Thursday, December 15, 2005

Who Are You and What Have You Done With George W. Bush?
(Edited to add link to Michael Scott's post.)
Yesterday, He Who Shall Not Be Named took responsibility for going to war on Iraq based on faulty intelligence. Today, he accepted John McCain's call to ban cruel, inhumane, and/or degrading treatment of terror suspects.

Who is this man?

It's possible, of course, that each of these uncharacteristic acts represents much less than advertised. As Michael J.W. Stickings observes, the transcript of yesterday's speech makes this talk of taking responsibility less straightforward than it was played in the mainstream media.

HWSNBN claimed that everybody was wrong about the prewar intelligence, but that doesn't exonerate anyone involved in the decision. (You have to wonder if Barbara Bush ever said to him, "If everybody jumped off a bridge, George, would you do it too?") And besides, not everybody was wrong--as George Clooney told a British newspaper, "I hate it when smart men and women are saying, 'Well, if I knew then what I know now . . . .' The fact is: I knew it then and I don’t have national security clearance." Me and you, George. And most of the people who read this blog, I am guessing. And furthermore, the problem in the runup to the war wasn't so much that intelligence and the gathering of it were faulty, but that the administration looked selectively at the intelligence it got. So to blame the intelligence but not to acknowledge the distortions, as Stickings observes, makes any remorse over intelligence failures sound insincere. Finally, even while the president was taking responsibility, he was dodging it: Either he had to go to war because of 9/11, or it was nasty ol' Saddam wno made the choice for war, not the United States. We're to take our pick, apparently.

And on the torture thing, I am suspicious. All we've heard for weeks, mostly from the mouth of Dick Cheney, is that accepting McCain's position and disavowing torture would jeopardize our precious bodily fluids and be Bad for America. It's doubtful that this sudden rollover represents Junior's declaration of independence from Uncle Dick, so something else must be going on. Maybe Cheney's ticker has finally crapped out, and this is their way of telling us. Or maybe--and this is more likely--they've figured out a way to do what Cheney wants while maintaining either the bare appearance of legality or, at least, plausible deniability. Based on what we've seen, from Abu Ghraib to the secret prisons in eastern Europe, it seems pretty clear that the torture genie is out of the bottle, and genies don't go back in easily. So when we hear that we're going to stop doing it, that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to stop.

Or maybe they think McCain is a lock to win the White House in 2008, and they'll do what they want between now and then, figuring the whole mess will land in his lap eventually. Or maybe they're just lying. With this crowd, who the hell knows? The last thing it's likely to be is what it looks like it's supposed to be.

Late Addition: Over at Best of the Blogs, Michael Scott speculates about what it is.

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