Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Getting it Right: Canadian writer sums it all up about Bush

I just got through reading this piece after Rand Beers again made news today. He testified, as an expert witness in front of congress, that Bush has mishandled the war on terrorism. It was a war that should have been fought as hard as any in our history. Unfortunately, Bush dropped the ball and the only two Democrats that have stood up to him on it are John Kerry and Bob Graham. Beers joined Senator Kerry's campaign, leaving behind a career position in the White House after serving three US Presidents and George W. Bush. Check out the article.

Vote Kerry!

Sex, Lies and American Presidents
>by Linda McQuaig
June 23, 2003
Anyone observing U.S. politics in recent years could easily conclude that lying about having sex is a serious offence worthy of impeachment, while lying about taking the country to war is hardly worth mentioning.

How else to explain the wildly different treatment accorded to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush?

Now, of course, there are plenty of differences between the two cases. Former president Clinton lied under oath about his under-the-desk encounter with Monica Lewinsky.

Bush’s apparent lie — that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction even though his own intelligence agency could find no such evidence and his own army can find no such weapons — was made repeatedly to the American people, but not under oath.

So, does that explain it? Lying to the American people is okay, as long as it’s not done under oath?

Of course, Bush did swear an oath upon taking office, vowing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Are we to conclude that, even after taking this oath to uphold the fundamental principles of American democracy, it’s okay for a president to lie to the American people, as long as he hasn’t taken an oath pledging not to lie in this particular case?

Some insist that Bush didn’t really lie; he just exaggerated. But his allegations about Iraq’s weapons were more than exaggerations.

A crucial document — cited by Bush in his State of the Union address — purported to show that Iraq tried to purchase uranium for nuclear weapons. U.N. weapons inspectors quickly determined the document was a forgery. Did U.S. officials forge the document? If not, why is there so little interest in uncovering who did?

How did the president come to cite a clumsily forged document to Congress? These questions seem at least as crucial as whether Lewinsky had her dress dry-cleaned.

Another possible explanation for the greater condemnation of Clinton is that Clinton was just trying to save his own skin.

Bush, on the other hand, is seen as trying to defend the country, although perhaps a little over-zealously.

Even those who question the accuracy of his claims about Iraqi weapons often seem to believe that the president’s motives for distortion sprang from his obsession with fighting terror.

If he stretched the truth, it was all part of his fixation about ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction and making the world a safer place. He lied so that we could all be free — or something along those lines.

Another possibility is that he lied to conceal the real motives for invading Iraq. If so, his lying is more deeply worrisome.

Under this scenario, he essentially fabricated the notion that Iraq posed a threat to the U.S. (it didn’t, as we saw), in order to disguise motives that Americans might not have considered valid grounds for going to war — like ensuring U.S. companies get control of Iraqi oil, extending U.S. military control in the Middle East, having a war victory under his belt for the next election, proving to his dad that he isn’t a wimp after all.

Certainly Bush misses no opportunity to look tough defending America, from arriving in full battle gear to declare an end to war, to sending in the Marines to rescue Jessica Lynch in an Iraqi hospital.

Yet, he also seems almost casual about taking action against grave security threats. Last week, the U.S. General Accounting Office, a Congressional agency, criticized the administration for failing to secure control of thousands of containers of radioactive materials around the world that could easily fall into the hands of terrorists.

In an interview with the Washington Post last week, Rand Beers said that he quit his high-level White House anti-terrorism post last March because he believed the administration’s concern about enhancing national security was “only a rhetorical policy ... As an insider, I saw the things that weren’t being done.”

Americans have been supportive of Bush and his war in Iraq and not been terribly concerned that no “weapons of mass destruction” have been found. But would they be supportive if they thought that the danger posed by Iraq had been fabricated in order to conceal war motives that had nothing to do with enhancing U.S. security or well-being?

There is no graver responsibility entrusted to a president than sending his citizens to war. Being deceitful about the reasons for war would seem to be the most fundamental betrayal of trust.

After all, war has dire consequences — much more than Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes. At least they didn’t have to send in the Marines to rescue the girl from under that desk.

Originally published by the Toronto Star. Linda McQuaig’s column appears every Monday.


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