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Jason Leopold: Bush "Upbeat" on Iraq?

Bush on Iraq: "When You Get Attacked and Somebody Declares War on You ... Fight Back"

By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 30 October 2006

Last week, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and senior White House officials, in hopes of shoring up the GOP's sagging poll numbers before the November 7 midterm election, went on a media blitz, granting on-the-record interviews to dozens of conservative print and broadcast reporters. One of those interviews resulted in a backlash against the White House when Cheney told a reporter that, for him, water-boarding, a controversial technique used against terror suspects that simulates drowning, was a "no brainer."

But poring through another transcript revealed statements made by President Bush during a lengthy interview at the White House with conservative columnists that are equally disturbing but that have not been reported with the same gusto and zeal as the reports that Cheney backed water torture.

While discussing the situation in Iraq and explaining the reasons the United States launched a pre-emptive strike against the country, Bush told the journalists that "I believe when you get attacked and somebody declares war on you, you fight back. And that's what we're doing," according to a transcript of the interview.

Continuing to distort the facts, Bush added that "there's some 25 percent or so that want us to get out, shouldn't have been out there in the first place - and that's fine. They're wrong. But you can understand why they feel that way. They just don't believe in war, and - at any cost."

"If we leave, they will follow us here," Bush added.

For President Bush to say publicly that the United States attacked Iraq because of 9/11 is an insult to the more than 2,809 men and women who have died in combat in Iraq and tens of thousands of other soldiers who were maimed, believing they were fighting a war predicated on finding weapons of mass destruction. But Bush is desperate. His ratings have slipped below 35 percent. The public is growing frustrated and tired of the Iraq war. Republicans in Congress fear that they will lose control of the House to Democrats. What to do? Once again, get the public to believe Iraq was responsible for 9/11 and that the war was justified.

Those egregiously false statements have been debunked dozens of times over the course of the three-year war. Iraq did not possess caches of biological and chemical weapons, nor was the country involved in any aspect of the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, more than half the country is of the opinion that the Iraq war was a terrible mistake, and as US military casualties and violence in the war-torn country continue to surge on a near-daily basis, the number of people who would like to see a swift exit grows.

You would be hard-pressed to find any reporter express outrage at the blatant disinformation Bush peddled to them in an attempt to sway the election. Instead, the columnists joked with the president, laughed at his one-liners, and then published or broadcast Bush's statements as fact without challenging the veracity of his remarks.

During the interview between the president and reporters on Wednesday, Bush dismissed the violence on the ground as a mere side effect of the Muslim holiday Ramadan.

"I believe these people - oh, I was going to tell you [General John] Abizaid believes Ramadan, no question, caused them to be more violent because he says there's some kind of reward during Ramadan for violence," Bush said matter-of-factly. "I'm trying to figure out a matrix that says things are getting better. I think that one way to measure is less violence than before, I guess. We'll have to see what happens here after Ramadan ... Anyway, that's where my - that's what I'm thinking about these days. Upbeat about things."

Ramadan ended October 23. The interview with the columnists took place on October 25. Since then, military officials have confirmed that October has been one of the deadliest months in Iraq for US troops. The latest figure pegs US military casualties at 96. Violence is escalating, not abating. Bush claims the violence in Iraq is isolated to just a small part of the country - Baghdad, a city with a population of six million - and things are just rosy in the rest of the country.

"You know, 90 percent of the action is in five provinces out of 17," he said. "And it's a 30-mile circle around Baghdad. In other words, there's a lot of territory there that they're beginning to recover. And there are ways to measure that. You know, agricultural production is up. Things are happening. It's an entrepreneurial group of people."

Perhaps realizing how outrageous he sounds amidst the bad news coming out of Iraq, Bush admitted he may be a bit naive in his upbeat analysis.

"Don't be writing - don't write me down as hopelessly naive and trying to always put lipstick on the pig," the president told the reporters. The reporters obliged.


Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.

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