There’s always been the frightening question of
what would happen if a President of the United States went completely
bonkers. But there is an equally disturbing issue of what happens if a
President loses touch with reality, especially if he is surrounded by
enough sycophants and enablers so no one can or will stop him.
At his Oct. 11 news conference, Bush gave the
country a peek into his imaginary world, a bizarre place impenetrable by
facts and logic, where falsehoods, once stated, become landmarks and
where Bush’s “gut” instinct, no matter how misguided, is the compass for
finding one’s way.
In speaking to White House reporters, Bush
maneuvered casually through this world like an experienced guide making
passing references to favorite points of interest, such as Hussein’s
defiance of U.N. resolutions banning WMD (when Hussein actually had
eliminated his WMD stockpiles).
“We tried the diplomacy,” Bush said. “Remember it?
We tried resolution after resolution after resolution.” Though the
resolutions had worked – and left Hussein stripped of his WMD arsenal –
that isn’t how it looks in Bush’s world, where the resolutions failed
and there was no choice but to invade.
At other news conferences, Bush has filled in
details of his fictional history. For instance, on July 14, 2003, just a
few months after the Iraq invasion, Bush began rewriting the record to
meet his specifications.
“We gave him [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the
inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a
reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power,” Bush
In the real world, of course, Hussein admitted U.N.
inspectors in fall 2002 and gave them unfettered access to search
suspected Iraqi weapons sites. It was Bush who forced the U.N.
inspectors to leave in March 2003 so the invasion could proceed.
Over the past three years, Bush has
repeated this false claim about the barred inspectors in slightly varied
forms as part of his litany for defending the invasion on the grounds
that it was Hussein who “chose war,” not Bush.
Meeting no protest from the Washington press corps, Bush continued
repeating his lie about Hussein showing “defiance” on the inspections.
For instance, at a news conference on March 21, 2006, Bush reprised his
claims about his diplomatic efforts.
“I was hoping to solve this [Iraq] problem diplomatically,” Bush
said. “The world said, ‘Disarm, disclose or face serious consequences.’
… We worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the
world. And when he chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to
disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And
we did. And the world is safer for it.”
Determined to Invade
In reality, documentary evidence shows that Bush was
determined to invade Iraq regardless of what U.S.
intelligence found or what the Iraqis did.
For instance, the so-called “Downing
Street Memo” recounted a secret meeting on July 23, 2002, involving
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security aides.
At that meeting, Richard Dearlove, chief of the British intelligence
agency MI6, described his discussions about Iraq with Bush’s top
advisers in Washington.
Dearlove said, “Bush wanted to remove Saddam,
through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and
WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
At an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 31, 2003, Bush
and Blair discussed their determination to invade Iraq, though Bush
still hoped that he might provoke the Iraqis into some violent act that
would serve as political cover, according to minutes written by Blair’s
top foreign policy aide David Manning.
So, while Bush was telling the American people that he considered war
with Iraq “a last resort,” he actually had decided to invade regardless
of Iraq’s cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors, according to the
five-page memo of the Oval Office meeting.
The memo also revealed Bush conniving to deceive the American people
and the world community by trying to engineer a provocation that would
portray Hussein as the aggressor. Bush suggested painting a U.S. plane
up in U.N. colors and flying it over Iraq with the goal of drawing Iraqi
fire, the meeting minutes said.
“The U.S. was thinking of flying U-2 reconnaissance aircraft with
fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours,” the memo said about
Bush’s scheme. “If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.” [See
to Talk War Crimes.”]
Regardless of whether any casus belli could be provoked, Bush
already had “penciled in” March 10, 2003, as the start of the U.S.
bombing of Iraq, according to the memo. “Our diplomatic strategy had to
be arranged around the military planning,” Manning wrote. [NYT, March
In other words, neither the U.N. inspectors’
negative WMD findings nor the Security Council’s refusal to authorize
force would stop Bush’s invasion on March 19, 2003. [For more on Bush's
pretexts for war in Iraq, see Consortiumnews.com’s “President
Bush, With the Candlestick…”]
But Bush remains so comfortable with his fabricated
history – and so confident that the White House press corps won’t
contradict him – that he now sketches the false landscape in a few quick
strokes, as in “Remember it? We tried resolution after resolution after
When Bush is not taking gullible people on a tour
of his imaginary history, he is testing how well sophistry works as
logic, such as his oft-repeated claim that Americans must believe what
Osama bin Laden says.
“What I say to the American people when I’m out
there is all you got to do is listen to what Osama bin Laden says”
regarding al-Qaeda’s goals and the importance of Iraq, Bush said at the
Oct. 11 news conference.
Yet, while Bush argues that bin Laden’s public
ravings should seal the deal – and thus lock U.S. troops into Iraq for
the indefinite future – Bush never considers the well-documented
possibility that al-Qaeda is playing a double game, baiting the United
States about leaving Iraq to ensure that U.S. troops will stay.
In a rational world – if one wanted to give any
weight to al-Qaeda’s thinking – you would look at unguarded, internal
communications, not the public propaganda.
For instance, more credence would be given to an
intercepted Dec. 11, 2005, communiqué from a senior bin Laden lieutenant
known as “Atiyah” to the then-chief of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
a document discovered by the U.S. military at the time of Zarqawi’s
death in June 2006.
letter about al-Qaeda’s strategy in Iraq, Atiyah told Zarqawi that
“prolonging the war is in our interest.” A chief reason, Atiyah
explained, was that Zarqawi’s brutal tactics had alienated many Iraqi
Sunni insurgents and thus a continued U.S. military presence was needed
to buy time for al-Qaeda to mend fences and put down roots.
The “Atiyah letter” – like a previously intercepted
message attributed to al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri –
indicated that a U.S. military pullout could be disastrous for al-Qaeda’s
terrorist bands, which are estimated at only about 5 to 10 percent of
the anti-U.S. fighters in Iraq.
Without the U.S. military presence to serve as a
rallying cry and a unifying force, the al-Qaeda contingent faced
disintegration from desertions and attacks from Iraqi insurgents who
resented the wanton bloodshed committed by Zarqawi’s non-Iraqi
The “Zawahiri letter,” which was dated July 9,
2005, said a rapid American military withdrawal could have caused the
foreign jihadists, who had flocked to Iraq to battle the Americans, to
simply give up the fight and go home.
“The mujahaddin must not have their mission end
with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their
weapons, and silence the fighting zeal,” said the “Zawahiri letter,”
according to a text released by the office of the U.S. Director of
The “Atiyah letter,” which was translated by the
U.S. military’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, also stressed
the vulnerability of al-Qaeda’s position in Iraq.
“Know that we, like all mujahaddin, are still
weak,” Atiyah told Zarqawi. “We have not yet reached a level of
stability. We have no alternative but to not squander any element of the
foundations of strength or any helper or supporter.”
Indeed, the “Atiyah” and “Zawahiri” letters suggest
that one of al-Qaeda’s biggest fears is that the United States will pull
out of Iraq before the terrorist organization has built the necessary
political infrastructure to turn the country into a future base of
The Caliphate Scam
Zawahiri was so concerned about the possibility of
mass desertions after a U.S. withdrawal that he suggested that al-Qaeda
leaders in Iraq talk up the “idea” of a “caliphate” along the eastern
Mediterranean to avert a disintegration of the force.
Even with these two fretful al-Qaeda letters in
hand, Bush continued to warn Americans about al-Qaeda’s intent to follow
up a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by turning the country into a launching
pad for a vast Islamic “empire” that would spell the strategic defeat of
the United States.
In a Sept. 5, 2006, speech, Bush declared, “This
caliphate would be a totalitarian Islamic empire encompassing all
current and former Muslim lands, stretching from Europe to North Africa,
the Middle East, and Southeast Asia,” Bush said. “We know this because
al-Qaeda has told us.”
Bush returned to this theme in his Oct. 11 news
conference. His administration’s “strategic goal is to help this young
democracy [Iraq] succeed in a world in which extremists are trying to
intimidate rational people in order to topple moderate governments and
to extend the caliphate,” Bush said. “They want to extend an ideological
caliphate that has no concept of liberty inherent in their beliefs.”
But – like much of Bush’s world – al-Qaeda’s
“caliphate” doesn’t really exist. Indeed, before the Bush
administration took power in 2001, Islamic extremists had been routed across the Arab
world, from Algeria to Egypt to Jordan to Saudi Arabia – explaining why
so many al-Qaeda leaders were exiles holed up in caves in Afghanistan.
Plus, given the strife between Sunni and Shiite
sects, it’s hard to conceive how a unified global Islamic “caliphate”
would be imaginable. Most likely, if the U.S. government dealt with
Muslims with greater sophistication, they would take care of al-Qaeda
and similar extremists like they did before.
In Bush’s world, however, the “caliphate” is not
just a ploy by al-Qaeda leaders to keep impressionable young jihadists
in line; it is an entity that would be “extended” if U.S. forces
withdraw from Iraq.
So, as he rationalizes the horrendous death toll in
Iraq – estimated at about 655,000 dead by researchers at Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health – Bush doesn’t see a disaster of
historic proportions. In his world, the bloodshed is simply another reaffirmation of
his decision to invade.
“I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face
of violence,” Bush said. “I am amazed that this is a society which so
wants to be free that they’re willing to – that there’s a level of
violence that they tolerate.”
It's difficult to envision any rational person
making such a statement. If anything, the level of killing in Iraq is a
combination of sectarian violence and the determination of many Iraqis
to drive out what they see as the American invaders. But in Bush world,
such realities never intrude.
Still, perhaps, the greatest danger from Bush's
delusions is that they will come to supplant any American notion of
reality and spell the doom of the United States as a democratic Republic
based on an informed electorate.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at
secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine,
the Press & 'Project Truth.'