Once more, George W. Bush has assaulted the truth in front of the United Nations. A year ago, he launched his push for war with a speech before the General Assembly that was filled with distortions to set the stage for the invasion to come. (See here.) This time around, Bush was defending his war against Saddam Hussein and the occupation and again relied on misrepresentations. “The regime of Saddam Hussein,” he claimed, “cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder.” This is a slippery rendition of what’s known. Hussein may have “cultivated” contacts with terrorists, but the Bush administration has yet to demonstrate he had developed any operational ties to al Qaeda. And built WMDs? Certainly, he did so in the past–before UN inspectors in the mid-1990s reported that they had destroyed most of his WMDs. But there’s no undeniable proof he was manufacturing WMDs more recently. In fact, a classified Defense Intelligence Agency analysis produced in October 2002 noted that there was no reliable evidence that Hussein was n=making chemical weapons.
Before the war, the heart of Bush’s case for war was that Hussein possessed unconventional weapons and could turn them over to his pals in al Qaeda at any moment. At the UN, Bush fuzzed up his depiction of the threat from Hussein. As for Hussein having “used those weapons,” that horrific act occurred in 1980s, and afterward the Reagan and Bush I administrations still continued to court Hussein (as a counter-balance to Iran). Prior to the invasion, Bush did not claim the reason for the war was a two-decades-old weapons charge against the dictator. But now it has become front-and-center in his brief against Washington’s former partner.
Bush stretched the truth in his rosy descriptions of present-day Iraq. He noted that Iraq “now has a governing council; the first truly representative institution in that country.” But that body was handpicked by the US occupation authorities. How representative is that? He also boasted, “Iraq’s new leaders are showing the opernness and tolerance that democracy requires.” Yet the day before, the governing council had booted out of Iraq two Arab satellite networks–Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya–claiming they had incited violence against the new government and challenged its legitimacy. Bush also argued that the United States, by invading Iraq, had “acted to defend…the credibility of the United Nations,” falsely suggesting that the UN had been unwilling to take any steps in the face of Iraq’s violations of Security Council resolutions. But the UN was moving toward more intrusive and aggressive inspections when Bush launched the war. It might be that the UN actions would not have happened or might have ended up ineffective, but Bush has repeatedly maintained that there was only one choice: go to war or do nothing. That is a misrepresentation.
Overall, Bush’s speech was not likely to please allies who opposed the war or to rally American public support. He offered nothing in terms of shared authority for the contributions (in cash and troops) he is trying to squeeze out of other nations. No surprise, he made no concessions regarding his prewar assertions. He claimed he only wanted “self-government” for the people, but provided not even a general timetable for a transition to self-rule. (Before such “self-government” is accomplished, the US occupation authority does feel entitled to render critical economic decisions on behalf of the Iraqi people. Days ago it announced it would open up practically all of the nation’s economy–except the oil sector–to foreign investment. or what critics might call “foreign control.”)
Bush devoted a good chunk of his speech to calling for an international effort to eradicate the trafficking of humans, particularly in relation to the sex trade. “The American government is committing $50 million to support the good work of organizations that are rescuing women and children from exploitation….I urge other governments to do their part.” This was all well and good. But $50 milllion is a modest figure. For comparison’s sake, Bush is expected to raise between $170 million and $200 million for his reelection campaign.
There was no chance that Bush was going to speak candidly about the war and occupation in Iraq. He has tied himself to the mast of his prewar fabrications. He concedes no ground, no problems, no missteps, no miscalculations–even as he looks to the UN and other nations to help bail him out in Iraq. With a pricetag approaching $200 billion and an American public that is becoming restless about the occupation (and its cost), Bush needs assistance from the UN and the allies. He’s just not willing to tell the truth to get it.
COMING SOON: David Corn’s new book, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers, due out September 30). For more information and a sample, check out the book’s official website: www.bushlies.com.