On 9/11, 2011, George Walker Bush and Barack Hussein Obama, US Presidents No. 43 and No. 44 stood next to each other at the 9/11 memorial event. A whole decade back, on September 11, 2001, Bush faced the biggest single attack on America in 70 years, when he was just nine months into his Presidency. Bush, who had won the 2000 elections by a whisker, swept them in 2004. In 2008, the man who protected Americans from terrorist attacks for eight years left office — friendless and humiliated, with one of the lowest job approval ratings for an American Prez.
As part of the 9/11 memorial ceremonies, Bush and Obama made short little speeches. While Orator Extraordinaire Barack Obama spoke, the crowd remained impassive. When Bush spoke, the crowd cheered, remembering the man who stood on the rubble of WTC with a megaphone. (See: Bush and Obama, Shoulder to Shoulder).
One of the most-maligned US Presidents ever, Bush went into a cocoon after he left the White House. Liberals invested heavily in propagating these myths. According to Karl Rove, Bush’s advisor, the biggest mistake he made in White House was in failing to counter these lies. It was a mistake the entire administration repeated. (See: My Biggest Mistake in the White House ).
Ten years is a long time. A span of time long enough for ordinary people to forget the calamity of 9/11, and create their own mental narratives about what followed. Here, I attempt to debunk some of the myths so fondly held by Bush-baiters. I do not presume, by any stretch of imagination, that Bush is a saint. However, I insist that even the devil must be given his due, and that there be documented evidence to prove he really is the devil before calling him so.
Myth One: George W Bush and his gang of warmonger neocons orchestrated the war in Afghanistan.
Fact: The war to extract revenge for 9/11 and capture its perpetrators was wholeheartedly endorsed by the US Congress, with bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans. Bush, addressing the US Congress on September 20, 2001, demanded that the Taliban hand over Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda operatives who organised the 9/11 attacks. Taliban did not comply. The US Congress, on behalf of the citizens of the United States of America, authorised the Afghan war. The President did not go to war. The Senate and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly (there was only 1 NO vote) passed resolutions, authorising the President to catch the 9/11 perpetrators in Afghanistan. (See: Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists)
Myth Two: George W Bush and neocons cooked up intelligence showing Iraq had compiled weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) to invade Iraq .
Fact: Intelligence filed by CIA and other agencies was patently wrong. It’s a question of debate whether CIA made a mistake in its data-gathering, or whether they manufactured data to this end. In the second case, there is no evidence to it.
However, what is clear is that the false data (innocent mistake or deliberate mischief) started even before George W. Bush came to power in 2000. Thomas Keane, chairman of the government commission which authored the US 9/11 commission report, said on June 16, 2004, that neither Bush nor Clinton were “served well by CIA or FBI.”. (See: Transcript of 9/11 commission). Again, it wasn’t just Bush or Clinton who were misled; Tony Blair then PM of Britain, swore to his Parliament that Saddam did have WMDs.
Myth Three: Bush hates Muslims.
Fact: No he doesn’t. This has been one of the most enduring fallacies about the George Bush presidency. This myth gained currency mainly because Bush was a devout Christian. However, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of Bush ever speaking a single word of disdain against Muslims. He has always referred to Muslims as followers of a great religion and Islam as a religion of peace. He has quoted from Quran several times. (On 9/11 10th anniversary: Bush statement recalled, Islam is peace.) In the same speech to US Congress (which received wide applause from across parties) which declared Afghan war, Bush clearly said that US is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. It continues to be so. Bush has met several leaders from the Islamic world (there aren’t many democracies there) at the White House. A few days after 9/11, when America was seething with rage, he visited the Manhattan mosque.
Myth Four: The Iraq war was fought for oil.
Fact: How convenient! America has fought many ludicrous wars earlier too, and not necessarily for oil. Reasons were often short-term expediency or clouded judgment. Vietnam war to evict Commies, Afghan jihad to evict USSR, Latin American wars to throw out Commies. America and Britain orchestrated the Iran revolution to overturn the government which tried to nationalise the UK-US led oil industry in 1953 and installed the Shah. This was a struggle for oil. Shah was overturned by Khomeinis in 1979 in the Iran Revolution. However, Iraq war was not fought for oil. The First Gulf war was fought in 1993 by George HW Bush Sr after Saddam invaded Kuwait and declared it as his property. Bill Clinton spoke passionately about war in Iraq, and set up a $100-million fund to aid Iraqi opposition. That said, fact remains that the US, like other western nation, remains critically dependent on Middle East oil & gas, and wouldn’t let dictators block off their energy supplies.
Myth Five: Republicans wanted war with Iraq. Democrats were the better lot.
Facts: Please see links below on Clinton authorising war. This is over and above all those US resolutions authorising military action against Iraq.
Later Clinton, the liar (Remember his lies from Monica Lewinsky days?), said he never supported war, when he was campaigning for his wife: (See: Bill Clinton Flatly Asserts He Opposed War at Start)
Waging war on Iraq has been on US agenda for a long time, under several presidents. It wasn’t fought for oil. The real reasons were: Fears (later proven unfounded) that Iraq had/was developing WMDs (Clinton too feared the same), was protecting Al Qaeda fleeing the Afghan warfront (this was true) and was threatening the security of American allies like Kuwait monarchy, the primitive Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE royalty (True, true, true). To make things worse, Iraq had threatened to block oil supplies in the Middle East. Once Saddam evicted UN nuclear inspectors, the world at large became (wrongly) confident there was indeed hideous WMD stuff he was hiding.
Myth Six: Bush wanted to believe the intelligence lies. He ignored the truth.
Fact: Rubbish. Time and Newsweek, America’s two leading news magazines of the day, called for war edition after edition. Fareed Zakaria, then Newsweek International editions editor, wrote eloquent articles justifying war. They weren’t alone: The entire media community (which later gang-raped Bush when his ship was sinking) swallowed the story without question. Zakaria called for more surgical bombing and marvelled at the superiority of American airpower. (See: Face The Facts: Bombing Works With Our Information Edge, U.S. Air Power Is An Awesome Tool. Let’s Make Better Use Of it). Numerous articles in American media called for immediate war with Iraq. The link given here is only one of the hundreds of articles which appeared in 2001 and 2002. (Interestingly, Zakaria has removed the warmonger article from his own website. (Here is the dead link: http://www.fareedzakaria.com/articles/newsweek/120301.html) Once US got bogged down in Iraq, Zakaria, like the others of his ilk, were in the forefront to denounce the “Bush wars.”
Myth Seven: Neocon vice-president Dick Cheney orchestrated the Iraq war because Halliburton, the company he previously headed, could benefit from the oil spoils.
Fact: If that was the case, there is still no evidence to it. If Dick Cheney made illegal wealth out of the Halliburton connection, he should be investigated and punished. But eight years after the Iraq war commenced and nearly three years after Barack Obama came to power, there has been no investigation and no evidence that Dick Cheney went to war in Iraq to make money for himself and Halliburton. Conjecture does not stand as evidence in court.
Hundreds of contractors, including Halliburton are active in Iraq, as well as many other oil-producing countries since they have superior, proprietary technology in oil exploration. They are contractors; they can’t take oil and pipe it to the USA. Besides, oil companies (like many other companies, love dictators: It’s far easier to deal with them than go through the clumsy procedures, uncertainties and legal threats in a democratic setup).
That said, there have been informal discussions between oil industry officials and government officials in US and UK about the oil spoils AFTER the war started. This is nothing out of the ordinary. Since oil giants operate in oil-producing countries, it is normal business behaviour, and nothing to turn nose up at, for them to be concerned about their assets and investments in these countries. However, no evidence proves that BP (British) or Conoco Philips (US) or TotalFInaElf (France) benefitted significantly or promoted the war. The first oil company which entered Iraq after the war was Royal Dutch Shell, a company based in the Netherlands which had little role in any of the Bush wars. It won the contract in an open auction. CNPC a company from China which had little role in the war and Petronas, a Brazilian company too have contracts in Iraq. Bottomline: There is nothing special that American or British companies gained from the ‘Oil War.”
Again: Iraq is a sovereign country, despite US troops present there. Decisions are made by the Iraqi people, not US. (See: For developments on the Iraq oil front, see Parliament oil law creates contract review process.)
Neither Dick Cheney nor Bush can decide on oil contracts in Iraq. The maximum they could have hoped for for was a friendly Iraqi regime. And this does NOT seem to have happened. After the Iraqi civil war, this Shia-dominated country started shifting allegiance to Iran, the fountainhead of Shi’ism. This was the opposite of what the US and allies expected. However, with the wisdom of hindsight, this was inevitable since Saddam, a Sunni Muslim, had subjugated his Shia-dominant country for long under terror. It was natural that with Saddam gone, many Iraqis started looking to their theological guardians next door for guidance.