This is a special archive of blogs focused on Bush's fibs.
August 24, 2003
About a month after the September 11 attacks my son
and I went to Ground Zero. We saw only dense crowds of other people who couldn't see any more than we could, but something
in me wanted to be there.
After about an hour of walking around the financial
district we had to leave. We left not because of the crowds or the cops, but because our eyes and noses and throats
Right after September 11 an acrid, chemical smell
could be detected all over lower Manhattan, as far north as Soho and Greenwich Village. This means millions of people
were breathing something unnatural.
Even so, the EPA assured New Yorkers that the air in lower Manhattan was not dangerous. New Yorkers
are no fools, and many people wore air filtering masks (or at least made their children wear them), but not everyone did,
and who keeps a mask on 24/7?
Now we find out the EPA lied.
According to Laurie Garrett of New York Newsday, the White House instructed the EPA
to withhold the truth about air quality in Manhattan and issue lies instead.
"When the EPA made a September 18 announcement that the air was 'safe' to breathe, it did not have sufficient data
and analyses to make such a blanket statement," the report says. "Furthermore, The White House Council on Environmental Quality
influenced ... the information that EPA communicated to the public through its early press releases when it convinced EPA
to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones." [Laurie Garrett, "White House Misled City on Post-9/11 Health Issues," New York Newsday, August
On September 12, 2001, EPA administrator Christine Whitman directed
that all information to news media be cleared through the National Security Council in the White House before release. The
White House then made sure that what the EPA told the public was scrubbed clean of honest information.
The White House deleted cautions for asthma patients, the elderly, and
people with respiratory problems to stay out of the affected area.
A warning that homes and offices should be professionally cleaned of contaminates
The EPA discovered that the amount of asbestos in the air was
above safe levels. The White House replaced this information with "samples confirm previous reports that ambient air quality
meets OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] standards and consequently is not a cause for public concern."
Not a cause for public concern? I unknowingly exposed
my son to asbestos; ain't I part of the public? My son was a strapping 17-year-old then, and we were only in the area for
a short time. But what about younger children? What about babies? What about pregnant women?
Earlier this month a study published by the American Medical
Association revealed that pregnant women who were in or near the World Trade Center that terrible day gave birth
to smaller than average babies.
The study by researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York
found that the women bore babies smaller than those of mothers in other parts of New York City on September 11, 2001. All
the babies were at weights in the bottom 10 per cent for their gestational age.
New York health officials countered that the
babies were born alive and not premature, just a bit small. I'd like to see those health officials explain to those mothers
face-to-face that their babies' low birth weight is not a cause for concern.
Last year the New York City Fire Department revealed that more than
90 percent of the firefighters who worked at Ground Zero had developed a severe, persistant cough.
Some 12,100 firefighters and medical services personnel were exposed
to the dust, smoke and heat of the burning towers during the first week, and many were re-exposed in the following weeks.
Some are coughing so badly that they have
had to take four weeks or more of medical leave for a new condition that health officials are calling "the WTC related cough."
[Environment News Service, September 10, 2002]
Along with the cough, many WTC recovery workers developed "upper
and lower aero-digestive tract irritation, including sinusitis, gastro-esophageal acid reflux, and asthma," according to the Environmental
News Service. But it seems the health of the firefighters is not a cause for concern.
In August 2002 Bush rejected a $5.1 billion spending plan that included $90 million for long-term
health monitoring of emergency workers, plus $150 million for equipment and training grants to fire departments. "Today,
the President has slapped many of America's Heroes across the face," thundered Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). "Programs to monitor the health of these workers are incredibly important because we just don’t
know how dangerous fallout from the trade center was."
No, we don't, thanks to the White House. But, really, there is no cause for concern.
And I believe I speak for most New Yorkers when I say we reallyare looking forward to hosting the 2004 Republican Convention.
It should be interesting.
As of yesterday, 22 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq while
the President vacationed.
Does Bush seem just a tad callous, or what?
It took him four hours to bring himself to speak to the nation
after the Blackout began, and then he could do so only on tape. (Drunk or stupid? We report -- you decide.) After this week's
bombing that killed at least 20 UN workers, Bush's keepers managed to get him off the golf course, into a suit and tie, and
in front of cameras a bit faster. The keepers are learning, it seems.
However, Bush has yet to attend a single funeral or speak to even
one widow or orphan or mother of our dead soldiers. He can't be bothered while there's golf to play.
Off the golf course, the President appears to be weak on follow-through.
He has a well-established pattern of making a big splash of support for some worthy cause or another, then withdrawing support
after the cameras are turned off.
A prime example is the "No Child Left Behind" program, which in
2001 was a well-publicized centerpiece of Bush Administration domestic policy. The Bush budget then shortchanged the program
by more than $5 million.
A more recent example is what Bush did to the Teach for America
program, which sends recent college graduates to teach for two years in the poorest urban and rural school districts. Bush
waved the Teach for America banner in the 2000 campaign. Wendy Kopp, the founder of TFA, was invited to sit with the First
Lady when the President gave his first budget message to Congress. Laura Bush also gave a Teach for America gala in May 2001
and celebrated a Teach for America Week in October 2001.
In July 2003, however, Teach for America received a form letter
-- a notice that the program was dumped from AmeriCorps and defunded.
This year, among other things, the Bushies tried to cut back on the air marshall program to save on hotel expenses. But airport security is only a small part of what's falling through the homeland security cracks. In June 2002, Bush
suddenly (after fighting it since the beginning of his administration) announced the creation of a cabinet-level Department
of Homeland Security. And this creation got much attention in the news media, and many speeches were given and stately photographs
of the President, looking stately, were taken and published in newspapers. One certainly would have gotten the impression
that the President had accomplished something.
According to Fred Kaplan in Slate, Security honcho Tom Ridge is now asking for funds to identify "critical infrastructure" (vulnerable nuclear,
chemical, and industrial plants) and reduce the risks at those sites. Why wasn't this done 18 months ago?
Police still cannot access a terrorist "watch list" database. So if a cop stops a guy for speeding, and the
guy is wanted by the FBI for planning to blow up Chicago, the cop would have no way to know about it. (One of the September
11 terrorists had been stopped for speeding two days before and released with a ticket.) After September 11, Bush promised
money to cities for anti-terrorism and first-response training. Much of the promised money never materialized. Cities are
going broke attempting to pay for their own security (with no national coordination, of course). These days, when
the terror alert level goes up, many cities are unable to respond with increased security measures because they cannot
pay for it. And more money does not appear to be forthcoming anytime soon.
The department is requesting $36.1 billion for next year, which looks at first glance like a $2.4 billion
increase over this year's $33.7 billion. This boost would be slight enough under the circumstances, but in fact it's not a
boost at all. Congress doled out an additional $3.9 billion to DHS earlier this year, putting its total 2003 budget at $37.6
billion. So the request for the coming fiscal year amounts to a $1.5 billion reduction. (This charge may be a bit
unfair; there's bound to be an FY04 supplemental request later on. Still, the department's budget isn't exactly soaring.) [Fred Kaplan, "Homeland Insecurity," Slate, June 6, 2003]
Bush continues to pretend the war in Afghanistan is over and won,
even as violence there escalates. (As I keyboard, a news story popped up that an American soldiers was killed by hostile fire in Afghanistan.) Reconstruction efforts there have faltered,
and Taliban forces using the guerrilla tactics of the “mujahideen” fighters who defeated the Soviets are posing
a serious threat.
And then there's Iraq. The Bushies sent us into Iraq with post-war fantasies, not post-war plans. Once Bush got his photo
op on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln he lost interest. Our soldiers continue to die, yet Bush can't be bothered to attend
even one funeral.
Not when there's golf to be played.
To be fair, the Bush Administration really had called for improvements
to the power grid before the Great Blackout. Chapter 7 of the final report of Dick Cheney's Mystery Energy Task
Force, Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America's Future, clearly states that the energy grid infrastructure needs an update. However, the report does not have a plan for how this
update should be accomplished, but rather calls for further study.
"For all the days and nights he spends raising record amounts of money,
why doesn't he pay a visit - even just one - to the family of an American who lost his life obeying his Commander In Chief?
Could it be that Mr. Bush is afraid he'll be asked why he injudiciously taunted Iraq's insurgents with 'Bring 'em on?' They
came on, all right. Could it be that it would be hard to come clean with those who mourn, hard to convince them that the threat
for which their loved ones died looks contrived? Or might campaign cash just be more important?" -- Greg Dobbs, "Bush Needs to Come Clean With America," Modesto Bee, August 20, 2003
The President's pathological inability to 'fess up to blunders
is causing some concern even at the neocon Weekly Standard.
At the press conference, a reporter asked: "Mr. President, others in your
administration have said your words on Iraq and Africa did not belong in your State of the Union address. Will you take personal
responsibility for those words?"
It was fair to think Bush would say "yes." Surely the time for "closure" on
a story dominating the news for two weeks had arrived. Somehow or other he would admit a mistake--that being, oddly, the only
way to "take personal responsibility" in Washington.
But Bush didn't. "I take responsibility," he said, but it was "for putting
troops into action" and "for making the decision . . . to put together a coalition to remove Saddam Hussein."
Of course, being a neocon, the writer makes a number of excuses for Bush by the end of the article. Still, it's
a sign that even the neocons are starting to worry.
President Bush could have stopped the flap over the Sixteen Little Words at any time just by taking responsibility.
Instead, he is forcing underlings to take the rap, thereby risking his entire administration.
At several turns, when Bush might have taken responsibility for the
language in his Jan. 28 address to the country, he and his top advisers resisted, claiming others — particularly those
in the intelligence community — were responsible.
Asked again yesterday whether Bush should ultimately be held accountable
for what he says, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters, “Let’s talk about what’s most
important. That’s the war on terrorism, winning the war on terrorism. And the best way you do that is to go after the
threats where they gather, not to let them come to our shore before it’s too late.”
If, a couple of weeks ago, the Prez had issued a statement to the effect
of "In our concern for the security of the United States we were a little overzealous to make our case. I take full
responsibility," the controversy would have been over and done with by now. But Bush can't bring himself to do this.
By middle age, most of us have had the experience of being painted
into the corner of candor: You've been caught with your hand in the cookie jar. Your boss calls you in to explain the loss
of an important account. The check really wasn't in the mail. What do you do? If you are an adult, you say things like, I'm
sorry. You were right, I was wrong. I will do better next time. It's my responsibility.
It's unpleasant, and it may not even be fair. For example, the important
account might have gotten away because one of your sales reps showed up drunk to a meeting. Maybe this was something
you could not have foreseen. But if you are the manager in charge, in your manager's eyes you are responsible
for assigning the account, so you are responsible for losing it. And, knowing that, you realize that making excuses
or blaming somebody else will not reassure your boss that he/she can trust you with big accounts in the future.
So, you bite the bullet and look Mr. Big Shot in the eye and say,
I should have been paying more attention. I should have given the account to a more reliable sales rep. I will do better in
the future. I take full responsibility.
The Weekly Standard's Terry Eastland may think that admitting
to a mistake is an odd way to take responsibility, but that's how it is in the real (non-neocon) world. It's hard, but sometimes
it's what you have to do, because human organizations and relationships are built on mutual trust. If people don't trust you
-- to do the job, repay the loan, keep your promises -- you won't amount to much. When your words or actions have broken trust,
as a rule trust won't be rebuilt until you acknowledge your responsibility.
So why can't President Bush take responsibility for his own speech? That's easy. He's gotten free rides all
And is there a more pathetic picture than the one painted by David Rubenstein of The Carlyle Group? Rubenstein
put Bush on the board of one of the subsidiaries as "a favor." Bush came to meetings and told jokes. After three years, Rubenstein
had to tell him "I'm not sure this is really for you. Maybe you should do something
else. Because I don't think you're adding that much value to the board. You don't know that much about the company." [link] Three years! How many of us have been paid a salary and allowed to slide for three years?
One suspects the man has no idea what it means to actually work and produce. One suspects he's never had the experience
of having to look someone in the eye -- someone who held his future in his hands -- and say, I take responsibility.
Here's a new excuse for Shrub making the rounds: The Sentence
wasn't a lie because Shrub said only that Saddam sought uranium in Africa. So maybe, at one time, Saddam spun the
globe in his office and said, "Hmm, I wonder if there's any uranium I could buy in Africa?"
Can you prove that didn't happen?
The joke is that Saddam already had 1.8 tonnes (1 tonne = 1.1023
U.S. tons) of "yellowcake" uranium and 500 tonnes of natural uranium sitting around at Tuwaitha, a few miles from Baghdad.
This was inventoried by IAEA before 1998, and when they got back to the site in November and December 2002, they confirmed
that the same stuff was still there in the same barrels with the same IAEA seals. This was public information before Bush
gave the State of the Union speech in 2003. (See The Mahablog, June 10, 2003.)
So why was anyone hysterical at Saddam's "seeking" to buy more yellowcake
uranium in January 2003?
And why was the Bush regime so unconcerned about this uranium that it was left
unguarded for three weeks in April?
And can anyone in the Bush Administration walk and chew pretzels at the same time?
And have you ever seen such utter incompetence in your life?
As I keyboard, Speaker of the House Dennis
Hastert is on Meet the Press telling Tim Russert that Saddam had barrels of "yellowcake PLUTONIUM." We know he had
this stuff sitting around in barrels, Hastert says.
Why it important that Hastert said "plutonium"
instead of "uranium"? Because dumping all fissile materials into the same barrel muddies the issue, particularly when attempting
to justify a war. I'm no nuclear physicist, but I've done enough reading to understand that it's much more difficult to prepare,
or "enrich," uranium to make it usable in a weapon than is true for plutonium. That's why it's important to be clear about
which is which. Here's a fact sheet that sheds some light.
Enriched uranium isn't usable as is in a bomb, and it
takes a lot of processing and specialized equipment to make it so. Uranium that's "enriched" enough to be used in a reactor
is a long way away from being weapons grade. On the other hand, reactor-grade plutonium is not that different from
weapons-grade plutonium, relatively speaking. If you've got any kind of plutonium and the right equipment you can get yourself
some weapons-grade stuff pretty quickly, whereas with uranium it's going to take a long time.
That's why it was extremely stupid of the Bushies to
make a Big Stink about North Korea's "secret" uranium enrichment program (that the world's intelligence community had known
about for some time) last October. The Bushies made an issue about uranium, and now North Korea is pissed off and cooking
plutonium (See "Kicking Michael Kelly's Can."). This is taking a dicey situation and turning it into a disaster. The Bushies have a knack for this.
But back to Dennis Hastert. Tim Russert is not correcting
him, either about plutonium/uranium or about the fact that the Bushies took no action to secure the barrels of yellowcake as
the war was (allegedly) ending. Nor is Russert mentioning that even if Saddam HAD bought some African yellowcake uranium last
year, he probably wouldn't have been able to process weapons-grade stuff from this until, oh, 2007 or 2009.
Those are not dates I pulled out of a hat. I got them from the CIA! Yes, the very document that
Shrub used to back up The Sentence in the State of the Union address:
In its estimate, the CIA and military intelligence agencies concluded
that Saddam was again trying to realize his long dream of becoming a nuclear power.
"Although we assess that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons
or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them. Most agencies assess that Baghdad started reconstituting
its nuclear program about the time that (U.N. weapons) inspectors departed -- December 1998," says the estimate, a summary
of intelligence analyses on Iraq's weapons programs that was assembled by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Well, jeez, Condi, I'm sorry you're bored. Maybe you should find another
job. Preferably, one that doesn't involve making decisions based on outdated information that get people killed.
If you do nothing else today, be sure to read this article from the New York Times magazine. A sample:
But according to terrorism
experts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based policy group devoted largely to world security,
the estimates run something like this: about 20,000 jihadic soldiers had graduated from Al Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan
as of October 2001, when the American-led war began there. Up to 10,000 of those were inside Afghanistan at the time. Since
then, the coalition campaign has killed or captured around 2,000. Ninety percent of bin Laden's forces, and more than half
of his top commanders, remain free. And no one is quite sure where they are. Some of the Arabs among them have probably made
their way back to the Middle East. Many of the rest seem to straddle the frontiers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and neighboring
Iran. Al Qaeda is, the institute judges, ''more insidious and just as dangerous'' as before the 9/11 attacks. [Daniel Bergner, "Where the Enemy Is Everywhere and Nowhere," The New York
Times magazine, July 20, 2003]
I don't know about you, but I find that paragraph quite
Isn't it odd that the pundits suddenly focused like laser
beams on The Sentence (nearly six months after the fact)? Of course, wingnut pundits (e.g., Charles Krauthammer) pooh-pooh the whole thing. It's just one sentence, after all! There are other sentences! Never mind the rest of the sentences
are lies, too.
Take, for example, the sentence before The Sentence:
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s 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. [2003 State of the Union Address]
This is a gem; a spectacular double lie. At the time it was spoken not only was Saddam's nuclear weapons development
program defunct and buried in a rose garden, but the International Atomic Energy Agency clearly said it was defunct in
documents available to anyone with a web browser.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an autonomous agency created by the United Nations in 1957. This is not an agency that keeps secrets. You can go
to their Iraq page on the web and find links to timelines, reports, charts, maps, graphs, whatever, telling you everything the IAEA has
ever said about Iraq.
The "advanced nuclear weapons" sentence is true in one sense
-- it pretty much reflects truth as it stood in 1990. This IAEA fact sheet on Iraq's nuclear weapons program shows that Iraq was working hard to enrich uranium to make a bomb -- more than
a decade ago.
You will not be surprised to learn that freepers all over the web
are grabbing at this flimsy patch of veracity and frantically trying to cover Shrub's butt with it. They are finding IAEA
documents from before the first Gulf War that indeed say Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons program and was working
on producing enriched plutonium several different ways. So, technically, the sentence is not a lie. Of course, by
the same reasoning, we should be sending troops to put down the rebellion at Fort Sumter.
More recently, the IAEA said,
All known indigenous facilities capable of producing uranium compounds useful to a nuclear programme
were destroyed during the Gulf War; IAEA inspected and completed the destruction of facilities; IAEA monitored the sites as
part of their OMV activities. [link]
What the IAEA confirmed in the latter part of the 1990s is that they had
confiscated Iraq's entire inventory of research reactor fuel, and
destroyed all equipment and facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium.
Compare/contrast what the IAEA actually said to what George Bush said they said: "The International Atomic Energy Agency
confirmed in the 1990s 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."
A little bit of a stretch, wouldn't you say? Had Bush said, "WE BELIEVE Saddam Hussein has an advanced nuclear weapons
program," etc., at least now he would have an out -- he could say he was mistaken. But that is not what he said.
More from the IAEA:
As of 16 December 1998, the following assessment
could be made of Iraq's clandestine programme:
There were no indications to suggest that Iraq was successful in its attempt to produce nuclear weapons. Iraq's explanation
of its progress towards the finalisation of a workable design for its nuclear weapons was considered to be consistent with
the resources and time scale indicated by the available programme documentation.
Iraq was at, or close to, the threshold of success in such areas as the production of HEU through the EMIS process, the production
and pilot cascading of single-cylinder sub-critical gas centrifuge machines, and the fabrication of the explosive package
for a nuclear weapon
There were no indications to suggest that Iraq had produced more than a few grams of weapons-grade nuclear material through
its indigenous processes.
There were no indications that Iraq otherwise clandestinely acquired weapons-usable material
All the safeguarded research reactor fuel was verified and fully accounted for by the IAEA and removed from Iraq.
There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable
nuclear material of any practical significance. [link]
We don't have to settle for documents from 1998, either. In January 2003, when President Bush delivered the State of the
Union speech, the IAEA was back in Iraq (inspections resumed in November 2002) catching up on recent developments. And
the recent developments were that there were no recent developments.
On the same day President Bush delivered the 2003 State of the Union speech -- January 28 -- IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei
told CNN that
I'm talking about the nuclear file, and as I mentioned, in the area of nuclear
I think we're making progress. On the assumption that Iraq will continue to provide us evidence, we should be able to come
to a conclusion that Iraq has no nuclear weapon, which is progress. [link]
I don't want to seem ungrateful that journalists finally have grabbed onto one of Bush's lies, even one from six months
ago, and dragged it into the light of day. But at this rate we'll never get to the end of them. To save time, perhaps
the pundits could search for and reveal Bush statements that are true.
Why the focus on one sentence? Eric Alterman provided a clue in his July 16 blog: "I happen to be paying a lot of attention to Niger lately, but you can view just about any one of this administration’s policies and discover an alarming mix of extremism,
dishonesty and incompetence that is at once so vast and so dangerous the mind cannot fully synthesize it."