November 22, 2005
Along with such creations as American POWs still being held in Vietnam
and the Bill Clinton drug-smuggling operation at a remote Arkansas
air strip, the unhinged right wing has now invented the myth that
Democratic members of Congress have called President Bush ``a liar''
about Iraq. An insistent computer search by myself and a Washington
Post researcher can come up with no such accusation. That's
prudent. After all, it's not clear if Bush lied about Iraq or he
was merely the ``useful idiot'' of those who did.
``useful idiot'' is not a reflection of IQ. I resurrect it from
the Cold War days when anticommunists used it to contemptuously
describe certain communist sympathizers. I think sometimes the
phrase probably went through the dark mind of Vice President Dick
Cheney and certain other Bush administration officials who must
have known their dear president was exaggerating the case for
war. Cheney, for one, is too smart and too calculating not to
have known the envelope was being pushed past the point of verifiable
the man who just recently took a McCarthyite swipe at Democratic
war critics had no equal in exaggerating Saddam Hussein's (nonexistent)
nuclear weapons program. In just one month -- August 2002 -- Cheney
repeatedly times warned of its virtually imminent danger. The
first time, he said that Saddam, if ``left to his own devices,
it's the judgment of many of us that in the not-too-distant future,
he will acquire nuclear weapons.'' Later that month, he described
Saddam as a ``sworn enemy of our country," adding that he
constituted a ``mortal threat" to the United States.
know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons,"
the vice president also said that month. ``Among other sources,
we've gotten this from firsthand testimony from defectors, including
Saddam's own son-in-law."
But as a
Washington Post story by Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus
from August 2003 makes clear, Cheney could not have known what
he said he knew. In the first place, Saddam's son-in-law was dead,
killed in 1996 when he made the dubious career move of returning
to Iraq. What's more, when Hussein Kamel was still a defector
and being debriefed in Jordan, he said he had no knowledge of
a current nuclear weapons program. Iraq's uranium enrichment program
-- a prerequisite for a weapons program -- had been dormant since
the Gulf War in 1991.
typical Cheney -- and, to a lesser extent, Condi Rice and other
members of the Bush administration. Their incessant references
to ``mushroom clouds" or ``nuclear blackmail" might
have at one time been understandable -- although still a huge,
irresponsible reach. But well before the war began, it was becoming
clear that Saddam had not a nuclear weapon to his name. The program
that United Nations and other inspectors had stumbled upon after
the Gulf War -- the program that surprised American officials
and encouraged them to believe Saddam could hide anything -- had
by then been proved to no longer exist. U.N. inspectors simply
could find no evidence of it -- and neither could anyone else.
As the prime reason for war, a nuclear weapons program had no
basis in fact.
both amazing and appalling about Bush is that he seems not to
care. The way things look now, he will go down in history as an
amiable dunce -- Clark Clifford's scathing and misapplied characterization
of Ronald Reagan -- who took his country to war for reasons that
did not exist. This is a blunder without peer in American history
and possibly an assault on democracy: The people, through their
representatives, are supposed to make an informed decision
about war. It is incredible to me that Bill Clinton was impeached
for lying about sex, but nobody -- that's nobody -- in
the entire Bush administration has been fired, not to mention
impeached, for this shedding of American blood. Cheney, a man
of ugly intolerance for dissent, should have been the first to
go. His has been a miserable, dishonest performance -- which he
continues to this day.
of responsible war critics has been remarkable. Despite a recent
headline on The Wall Street Journal's editorial page
-- ``What If People Start Believing That 'Bush Lied'?" --
the ``L" word has been prudently withheld by elected Democrats.
But you would think that Bush himself would wonder about how he's
gotten to this place where he looks like such a fool: wrong on
the biggest issue of his presidency. He went out there and told
the American people things that were not true. Does that mean
he lied? Maybe not. Maybe he was just repeating the lies of others.
2005, Washington Post Writers Group