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  President Bush insisted that the weapons would be found.  What about his declaration before the war

(on March 17, 2003) that he had no doubt that Iraq possessed WMDs?  The President said he based

his decisions on the best intelligence available to him at that time. 

 

 

Reflections on Bush's NBC Interview

 By Fubara David-West

 

President George Bush appeared on the NBC Sunday talk-show, Meet the Press today (February 8, 2003) and demonstrated why Nigerians, nay Africans, should not feel terribly devastated, when their political world seems to abhor accountability, especially when the national chief executive is on the hot seat. This was highlighted by the President's attempt to blame his order on US troops to invade Iraq, on the intelligence reports he had at the time.  The host of  the show did not press the President with this crucial question: When to your knowledge was the first time, you, your Vice-President or other administration officials first discuss going to war with Iraq?

In places like the United States, a potent repellent of administrative accountability, the shield of patriotism could be called up to disperse much of the devastating facts surrounding a controversy. That could be further strengthened by the resolve of partisan politicians to rally around their president, to make sure that his/her real and imagined coattails remain intact.  That rallying could render the opposition virtually powerless, if those rallying around the president could portray whatever the opposition says or does as merely partisan sour grapes.  All of these account for the reason why purely mathematical analysis of the political world are often wrong. 

President Bush insisted that his administration had no choice but to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power, because the Iraqi leader presented a danger to the United States, "in the context of the war on terror."  At a point Bush even stated that unlike the case in North Korea and Iran, in Iraq the US "had run the diplomatic course."  Containment does not work with a mad man, he said, "remember, he had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people." 

Tim Russert did not press the President by pointing out that at the time Saddam's regime committed that atrocity, Saddam was still a friend of the United States, and the US did not even show its outrage by breaking off diplomatic relations with the Saddam regime.   Neither did he press him to explain how Iraq became such an urgent mission in the "war on terrorism," when the clear source of the terrorist attacks on the US, Afghanistan was yet to be completely pacified; when the Al Qaida leader, Osama Ben Ladin was still hiding out between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and still carrying out operations against US interests around the world.

Russert did not also press the president by reminding him that the US had in fact not run the diplomatic course.  The UN weapons inspectors were still doing their work in Iraq.  They had just destroyed some missiles, which the UN determined were banned under past Iraq agreements with the UN, including the convention that ended the Kuwait war a decade before. The US ordered the UN inspectors out in order to start the war. 

What about the declaration from his Vice President before the war that the US would be welcomed as liberators.  How does the president relate that to what we have on the ground today, with daily attacks on US occupation forces?   Said the President: "I think we are welcomed in Iraq." 

What was the President's reaction to the chief US weapons inspector, David Kay's declaration that there is no evidence that Iraq possessed the WMDs that became the ultimate cause of war?  President Bush insisted that the weapons would be found.  What about his declaration before the war (on March 17, 2003) that he had no doubt that Iraq possessed WMDs?  The President said he based his decisions on the best intelligence available to him at that time. 

Tim Russert did not even bring up the point that one of the reasons the administration stated that immediate action was necessary was the point that they rejected the Iraqi declaration of their WMDs to the UN, which indicated that the country's WMDs had been destroyed in compliance with the UN inspection regime. If it turns out that the Iraqi declaration was accurate, it will call for a thorough investigation of how the administration came to its certitude, which came hours after the Iraqi declaration, that the entirety of the documentation was false.  

"War President"        

The host of the program, Tim Russert tried softly to press the President, but at every turn an observant viewer would realize that Russert did not play the role of a tough interviewer.  My take on his timidity was that the President played a latent power card at the beginning of the interview, when he reminded viewers "I am a war President." 

Of course, Russert would not question him on his definition of "a war President."  If the contemporary definition of the term, which serves the administration famously is accepted, then it follows that all British Prime Ministers, since that country started battling Irish terrorism have been War Prime Ministers, just as Winston Churchill had been when he was battling Nazi Germany.  This kind of a disingenuous stance has been a potent and unchallenged weapon in the hands of the administration.  It was one reason why Congress easily passed that modern blight on American freedom, the Patriot Act, and the resolution to give the President the authority to go to war in Iraq without a Congressional declaration of war.  

In spite of all of the troubling issues surrounding the decision to go to war in Iraq, President Bush continues to be quite popular.  Forced by the intrepid voice of the Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, other Democratic Party voices are being heard, still testing the waters on how best to attack the record of "a war President," and that might have brought down the President's popularity a little bit.  However, come Election Day in November, it will not be a shock if President Bush is reelected.

Comparative Studies

Comparative studies are very useful in putting what might seem like polity-specific phenomena into some global context.  That is one reason why such studies of contemporary events in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere are very useful to the peoples of young, developing democracies in places like Africa.  It is possible that the people will not feel so politically hopeless, if they realize that some of the problems they encounter in their political world are also confronted at varying levels by the more developed democracies.

When some Nigerians feel politically devastated, because a president whom they consider a complete failure gets reelected, and continues to stand by policies and management patterns that they find absolutely disastrous, they will realize that such is not an earth-shattering reality, if they also know that in places like the United States of America, the people often have to also contend with similar  situations.

What forms the thread of commonality is the human component of politics and the fact that the institutional appurtenances of the authoritative allocation of value are limited by that component in virtually all complex settings.

Read the words of the distinguished professor of Business Administration, Warren Bettis, which were written to describe a reality in the United States:

The fact is that there are too many predicaments, too many ironies, polarities, dichotomies, dualities, ambivalences, paradoxes, contradictions, confusions, complexities, and messes, and so we naturally incline toward people with answers--without even bothering to wonder what the questions, the real questions are.  But until we begin asking the right questions, we cannot possibly come up with the right answers.  Rather than trying to figure out the questions, however, we accept any answer, no matter how spurious, or find a convenient villain ("Why Leaders Can't Lead," 1989). 

Those words, quite uncannily can describe the situation in places like Nigeria, where for much of the nation's post-independence history, the people accepted a fateful answer presented by its military, without bothering to ask what "the real questions" were.  Unfortunately, the pattern continues even today.

However, there is hope if the tragic policy experiences of the US on the Iraq question, and their interconnection with politics are taken into account.    

Fubara David-West, Contributing Editor for USAfricaonline.com, is a freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas, USA.. He received his B.S. (summa cum laude) in political science from University of Wisconsin (Superior) and his M.P.A, from the University of Oklahoma (Norman). He has also done Graduate Studies at the University of Texas (Austin). He has written for many Nigerian publications, including the Nigerian Tide. His other writings include "FESTAC Must Be Relevant" in Cyprian Ekwensi (ed.1977) The Real Life of Military Politics; "Can Africa Life a Future Without War?"  (An Open Letter to Nelson Mandela, USAfricaonline.com, 2002).

Several analytical articles on the diplomatic drama leading to the Iraq war for Africa-Politics, NaijaPolitics, ChatAfrik etc., including "Ideology Versus National Interest, "which argued that the Iraq policy was a case of ideology taking precedence over national interest, and that the congressional authority given to the president by the Congress to take military action without a congressional declaration of war was an act that would have these crop of leaders condemned by the Founding Fathers. 

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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American Creation

Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic

By Joseph J. Ellis

This subtle, brilliant examination of the period between the War of Independence and the Louisiana Purchase puts Pulitzer-winner Ellis (Founding Brothers) among the finest of America's narrative historians. Six stories, each centering on a significant creative achievement or failure, combine to portray often flawed men and their efforts to lay the republic's foundation. Set against the extraordinary establishment of the most liberal nation-state in the history of Western Civilization... in the most extensive and richly endowed plot of ground on the planet are the terrible costs of victory, including the perpetuation of slavery and the cruel oppression of Native Americans. Ellis blames the founders' failures on their decision to opt for an evolutionary revolution, not a risky severance with tradition (as would happen, murderously, in France, which necessitated compromises, like retaining slavery). Despite the injustices and brutalities that resulted, Ellis argues, this deferral strategy was a profound insight rooted in a realistic appraisal of how enduring social change best happens. Ellis's lucid, illuminating and ironic prose will make this a holiday season hit. Publishers Weekly /  American Creation (Joseph Ellis interview)

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

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Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)

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W. E. B. Du Bois Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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