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The Truth, Mainly - 09/25/2006

More troubles for our president

Have you noticed that some people just have no respect for authority?

They listen to what our elected leaders tell us, but only because they want to argue with them. Whatever happened to the good old days when we assumed that what the president told us was true? You know—something like FDR's assertion that Dec. 7 "is a day that will live in infamy."

But lately some of us seem to have become so cynical that we don't even expect to believe what our president says.

For example, he continues to tell us that Saddam and al-Qaeda are two of a kind. It was something he started back in 2002 when he told us that "Al-Qaeda hides. Saddam doesn't, but the danger is that al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world….You can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."

Sceptics might say that one distinguishing difference is that al-Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 atrocity and Saddam wasn't.

Why do sceptics keep bringing that up? Why can't they just accept the fact that the President must know more than the rest of us? Did anyone question Abe Lincoln about his knowledge of war?

And then in the same month (September, 2002) the C.I.A.—ignoring what the commander-in-chief was saying—"said that Iraq has no past, current, or anticipated future contact with Osama bin Laden" and that "bin Laden was in fact a longtime enemy of Iraq."

No, that wasn't a Democrat report of what the C.I.A. said. It came from Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan, and two other Republicans.

When members of his own party contradict what he's saying his own C.I.A. reported, you begin to get an idea of just how difficult President Bush's job has been.

And if Republicans begin to contradict the President's view of things, think of the trouble he's getting from Democrats.

We all know—because the President keeps telling us—that we're continuing our search for bin Laden and it's just a matter of time before we bring him to justice.

But look at what Cindy Rodriquez, a Denver Post columnist, wrote in her Sep. 12 column about what she read in a book called "Jawbreaker" by Gary Berntsen, a C.I.A, field commander.

She writes that "Berntsen and other ground commanders said the U.S. let Osama bin Laden get away." Was it, she asks, because of "President George Bush's close ties to the bin Laden family"? Hah? Close ties to the bin Ladens?

Rodriguez goes on to say that "in 1978, Bush and Osama bin Laden's brother, Salem bin Laden, founded Arbusto Energy, an oil company based in Texas."

I didn't believe it either—until I did a google search on Arbusto Energy. And sure enough, it told me that Bush and Osama's brother were business partners then.

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Then Rodriguez lays this on us: "While all flights were halted following the terrorists attacks [of 9/11], there was one exception made: The White House authorized planes to pick up 140 Saudi nationals, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, living in various cities in the U.S., to bring them back to Saudi Arabia, where they would be safe. They were never interrogated."

Another subject the president's critics like to talk about is the torture of those who are thought to have information the president needs.

"Let's be clear what we're talking about here," Paul Krugman wrote in his NY Times column last Monday. "According to an ABC News report from last fall, procedures used by the C.I.A. interrogators have included forcing prisoners to 'stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees,' while being doused with cold water; and, of course, water boarding, in which 'the prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet,' then 'cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him, "inducing a terrifying fear of drowning.'"

And we're supposed to believe that our President, with all his Christian scruples, would allow something like that to take place?

But the unkindest cut of all came last week when Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and John Warner, joined by the President's former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, came out in opposition to the President's "extraordinary" interrogation methods.

"Extraordinary" interrogation methods turn out to be a little bit of playful torture. And the four protestors have the bad taste to make their dislike of torture public, thereby betraying the President.

He must feel awful.

Had he ever read any poetry, he might have been reminded of William Butler Yeats' line in "The Second Coming."

"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold."


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