With the publication of What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan sheds yet more light on the disdain President Bush has for anything beyond his own twisted vision for the world.
Mr. McClellan states that Mr. Bush “signed off on a strategy for selling the war that was less than candid and honest.” At this point, few people should consider this a major revelation, but it is interesting coming from someone who was there from the earliest planning stages of the war.
The reaction from the White House to Mr. McClellan’s book is not unexpected, and we have Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush’s happy-face cheerleader, ever ready to follow her leader down whatever rathole to which he takes the nation, leading the way. In response to Mr. McClellan’s charges, she said this: “What I will say is that the concern about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was the fundamental reason” for the U.S. invasion. And further: “It was not the United States of America alone that believed that he had weapons of mass destruction that he was hiding.”
Perhaps it wasn’t the U.S. alone that suspected Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction; but then again, perhaps it was. And perhaps, as Mr. McClellan alludes, the U.S. knew that Iraq had no such weapons. But as former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has clearly stated, the war was and is about oil. Even Mr. Bush’s clone, Arizona Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain has admitted this, although he later attempted to withdraw his damning statement.
If it wasn’t just the U.S. that worried about weapons of mass destruction, then why did most of the U.S.’s major allies decide to pass on joining ‘The Coalition of the Drilling’ (no, that is not a typographical error)? And why did the U.S. have to provide approximately 93% of the soldiers for the invasion, and an even greater amount for the occupation, as several nations have folded their tents and gone home? And even those that joined in may have been encouraged to do so for reasons totally unrelated to any belief of the threat of weapons of mass destruction. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Bush Administration fast tracked a free trade agreement with Australia in return for its sending 900 soldiers. El Salvador may have deployed its 300 troops in exchange for membership in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). And England was granted lucrative reconstruction contracts, although such an incentive may not have been necessary. Then Prime Minister Tony Blair has long been known as one of Mr. Bush’s adoring minions; he’s not called the Yankee Poodle for nothing.
And it wasn’t only Congress and nations looking for a handout that followed Mr. Bush to war. The U.S. media at least allowed, and in many cases encouraged it. In a recent interview, CNN Correspondent Jessica Yellin, with MSNBC prior to the start of the war, said this: “When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation… and my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president’s approval ratings… the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the President.”
Even the New York Times, in 2004, issued a kind of mea culpa for its coverage prior to the war. In a May 26 editorial of that year, the editors said this: “… we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.” Apparently the newspaper with the motto ‘All the News that’s fit to Print’ found some that would be displeasing to Mr. Bush, and was, therefore, unfit to print. So much for the much-vaunted U.S.’s freedom of the press.
Yet in his indictment of Mr. Bush, Mr. McClellan himself equivocates; along with saying that Mr. Bush was “less than candid and honest,” he continues to state, incredibly, that the president did not consciously seek “to deceive the American people.”
Someone needs to tell the former press secretary that he can’t have it both ways; if Mr. Bush was less than honest than he certainly did seek to deceive the world. Even if he only succeeded in deceiving Congress, his deceptions have caused untold suffering in the world, far more than Saddam Hussein ever caused.
Among the pearls of wisdom that Mr. McClellan provides the world is this one: wars, he advises us sagely, “should only be waged when necessary.” If Mr. McClellan only learned this after encouraging the U.S. disaster in Iraq, then we are all in more trouble than we thought. Surely the president of the United States should surround himself with people who know that fact to their very core. Realizing once again that that is not the case with the current administration, perhaps we should all be grateful that Mr. Bush has only launched two unnecessary wars. But let us not breathe a sigh of relief quite yet; Mr. Bush still has several months left in office, and Iran and Cuba are potential targets.
Prior to his Supreme Court appointment as president, Mr. Bush talked about returning ‘moral values’ to the White House. He described himself as a ‘straight shooter,’ a president any U.S. citizen could be comfortable having a beer with (how that qualifies someone to be president is anyone’s guess) and, for many people, most significantly said he was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Now the lies that were so obvious, for so long, to so many people are being detailed by his inner circle. And those members of the inner circle are as culpable as Mr. Bush for all they have done to forward his personal agenda for the country and the world, an agenda based on greed and a total disdain of the needs of the people.
Moral values, by any definition, have been lacking in the White House for generations. They are not likely to return any time soon. Those looking for such values are best served looking elsewhere. A President Obama or a President Clinton may not show the same degree of disdain for human life and common decency as does Mr. Bush, but they cannot be expected to be moral leaders. A President McCain will only extend the same disasters that Mr. Bush has authored.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.