NEW YORK — George W. Bush claims that Iran has been shipping weapons, including bombs used against U.S. military convoys, to Shiite militias in Iraq. I believe him. Iranian leaders would be idiots to sit out a war whose outcome will affect them for decades to come.
Bush denies that he’s about to go to war against Iran. Again, I believe him. After all, we don’t have enough money or troops to invade, much less occupy, a nation three times bigger than Iraq.
Apparently I’m the only person in America who thinks Bush can tell the truth — er, a truth. Or two.
Granted, the Administration’s j’accuse! press conference was reminiscent of the phony aluminum tubes and mocked-up anthrax bottles presented during the pre-Iraq War propaganda blitz. The only things missing from this set of metal tubes were “Compliments of the Ayatollah” stickers. As a result of Bush’s ham-fisted replay of 2002, the objectively obvious observation that Iran is arming its proxy militias in Iraq has been greeted with what The New York Times called “a healthy dose of skepticism” by Democrats and Republicans.
Even General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, refused to take Bush at his word, saying he “would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit.”
Democratic Senator Chris Dodd sums up Bush’s lost credibility: “This Administration has attempted in the past to cook the books to serve their policy goals … I’m getting uneasy that they are trying to set a premise for some future broader military action in Iran.”
Such irony! When Bush told twisted, impossible tales that defied logic, history, and common sense, everyone believed him. Saddam Hussein, the secular socialist targeted for death by Islamic fundamentalists, was bin Laden’s best friend. The CIA, which repeatedly warned that Iraq probably didn’t have WMDs, was responsible for a “failure in pre-war intelligence” that led to the debacle. People who torture aren’t torturers. All obvious B.S., all accepted at face value.
Now that Bush is finally telling the truth, we assume he’s lying as usual. “For the umpteenth time, we are not looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates begged us to believe.
Trouble is, the Bushists made identical statements during the run-up to the Iraq War. The Iran lie, however, happens to be true.
It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Bush — to whatever extent a genocidal maniac who will be responsible for a million deaths by the time he leaves office in 2009 deserves pity.
Public distrust of the Bush Administration in particular and government in general dwarfs the cynical peaks of Watergate. A Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll finds that 36 percent of Americans believe that federal officials took part in 9/11 or sat on their hands, deliberately allowing the attacks to occur “because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.” One out of six think the Twin Towers were brought down by planted government bombs, not hijacked passenger jets.
How did 9/11, the backdrop for Bush’s “steaming pile” speech at Ground Zero in New York and the blank check he cashed to wage two wars, turn into yet another subject of paranoia and contempt? “I certainly didn’t think of conspiracies when 9/11 first happened,” said Elaine Tripp, a 62-year-old resident of Tabernacle, New Jersey, who now says she thinks Bush was behind the deaths of 3,000 Americans. “I don’t know if President Bush was aware of the exact time it was going to happen. But he certainly didn’t do enough to stop it. Bush was so intent on having his own little war.”
Our failure to find WMDs in Iraq after Bush and his top henchmen said we were absolutely certain to find them is leading previously sheepish citizens to question the entire narrative of the post-2000 era, to the point of embracing outlandish theories supported by little to zero evidence.
All politicians lie. Bush’s rhetorical Rubicon was his certitude. He could have avoided our wrath by saying something like: “There’s significant evidence that Saddam Hussein may possess some weapons of mass destruction.” When the Iraq War turned ugly, he probably still would have lost some support. But he wouldn’t have suffered anything close to the near-total, irreversible contempt that has reduced him to one of history’s most reviled presidents. Of course, anything less than a statement of total certitude wouldn’t have convinced the public or Congress to invade in the first place.
Bush is fighting the lies that started the last war, resorting to an improbable blend of waffling and smug certitude that brought us such classics as Donald Rumsfeld’s “We know where `Iraq’s WMDs` are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”
Here he goes again:
“I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops,” he said. “And I’d like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds Force was ordered from the top echelons of the government. But my point is, what’s worse, them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it’s happening?”
We Americans used to find his addled cowboy act bold and compelling. For a short time, watching one of the stupidest humans to have appeared on a television screen insult our intelligence became mildly amusing. Now that he’s pissed us off, he’ll find us impossible to get back.
(Ted Rall is the author of Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?, an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America’s next foreign-policy challenge.)