Reading between lies

PRESIDENT George W. Bush spoke to the nation on the eve of the one-year anniversary of transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. As he spoke, his approval ratings were at an all-time low, with even some Republican leaders questioning if the president has a coherent long-term plan to end the conflict in Iraq and bring home the troops. In other words a policy.

By Claude Salhani

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Published: Wed 6 Jul 2005, 10:11 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:50 PM

In a recent Gallup poll Bush got a 53-per cent disapproval job performance rating — the lowest ever of his presidency. But as the president likes to say, he does not let polls guide his policies.

Using the Airborne and Special Operations Forces at Ft. Bragg, in North Carolina, as a backdrop, Bush told the American people he would explain some of the burning issues in Iraq, and he did. But, regrettably, the president did not explain it all, then gave a different picture — one that has changed since the U.S. first went to war in Iraq.

The president presented the American people with Version 2.0 of the war.

Bush tried, once again, to tie-in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon to America’s involvement in Iraq. Justifying the invasion of Iraqi Bush said, "our mission in Iraq is clear, we are hunting down terrorists."

Of course no one was able to stand up and say, "Excuse me, Mr President, but earlier you said the reason for the invasion of Iraq was to find and destroy Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction." Whatever happened to that?

"Mr President, remember when you had Secretary of State Colin Powell tell the world at the United Nations — with satellite imagery in hand — about the imminent danger of Saddam’s nuclear arsenal?"

Well, that’s all history now — or rather it’s not any longer. It has disappeared from the administration’s history books. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction have dropped off the Bush radar, replaced by the war on terror.

Maybe that’s why Bush likes to choose such venues for his speeches, rather than the White House Pressroom where there are too many "obnoxious" reporters.

Bush made reference to September 11 no fewer than six times during his 37-minute speech, and that despite the fact that there has been no linkage established between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The jihadis and other associated terrorists arrived in Iraq only after the US invaded, and left Iraq’s borders wide open. The president stressed on the positive achievements in Iraq since the US invaded the country in March 2003 — 27 months ago now — repeating what has become the administration’s mantra, "progress is being made." "The work in Iraq is difficult and dangerous," said the president. On this point no one would disagree. Anyone who watched television or read a newspaper in the last two years is only too aware of the situation in Iraq today. More than 1,700 American servicemen and women have died, along with close to 25,000 Iraqi civilians.

"Like most Americans," the president said, "I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying — and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country. And tonight I will explain the reasons why."

"The terrorists can kill the innocent — but they cannot stop the advance of freedom," said Bush. "It is worth it," said Bush.

"The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11 ... if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like (Abu Musab) Zarqawi ... and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden."

"We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America’s resolve. We are fighting against men with blind hatred — and armed with lethal weapons — who are capable of any atrocity."

Former Democrat presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts rebutted the president’s new reason for the invasion, saying, "Most Americans are aware that Iraq was not a hotbed of terrorism before the US invasion."

But if the president repeats the same lies over and over, whether true of not, they end up becoming fact, at least for many Americans. Which is why the president’s men, those who write the speeches, made quite sure to reiterate the Iraq-Sept 11 terrorist connection.

If you repeat something long enough, in the end, you end up convincing even yourself that it is the truth.

Claude Salhani is International Editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington

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