September 19, 2008

How Did Bush Lie to Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” Bill Clinton famously explained to the grand jury. And by certain standards, he actually had a point.

Let’s recall the context. Clinton had just been asked whether his lawyer had issued a “false statement” when declaring, “There is absolutely no sex of any kind” between the president and Monica Lewinsky. As Slick Willie explained, if one were to interpret “is” in the present tense, then the statement would be true. In other words, if his lawyer meant “there is (currently) absolutely no sex between the president and Monica,” then he was telling the truth. After all, it’s not like Bill was being fellated by Monica at the exact moment his lawyer issued the statement. So, you see, his lawyer wasn’t lying after all…

I’m being facetious, of course. Bill Clinton’s lawyer obviously lied. It’s true that he might not have said anything that was untrue, but he nevertheless intentionally created a false impression in the minds of his listeners. And as far as I’m concerned, as far as anyone should be concerned, this makes him as much of a liar as if he’d made a false statement. The ends of both actions (deceiving others) are the same, even if the means are not.

Although Clinton excelled at such trickery, he had nothing on his successor. Of course, whereas Slick Willie lied about a blowjob, George W. Bush lied about war. As the bumper sticker puts it: “Clinton Ruined a Dress. Bush Ruined a Nation.”

A good example of Bush’s deception can be found in the following statement from his 2003 State of the Union address: “The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.”

Although I believe Bush’s second and third claims were blatantly false,[1], [2] I want to focus here on his first claim, which fits into the pattern of deception described above. Now the president was certainly telling the truth when he said that the IAEA had declared in the 1990s that Iraq had an advanced nuclear program. What the president failed to mention, however, was that the agency had since reached a new opinion. In fact, just a day before Bush’s speech, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei had declared that Iraq’s nuclear program had been eliminated in the 1990s and not revived since. Thus, by stating the agency’s old opinion without noting that it had since been abandoned, Bush created the false impression that the IAEA still believed Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons program.

More examples of such Clintonian deceit can be found in many of the pre-war speeches in which Bush implied that America was in imminent danger of a Saddam-sponsored terrorist attack. Although it’s true that the October 2002 NIE concluded that Iraq probably had WMDs, it did not believe that Iraq was likely to use these weapons. Nor did it believe that it was likely to give these weapons to al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organizations. Noting that they had “no specific intelligence information that Saddam’s regime has directed attacks against US territory,” the report stated that “Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington a stronger cause for making war.” However, the estimate cautioned that Iraq might “attempt clandestine attacks against the US Homeland if Baghdad feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable.”

Despite these conclusions, Bush went around saying things like:

* “This is a man [referring to Saddam] that we know has had connections with al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army. And this is a man that we must deal with for the sake of peace, for the sake of our children’s peace.”

* “Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people, and to all free people. If the world fails to confront the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, refusing to use force, even as a last resort, free nations would assume immense and unacceptable risks. The attacks of September the 11th, 2001 showed what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terrorist states could do with weapons of mass destruction.”

* “It used to be that we could think that you could contain a person like Saddam Hussein, that oceans would protect us from his type of terror. September the 11th should say to the American people that we’re now a battlefield, that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist organization could be deployed here at home.”

* “We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy—the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader…who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein’s regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.”

Such statements, of course, created the impression that a Saddam-sponsored al Qaeda attack was, not just possible, but in fact imminent. Creating such an impression was undoubtedly deceitful. As journalist Paul Sperry notes, “By telling Americans that Saddam could ‘on any given day’ slip unconventional weapons to al-Qaida if America didn’t disarm him, the president misrepresented the conclusions of his own secret intelligence report, which warned that Saddam wouldn’t even try to reach out to al-Qaida unless he were attacked and had nothing to lose—and might even find that hard to do since he had no history of conducting joint terrorist operations with al-Qaida, and certainly none against the U.S.”[3]

The above statements, and many others in which Bush claimed that removing Saddam was important for winning the “war on terror,” are all the more troubling in light of a January 2003 National Intelligence Council report. The report, entitled “Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq,” predicted that a war against Iraq, far from advancing the war on terror, would actually bolster anti-American terrorists. According to the report, which was delivered to the administration before the war, a U.S. invasion would both serve as a rallying cry for Islamic extremists in the region and attract foreign Islamic fighters to Iraq.[4] Three years later, a National Intelligence Estimate revealed that the NIC prediction had come true: “The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.”

From all this, we can conclude that, contrary to popular opinion, George W. Bush is not a simple idiot. Rather, he is clever. Not brilliant. Not all that knowledgeable about military strategy or world history. But he is clever. Clever like a lawyer. Clever like a car salesman. Clever—alas—like an American president.


* * * * *

[1] When Bush claimed that the British government had learned that Saddam sought uranium from Africa, he implied that such was in fact the case: after all, you can’t learn something that’s not true. The problem is that U.S. intelligence agencies did not agree with the Brits. In February 2002, the CIA sent Joe Wilson, former ambassador to Iraq, to Africa to investigate whether Niger had sold uranium yellowcake to Iraq in the 1990s. As Wilson later wrote, “It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.” After returning to Washington, Wilson shared his findings with both the CIA and State Department. It is, therefore, not surprising that the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate stated that the British claim could not be confirmed. Moreover, the NIE included the view of INR (the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research) that “the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are…highly dubious.” The Bush administration had access to the NIE, of course. Moreover, they were warned on numerous other occasions about the uncertainty of the African-uranium allegation. For instance, the same month that the NIE was released, CIA Director George Tenet called National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and told him to remove the African claim from Bush’s October 7 speech. Soon thereafter, the CIA sent two letters to the White House stating that it doubted the African claim. Finally—although there’s no specific evidence that such was the case—it’s difficult to believe that the CIA wouldn’t have given the administration a final warning after reviewing portions of Bush’s State of the Union address in January 2003.

[2] Bush’s claim that Saddam attempted to purchase the aluminum tubes is troubling for two reasons. First, to say “our intelligence sources” tell us X implies that all our intelligence sources tell us X. But in the case at hand, not all intelligence sources were in agreement. As the 2002 CIA report which Bush seemed to be referencing had noted, some intelligence specialists believed Iraq intended to use the tubes for conventional weapons programs. The second point to be made is that Bush’s claim was repudiated by the IAEA just a day before Bush’s speech. As ElBaradei had stated, “From our analysis to date it appears that the aluminum tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq [that they were part of a conventional rocket program] and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges.”

[3] It shouldn’t be surprising that a few months after the war began, nearly 7 in 10 Americans believed that Saddam Hussein had been personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

[4] According to the Washington Post: the report “discussed ‘political Islam being boosted and the war being exploited by terrorists and extremists elsewhere in the region,’ one former senior analyst said. It also suggested that fear of U.S. military dominance and occupation of a Middle East country—one sacred to Islam—would attract foreign Islamic fighters to the area.”

September 13, 2008

The End of the Affair: How Sarah Palin Broke My Heart

I loved Sarah Palin. She was so nice and sweet. And hot. Man, was she hot. So I loved her. Yes, I loved her. For about a day. But, like all love affairs, this one had to come to an end.

It turned out that Sarah Palin was, well, a politician.

I first realized this shortly after she spoke about “the bridge to nowhere”—a.k.a. the proposed Gravina Island Bridge, which became a famous example of pork barrel spending in 2005 when Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma tried to block $223 million in federal funds from going to its construction. As Sarah stated in her first speech as McCain’s running mate: “I have championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress—I told Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said we’d build it ourselves.”

Though Sarah claims that she told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks,” I soon learned that she actually favored receiving federal money for the bridge, as she made clear during the 2006 gubernatorial race. And though it’s true that she finally abandoned the project, she never turned down federal funding. In fact, she kept the $223 million earmark her state received from Congress. And she stated that the only reason she wasn’t building the bridge was because there wasn’t enough money for it.

As if this revelation wasn’t enough, my image of Sarah grew even worse when, just a few days later, I picked up the Washington Post and saw this headline: “Palin's Small Alaska Town Secured Big Federal Funds.” Alarmed, I continued reading, only to learn that, as the mayor of Wasilla (pop. 6,700), Sarah hired a lobbying firm. The firm’s goal: to secure federal earmarks for Wasilla. The firm’s results: spectacular: in just four years, it won $26.9 million in federal earmarks for Wasilla.

How could this be, I wondered? After all, Sarah, my Sarah, had declared, “I have championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress.”

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. Not only did anti-earmark Sarah Palin not say “no thanks.” Not only did she actually hire a law firm to lobby for earmarks. But it turns out that she’s not even all that fiscally conservative. During her stint as mayor, she “racked up nearly $20 million in long-term debt.”

Oh, Sarah, say it ain’t so! Say you’re not like them!

And then I turned on CNN the other day and learned that she’s currently under an ethics violation for using her position as governor to fire her former brother-in-law!

Oh, it just keeps getting worse and worse…

September 5, 2008

It Was Never About WMDs

The Iraq War was never about WMDs.

Now I realize this is a heretical thing to say in many circles, but I think the facts bear me out.

It’s now known that prior to the 2003 invasion, President Bush ignored evidence that the Iraqi government did not have WMDs. This evidence came from two high-level officials in Saddam Hussein’s government: Naji Sabri and Tahir Jalil Habbush.

Naji Sabri

In September 2002, both the French intelligence service and the CIA gave several hundred thousand dollars to Naji Sabri, Iraq’s foreign minister. Sabri in turn agreed to act as a spy for the United States. During an April 2006 interview on 60 Minutes, Tyler Drumheller, who served as the CIA’s chief of covert operations in Europe from 2001-2005, revealed that the Bush administration was initially excited by this news. When CIA Director George Tenet reported the development in a high-level meeting, attended by Bush, Cheney, Rice, and others, “They were enthusiastic because they said, they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.”

But to the disappointment of the Bushies, Sabri eventually provided the CIA with documentation showing that Iraq did not have any WMDs. Drumheller felt that this claim was credible. Not only was Sabri someone “who would know what he was talking about,” but Drumheller believed he could be trusted: “We continued to validate him the whole way through.” Nonetheless, after Tenet conveyed this new information to the administration, they were no longer interested in what Sabri had to say. As Drumheller recalls: “And we said, ‘Well, what about the intel?’ And they said, ‘Well, this isn’t about intel anymore. This is about regime change.’”

Two former CIA officers later confirmed Drumheller’s story to journalist Sidney Blumenthal. According to one of the officers, “The information [provided by Sabri] detailed that Saddam may have wished to have a program, that his engineers had told him they could build a nuclear weapon within two years if they had fissile material, which they didn’t, and that they had no chemical or biological weapons.” According to the same officer, after being presented with the information, the president dismissed it as “the same old thing.” The other officer notes: “Bush didn’t give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up.”

Despite this response from the administration, the CIA continued collecting information from Sabri. Moreover, they “checked on everything he told us.” Perhaps most strikingly, they received information from the French intelligence service, which had been eavesdropping on Sabri’s telephone conversations, that further corroborated his claims. Though continuing to insist that Sabri’s claim were credible, they were finally told by one of Tenet’s deputies: “You haven’t figured this out yet. This isn’t about intelligence. It’s about regime change.”

Tahir Jalil Habbush

Thanks to Ron Suskind’s The Way of the World, we know that, along with Sabri, the CIA was receiving information from Tahir Jalil Habbush, the chief of Iraqi intelligence. According to the two CIA officers who spoke with Suskind (different officers than spoke with Blumenthal), Habbush became a secret source to the CIA in January 2003. Like Sabri, he would have known whether Iraq had WMDs. Also like Sabri, he told the CIA that Iraq did not have any WMDs, noting that Saddam was not perfectly forthright about his weapons program because he didn’t want longtime enemy Iran to know about this weakness. Upon first being told of Habbush’s claim, President Bush replied, “Well, why don’t you tell him to give us something we can use to make our case?”

Curveball

The “inside source” that the administration decided to take seriously was Rafid Ahmed Alwan, a.k.a. “Curveball.” Curveball was an Iraqi who defected to Germany in 1999 and claimed to be “a star chemical engineer at a plant that made mobile biological weapons in Djerf al-Nadaf.” As is well known by now, Curveball’s claims turned out to be false. What’s so troubling about this is that the administration had reason to doubt him at the time. Not only did German intelligence officers warn the U.S. that they themselves doubted the veracity of his statements, but “For two months, Drumheller fought against the use of Curveball, raising the red flag that he was likely a fraud.” Yet, while the claims of Sabri and Habbush were ignored, one of Curveball’s claims ended up in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.

The Oil Connection


So the war wasn’t about WMDs. It was never about WMDs.

So what then was the war about? Would you be too terribly shocked if I said that the war was, at least in part, about oil?

Or do you think it a mere coincidence that Iraq is believed to contain the second largest oil reserves in the world?

And do you think it a coincidence that Bush, Cheney, and Rice all have oil connections? The Bush family has been in the business for over a century now. Cheney formerly served as the CEO of Halliburton, a Fortune 500 energy firm. And Rice served on Chevron’s board of directors.

And do you think it a coincidence that the 2007 “Declaration of Principles” signed by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki states that Iraq will facilitate and encourage “foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments, to contribute to the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq”?

And do you think it a coincidence that the U.S. government recently encouraged Iraq’s Oil Ministry to grant no-bid contracts to America’s largest oil companies?

Now I’m not saying that the Iraq War was all about oil. I don’t know. But I have a much easier time buying this explanation than that old line about WMDs.

September 2, 2008

Grandpa Isn’t One of Us -- An Open Letter to Fellow Pro-Lifers

Dear fellow pro-lifers:

You’re a bunch of dingbats. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Election after election, you support the same old candidates, who make the same old promises—yet unborn babies continue being murdered.

And don’t tell me to be patient. Don’t tell me that I just need to keep voting Republican, that they’re eventually going to appoint enough pro-life justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. History tells us that this is very unlikely. Despite all his pro-life rhetoric, Ronald Reagan appointed two pro-abortion judges to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy. And George H.W. Bush, another reputed pro-lifer, appointed the pro-abortion David Souter. As far as W’s appointees go—well, they’ve yet to be tested.

When will you guys get it? You’ve been lied to. You’ve been used. Yes, the Democrats are a bunch of baby-killers, but your beloved Republicans aren’t much better.

And now you’re rallying behind John McCain?

Don’t you know that McCain voted to confirm the pro-abortion Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 1993 and the pro-abortion Stephen Breyer in 1994.

Don’t you know that McCain told the San Francisco Chronicle on August 20, 1999 that he was against overturning Roe v. Wade?

Don’t you know that he supports stem cell research?

Don’t you know that he has voted to fund Planned Parenthood?

Don’t you realize that John McCain is using you? Yes, he’s using you, just like Republicans have been doing for the past thirty years.

As Chuck Baldwin, the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party, asks, if McCain is really pro-life, then why didn’t he support Ron Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act? Why didn’t he introduce a companion bill in the Senate?

Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act would have removed abortion from the jurisdiction of the federal courts, including the Supreme Court. And yes, Congress can do this, per Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. Although this act itself would not have banned abortion, it would have sent the issue back to the states. As a result, states, for the first time since Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973, would have been given the power to enact laws limiting or outlawing abortion. In other words, the act could have saved the lives of many unborn babies.

Yet McCain didn’t support the measure. Nor did most other Republicans. Kind of makes you wonder what their real intentions are, doesn’t it?

So fellow right to lifers, what am I telling you to do? To vote for Barack Obama? Certainly not. He’s an even bigger baby-killer than McCain. At least Grandpa sometimes votes against the abortion lobby.

What I’m telling you is that if you truly want to end abortion, then there’s no point in voting for John McCain. If you really want to end abortion, then it makes much more sense to vote for someone like Chuck Baldwin.

No, Baldwin doesn’t have a realistic shot at winning. But so what? That’s not why you should vote for him. Rather, you should vote for him because doing so would send a message to the GOP. It would send the message that you finally see through their lies, that you’re serious about defending the unborn, and that, if they ever again want to win another election, they need to start keeping their promises.

Anyway, the choice is yours.

Your exasperated colaborer,

Don Emmerich Jr.