Technical Accuracy
  by Gene Lyons

"As you know, in a deposition in January, I was asked questions about my
relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While, technically, my answers were
legally accurate, I was not entirely truthful with my information."
   ---President Bill Clinton, August 1998

"It didn't rise to the standard of a presidential speech, but it's not
known, for example, that it was inaccurate. In fact, people think it
was technically accurate."
    --Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, July 2003

What we have here is a crisis of competence. Those impertinent rascals
at have posted some unintentionally funny
photographs downloaded from the official White House website. They show
President Junior with furrowed brow and pencil in hand, making final
revisions to his State of the Union speech. As if, as the kids say.
Cheap irony aside, nobody thinks Bush writes his own speeches. People
don't even expect him to grasp with great particularity what's in them.
Nobody holds him responsible; certainly nobody ever has.

It's CIA director George Tenet's fault. No, it's Dick Cheney's fault.
No, it's  Condoleeza Rice's fault. Where was Colin Powell? We had a
word for this kind of circular activity in junior high, but it's unsuitable
for the newspaper. Anyway, it can't be Junior's fault. He not only
doesn't know what's in the intelligence briefings, he doesn't appear to
know what's in the newspapers.

On Monday, Bush told reporters the CIA raised concerns about crudely
forged documents supposedly showing Iraq buying African uranium only
"subsequent" to his speech. Not so. In fact, the falsehood was scrubbed
from an October, 2002 Bush speech at the CIA director's insistence.
Time reports Tenet personally intervened with Condi Rice's chief deputy.

Somebody at the White House then stuck a weasel-worded version back into
Bush's January 2003 speech. A good guess would be Rice, who alluded to
the phony story in a November, 2002 New York Times op ed entitled
"Why We Know Iraq Is Lying."

There was even a discrepancy between Tenet's blame-taking and Bush's
actual words. See, what Condi and Rummy mean by calling Junior's speech
"technically accurate" is that British intelligence did cite the African tale in one
of what London newspapers call its "dodgy dossiers." (Both dossiers turned out
to be substantially plagiarized from outdated public sources.) That would arguably
make Bush's statement true in precisely the way Bill Clinton's denial of "sexual
relations" with Monica Lewinsky was true--i.e. literally factual, but calculated to deceive.

Except Junior said this: "The British government has learned that Saddam
Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
As Michael Kinsley notes, you don't "learn" something false. Bush didn't
simply report the British claim; he endorsed it.

Monday, Junior argued that he'd given Saddam Hussein "a chance to allow
the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in." Evidently, he's forgotten the
elaborate diplomatic charade leading up to his own March 2003 speech
warning U.N. inspectors out before the bombing began.

To comprehend the stygian depths of the administration's mendacity,
however, it helps to begin on Sept. 7, 2002, when Junior and British
Prime minister Tony Blair appeared at the White House together. Bush
alleged that a "new" IAEA report (International Atomic Energy Agency)
stated that Iraq was "six months away" from building a nuclear weapon.
"I don't know what more evidence we need," he added.

"Absolutely," Blair seconded.

No such report ever existed, as our brilliant Washington press corps, as
John R. MacArthur points out in the Columbia Journalism Review, didn't
exactly knock itself out reporting. Next Condoleeza Rice conceeded that
"there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam Hussein]
can acquire nuclear weapons...But we don't want the smoking gun to be
a mushroom cloud."

Vice president Cheney told "Meet the Press," that Iraq's "reconstituted"
nuclear weapons program was an incontestable fact.

Calculated to stampede Congress and frighten Americans into supporting
the radical doctrine of pre-emptive war, almost word every in Bush's speech
regarding Saddam's non-existent nukes has been shown to be false.

"The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990's that
Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had
a design for a nuclear weapon, and was working on five different methods
of enriching uranium for a bomb" Bush said. After citing the discredited
British story, he added that "our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted
to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.
Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide."

Saddam's not the only one who does. U.N. inspectors found Iraq's nuclear
weapons program destroyed after the Gulf War. The aluminum tubes business
has been thoroughly debunked by IAEA experts. As with all incompetent
propagandists, the Bush team's cocksure attitude--its vaunted air of
corporate-style "leadership"--is pure illusion.
They appear decisive precisely because they cook the books and have only
contempt for anybody who disagrees.

  back to

Privacy Policy
. .