Voters disrobed President George W. Bush on Tuesday, Nov. 7. They removed his political armor. He is now naked, without a conservative Congress for defense, before a vindictive Democratic majority. Like an abused dog, his sides welted from the lash of his master’s whip, the Democratic party has lain servile, yet eager, for the opportunity to strike. The Democrats may not have any new ideas for Iraq, but I welcome their power to force attention towards those most culpable for the war. And to the Democratic party, though I belong to no party, I offer this gift. I offer my recrimination of the president.
Bush shares one trait in common with all other politicians. This trait is not his mysterious smile in press conferences, nor is it the aura of wisdom that wreathes his lips as he recites statistics. It is not the irrelevance of those statistics either. The shared trait is his propensity to lie. Some politicians lie directly and daringly, while others lie discreetly and ambiguously. Former President Bill Clinton lied intrepidly about his affair, and in debates, often the one who evades the questions best wins. I do not blame our politicians for misleading, for the act is a political necessity. In a world where no one is ever completely right or completely wrong, a politician can rarely admit his or her error.
So by calling Bush a liar, I would not necessarily condemn him. However, what concerns me and criminalizes him is the depth of his deceit and its circumstances. His was not a simple omission. He was not one congressman forgetting a fact in his espousal of welfare. It was more historical. He was a young Salem girl telling the mayor he saw his neighbor communing with Satan. His administration’s claim about Iraq’s weaponry was one of those deceptions that will occasionally fester with fear, infect the government, perverting its policies and inflicting enduring harm. It gives me a nauseating sense of nostalgia. Joseph McCarthy used the urgency of the Soviet atomic threat to begin the Red Scare and imprison whomever he wished. Senator McCarthy’s hunt for the Reds afflicted the country with terror, the residue of which still tinges the word ‘Communism’ today.
The 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center created a profound sense of unease similar to the effects of Soviet nuclear testing 50 years ago. We felt a compulsion to act, to eliminate our enemies, who in fact were sometimes our own citizens, sometimes phantoms who appeared and disappeared arbitrarily. We invaded Afghanistan, the most culpable sponsor of terrorism. Then we invaded Iraq.
We know now that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. But we should also understand that at its inception, the invasion should have been recognized as such. We had spent millions of dollars searching the country, wherever we wanted, and found no indication that Hussein was manufacturing or developing weapons of mass destruction. This meant one of two things: that he was developing them in secret, in mobile vans or deep underground laboratories set in the desert sand, or that he was not trying to build weapons at all. If the latter, we had no cause to invade, at least not from a national security perspective. If the former, the weapons would be of such minuscule quantities they would not even threaten his neighbors.
Under these circumstances, Bush pushed and pushed his case against Iraq. He directed the nervous energy of his advisors, the Senate, congressional leaders and some of the American people and impelled them into irrational fear. Bush created an insidious deception, one that arose through his hatred of Hussein and that propagated because of the extreme sense of peril at the time. This frenetic fixation created enormous political pressure within the administration to discover Hussein’s hidden cache, which everyone supposed would exist, even contrary to simple logic.
In Salem, magistrates hardly needed evidence to verify witchcraft they already knew was true. I do not doubt that even Bush believed his lie. Thus, the investigation became a frenzied hunt for any evidence that could justify the inevitable war rather than a cool search for factual evidence that would have prevented a war.
We did depose a brutal dictator