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Bush: Deceptive or Delusional?

By Robert Parry
October 2, 2004

George W. Bush still can’t – or won’t – get his brain around some central facts that bear on his decision to invade Iraq in 2003. He falsified that history again during the Sept. 30 presidential debate.

Before a national audience, Bush misrepresented what should now be uncontested facts: that Iraq possessed no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction; that international sanctions did work; that the inability of U.N. inspectors to find WMDs in Iraq was not because they were incompetent but because there was nothing to find.

Bush’s inability – or unwillingness – to frankly acknowledge these realities remains one of the most troubling aspects in his bid for a second White House term. Either he’s living in a fantasy world where facts are whatever he thinks they are or he has concluded that most American voters are very stupid and will believe whatever he tells them.

During the debate with Sen. John Kerry in Coral Gables, Fla., Bush continued to present a version of reality that has long been discredited.

“I went there [the United Nations] hoping that once and for all the free world would act in concert to get Saddam Hussein to listen to our demands,” Bush said. “They [the Security Council] passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. I believe when an international body speaks, it must mean what it says.

“But Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming. Why should he? He had 16 other resolutions and nothing took place. As a matter of fact, my opponent talks about inspectors. The facts are that he [Hussein] was systematically deceiving the inspectors. That wasn’t going to work. That’s kind of a pre-Sept. 10 mentality, the hope that somehow resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful place.”

Wrong, Wrong

Virtually every point in this war justification from Bush is wrong. Whether or not Hussein had an “intention” to disarm, the reality was that he had disarmed. Rather than the U.N. resolutions having no consequence, they apparently achieved their goal of a WMD-free Iraq. Rather than clueless U.N. inspectors duped by Hussein, the inspectors were not finding WMDs because the stockpiles weren’t there. Bush's post-invasion inspection team didn't find WMDs either.

But rather than simply face up to the facts and admit that he was wrong, Bush acts as if the reality of the past year and a half can be wiped away. In defiance of the findings from his own WMD inspection team, Bush flashes back to the good ol’ days of late 2002 when conservative talk shows mocked the U.N. inspectors and lobbed charges of treason at anyone who questioned Bush’s case for war.

Bush's debate deception also wasn't a onetime slip of the tongue. Bush has been rewriting the prelude to the Iraq War for more than a year now – and has paid little price for his dissembling. Dating back to July 2003, Bush has insisted that Iraq refused to let U.N. inspectors in during the run-up to war. The reality, of course, was that the U.N. inspectors were inside Iraq, getting access to any suspect site of their choosing. They wanted to continue their work in March 2003, but Bush’s invasion plans forced them to leave. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Reality on the Ballot.”]

Like his earlier falsehoods, Bush’s latest rendition has drawn very little press criticism. In the middle of a fact-checking article, the Washington Post did mention Bush’s assertion about Hussein having “no intention of disarming.” The Post then noted that “Iraq asserted in its filing with the United Nations in December 2002 that it had no such weapons, and none has been found.” [Washington Post, Oct. 1, 2004]

Some press eyebrows also were raised when Bush asserted that "the Taliban is no longer in existence," contradicting reports from U.S. military and intelligence officials who say the former Afghan rulers have regrouped and have stepped up their military challenge to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

Bush slipped into another cozy distortion when he justified the Iraq invasion by declaring that "the enemy attacked us," thus linking Iraq to al-Qaeda's Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. That prompted a retort from Kerry, who reminded Bush that "Saddam Hussein didn't attack us; Osama bin Laden attacked us." An annoyed Bush responded by saying, "Of course, I know Osama bin Laden attacked us."

Double Standard

But Bush has not suffered any sustained criticism for his recurring misstatements about the Iraq War. By contrast, in Campaign 2000, the national news media denounced Vice President Al Gore as a “liar” for minor errors, such as his recollection that he had visited a disaster site with the director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration when Gore actually was with a FEMA deputy.

Four years ago, while jumping all over Gore, the press corps largely gave Bush a pass for his false statements, presumably because many reporters felt that the Texas governor might not know any better. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Protecting Bush-Cheney.”] The leniency toward Bush has continued into Campaign 2004, though one might expect that a sitting president should at least know the basic facts about an event as important as invading Iraq.

It’s possible, too, that Bush’s insistence on presenting a bogus history of the Iraq War suggests a deeper problem. Either Bush has entered a make-believe world where facts are whatever he thinks they are – or he has calculated that he can lie to the American people without consequence. Either he’s out of touch with reality or he’s concluded that he can say whatever he wants and no one will call him to account.

Either possibility – delusion or cynicism – is dangerous for the future of the American Republic. Indeed, it may be hard to know which is worse: to have a commander in chief who can’t distinguish fact from fiction or to have a president who holds such a low opinion of the intelligence of the American people that he believes he can tell them bald-faced lies and get away with it.

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Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Parry's latest book is Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. It can be purchased at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com.

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