Sunday, March 04, 2007

Woodward Asked Bush about WMDs in Late 2003

We're hearing more that Bush really believes what he's saying when it comes to Iraq and the Middle East. That doesn't make Bush any less of a fool. Given how little he knows about the world, particularly when he became president, it's arrogant for him to rely so heavily on his own 'gut instincts.' And then there's the problem that Bush is not just conservative but essentially reactionary; the reality is that right wingers have not understood the world very well in the last hundred years and they have great difficulty being honest with themselves and others.

Here's an excerpt from Bob Woodward's State of Denial:
On December 11,2003, I had interviewed President Bush and got a taste of his style and habit of denial. It was eight months after the invasion and WMD had not been found.

"On weapons of mass destruction," I asked.

"Sure," the president said.

One of my bosses at The Washington Post had suggested I ask, "Was the president misled—"

"No," Bush said.

I continued the question, "—by the intelligence, or did he mislead the country?"


"No, okay," I repeated his reply.

"The answer is absolutely not."

"What happened?" I asked.

"What do you mean what happened?" Bush asked, sounding as if he had not been the one who gave all those speeches about WMD.

"In terms of weapons of mass destruction," I explained. "And the 'slam dunk' case."

The president said that weapons inspector David Kay's initial report supported the idea that Saddam had weapons programs. "I think that it's way too early to fully understand the complete history. This is intelligence," he pointed out.

I understand," I said. "Not fact."

"It was intelligence, hard-enough intelligence for the United Nations to pass several resolutions. Hard-enough intelligence for President Bill Clinton to make a military decision on this" by ordering the bombing of Iraq's suspected WMD sites in 1998.

"But we have not found any weapons of mass destruction," I said.

"We have found weapons programs that could be reconstituted."

"Could be, I agree."

"A weapon could come very quickly. And so therefore, given that, even if that's the very minimum you had, how could you not act on Saddam Hussein, given his nature," Bush said.

I mentioned that I'd spoken with Americans as I traveled around the country who thought that after 9/11 he had been the voice of realism by saying it had been a catastrophic attack, that the terrorists were killers, and that America was in for a long battle. His unwillingness to acknowledge that no WMD had been found was making him less the voice of realism.

"I disagree with that, that construct," Bush replied.


"Saddam Hussein had weapons, he used weapons."

"No question."

"And he hid weapons. He hid systems. He had plans," Bush went on. "And so therefore—the voice of realism just lays out where we are. That's a realistic look."

"And include in there, We haven't found them yet," I said.

He chuckled. "From my perspective, I don't want people to say, 'Aha, we told you so.' I want people to know that there is a process that's ongoing in a very dangerous part of the world. And so, frankly, I haven't heard one person say that to me, but you run in different circles than I do. Much more elite."

I said the people I was talking about were business people.

"The realism is to be able to understand the nature of Saddam Hussein, his history, his potential to harm America."

"Clearly, we haven't found bubbling vats," I said.

"Well," the president chuckled.

"But the status report, for the last six or seven months, is we havaen't found weapons. That's all," I pushed one more time.

"True, true, true."

It had taken five minutes and 18 seconds for Bush simply to acknowledge the fact that we hadn't found weapons of mass destruction. [pages 488-489]

The voice of realism? ....No comment.

I'm not going to rehash everything I've said for the last four years. Nor am I'm going to quibble over some of Woodward's assumptions that give Bush more wriggle room than he deserves. Suffice to say that the dialogue is damning and shows a president in denial and squirming every which way to avoid confronting his failure. In the end, the intelligence the Bush Administration used was mush and probably had little to do in any case with the administration's many conflicted motivations. And Bush's ideological theory for the war, as near as we can understand it, was based on the contradictory gibberish of military domination, imposing democracy by military force while gaining some economic advantages for the United States. It was a pathetic excuse for a war in Iraq. It was an enormous strategic failure in concept and execution.

I know Republicans, and particularly right-wing Republicans, well enough to know they probably see the above dialogue somewhat differently than I do and most of them probably still give Bush the benefit of the doubt but I also know a few hard-nosed Republican realists who would shake their heads knowing perfectly well that Bush should never have become president. We went to war based on self-deceptions supported by conscious lies with a plan based on abysmal ignorance and hubris. Americans need to think long and hard about who the next president is going to be. If we elect another public relations illusion, our country will continue to stumble.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

To "abysmal ignorance and hubris" add personal animus. I've read several things that referred to Bush expressing abject hatred for Saddam as an evil person.

The thing that gets me about this interview is, here we have the presumptive leader of the free world, (or at least the official who in other, better, times would be considered that), and the man communicates in sentence fragments.

That poverty of expression would be disappointing enough by itself, but as we've come to know the man, it's revealing of fragmented thought processes. That is really troubling.

How true, that Bush should never have become president in the first place.

I clearly remember an impromptu interview a TV reporter, CNN probably, did with Bush 41 just after the Supremes announced their selection. Beaming, obviously ecstatic, Pappy Bush assured America his boy would make a terrific president and, "Your gonna love him! He'll do a great job."

Now, I can understand proud exuberance from the parent of anyone who makes it to the White House, even by judicial selection. Even so, I have to wonder if Bush the elder, in some corner of his mind, wasn't aware of enough of his son's deficiencies to be deeply concerned. Obviously, he should've been.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

S.W., I have no doubt that Poppa Bush would have preferred that Jeb Bush had won the White House.

It's a strange family. The senior Bush was a better president but I have to remind people sometimes that it sort of like comparing a college sophmore with a C- for the year with another sophmore who skips some classes, blows up the chemistry lab, plays frisbee with his books, demands his abysmal views be taken seriously and earns an F and probation for the year.

These are very strange times when a man like George W. Bush can get taken seriously.

1:28 AM  

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