Something tells me that President Bush did not write the speech he gave today to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City. For one thing, it was relatively coherent. For another thing, it was steeped in historical references that, while taken out of context and run through the ideological wringer of the neo-conservative spin machine, displayed a historical breadth not frequently associated with the most intellectually-disengaged president since Andrew Johnson.
But the one section of the speech that made me absolutely certain that Bush had nothing to do with its preparation was its attack on journalist I.F. Stone.
Comparing the current quagmire in Iraq with the Korean conflict of more than half a century ago — as part of a new P.R. campaign designed to build support for maintaining a long-term U.S. military presence in the Middle East, and to cynically portray himself as principled wartime leader — Bush told the veterans, "After the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel in 1950, President Harry Truman came to the defense of the South — and found himself attacked from all sides. From the left, I.F. Stone wrote a book suggesting that the South Koreans were the real aggressors and that we had entered the war on a false pretext. From the right, Republicans vacillated. Initially, the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate endorsed Harry Truman’s action, saying, ‘I welcome the indication of a more definite policy’ — he went on to say, ‘I strongly hope that having adopted it, the President may maintain it intact,’ then later said ‘it was a mistake originally to go into Korea because it meant a land war.’"
Anyone who seriously believes that George Bush is familiar with the writings of I.F. Stone and the long and complicated history of how the U.S. military found itself encamped on the Korean Peninsula will surely be among that dwindling percentage of Americans that is convinced weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.
For the record, the book by Stone to which Bush referred today, The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-1951: A Nonconformist History of Our Times, was a provocative text written during the course of the Korean conflict. It featured a dramatically broader critique of Truman’s approach to the war than the one Bush mentioned Tuesday; in addition to what would eventually be recognized as groundbreaking exposes of military misdeeds, it referenced a wide variety of concerns expressed by prominent figures on the left and right of the American political spectrum at the time. While reasonable people might debate Stone’s interpretations of specific details regarding U.S. foreign policy — and even friendly critics have suggested he was too easily swayed by Soviet criticisms of South Korea’s motivations and actions at the war’s beginning — the veteran journalist was hardly staking out radical turf when he asserted that the U.S. dispatched troops to Korea under dubious circumstances.