Waiting For Get-Out
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 4/17/04
As I watched President Bush’s speech & news conference the other day I was struck by how easily he could have been a character from some Samuel Beckett play. I mean, here the man is 3½ years into his Presidency, a year removed from what is now obvious to all but him & his shrinking coterie as an unnecessary war, & the man is a) utterly clueless to the war’s unnecessity, or b) simply too childish to admit he was wrong (or lied). Real men may or may not eat quiche, but real men DO admit their errors. Yet, like a Beckett character, W can only remain focused on 1 thing at a time, & repeat the mantra until he believes it. In truth, it’s a little bit frightening. Had the President simply stated to the public, in the speech, or after repeated questions from reporters seeking such an apology, ‘It turns out that our pre-War intelligence about Iraq was flat-out wrong. Furthermore, it looks as if we simply dropped the ball re: Al Quaida pre-9/11. Both of these failures took place on my watch & I accept full responsibility for them. I hope the American people can understand that these were human failures & not malicious calculations. Again, as your President, I apologize & accept full responsibility for these failures.’ he would have more easily been able too convince the public that he was trustworthy in conducting future foreign policy.
Of course, back in the real world the real George Bush is wholly incapable of admitting error. Even worse, there’s a reason this was only his 3rd prime time appearance to address the nation- the man is horrible when it comes to being extemporaneous. Without cue cards he is utterly lost. He can juggle 2, perhaps 3, soundbites at most. More than that & he’s toast. Regardless of the question here is the sum total of W’s news conference. 1) The war in Iraq is ‘changing the world’. Well- yes. We now have exponentially multiplied the # of America-haters. 2) We still may find the WMDs, after all Moammar Khadafy hid his on a chicken farm. Smells like another made-for-W moment to me. 3) A ‘free Iraq’ will be a shining example to the Middle East. Hmm, considering that the only semi-democracy, Israel, is loathed, does anyone really believe a free Iraq will be admired?
Where was pre-War planning? Where was a Marshall Plan? Where was a Douglas MacArthur-type, or even a Norman Schwarzkopf clone to run the country, rather than the feeble Paul Bremer? Yes, Saddam was a bad man, a mass killer- so what? If that was truly the rationale then why was it not applied in Rwanda, which 10 years ago murdered nearly a million of its citizens? Oil. To the American Elite who run Halliburton & its rivals the phrase ‘Black is beautiful’ only resonates when it refers to black gold.
Yet, even the reporters who have kowed to Bush for years & are only now slowly turning, still refused to acknowledge what seems to have been the real motive all along- oil. About the only sincere, non-schmaltz moment of the evening came when Bush’s eyes lit up at the mention that Iraq’s oil fields had survived the war.
Another telling moment came when Bush was again asked about his failings pre-9/11 & all he could feebly rebut was that it was Osama bin Laden who was responsible for the murders on 9/11. Well, duh. But that was not what was being asked. Not even Bush’s most extreme opponents blame him for the 3000 or so dead on that date. But, like a neighbor who refused to turn in a wife beater before he killed her, he does share some of the responsibility & culpability in the deaths by virtue of the fact that he, now proved without doubt by the 9/11 Commission hearings, knew that there was a great likelihood of attack, & even how it would be carried out. Yet he pooh-poohed it with the same rote nonsense & deceit that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice parroted last week at the 9/11 Commission: ‘Had I had any inkling whatsoever that people were going to fly airplanes into buildings, we would have moved heaven and earth to protect the country.’
Even worse, though, is his inability to admit either his pre-War intelligence was botched or he ignored the Richard Clarke-backed evidence that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. The end result being 100s of needless American deaths. Still more galling is the fact that Bush evaded answering any specifics on just whom the US will be turning over Iraq to on June 30th, nor the unaddressed reality that a far larger, & longer, American military presence will be needed to achieve the goals Bush has laid out.
In scanning most opinion polls online it seems that the purpose of the press conference- to rally support for the President- failed. Democrats were unmoved, independents were more negative than positive, & a growing # of Republicans are slowly inching away from the President’s foreign policy disasters, joining those fiscal conservatives who have already indicated they may pull a no-show in November. All in all the speech was merely an hour-long exercise in justification, & arrogant denial of errors- save for an apology that he could not think of an area where he has failed in the ‘war on terror’- now increasingly looking like the sinkhole that was this nation’s former top priority- ‘the war on drugs’. The speech was full of goals, short on specifics, & the press conference probably the most painful public performance by a Republican since Walter Mondale cleaned Ronald Reagan’s clock in their 1st Presidential debate in 1984, or worse- since Richard Nixon’s farewell press conference when he resigned the Presidency a decade earlier. All Bush did, in his fumbling & cartoonish way, was paint a Rockwellian (or worse, a Thomas Kinkadean) portrait of where he hopes Iraq will be some day. What he did not do was give even 1 legitimate reason why he, the man whose incompetence dragged us needlessly into this quagmire, should be the man allowed to resolve it. This is why the Far Right is dreading the next few months.
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