Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bush's Latest Press Conference: "History has proven democracies don't war."



Last Tuesday Bush held a rare one-on-one press conference in a desperate attempt to boost sagging public support for the Iraq war. The press conference was particularly unusual for its candour- with the White House press corps actually doing its job and asking Shrubya some difficult questions. You can find the transcript and video of the press conference here on the White House website. I was somewhat surprised the Bushies actually put the transcript up in its entirety given the tough questions and Bush's lame performance. While they seemed to put up the whole transcript, not everything is on the level in the video. Having watched the original televised press conference, and the video on the government website, it's pretty obvious to me that the White House has sped up the video slightly in order to make Bush look more articulate then he actually is. I'm 95% certain of this. If someone can prove me wrong let me know. On TV he was talking quite a bit slower and fumbling for words, speeding up the video really helped smooth this out. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if they edited the transcript a bit too, but I haven't looked at it closely enough to tell.

Surprisingly, Helen Thomas, the 85 year old doyenne of the White House press corps was called upon for a question for the first time in 3 years. While a lot of the other reporters asked critical questions as well, this was the probably the harshest exchange of the whole press conference. Prior to this she had been locked out of questioning Bush, basically because she was too probing and critical- of course this is exactly what a good reporter should be doing. Here's the transcript from the Thomas/Bush exchange below:


THE PRESIDENT: Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Grid Iron, I am -- (laughter.)

Q You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)

Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --

Q Everything --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.

Q -- everything I've heard --

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.

Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second --

Q They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.

THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained --

Q I'm talking about Iraq --

THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.

I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences --

Q -- go to war --

THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.

Q Thank you, sir. Secretary Rumsfeld -- (laughter.)

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: You're welcome. (Laughter.) I didn't really regret it. I kind of semi-regretted it. (Laughter.)

Q -- have a debate.

THE PRESIDENT: That's right. Anyway, your performance at the Grid Iron was just brilliant -- unlike Holland's, was a little weak, but -- (laughter.)



My googling revealed that this ballsy old bird actually has her own podcast where she regular rips Shrubya a new one. Make no mistake Helen is an outspoken critic of the Bush administration. Here's another a link to a recent interview where she's being harassed by a right-wing radio host, Hugh Hewitt, for not liking Bush. Helen holds her own pretty well considering Hewitt has obviously ambushed her with the irrelevant line of questioning.

Clearly, the Bush administration, notorious for shielding Bush from any overly critical questions, recognizes that even they have to answer some of their critics given the increasing weariness over the Iraq debacle. The press conference was their attempt to provide a rebuttal to the growing dissent over their disintegrating foreign policy. I wasn't impressed. Just more of the same empty bluster...but this time with a lot less confidence.


My favorite 'Bushisms' from the press conference:




History has proven democracies don't war.




But I see progress. I've heard people say, oh, he's just kind of optimistic for the sake of optimism. Well, look, I believe we're going to succeed. And I understand how tough it is -- don't get me wrong -- I mean, you make it abundantly clear how tough it is. I hear it from our troops; I read the reports every night. But I believe -- I believe the Iraqis -- this is a moment where the Iraqis had a chance to fall apart, and they didn't. And that's a positive development.




I believe that my job is to go out and explain to people what's on my mind. That's why I'm having this press conference, see. I'm telling you what's on my mind. And what's on my mind is winning the war on terror. And I understand war creates concerns, Jim. Nobody likes war. It creates a sense of -- of uncertainty in the country.

7 Comments:

Blogger DrMaxtor said...

Helen Thomas bringing it on dubya, thats what you call speaking truth to power. Wafa who?

4:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If "history proves democracies don't war", that proves that the United States is no longer a democracy.

Who makes war? Fascist dictatorships and totalitarian regimes.

Not a pretty picture, is it?

5:56 AM  
Blogger Oleksa said...

So according to you,
"Prior to this she had been locked out of questioning Bush, basically because she was too probing and critical- of course this is exactly what a good reporter should be doing."

Well, then let's look at her question a bit more closely

Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.

Ok, this is her opinion, to which she like everyone else is entitled of course, presented as a fact.



Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true.

What about the argument that Saddam was a brutal dictator who murdered his own people and an international pariah the world has to deal with one way or another. Of course, one can argue that these reasons are not sufficient enough to go to war for but again it's her perception of the situation presented as a fact.

My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

So after having imposed on Bush her opinions presented as facts she's asking a meaningless question.

It's like asking somebody:
So you've murdered your wife and children and drank their blood. Why did you do it, was it because you were so thirsty or you just happen to like drinking human blood, which was it?

You call it 'critical journalism', I call it 'mind games' and judging by his answers Bush was actually being very polite to this manipulator.

P.S. that anonymous commentator must be either f..d in the head or, more likely, was just a troll.

2:47 AM  
Blogger A. Shah said...

Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.

Ok, this is her opinion, to which she like everyone else is entitled of course, presented as a fact.


Actually that part of her first question is pretty much fact. Shrubya decided to go to war in Iraq leading to the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and US soldiers.


Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true.

What about the argument that Saddam was a brutal dictator who murdered his own people and an international pariah the world has to deal with one way or another. Of course, one can argue that these reasons are not sufficient enough to go to war for but again it's her perception of the situation presented as a fact.


I agree. This is the only reason they've emphasized as a justification that makes some sense. Of course, in the lead up to the invasion this rationale for war definitely took a back seat to the WMD and AlQaeda links arguments. It's only after the failure to produce any convincing evidence of WMDs and terrorist collaboration that they have primarily relied on the 'liberation of Iraqis' line of argument to defend their military intervention. This has been said a million times before but it deserves to be repeated. The US were effectively allies supplying weaponry to Saddam when he committed the worst of his human rights violations (i.e. slaughtering entire Kurdish villages in repraisal attacks). It's not surprising that many people are going to be cynical about the US government bringing up arguments like this, given that they've shown such disregard for freedom and human rights in the region in the name of realpolitik in the past.


My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

So after having imposed on Bush her opinions presented as facts she's asking a meaningless question.

It's like asking somebody:
So you've murdered your wife and children and drank their blood. Why did you do it, was it because you were so thirsty or you just happen to like drinking human blood, which was it?



LOL...now you're acting 10x as manipulative as you accuse her of being. Ok, I agree to some extent that she's being presumptuous. Even if she is, she's setting up her case clearly. Bush could have said 'Helen, we honestly believed Saddam had WMD and was a threat. Furthermore we realized that is was time to free the Iraqi people from tyranny and bring a model of liberal democracy to the region.' He didn't articulate this clearly, and instead fell back on the old demagogic strategy of linking the Iraq war to 9-11.

Helen Thomas has been a reporter for over 50 years. Prior to Shrubya, she has been the first person called upon at presidential press conferences for decades. They cut her out the loop because she was asking questions that were critical in tone and Shrubya isn't very good at answering criticism on his own. Helen now has her own Op-ed column where she freely expresses her opinions on the present state of things. I've listened to what she has to say, and she doesn't believe the Bush admin believed there own arguments about Saddam being a threat. So from her perspective she's honestly wondering what was the Bush admins motivation for going to war.

I personally don't believe that they didn't buy their own WMD arguments. I think MOST people in the administration probably did believe Saddam had SOME WMD capacity. The reason they produced such faulty intelligence is largely a product of them biasing the evaluation process with their own preconceptions. It's my opinion that the distorted intelligence had more to do with rigid ideological groupthink, that cuts off any real debate over policy, that runs rampant in the administration of Bush the lesser. Many of the Bushites had decided overthrowing Saddam was a good thing a long time ago, and they allowed this bias to contaminate what should be a relatively objective intelligence gathering process.

It appears that many (most?) of 'the Neocons' in the administration genuinely believed Iraq was going to quickly adopt a 'western-style' democracy and eventually spread it throughout the region by example. One of the naive assumptions behind this was the idea that democractic expression in the middle east is automatically going to be 'pro-western'. While some people bought this idea, I think many in the administration didn't but still supported the war. Some bought the idea of Saddam being a threat because of WMD, but again many in the admin probably didn't find it to be a compelling reason. Is there some in the administration that didn't really buy either of these public arguments? Yes, I think so, and I see it reflected in their pre-emption arguments. If you think about it, the pre-emption argument is basically an admission that Saddam isn't a major threat at the moment, and clearly has little to do with spreading freedom. It's a 'realpolitik' concept, and is basically an argument for putting less restrictions on the US exercising raw power, as rapidly as possible, to their nations advantage. But all of this begs the question as to why the 'realpolitik' supporting the admin would fall in line when it comes to Iraq. After all we are talking about the use of pre-emption in a particular situation.

On a fundamental level I think Helen is right in questioning their motivation for the Iraq war. By far the most significant reason for the American involvement in the region is so they have some control over the world's fossil fuel supply. 'Securing' oil supply isn't a small thing, it is essential for driving the entire world economy. It is essential for the transportation of the vast majority of goods and people in transit. Petroleum is also important for the production of a significant percentage of manufacturered goods as well. Given this is the main strategic interest of the US in the region, it's only logical to raise the question of how the present conflict fits into their overall strategic objectives. It's an important point to emphasize since US propaganda deliberately ignores or downplays this line of inquiry. Ultimately, they are primarily interested in the middle east in order to have some control over the world's oil. In light of this, it becomes clear that 'complete withdrawal' from Iraq is extremely unlikely. If their interest was solely to prevent a terrorist attack on US soil, they would simply withdraw from the region to avoid clashing with 'Islamist' dissidents who are primarily at war with the power elites of their own nations. However because of their dependence on oil, they have an interest in having as much of a long-term military presence as possible in order to influence the various players in the region by military action. In that sense the present obsession over democracy in Iraq is a distraction from the underlying causes of the war. It's obsessing over the means of achieving their policy objectives rather than the examing the root causes of the conflict.

And by the way, that anonymous poster is neither a troll or an idiot. The poster is probably just a person disgusted with their governments militaristic foreign policy.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Oleksa said...

Well, I still stand by my argument and here's why:
Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.

Ok, this is her opinion, to which she like everyone else is entitled of course, presented as a fact.

Actually that part of her first question is pretty much fact. Shrubya decided to go to war in Iraq leading to the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and US soldiers.


First of all, I thought that it'd be abundantly clear that if not for the insurgency in the post-war Iraq there would have been no deaths of American soldiers and/or Iraqis. The other thing, which is well known to you is that the so called ‘insurgents’ have had no qualms about killing innocent bystanders and regular Iraqis, as opposed to attacking only ‘legitimate targets’. Thirdly, the regime of Saddam was very brutal and people were DYING in Iraq PRIOR to the invasion. Again, one can say that as far an average Iraqi is concerned, the likelihood of dying in the Saddam Iraq was probably less, at least in some regions of the country, than it is now under the occupation. Yes, the Sunni triangle is much more dangerous and grim place now than it was under Saddam but I think the Kurds, for example are better off now than they were back then.
All these points of course could and should be debated but I repeat again – what she said is just her version of the events, not facts.

And one more thing:
“…wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.” – This is an example of pure psychological bullshit – such things could only be assessed properly if we have the benefit of a time distance. For if, say some miracle occurs, and Iraq becomes a stable country tomorrow, what about those ‘lifetime wounds’ then? Like for example, many thought that Germany would have to undergo a slow and painful process of recovery from Nazism, that the Germans were very ‘wounded’ by this experience and yet, Germany’s recovery was very swift and thorough. As to the American side, her assertion is even more laughable (and typically liberal) – how on Earth could she know anything certain about that now???

This has been said a million times before but it deserves to be repeated. The US were effectively allies supplying weaponry to Saddam when he committed the worst of his human rights violations (i.e. slaughtering entire Kurdish villages in repraisal attacks).

When was it exactly? As far as I know, and I’m teaching a Cold war class, it was the Soviet Union who began to supply Iraq with weapons in the middle of the 80s as they had failed to establish a rapport with Iran (and Iran was winning that war). I betcha that any data you can find would demonstrate that the Soviets supplied ten, twenty times more to Saddam than the Americans.

As to your musings on the reasons why the administration went to war I tend to agree with most of your arguments. I think your assessment is pretty fair (perhaps I’ll add some comments later)

And by the way, that anonymous poster is neither a troll or an idiot. The poster is probably just a person disgusted with their governments militaristic foreign policy.

Ok, so democracies don’t make wars, or do they? In 1938, Great Britain decided not to wage war against Germany (and you know what happened) but she had, would you call it a fascist country because it decided to wage a war against Nazism?
Secondly, in 1994 US stayed out of Rwanda if the chief reason why Clinton stayed out was because the administration was afraid it would turn into a full scale military conflict, i.e. war. Do you know what people, and Clinton himself, think about this decision now?

9:27 PM  
Blogger A. Shah said...

First of all, I thought that it'd be abundantly clear that if not for the insurgency in the post-war Iraq there would have been no deaths of American soldiers and/or Iraqis.

NO deaths?! Remember the actual conquest of Iraq?

Remember how it killed thousands of people?

Remember how it destroyed infrastructure and civil order which led to the deaths of many more Iraqis?

Remember how the US government, despite repeated warnings that they have to act quickly to establish law and order and rebuild damaged infrastructure, completely failed during this 'rebuilding' stage leading to thousands more killed and an Iraq currently on the brink of civil war?


The other thing, which is well known to you is that the so called ‘insurgents’ have had no qualms about killing innocent bystanders and regular Iraqis, as opposed to attacking only ‘legitimate targets’.

Yes Ilya, many of the insurgents are bad. No one is denying that. Most Iraqis since the 'end of the war' have been killed by various insurgent factions. This doesn't negate the fact that the US invasion and subsequent incompetence provided the conditions for the insurgency to thrive.


Thirdly, the regime of Saddam was very brutal and people were DYING in Iraq PRIOR to the invasion. Again, one can say that as far an average Iraqi is concerned, the likelihood of dying in the Saddam Iraq was probably less, at least in some regions of the country, than it is now under the occupation. Yes, the Sunni triangle is much more dangerous and grim place now than it was under Saddam but I think the Kurds, for example are better off now than they were back then.

Yes the death rate has no doubt increased since the invasion, many more Iraqis are dying. Note that the primary cause, immediately prior to the invasion, of 'unnecessary' deaths was the sanctions. Yes Saddam's moronic policies brought this on the nation but the sanctions were actually placed on Iraq under the direction of western powers, particularly the US. As for the Kurds, I'm not really sure if they're that much better off. After all they were effectively governing themselves under Saddam. While I'm guessing their economy has probably grown, the level of violence has probably increased.


All these points of course could and should be debated but I repeat again – what she said is just her version of the events, not facts.

I think you're splitting hairs. The basic essense of what she said is clearly true. Engaging in war kills people. The US government has directly attacked and killed many Iraqis. This is undeniable. Even if you try to factor in the consquences, the death rate for Iraqis has dramatically increased and the standard of living has declined dramatically. You really don't have anything to support your argument.

You might like the tone of the question, but I really don't think it's reasonable to say her statement isn't factual.


“…wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.” – This is an example of pure psychological bullshit

She might be using purple prose but again what she says is basically fact. There are many people that have lost limbs or have been paralyzed because of this conflict. Limbs don't grow back and spinal cords don't regenerate. Ergo, wounds that last a lifetime. Of course this is psychological as well, some people have been permanently scarred because of the violence that has been unleashed.


As far as I know, and I’m teaching a Cold war class, it was the Soviet Union who began to supply Iraq with weapons in the middle of the 80s as they had failed to establish a rapport with Iran (and Iran was winning that war). I betcha that any data you can find would demonstrate that the Soviets supplied ten, twenty times more to Saddam than the Americans.


The Soviets were their primary supplier. Doesn't change the fact that the US were supplying arms to Saddam when he was committing his most heinous human rights violations.


Ok, so democracies don’t make wars, or do they? In 1938, Great Britain decided not to wage war against Germany (and you know what happened) but she had, would you call it a fascist country because it decided to wage a war against Nazism?
Secondly, in 1994 US stayed out of Rwanda if the chief reason why Clinton stayed out was because the administration was afraid it would turn into a full scale military conflict, i.e. war. Do you know what people, and Clinton himself, think about this decision now?


Yes, history has proven democracies do war. Of course, you realize this a mangled Bushified version of the line that 'history has shown democracies don't go to war with each other'. The Bush team obviously decided to simplify this notion for the American public to amusing effect.

Your line about Rwanda is amusing as well. You know as well as I do that the Bush team would turn their backs on another 'Rwanda' if the US had no strategic interests there. Interestingly, there appears to be a strong correlation between the parts of the world in need of 'liberation' and those with large supplies of fossil fuels.

4:26 PM  
Blogger DrMaxtor said...

Ilya's remarks are either the result pathological self-delusion or just another neocon hack talking from the other end of his mouth. These people are sick creatures.
I dont believe for a second that these people give a rat's behind about Kurds anymore then do for Palestinians. The rationale for the war was WMD, but they'll never mention that. If Saddam's dictatorship was ever the issue then the US would be bombing Egypt, Uzbekistan and dozens of its own allies who run ruthless autocracies.
How many insurgements were in Iraq before the illegal US invasion? Only an reality challenged opportunistic degenerate would believe that the vast majority of Iraqi deaths are the result of Insurgent attacks and heavy ordinance bombing "shock and awe," not counting the million plus Iraqis killed by the decade long sanctions preceding the war.

4:53 AM  

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