Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bush's Worst Lies of 2006
Eleanor Clift: Bush's Worst Lies of 2006
A look back at some of the biggest falsehoods of 2006.
By Eleanor Clift

Dec. 22, 2006 - In the spirit of holding our political leaders accountable, this year-end review will tabulate the worst lies told by Bush and company, along with several stories that were underreported in the media. Much of what was generated got lost in the fog of war, but the long arm of history will retrieve these moments. As the president said in his news conference this week, if they’re still writing about No. 1—George Washington—there’s plenty of time before the historians can properly evaluate No. 43. Judging by the mess in Iraq, it could be 200 or 300 years—if ever—before Bush is vindicated.

Bush has shifted his rhetoric in deference to the grim and deteriorating reality on the ground in Iraq. Asked by a reporter on Oct. 25 if we are winning the war, Bush said, “Absolutely, we’re winning.” Offered the opportunity at his press conference to defend that statement, Bush has adopted a new formulation. He now says, “We’re not winning, but we’re not losing.” That sounds like the definition of a quagmire.

Exploitation of the war gained Republicans seats in ’02 and got Bush a second term in ’04, but it wasn’t enough in ’06. Karl Rove decided the best way for Republicans to retain control of the House and Senate was to embrace the war in Iraq and run against the Democrats as “Defeatocrats” and “Cut and Runners.” It might have worked, had not most Americans decided they did indeed want to cut and run. Not right away—the voters want an orderly exit—but they weren’t buying Bush’s big lie about the Democrats.

Bush campaigned this fall as though the Democrats were the real enemy, not the terrorists. “They [Democrats] think the best way to protect the American people is wait until we’re attacked again…If you don’t want your government listening in on terrorists, vote for the Democrats.” Now that the Democrats have won, watch Bush try to off-load blame for the failure in Iraq. If the Democrats won’t go along with whatever cockamamie scheme he comes up with, he can always accuse them of losing the war.

Days after giving Defense Secretary Rumsfeld a ringing endorsement, declaring he would be there until the end, Bush fired him. It was the most obvious lie of his presidency. And it tripped so easily off Bush’s tongue. There was none of the stammering that usually accompanies his public utterances. It was as big a lie as Rove’s assertion on National Public Radio that all the public polls pointing toward a rout for the GOP were wrong. “I have the math,” Rove proclaimed. A lot of people believed Rove, but the voters didn’t.

The administration had the media snookered much of the time. Stories that were underreported largely because they ran counter to administration spin include:
# A study that shows the death toll among Iraqis has reached as high as 655,000. Extensively researched by teams of doctors commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., the study—and the controversy over its sampling methodology—was given scant attention by the media because it was so far out of line from the administration’s projection of perhaps 50,000 civilian deaths. That’s still a horrendous death toll of innocents in a country the size of Iraq. Now, 100 bodies routinely turn up every day in Baghdad’s morgues, the victims of sectarian violence, and the report, published in October in The Lancet medical journal, seems to be closer to the truth than anything the Bush administration has acknowledged.

# Private contractors in Iraq. There are 100,000 government contractors in Iraq, a number that rivals the 140,000 U.S. soldiers in the country. It’s dangerous work; some 650 contractors have died there. They do a lot of the jobs the military used to do, everything from providing security and interrogating prisoners to cooking meals for the soldiers. They work for military contractors like KBR and DynCorp International, which are helping train the Iraqi police force. This is the largest contingent of civilians ever operating in a battlefield environment, and there’s been no congressional oversight or accountability. That should change with the Democrats taking over the investigative committees on Capitol Hill. The abuses may be just waiting to be uncovered.
# America’s secret torture prisons, whose existence Bush acknowledged as part of his tough-guy campaigning this fall. Set up in the aftermath of 9/11 to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely, the legality, morality and practicality of these so-called “black sites” have come under scrutiny. After a brief flurry about the use of torture tactics like “water boarding,” where a prisoner is made to feel he’s drowning, the story of these CIA-operated overseas prisons faded. Yet they contributed to the central tragedy of the Bush administration, the collapse of America’s standing around the world.