King George in Decline: The Misadventures of an Aging Prep-School Cheerleader: Volume Two

Jun 08, 2008

I hope you enjoyed the fifth anniversary of President Bush’s declaration of victory in the Iraq war. It was back on May 1, 2003 that Bush stood under a “Mission Accomplished” banner and said, “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” Remarks like that one raise an important question about this administration: Which statements are lies and which are delusions? I’d put the Mission Accomplished speech in the latter category, but the president and his cronies rack up a bigger score in the “lie” column.

The editors of Mother Jones magazine have compiled an interactive list of the administration’s deceptions regarding Iraq. The list, titled “Lie by Lie,” is a great resource for understanding the Bush team’s war on fact. The editors present the full story of the administration’s bogus claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but the most interesting sections deal with Bush’s effort to link Iraq to al Qaeda and the September 11 attacks.

The main evidence connecting Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden came from a captured al Qaeda operative named al Libi, who made his statement under torture. On February 1, 2002, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that al Libi’s information did not check out and was most likely false. The DIA also stated: “Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements [like al Qaeda]. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control.”

Despite that report, Bush said on February 8, 2002: “Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training.” Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, seconded that remark on August 20 of that year: “There are al Qaeda in Iraq. There are.”

Ten days before the start of the war, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, upped the ante even further. On March 9, 2003, she claimed that al Qaeda had “sought help” in its effort obtain biological and chemical weapons. “They weren’t doing very well on their own,” Rice added. “They sought [help] in Iraq. They received the help.” Despite the evidence, administration officials tried to make it appear that Saddam was al Qaeda’s patron and protector. 

Most remarkable, however, was Vice President Cheney’s statement on September 8, 2002 that Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, had met “in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the WorldTradeCenter.” The evidence for that assertion came from a report that had been discredited by various intelligence agencies around the world. A few months before Cheney claimed to be certain about the Prague meeting, the Central Intelligence Agency informed the administration that “reporting is contradictory on hijacker Mohammed Atta’s alleged trip to Prague . . . we have not verified his travels.”

The onslaught of falsehoods from the Bush camp achieved the desired result. When Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, polls showed that most Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. As the disaster in Iraq has unfolded, Bushites have desperately tried to run away from their pre-war lies. The most absurd case was this exchange during a 2006 presidential press conference.

Reporter: What did Iraq have to do with that?

Bush: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Reporter: The attack on the WorldTradeCenter.

Bush: Nothing . . . nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack.

That’s a double-barreled lie. First, the question is not whether Saddam “ordered” the September 11 attacks, but whether he was involved. Bush and his aides repeatedly claimed to have evidence that implicated Saddam—evidence that they knew to be either unreliable or simply false. Second, Bush officials consistently portrayed al Qaeda as a branch of Saddam’s terror network. So, actually, they did suggest that Saddam ordered the attack. For those who’ve read George Orwell’s 1984, this administration’s deceptions seem eerily familiar and none more so than Bush’s attempt to re-write the story he told to get us into Iraq.

However, Bush’s press-conference statement isn’t even the biggest lie to come from his administration. That honor belongs to Dick Cheney. In 2007, Cheney refused to comply with a congressional demand for some of his office’s records. He did not provide an explanation for his refusal to hand over the documents. Instead, Cheney had his legal advisor, David Addington, explain that the vice president’s office is not “an entity within the executive branch.” 

I hate to get all technical on the vice president, but if he will look at Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, he will see the following words:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term.

I’d say that puts Cheney pretty clearly in the executive branch. (The Constitution does assign the vice president a legislative role as president of the Senate, but that role is largely ceremonial, except in cases where the VP has to vote to break a tie.) Likewise, if Cheney is not a member of the executive branch, then why did he claim in a court case that the vice president possesses the same “executive privilege” as the president? I’d like to hear Cheney explain how it’s possible to hold executive-branch privileges without actually being in the executive branch. The vice president’s position is so opposed to logic that he seems to have moved to the realm of science fiction. I’ve long suspected that Cheney was a futuristic totalitarian who somehow came to life from the pages of a Rod Serling short story. Maybe this is the proof. If so, I wish Rod would hurry up and get to the poetically just finale.

If the vice president’s arguments are allowed to stand, he’d be exempt from any oversight or constitutional restrictions. His contempt for the rule of law is too much even for conservative judicial scholar Bruce Fein, who argues that Cheney should be impeached. “Cheney has dulled political accountability and concocted theories for evading the law and Constitution that would have embarrassed King George III,” Fein writes.

The Democratic congressional leadership foolishly took impeachment off the table in 2007, but Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced his own impeachment resolution anyway. Likewise, congressional investigations of the administration’s wrongdoing continue, thanks to the work of committee chairs such as John Conyers and Henry Waxman. These efforts deserve our support.

There are lots of opportunities to get involved in the battle against this corrupt administration and its enablers. Below are links to information about Bush’s disastrous policies and methods for fighting them. Defeating Bush’s top yes-man, John McCain, this November is only one aspect of the struggle. It’s going to take years to fix the damage this administration has inflicted on our country and the world. But with the president’s disapproval rating at the highest point in the history of polling, more Americans are finally seeing through the Republicans’ lies. Whether or not you’ve been politically active before, now is the time to push back.