By William Rivers Pitt
Monday 03 April 2006
Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.
- Edmund Burke
Page four of Sunday's Washington Post carried a story titled "The President as Average Joe," which described how George W. Bush is trying once again to cast himself as a regular fella so as to boost his anemic poll numbers. "As he takes to the road to salvage his presidency," reported the Post, "Bush is letting down his guard and playing up his anti-intellectual, regular-guy image."
Most of us, presumably, know enough "Average Joe" types to fill a room. Most of us, presumably, don't know a single "Average Joe" type who could pull off a trick like the one reported by the New York Times last week. The issue centered, once again, around a memo that was drafted before the invasion of Iraq.
"During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003," read the Times, "[Bush] made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by the New York Times."
"The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable," continued the Times report. "Mr. Bush predicted that it was 'unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.' Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment. The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein."
Quite a nifty trick for an Average Joe, yes? This was from the same regular fella who ever-so-earnestly told journalist Helen Thomas last week that he didn't want war, because no president wants war. Here we have merely another lie, an accent in a symphony of lies. If Bush did not want war, why decide upon an attack despite the absence of the public motivator for attack, the weapons of mass destruction? Why try to goad Hussein into a fight?
Remember when the administration made that humorous little video of George searching the Oval Office for the weapons of mass destruction way back when? It was truly an "Average Joe" moment that, in light of the revelations afforded by this pre-war memo, brings the yellow bile up the back of the throat.
Seven more American soldiers died in Iraq over the last few days, bringing the total to 2,332. It is difficult to count the number of civilians who have been slaughtered in the it-isn't-a-civil-war-not-really violence of the last several weeks. It takes a special kind of "Average Joe" to get so many people killed in so short a time thanks to lies of such width and breadth. Most "Average Joes," after all, lie about sex or fishing or their bowling score from Saturday night.
Most "Average Joes," likewise, enjoy being considered straight-shooters. They don't hide from hard truths and expect to be able to handle whatever comes their way. Mr. Bush, it seems, would rather be massaged with pleasing fictions from his staff, and is perfectly happy to have his handlers encase him in bubble-wrap to protect him from the aftershocks resulting from astonishingly bad decisions.
Reporter Murray Wass, writing for the National Journal, wrote another essay last week that exposed more of the lies that were used to trick the people of this nation into supporting the unnecessary and criminal invasion of Iraq. "Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser," wrote Waas, "cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address - that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon - might not be true."
"The pre-election damage-control effort in response to (Ambassador Joseph) Wilson's allegations and the broader issue of whether the Bush administration might have misrepresented intelligence information to make the case for war had three major components," continued Waas. "Blame the CIA for the use of the Niger information in the president's State of the Union address; discredit and undermine Wilson; and make sure that the public did not learn that the president had been personally warned that the intelligence assessments he was citing about the aluminum tubes might be wrong."
It is disturbing enough to encompass the hard fact that there has not been, at any point, an element of "incompetence" in the process that has left us in such a deranged state in Iraq. Virtually every item on the Bush administration's wish list has been obtained in the last four years, thanks to the invasion, occupation and conveniently subsequent mess that has followed. Objectively, one must know that a barrage of falsehoods was required to create such a situation. To see these lies exposed one after another, like a long line of sausage links, would seem to be beyond tolerance.
Sadly, our collective ability to absorb and discard such terrifying information appears to be without limit. The revelations offered by the New York Times regarding Bush's pre-invasion decision to go to war no matter what, and his decision to goad Iraq into a war whether or not they posed a threat, passed through the waters of the mainstream media with nary a ripple. The same went for Mr. Waas's report; the information he provided in such scathing detail was met by the mainstream press with a thunderous nothing.
It is almost amusing. The pundits and politicos are justifying each other's vapid and useless existence these days by carrying forth an empty debate as to whether or not Mr. Bush and his people lied us into a war. Yet when hard evidence of these lies is presented in stark black and white, the response is a whistling silence.
The duality is astonishing; if you are callow enough to subject yourself to the dreck that passes for news on television, you might actually see someone acknowledge the existence of the evidence of these lies before turning on a dime to claim that no one lied about anything. Maybe, just maybe, you'll see someone claim the administration is "incompetent."
No one who lies so often or so effectively can be described as incompetent. This kind of thing requires nimble skills combined with an utter absence of conscience.
"Iraq is becoming a country that America should be ashamed to support," reads a chilling New York Times editorial from Sunday, "let alone occupy. The nation as a whole is sliding closer to open civil war. In its capital, thugs kidnap and torture innocent civilians with impunity, then murder them for their religious beliefs. The rights of women are evaporating. The head of the government is the ally of a radical anti-American cleric who leads a powerful private militia that is behind much of the sectarian terror."
Not a bad day's work for an Average Joe.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.