The Truth, Mainly - 07/19/2004

And yet more advice to the president
by Leon Satterfield

Hi de ho, Georgie Boy:

Normally, sir, I wouldn't think of addressing the President of the United States in such a casual—some might say disrespectful—manner. Normally, I'd address you as "Your Excellency," or "Your Democratically Elected Majesty," or "Your Blinding Magnificence."

But I know that right now you must be terrifically burdened by the duties of your office, and I thought you might be momentarily distracted and amused by my presumption in beginning my letter with "Hi de ho, Georgie Boy."

Because I suspect you could use a little amusement in your life right now. Something to counteract the burden you're trying to get out from under.

You know—all too well, I imagine—what your critics are saying. Unfairly too, because it's not your fault.

You believed, as of course you should have, that Saddam Hussein was about to attack us with everything from nuclear weapons to laser-guided slingshots. You believed, as of course you should have, that Saddam and Osama bin Laden were in cahoots, that Osama's attack on the World Trade towers and the Pentagon was just another manifestation of Saddam's wickedness.

You believed because your advisors said to. You believed Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz. Above all, you believed the Central Intelligence Agency.

So you declared our right to wage pre-emptive wars—not because of what our enemies were doing now but because of what they might do later.

Thus you stopped chasing Osama for the 9/11 attacks and instead made war on Saddam—a smart move because we didn't know where Osama was but we did know, more or less, where Saddam was.

About 10,000 Iraqis died and about 900 of our troops were lost.

And what thanks do you get for your effort and your sacrifice?

Here's what thanks: the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence comes up with the outlandish finding that the CIA got it wrong. The committee, chaired by a Kansas Republican, Sen. Pat Roberts, was unanimous in its findings.

Sen. Roberts said that the CIA was wrong in its report that Iraqis had chemical and biological weapons and in its finding that they were about to come up with nuclear weapons.

Those CIA reports, Sen. Roberts said, were "unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence…. This was a global intelligence failure."

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But Mr. President, you're getting criticized for it.

A commentator on CNN last week said "There was a wish to go to war, not a need to go to war."

Tom Teepen, in a Cox Newspapers column, wrote that "Bush misled us into a needless war by hyping iffy intelligence and invoking a dangerous, novel claim that the president has a right to order the invasion of any country he thinks might some day pose a threat to the United States."

And the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee, Sen. John D. Rockefeller, said that "leading up to Sep. 11, our government didn't connect the dots. In Iraq, we are even more culpable because the dots themselves never existed."

The result, he says, is that "Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before."

And did you see what E.J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post? He wrote that as wrong as the CIA intelligence was, the President, "not the CIA, is responsible for the case that was made for the war in Iraq."

I know, Mr. President, that you must be devastated by all that criticism, wrong-headed as it is. Can't Americans see that it wasn't your fault that your CIA director, George Tenet, told you that the evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was "a slam-dunk case"?

So here's what I think you should do. You should….

Uh oh. I just had a wicked epiphany.

I know it's evil to even ask, but what if all those critics are right?

What if the buck really does stop at the President's desk?

What if, God love us, you really do owe an apology to the country for those 900 American deaths (to say nothing of the 10,000 Iraqi deaths)? How do you apologize without blowing your re-election out of the water?

I'm afraid I'm no help, Mr. President. I've never read anything on how to make such apologies.

I'd take the easy way out and ask for another Florida recount.


   Leon Satterfield


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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