all know who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001, don’t we? No,
not Osama bin Laden. God, that is so last year. It never turns
out to be the person you first suspect. It was Saddam Hussein.
For some reason we couldn’t find him when we went after him
in Afghanistan, bringing that magic elixir of regime change
along with us. But now we’ve got a better idea: track him
down where he actually lives, in Baghdad, and punish him right
in his own backyard. It’s the only way to obtain justice for
the thousands he killed on 9/11.
At least that’s the way the White House is now pitching the
story. In this latest rewrite of history, Osama has suddenly
lost his beard and grown a mustache, morphing into the Butcher
of Baghdad—or one of the look-alike stand-ins Saddam has been
using for public appearances since 1998.
can’t distinguish between Al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk
about the war on terror,” said President Bush in the Oval
Office last week.
Really? He can’t differentiate between a group of evil ultra-radical
Islamic fundamentalists that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks
and an evil secular nationalist who, despite the frantic efforts
of the Bush administration, has not been directly linked to
9/11? He’d better start making such distinctions—and fast.
When every expert who knows anything about the Mideast can
distinguish between the two, is it too much to ask that a
President who’s ready to go to war look a bit more closely?
People under stress often regress to earlier stages of development.
It appears that Bush is so intent on getting Saddam, so obsessively
tightly gripped by a need to succeed where his war-hero dad
failed, so obsessively determined to lay the murderous 9/11
assault at Baghdad’s door, that he’s regressed to that level
of childhood development where fantasy, reality and wish fulfillment
are all mixed up. Except that this time, things like nuclear
weapons and the safety of the world for the next few decades
Now, I’m no psychologist, but I believe there is a clinical
term for this condition: going off the deep end. How else
to explain the president’s bizarre response to a reporter’s
straightforward query last week about who poses a bigger threat
to America, Saddam or Al-Qaeda?
an interesting question,” he replied. “I’m trying to think
of something humorous to say but I can’t when I think about
Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.”
When did the president take over the Tonight Show?
Why would the idea that he should make a joke about such a
deadly serious subject even cross his mind? It would be like
asking Danielle van Dam’s parents about the trial of their
daughter’s murderer and having them apologize for not being
ready with a humorous quip.
No, Mr. President, you needn’t apologize—your inability to
treat serious subjects lightly is not one of your deficiencies.
So rather than struggling to come up with a wan witticism,
why don’t you just answer the question? Especially since it
appears by your actions that you’ve already come up with one.
Instead of bothering to give the least defense of his sudden
fusion of Saddam and Osama, Bush launched into a fantasy-fueled
diatribe: “The danger is, is that they work in concert. The
danger is, is that Al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam’s
madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons
of mass destruction around the world.”
The president’s regressed condition is spreading like the
West Nile virus throughout the West Wing and beyond.
Witness the symptomatic blurring of fact and fantasy exhibited
by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. When asked at an Armed
Services Committee hearing about what is now compelling us
to “take precipitous actions” against Iraq, Rumsfeld barked:
“What’s different? What’s different is 3,000 people were killed.”
Yeah, by Mohammed Atta and company—not Saddam Hussein. By
why quibble over details when there is a propaganda war to
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice continued the assault
on reality when she vaguely yet ominously claimed: “There
clearly are contacts between Al-Qaeda and Iraq that can be
documented.” Well, then why not document them? We’ve documented
contacts between Al-Qaeda and our oil dealers in Saudi Arabia
and Al-Qaeda and our new best friends in Pakistan. But I don’t
see any B-2s powering up for raids over Riyadh or Karachi.
As is the White House custom, Rice simply refused to back
up her claims. So did Rumsfeld, who memorably rebuffed a reporter
late last week by saying, “That happens to be a piece of intelligence
that either we don’t have or we don’t want to talk about.”
In other words: Proof? We don’t need no stinking proof! And
just because I’m asking your sons and daughters to possibly
sacrifice their lives for it doesn’t mean you deserve to know
whether it even exists.
It would be nice if we could just take them all at their word
and let the bombs fall where they may. But Sen. Bob Graham,
who, as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is privy
to the inside scoop, says he’s seen no evidence of any link
between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
So we’re left with the fevered, infantile imaginings of the
president and his pals. “We had dots before,” said Anna Perez,
Rice’s spokeswoman. “Now we have a higher density of dots.
Have we connected those dots? No.”
Perhaps the president should put down his saber-rattle, pick
up his crayons and connect them before drawing us into a bloody