The Other Lies of George Bush
As many Americans and others yearned to make sense of the evil attacks of September 11, Bush elected to share with the public a deceptively simplistic explanation of this catastrophe. Repeatedly, he said that the United States had been struck because of its love of freedom. "America was targeted for attack," he maintained, "because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world." This was shallow analysis, a comic-book interpretation of the event that covered up complexities and denied Americans information crucial for developing a full understanding of the attacks. In the view Bush furnished, Osama bin Laden was a would-be conqueror of the world, a man motivated solely by irrational evil, who killed for the purpose of destroying freedom.
But as the State Department's own terrorism experts--as well as nongovernment experts--noted, bin Laden was motivated by a specific geostrategic and theological aim: to chase the United States out of the Middle East in order to ease the way for a fundamentalist takeover of the region. Peter Bergen, a former CNN producer and the first journalist to arrange a television interview with bin Laden, observes in his book Holy War, Inc., "What [bin Laden] condemns the United States for is simple: its policies in the Middle East." Rather than acknowledge the realities of bin Laden's war on America, Bush attempted to create and perpetuate a war-on-freedom myth.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush was disingenuous on other fronts. Days after the attack, he asserted, "No one could have conceivably imagined suicide bombers burrowing into our society and then emerging all in the same day to fly their aircraft--fly US aircraft--into buildings full of innocent people." His aides echoed this sentiment for months. They were wrong. Such a scenario had been imagined and feared by terrorism experts. And plots of this sort had previously been uncovered and thwarted by security services in other nations--in operations known to US officials. According to the 9/11 inquiry conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees, the US intelligence establishment had received numerous reports that bin Laden and other terrorists were interested in mounting 9/11-like strikes against the United States.
Fourteen months after the attack, Bush said, "We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th." But his actions belied this rhetoric. His White House refused to turn over information to the intelligence committees about a pre-9/11 intelligence briefing he had had seen, and the Bush Administration would not allow the committees to tell the public what intelligence warnings Bush had received before September 11. More famously, Bush would not declassify the twenty-seven-page portion of the committees' final report that concerned connections between the 9/11 hijackers and Saudi Arabia. And following September 11, Bush repeatedly maintained that his Administration was doing everything possible to secure the nation. But that was not true. The Administration did not move--and has not moved--quickly to address gaping security concerns, including vulnerabilities at chemical plants and ports and a huge shortfall in resources for first responders [see Corn, "Homeland Insecurity," September 22].
It did not start with Iraq. Bush has been lying throughout the presidency. He claimed he had not gotten to know disgraced Enron chief Ken Lay until after the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. But Lay had been one of Bush's larger contributors during that election and had--according to Lay himself--been friends with Bush for years before it. In June 2001, Bush said, "We're not going to deploy a [missile defense] system that doesn't work." But then he ordered the deployment of a system that was not yet operational. (A June 2003 General Accounting Office study noted, "Testing to date has provided only limited data for determining whether the system will work as intended.") His White House claimed that it was necessary to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to "secure America's energy needs." But the US Geological Survey noted that the amount of oil that might be found there would cover up to slightly more than two years' worth of oil consumption. Such a supply would hardly "secure" the nation's needs.
Speaking for his boss, Fleischer in 2002 said, "the President does, of course, believe that younger workers...are going to receive no money for their Social Security taxes." No money? That was not so. A projected crunch will hit in four decades or so. But even when this happens, the system will be able to pay an estimated 70 percent of benefits--which is somewhat more than "no money." When Bush in August 2001 announced he would permit federal funding of stem-cell research only for projects that used existing stem-cell lines--in a move to placate social conservatives, who opposed this sort of research--he said that there were sixty existing lines, and he asserted that his decision "allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem-cell research." Yet at the time--according to scientific experts in the field and various media reports--there were closer to ten available lines, not nearly enough to support a promising research effort.