George W. Bush is back in Ohio because the state that gave him his second term now wants it back. Ohio is also the state where the President unveiled his doctrine of pre-emptive warfare. In a speech given in Cincinnati, on October 8, 2002, Bush masterfully tore into the raw emotions exposed after 9/11. The target of American anger was to be Iraq. And it would kick off in Ohio.
“I want to discuss a grave threat to peace and America’s determination to lead the world in confronting that threat,” Bush said. “That threat comes from Iraq.”
He then went on to explain that although Iraq was supposed to cease creating and destroy its weapons of mass destruction, it had failed to do so, violating UN requirements. “It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons,” Bush explained. “It is seeking nuclear weapons.”
Then he carefully linked Iraq and 9/11 in the minds of his listeners. “On September 11, 2001, America felt its vulnerability—even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from every source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America…We agree that the Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons, and diseases, and gasses, and atomic weapons.”
He then increased the sense of urgency. “The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?”
“We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq.”
“Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."
“Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
Wow, I mean even reading that speech today, three and a half years later, I am almost moved. I can still remember how I felt hearing it. I wanted blood. It’s a dark and shadowy speech designed to channel American anger at Saddam. It was only later, after it was too late, that we would learn that none of the facts Bush mentioned above as cause for war turned out to be true. Of course there were no WMDs and thus no UN violation, and thus no threat. The 9/11 commission itself later revealed there was no Al Quada link and minimal terrorist harboring in Iraq.
And now Bush is in Ohio, giving another speech. He is trying to rejuvenate support in the state where he kicked off his Iraq plan, his doctrine of pre-emptive warfare. What a difference three and a half years makes. Now we are in Iraq, just like the president wanted. And now Bush has to answer for the possibility of us failing in Iraq, or of Iraq slipping into civil war. But rather than address facts our President will continue to live in a fantasy world. Yes, that is the world in which Saddam Hussein posed a grave threat to America. Now that we’ve solved that “problem” we can rest assured that things are going well rebuilding Iraq because that is what the generals are whispering in his ear.
Sure. And so in Ohio Bush now says, "I believe that as Iraqis continue to see the benefits of liberty, they will gain confidence in their future. And they will work to ensure that common purpose trumps narrow sectarianism. And by standing with them in their hour of need, we're going to help the Iraqis build a strong democracy that will be an inspiration throughout the Middle East, a democracy that will be a partner in the global war against the terrorists.”
But when you line up the two speeches side by side, it’s really hard to take anything the president says seriously, isn’t it? The only smoking gun we have here is the President’s inability to make the right call. His judgment and vision immediately come into question when hindsight is applied. Personally, I don’t blame people in Ohio for being fed up with the rhetoric, because that’s all it is and ever has been. It is one thing to be a fool, but it’s another to follow him.
Three and a half years later terrorism is still rolling off the president’s tongue. Harnessing fear is what got him this far. He learned that by tapping into and heightening America’s fear of the unknown, he can have the leverage to do whatever he wants. Saddam now sits on trial and George W. Bush tours Ohio giving more speeches.
Respect and trust must be earned. And when it is abused or misused it is hard to get it back. Mine has vanished like a bullet from a smoking gun.