July 15, 2004 6:25 AM

Can we finally admit that the Emperor has no clothes?

Who's Got the Wrong Values Now?

It seemed like a good idea at the time. We were told by the President that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that Iraq was a clear and present danger to the security of our country. Based on the "evidence" (no quotation marks seemed necessary at the time), many Americans, myself included, chose to value our patriotism over partisan politics. What many of us failed to realize at the time was that if George W. Bush was morally bankrupt enough to steal a Presidential election, he was certainly morally bakrupt enough to lie his way into a war.

And now he has the nerve to talk about possessing the values that truly reflect the American public. What, so we're liars and moral reprobates willing to play fast and loose with the lives of American soldiers?

It's notable that in a week when the major reasons the administration offered for the war in Iraq were undercut by a Senate intelligence committee report, our presidential candidates devoted themselves to talk about "values."

President Bush's government was unrelenting in trying to convince Americans that Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat to us, that he had scary weapons, that he was tied to al Qaeda and thus to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is wholly inadequate to shuck all this off on the CIA. The president was determined to scare the hell out of the country and make the case for war by whatever means necessary.

"Chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained," Bush said in a speech to religious broadcasters in February 2003. "Secretly, without fingerprints, Saddam Hussein could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists or help them develop their own. Saddam Hussein is a threat. He's a threat to the United States of America."

This was the president talking, not the CIA. Note that he's not telling us we should wage war against the evil Hussein for humanitarian reasons -- that was not the central rationale then, though it is now -- but because Hussein posed a threat to us that we have learned he did not. Yesterday, Bush defended his decision to go after the nation that "once had the worst government in the Middle East." And he implied that Libyan disarmament was a byproduct of his actions in Iraq. Even if that's true, Bush's current argument is a much-revised version of his original case for war.

It wasn't the CIA but the president's closest advisers who resorted to the most purple and incendiary rhetoric to make sure we'd support the war. And the administration's talkers were especially eager to use their fiery rhetoric in the run-up to the 2002 midterm elections.

BushCo knows that fear sells. If Americans are fearful, chances are good that they are not going to want to change horsemen in the middle of an Apocalypse. As November approaches, you can count on more vague, general terrorism warnings that will do nothing more than ratchet up our collective fear. It's a hell of a way to run a railroad, much less a Presidential campaign.

Bush gave a powerful speech in York, Pa., last week describing his "values." He declared: "The culture of America is changing from one that has said 'If it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else' to a culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life."

That's a great idea. Applying it to the president means that he, not the CIA, is responsible for the case that was made for the war in Iraq. By the president's own logic, he can't blame a bunch of bureaucrats ("if you've got a problem, blame somebody else") for his administration's eagerness to offer the most lopsided picture possible of the threat Hussein posed.

Indeed, perhaps it's time that Americans realize and admit that they have been lied to, and that close to a thousand of their sons and daughters have been killed out of avarice, greed, and a lust for power.

If we listen to Bush's words and hold him to his values, there will be no way a liar and a thief can be elected President. Of course, if you're a Republican, is a prevaricating in the pursuit of political power REALLY a lie? Or is it merely a cost of doing business?

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on July 15, 2004 6:25 AM.

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