Watching Bush give a press conference these days is a bit like watching televangelist Pat Robertson claiming he can leg-press more than 2000 pounds --both aim to squash common sense with their preposterous assertions. In Fact, it’s stupefying to think some people are gullible enough to weigh their ridiculous claims, but even more galling to realize these hucksters may actually believe the nonsense they are spouting.
Bush, of course, may not have done much heavy lifting in terms of thinking through the consequences of occupying Iraq, but he has managed to crush the truth and overturn reality. Indeed, when it comes to avoiding responsibility no one can outperform Bush. After all, the misleader-in-chief somehow manages to turn every question regarding his veracity, credibility, competence, and judgment into a matter of his sincerity.
Bush may believe what he says, but is what he says true? Asked by a reporter if he ignored pre-war intelligence reports, analyses predicting the kind of chaos and sectarian violence we are seeing in Iraq these days, the president deftly deflected the query by arguing that such reports inevitably contain predictions that pan out, and predictions that don’t. He then cagily argued that Saddam had made the “choice” for war when the dictator refused to comply with U.N. demands.
The problem with Bush’s sleight of hand, however, is that it is a matter of historical record that Saddam was grudgingly complying with the U.N.’s inspection regime and that it was Bush who unilaterally withdrew the inspectors on the since discredited grounds that the process wasn’t working. Indeed, as chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix has emphatically stated, if the weapons inspectors had not been ordered out of Iraq by Bush – just two weeks before they were due to complete their mission, as it happens – we would have know with virtual certainty that Saddam did not possess WMD.
Bush’s Orwellian revision of history is critical for several reasons. First, it unequivocally illustrates that Bush failed to fulfill his pledge to use force only as a last resort. Indeed, the Congressional resolution giving Bush the authority to use force against Saddam stipulated that the president could go to war if and only if all other means aimed at getting Saddam to disarm peacefully failed.
Saddam, of course, had disarmed. Not knowing – or caring – about that fact greatly hampered America’s post-war efforts. Donald Rumsfeld argued it was Paul Bremmer’s responsibility to locate the phantom weapons, while Bremmer argued it was Rumsfeld’s responsibility. Meanwhile, stockpiles of conventional weapons were left undestroyed for fear of exposing troops to potential toxic chemical or biological weapons that might have been mixed in with ordinary ammo. As a result, many of these munitions, which were left unsecured during a period of inter-agency confusion, are being harnessed for use against U.S. troops today.
Bush continues to mislead Americans on a variety of fronts. His failure to acknowledge the truth – that he alone bears responsibility for taking America into a disastrous war --reflects a personal pathology one normally associates with sociopaths, narcissists, and other serial-liars. It is quite possible, however, that Bush has such an overly idealized conception of himself – an infallibility complex, if you will – that he doesn’t see a need to check his beliefs or statements against an external standard. It is worth bearing in mind, however, a sentiment expressed by Winston Churchill: namely, that a democratic people can face any adversity provided they believe their leaders are leveling with them and not living in a fool’s paradise. It’s increasing hard to see how Bush can meet this standard. After all, it’s a pretty bad sign when Pat Robertson’s leg-press claims carry more weight than Bush’s assertions about matters of national security.