Friday, December 07, 2007

Bush Trashed in Tyrol (Also)

"Bush unbelehrbar: nach irak-luege jetzt auch der iran -luege ueberfuehrt"

(Bush never learns: after the Iraq lies now come the Iran lies)

This is the succinct judgment of my local Tyrolean tabloid, the Kronen Zeitung, following the December 3 revelation of the National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. An American abroad reads such a headline and blinks not an eye. It is, after all, a rather milder judgment than those rendered in the U.S. press itself, to say nothing of the blogosphere, following Monday's news. We now take it for granted that the rest of the world thinks our president is a bald-faced liar. What else should they think?

How we have sunk! Were we not once a proud nation? Did we not once have self-respect? When did we learn to cringe when we see our president give a televised new conference? He steps up to the lectern in well-tailored suits and correctly-knotted ties and a flag in his lapel. For a moment he looks almost believable -- until he speaks. Now we hear utterances that boggle our minds and turn our eyes glassy. Bad enough that the content is delusional, worse that it is delivered in a phony texas twang with carefully-coached diction that ends every sentence on a down note. There is a chip on his shoulder, but nary an idea in his head.

In my lifetime (FDR was president when I was born) we have had no president of this kind. Apart from the sleazy criminality of Richard Nixon, who at least had the wits to conceive and carry out real crimes, there is no parallel to George W. Bush. His father was no giant of intellect but was a decent man who at least had the good sense, based upon advice from the then-still-sane Dick Cheney, not to invade Iraq (see my post, Obama does Cheney, below). Gerald Ford did not score high on the Stanford-Binet (LBJ once said that Ford could not chew gum and walk at the same time), but was an affable lunkert. LBJ got Vietnam terribly wrong, but got other important things right (e.g., voting rights). I could go on to profile the other 7 presidents of my lifetime (excluding George W.) and find something good to say about all of them. One struggles to find something seriously good to say about George W. Bush: he is a liar, he is unscrupulous, he is duplicitous, he is lawless, he is daft, he is easily manipulated, he is delusional, he is clueless, he is incompetent, he is a dangerous twit -- the adjectives leap from the dictionary and beg to be included.

Consider the case at hand: the National Intelligence Estimate said last Monday that in the judgment of the 16 participating intelligence agencies (are there really so many?), rendered with something they call "high confidence," "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." (I urge you to read the NIE for yourself. I have provided a link to the NIE summary above. The Key Judgments section of the report is only 2 1/4 pages long.) That is, "halted" in "fall 2003." In other words, four years ago.

What has Bush done in those four years? Unleashed incessant threats against Iran. For example, in May of this year the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis sailed into the Persian Gulf so that the now-no-longer-sane Dick Cheney could climb aboard and issue more threats to Iran.

This is but one of dozens of examples of sabre-rattling by the administration over the past four years. The most astonishing of them all was, of course, the infamous statement by the president on October 17 of this year:

"I've told people that if you're interest in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

The highlighted words say it all. This is reckless, mindless gamesmanship at the end of its tether. Standing alone it would be cause for a psychiatric commitment of Mr. Bush, or -- better yet -- impeachment. It does not stand alone, however, because we now know that in August of this year, two months before he uttered the words "World War III," Bush was briefed by Mike McConnell, the National Director of Intelligence, to the effect that they had new intelligence on Iran's nuclear weapons program. Here they are together. How should we read the look on Bush's face? Is he pleased with Mike? Is he planning what he is going to do to Mike when the furor dies down?

On December 4, the day after the NIE was released, Bush held a news conference. In answer to the question what effect this new information has on our Iran policy, Bush replied, "Our policy remains the same."

Why does this statement not seem very smart?

Might the Iranian high command not respond by saying, "what the hell, we might as well ramp up our nuclear weapons program?"

As is often the case, Seymour Hersh called this entire scenario over a year ago in the New Yorker. He took a lot of heat for it. The then official state of the intelligence was that Iran was busy at work developing a nuclear weapon. If you missed Wolf Blitzer's "vindication" interview of Hersh on CNN's The Situation Room on the day after the NIE was released, then you can see it here (scroll down on the page).