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Saturday | June 07, 2003

Is Bush lying?

Is President Bush lying about WMD in Iraq?

If he is, and it can be proven that he knew there were no WMD there, his presidency will be over. He would face immediate demands to resign or an impeachment. The loss to the nation and the presidency is so grave, he and Cheney could not survive the uproar.

Have presidents lied about national defense? Yes, but not about the actual cause for war. Even the Gulf of Tonkin was not an outright lie, There were plenty lies of ommission there, but no lie of commission.

However, I tend to think that Bush actually believes that WMD will be found. His pathetic claim that three broken down trailers are some kind of James Bondian laboratory is not an act of a liar, but of a mark. He refuses to believe the obvious, because the fantasy is much more appealing.

Rumsfeld, Cheney and through them, Bush, have been fed years of lurid "insider" tales of life in Iraq. There is nothing more intoxicating than secrets revealed slowly. Like a seducer to his target, the tales and promises are shaped to appeal to the their desires, needs and wants. Ahmad Chalabi had the ability to create a picture of Iraq which played into their most lurid fantasies. Not that he had to embelish much about the horrors of the Republic of Fear.

But the torture of Iraqis alone would not move the US to action. After all, they had watched the Shia and Kurds slaughtered before them and did nothing, not even raise their voice in protest. Chalabi and his men had to spin another, more compelling tale. With the Bush fixation on WMD, they spun tales of secret laboratories, hidden stockpiles, orders to release once the US crossed the "red zone".

The Bushies are just not that clever. The lie was too elaborate and complex to have come from Washington. The claims of WMD reek of a blind belief, of the kind of tale told personally and guaranteed by someone. Not just churned from papers.

Every chief executive doubts their intelligence chiefs. So it took very little prompting when Chalabi started to question the CIA's evidence and methods. He only said what they had long believed, that the CIA was captive of it's own methods. That to get the "real" scoop, they had to "think outside the box". And waiting for them was the neocon friendly, westernized Ahmad Chalabi. He had details, evidence, told in such a compelling way, backed by fragments of the truth and what they desperately wanted to believe. Rumsfeld believed him because he wanted to.

Anything the CIA argued against Chalabi only caused Rumsfeld and his "B Team" to embrace them more closely. The fact that everyone from Delta Force to the UN had not found a single speck of evidence just proved they were slackers. Given Rumsfeld's biases against the Army and the UN, is it really shocking their findings were rejected?

The New York Times Judith Miller shows how powerful this approach can be. Given a tale of secret agents and scientists hiding their identity, she runs this story which later proves to be utter nonsense. Imagine what Rummy and his boys were being fed.

The mark of a great con is that the mark doesn't realize he's been conned until well after it's over. Chalabi, already convicted in Jordan of various financial abuses and shady dealings, wanted the Americans to annoint him the new ruler of Iraq and he came close to it. Of course, in reality, he was a small man trying to live out a big role and when the real players, the Shia and Sunni clerics, rose to prominance, with thousands of followers, not 800 exiles with scant military training, he is shoved aside by events.

It would be all too easy to say Bush lied to get what he wanted. But if he was lying, why not claim some 122mm artillery shells are WMD , blow them up and fake the results. Why drag this out on and on, looking for some jackpot which most people do not believe exists? Instead of a lie, he looks like a mark, a man fed a truth he wanted, no needed, to believe, and then when the scam is revealed, do everything possible to deny the reality and protect those who conned him.

A lie would be easier to accept, but the historical reality is that powerful men love to be flattered. The lure of secrets border on the erotic. Combine the two and you can get a disaster beyond your imagination. With each passing day, our efforts to find WMD come closer and closer to the ridiuclous. Our entire Iraq policy was based on a string of fantasies, a pro-Israel Iraqi government, an idea which Iraq experts found ridiculous. A fantasy can be a powerful thing and one which is hard to relinquish.

The lack of WMD fits less a lie, than a series of belief which started with Iraqis staying on the job and burning their money, and the accpetance of a US occupation which ran counter to any other event in Iraqi history. Instead, as reality invades and the number of dead continue to rise, the fantasy falls apart and a brutal reality, one where all of our supposed goals are revealed to be more than likely to be impossible to meet, asserts itself.

Liars are easy to disprove. It is the deluded which are hard to deal with.

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 07, 2003 07:18 PM | Comments (157)


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