No regrets, many mistakes
Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2008
"Non, je ne regrette rien."-Edith Piaf
Purely to annoy President Bush's loyal supporters, all 10 or 12 of them, I propose that his administration's official theme song be sung in French.
The title of Edith Piaf's immortal ballad loses something in the translation: "No, I regret nothing." Dedicated by the chanteuse to the French Foreign Legion, it's sung to commemorate its failed effort in the Algerian War (1956-62).
Bush himself clearly regrets nothing about the United States' own misadventure in Iraq, although some news organizations, submissive to the end, portrayed his phony contrition in a recent interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson as "unusually blunt" and "stunningly candid." Uncontradicted by the deferential anchorman, Bush did concede that mistakes were made in Iraq, although not by him.
To accept responsibility for the ongoing tragedy would require an active conscience.
Alas, there's no sign the self-designated "comforter-in-chief" has one.
So here's what The Washington Post found "unusually blunt." Bush doesn't care a fig for history because he won't be there to read it. He made tough decisions, but stuck to his principles 100 percent of the time. Asked if there was anything he'd do differently, the president characteristically passed the buck.
"I don't know," he said. "The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is [sic] a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn't just people in my administration; a lot of members in Congress . . . a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence. And, you know, that's not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess."
Bad grammar and all, that's all of it. Others bungled, not him. In fact, history records that Bush himself, not to mention Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of the neo-conservative cabal arrived in office determined to invade Iraq.
All except Bush, who promised a "humble" foreign policy during the 2000 campaign, signed a 1997 statement by the grandiosely titled "Project for a New American Century" urging then-President Bill Clinton to remove Saddam with prejudice.
"This isn't conservatism," I wrote in March 2003, "it's utopian folly and a prescription for endless war."
According to the once-secret Downing Street Memo, written by a British intelligence official to Prime Minister Tony Blair about an unnamed operative's toplevel meetings with Bush administration officials in July 2002, "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Instances of intelligence being stovepiped, i.e., stripped of uncertainties and dissenting views, have been widely reported. Virtually the entire case for Saddam's nonexistent nuclear weapons was based upon forged documents, misrepresented evidence and single-source reports from extremely dubious sources. Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice made lurid public statements that they eventually had to retract. At minimum, they were blowing smoke, substituting ideology for facts.
But it wasn't until ABC's Gibson, playing good cop throughout, asked a follow-up question that Bush got really creative.
"If the intelligence had been right, would there have been an Iraq War?"
"Yes," our blunt, candid commanderin-chief replied, "because Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in to determine whether or not the U.N. resolutions were being upheld."
Bush has been peddling this brazen falsehood for years. It's even possible he's come to believe it. According to reporter Robert Parry's compilation for the Consortium for Independent Journalism Inc., Bush first made this bogus claim in July 2003, soon after his "Mission accomplished" aircraft carrier remarks when many in the press feared to contradict him.
In reality, Iraq produced a 12,000-page document on Dec. 7, 2002, explaining the destruction of its chemical and biological weapons. Despite some foot-dragging, Saddam then allowed U.N. inspectors to travel at will inside Iraq searching for forbidden weapons. The inspectors remained until March 2003 when Bush ordered them out ahead of his "shock and awe" bombing campaign.
The U.N. inspectors' activities were broadcast on TV daily for weeks. The same kinds of easily manipulated patriots doubtless infuriated by this column were then focusing their ire on chief arms inspector Hans Blix.
All conveniently forgotten by Bush, his followers and our intrepid press corps, no longer so much covering for a failed president as for themselves.
· -–––––·–––––-Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.