“No one can now doubt the word of America.”
That’s what George W. Bush told the United States and the world public in his State of the Union address this evening. He was referring to the war in Iraq, which he defended vigorously in the speech. But this remark made it seem he was oblivious to the fact that many people around the globe believe that the war in Iraq demonstrated that Bush’s word is worth nothing. Yes, he did make good on his threat to use military force in Iraq. But he misled America and the world regarding Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Bush chose not to directly address the issue of MIA WMDs in the speech. Instead, he offered a weak argument, noting that David Kay, the chief weapons hunter, “identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.” Programs are not weapons. And Kay’s report contradicted key assertions Bush and his aides issued before the war. Bush and Company had claimed Hussein had revived a nuclear weapons program. Kay said, “to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.” Bush and his crew had maintained they possessed undeniable evidence Hussein had chemical weapons. Kay reported, “Our efforts to collect and exploit intelligence on Iraq’s chemical weapons program have thus far yielded little reliable information on post-1991 CW stocks and CW agent production.” In his State of the Union address, Bush said, “Had we failed to act, the dictator’s weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day.” But it remains unclear how advanced those weapons programs were. And, more importantly, Bush had not argued prior to the war that Iraq had to be invaded and occupied to thwart Hussein’s programs. Weapons that could be slipped to al Qaeda were the raison de guerre. Has he forgotten?
By now, it should be clear: Bush made the word of America dubious. And in this State of the Union speech, Bush continued his slippery ways, as he passionately hailed the pillars of his presidency: his war in Iraq and his tax cuts. Explaining why the war on terrorism must continue, he noted, “The killing has continued in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Mombassa, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Baghdad. The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world.” With such rhetoric, Bush aimed to tie the war in Iraq to the war against terrorism. Yet the link between the two is harder to prove now than ever. The most current evidence suggests that Hussein had no WMDs and maintained no working relationship with al Qaeda. He was a brutal, murderous thug. He was not part of the terrorist challenge the United States faces in the post-9/11 period. But Bush conflates the conflict in Iraq with terrorist attacks elsewhere for the obvious effect.
Bush was confident in his speech. He yielded no ground. “American will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people,” he proclaimed–further suggesting that the war in Iraq was somehow necessary for the immediate protection of the United States. He celebrated the controversial Patriot Act and called on Congress to renew it before it expires next year. “The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule,” he effectively quipped.