danger
The War President Contextualizes
by Kim Petersen

February 10, 2004

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"Well, the reason why we gave it time is because we didn't want it to be hurried."


"I see dangers that exist."


"David Kay, the weapon inspector, came back and said, 'In many ways, Iraq was more dangerous than we thought.'”


"Well, I think we are welcomed in Iraq."


"Well, you know, but, you know, Tim, that... Heck, I don't know.

-- In response to why he is held in such low esteem."


"I must tell you, it's tough here in Washington."


"I know exactly where I want to lead the country."


            -- Quotes from President Bush’s TV interview with Tim Russert


espite being self-avowedly unfazed by opinion samplings, President Bush faced with dismal polling figures did something he has done most sparingly while in the Oval Office: he allowed himself to be interviewed by the TV media on Sunday, February 8 by Tim Russert of Meet the Press.


Of course the interview started off with the hot topic of the moment: the finding that Bush’s casus belli for war was wrong. Bush had defied most of the world and launched an unprovoked aggression against Iraq on the pretext that it was a threat to the US because it possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD).  This false pretext culminated in the blood spilling of 50,000 people.


Bush-appointed weapons inspector David Kay has pulled the plug on the existence of WMD in Iraq. Kay did, however, exculpate the White House instead blaming the decision to attack on faulty intelligence. Let’s play along in this article and accept Kay’s premise that the intelligence was flawed. Bush seized on this in the interview, stating, “So we need a good intelligence system. We need really good intelligence… Again, I repeat to you, the capacity to have good intelligence means that a president can make good calls about fighting this war on terror.”


Bush diffused responsibility for accepting the flawed intelligence by claiming, “I went to Congress with the same intelligence. Congress saw the same intelligence I had, and they looked at exactly what I looked at.” This is a rude slander against the Congress as detailed in John Judis and Spencer Ackerman’s excellent article.


The president has been forced to call for an inquiry into the intelligence provided. Bush could do no less with so many terrorist madmen and dangers lurking out in the world. What baffled Russert was why the inquiry set up by Bush will drag on eight months longer than a similar inquiry in the UK. Bush’s comical response was, “Well, the reason why we gave it time is because we didn't want it to be hurried.” In other words US security is on hold for a while because there are questions about the reliability of US intelligence. No need to hurry in this time of heightened alert and fear of another 9-11 type attack. This seems rather odd while a war on terror is ongoing.


Yet Bush is keenly aware of his war declared on an abstraction. He asseverated, “I'm a war president… I wish it wasn't true, but it is true.” If he is so unexcited about being a war president then why was he so full of feel-good adrenaline after announcing the launch of Shock and Awe against Iraq?


Bush states, “I see dangers that exist.” Ostensibly he is mindless of Kay’s report that there was no danger as first thought in Iraq. The quick vanquishing of the Iraqi Republic Guard is demonstrable evidence of this. One is led to wonder what are these other dangers that the war president sees? Iran, Syria, North Korea? Are they harboring WMD and are consequently imminent threats? One must ask how the president can still make such absurd statements when the reliability of the intelligence is uncertain. It would seem proper and prudent to hold off identifying any dangers to the US until the inquiry has done its job. In the meantime the US continues into next year in a shaky intelligence status.


Bush did express surprise at Kay’s conclusion. “The -- first of all, I expected to find the weapons." It is an admission of being wrong but Bush swings around his obliterated casus belli by coming forth with his post hoc justifications. There is something morally galling about premeditatively killing people on a false pretext and searching for new justifications afterwards.


Bush harps often on the context of his decision-making . Says Bush, “I made a decision, based upon that intelligence, in the context of the war against terror. In other words, we were attacked, and therefore, every threat had to be reanalyzed, every threat had to be looked at, every potential harm to America had to be judged in the context of this war on terror.” Bush is still using 9-11 as an excuse for having attacked Iraq although there is no credible intelligence linking them. He is using one intelligence failure to justify a later intelligence failure.  Why is he still referencing the suspect intelligence? The inescapable conclusion is that US security has been suspect for most of Bush’s presidency. Nonetheless Bush steadfastly stands by his CIA chief.


“I strongly believe the CIA is ably led by George Tenet. He comes and briefs me on a regular basis about what he and his analysts see in the world,” says Bush seemingly oblivious that his analysts, according to the administration, have had it wrong.


Then comes a moronic revelation. Bush states, “David Kay has found the capacity [in Iraq] to produce weapons…They could have been destroyed during the war. Saddam and his henchmen could have destroyed them as we entered into Iraq. They could be hidden. They could have been transported to another country.” Or many they were shipped on a North Korean cargo ship to Osama bin Laden. What is this nonsense about a “capacity to produce weapons”? Most of the world could be charged with this transgression. A capacity to produce does not necessitate production. Is this a gambit for inciting preventative wars against whoever (Bush does like to personalize the war on terror) and presumably whenever the intelligence is up and running reliably again? In trying to account for the mythological WMD Bush surmises that his nemesis Saddam Hussein, while faced with destruction, destroyed his weapons rather than use them or had them covertly ferreted out of the country? Just why would someone develop weapons only to destroy them or hide them when under attack?


Bush has a ready answer to this too: Saddam is a madman. This is another justification for aggressing Iraq. 


With uncertainty Bush opines, “I don't think America can stand by and hope for the best from a madman. And I believe it is essential, I believe it is essential that, when we see a threat, we deal with those threats before they become imminent.” When did Bush become a psychologist? It sounds like projection. After all, the conservative Financial Times of London wrote metaphorically of the Bush neocons,  "The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum." The lunacy of Bush’s assertion is that the invasion only demonstrated arrantly that Iraq was not a threat. What is more mad than obliterating 50,000 people and sacrificing over 500 of your own nationals based on a hocus pocus threat? Is Saddam Hussein the only madman here?


Bush plays the fear card liberally throughout the interview. He describes Hussein as a “madman” six times and pronounces him “dangerous” 12 times during the interview. Fifteen times Bush refers to the threat posed by the “madman.”


Bush states: “And the man was a threat, and we dealt with him, and we dealt with him because we cannot hope for the best.” This is disingenuous. Hussein was no longer a threat or a “gathering threat” but rather a has-been threat. Bush doesn’t seem to grasp the logic that the ease of subduing Iraq only adduced that Hussein wasn’t a threat. It was also never explained how a regime defeated so thoroughly in 1991 and then placed under economic embargo and simultaneously disarmed could have risen again to be a threat. How could this take place?


Bush bleats that Hussein had used weapons against his own people. Hussein is a bastard but Bush must be aware of what transpired at Kent State University back on 4 May 1970.


Russert asks Bush, “But can you launch a preemptive war without ironclad, absolute intelligence that he had weapons of mass destruction?”


Bush responds, “Let me take a step back for a second, and there is no such thing necessarily in a dictatorial regime of ironclad, absolutely solid evidence. The evidence I had was the best possible evidence that he had a weapon. And the world is a safer and better place as a result of Saddam Hussein not being in power.


Whether or not the world is safer is moot. Apparently the US is not safer even with its civil rights curtailed. Code-orange alerts have become a fixture of life in the US now.


The lunacy of Bush’s declamations is apparent in the following assertion. “We can’t say, ‘Let's don't deal with Saddam Hussein, let’s hope he changes his stripes, or let's trust in the good will of Saddam Hussein. You know, let’s let us, you know, kind of, try to contain him.’ Containment doesn’t work with a man who is a madman.” Yet Kay’s report suggests that containment has worked. Iraq was disarmed. The policy of containment through UN sanctions was also a lethal policy for Iraqis however.


Throughout the interview Bush is unabashed about the fanciful threat of Iraq being exposed. When Russert asks Bush if Iraq really posed a threat to the continental US, Bush replies, “That's exactly what I said.”


The following exchange is noteworthy for its Freudian slip?


Russert: But there are lots of madmen in the world. Fidel Castro...


Bush: True.


Russert: ... in Iran, in North Korea, in Burma, and yet we don't go in and take down those governments.


Bush: Correct, and I could [italic added] -- that's a legitimate question as to why we like felt we needed to use force in Iraq and not in North Korea


Is Bush’s megalomania showing? Bush states that he could take down the rogue governments, even going so far as to convert Russert’s we. It seems a cause for concern.


It is palpable why Bush stays away from giving interviews. Bush avers that “… freedom and democracy will be a powerful long-term deterrent to terrorist activities. See, free societies are societies that don't develop weapons of mass terror and don't blackmail the world.”


An obvious challenge that arises from this statement is to ask whether Bush is claiming that the US is not a free society or that it has not developed WMD?


Russert reveals his tendentious insouciance when he asks, “Now looking back, in your mind, is it worth the loss of 530 American lives and 3,000 injuries and woundings [sic] simply to remove Saddam Hussein, even though there were no weapons of mass destruction?”  Russert makes no mention of the tens-of-thousands of Iraqis killed, tortured, and a population held under occupation. He never asks what the justification is for continuing the occupation when the casus belli has had the lie put to it?


Russert does get a little tougher on Bush near the end of the interview. He probes Bush on allegations of his having gone AWOL from the National Guard. Bush comes off very poorly here. His faces sags, his eyes glaze over, and his voice quivers as if entreating the viewers to commiserate with him. The war president appears defensive.


Bush responds, “There may be no evidence, but I did report… I can assure you in the year 2000 people were looking for those files, as well… If we still have them, but I -- you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records.”


This exchange is very telling. Bush is being asked to prove he was in the National Guard when the records are apparently nowhere to be found. Bush is caught in almost the same dilemma that Saddam Hussein was in. Hussein’s task was even tougher though. He was asked to prove a negative -- that he didn’t have WMD. Bush is merely being asked to provide documentation that he completed his National Guard duty.  Bush, the compassionate conservative, plays for sympathy whereas he showed none for the Iraqi people. He asks for understanding whereas he showed callous disregard for the safety of his soldiers by taunting the Iraqi resistance. Is such a man fit to lead the mightiest nation on the planet?


Russert asks the man, who said to the nations of the world, “You’re either with or against us,” a stunning question: “Why do you think you are perceived as such a divider?”


Rejoins Bush, “Gosh, I don't know, because I'm working hard to unite the country. As a matter of fact, it's the hardest part of being the president.


Russert questions why the Europeans condemn him. Says Bush, “Heck, I don't know. Ronald Reagan was unpopular in Europe when he was a president, according to Jose Maria Aznar. He said, ‘You know something?’ He said to me, he said, ‘You’re nearly as unpopular as Ronald Reagan was.’ I said, ‘Well, that -- first of all, I’m keeping pretty good company.’”


Turns out that Bush walked right into the set-up for a Russert commentary: “This is what John Kerry had to say last year. He said that his colleagues are appalled at the, quote, president’s lack of knowledge. They’ve managed him the same way they’ve managed Ronald Reagan.”


Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: kimpetersen@gyxi.dk.


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