A chat with POTUS about Iraq
By Ahmed Amr
The following is my vague recollection of a fictional interview with POTUS. While I never got to personally ask these questions, his answers have been reconstructed from previous Bush speeches.
Q: "Mr. President. Let's not beat around the bush. We all know you'd rather visit a back alley dentist than show up for a mano-a-mano interview with the alternative press. So, let me warn you upfront that some of my questions are going to seem like the dental equivalent of a triple bypass root canal by a blind intern."
President Bush: "Bring it on."
Q: "Let's start with the war in Iraq. No weapons of mass destruction. No Iraqi ties to Al Qaeda. What were you thinking?"
President Bush: "You know something. We're a hopeful society and we want to give all Iraqis the hope they will live through this ordeal. We sent our finest men to help them get rid of a brutal dictator. The problem is that Iraqis are not nearly as hopeful or helpful as we expected. What I mean to say is ..."
Q: "Before you go on, allow me to get back to my original question. I'm hopeful that you still remember what it is. I was asking you about the phantom WMD stockpiles."
President Bush: "Well, we intend to continue with our efforts to build a democratic Iraq that will be an ally in the war on terror. We will stand up when they sit down. I mean they will sit up when we stand down."
Q: "I don't mean to be insistent. But I still want to know if you stand by your pre-war assessment that Iraq was an imminent threat to our national security."
President Bush: "I appreciate that question. We've taken our case to the American people. On my watch, tyrants like Saddam will never threaten innocent life in our country. We will fight the terrorists over there before we have to fight them over here. The American people understand that."
Q: "But some Americans - perhaps a majority - are questioning the premise that Iraqis threatened our people over here before we invaded their people over there. Some have gone so far as to suggest that pre-war intelligence was deliberately and systematically fabricated to make a case for a war with a secret neo-con agenda."
President Bush: "I know a lot of well meaning people fail to understand why we had to take the fight to the enemy. Lest we forget, our way of life changed after 9/11. Our only option is to smoke the enemy out of his caves and drain the swamp. Once the mission is complete, our boys will come home to a grateful country and be greeted with the honor they deserve."
Q: "Is that your final answer? Moving on. You keep talking about the troops as if they are some monolithic band of brothers who enthusiastically support the war effort. Yet a recent Zogby poll reveals that most of them are not quite convinced that we should still be over there. They want to come home and soon. As commander-in-chief, have you failed to explain the mission to the troops."
President Bush: "Everybody who has the privilege to work in my administration knows that I don't govern by poll numbers. Our troops understand that we will not surrender to terrorists. Zarqawi and Al Qaeda will not intimidate us. The enemy is watching us. They think America is weak. They believe we will cut and run if they kill and maim a few thousand of our troops. They feel threatened by the emergence of a democratic Iraq that will be a beacon of hope in the region. That's why they kill innocent life."
Q: "But going back to the Zogby poll. Can you believe that most of our troops are under the mistaken impression that their mission is to take revenge for 9/11? Could you take a moment to correct that perception and could you give them a clear concise reason to justify their sacrifices."
President Bush: "I never said that Saddam was tied to Al Qaeda. But we all know that Saddam was an evil dictator who brutalized his people. He attacked his neighbors. He used chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1982. After 9/11, we no longer had the option to look the other way and wait for a mushroom cloud over New York."
Q: "I'm confused. Are you again suggesting that Saddam possessed unconventional weapons capabilities and delivery systems capable of harming the United States of America."
President Bush: "We went by the same intelligence as the British and the Israelis. If Saddam had illegitimate weapons, he would not have hesitated to use them. Saddam was a gathering threat. It was only after we invaded that we became certain that he didn't have WMD stockpiles. But we couldn't take any chances. I went to war with the intelligence I have."
Q. "Mr. President, you couldn't possibly be referring to the yellow cake uranium scam? I have before me a copy of the Downing Street memo that makes it clear that the intelligence was fixed to make a case for war. Powell's Former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson calls pre-war intelligence a 'hoax on the American People.' Were you a victim of the hoax or a willing participant in the deception of the American people?"
President Bush: "Let me answer your question this way. My job is to delegate. Technically, the United States Postal Service is under my direct command. But don't expect me to personally deliver your mail. If senior members of my staff were involved in any illegal activities - they will be held to account."
Q: "It seems that every few months you come up with a new plan and follow it up with a media blitz to boost support for this increasingly unpopular quagmire. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you think that every new plan is basically an admission that the old plan didn't work?"
President Bush: "A good leader is always open to new ideas. Despite the steady progress in our mission, we are encountering unknowable outcomes that we didn't foresee in our original blue prints. Like the insurgency, the civil war and the possibility that Iran might emerge as the only winner."
Q: "I've also noticed that you usually stage these media events in front of neo-con audiences like the certifiable Likudniks at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies or the pro-Israeli lobbyists at the American Enterprise Institute. How much of the neo-con Kool Aid can one president digest?"
President Bush: "I don't know exactly what you mean by 'neo-cons.' Sometimes certain people use that term to mean "the Jews." Whatever one thinks about the war in Iraq, I don't think anti-Semitism has any place in this debate."
Q: "That sounds like a smear on those who would challenge the Likudnik ideology and credentials of the individuals who stridently marketed this war. I must remind you that many of the anti-war activists are Jewish. So, I hope you are not suggesting that anyone who wins an argument against a neo-con think tank is an anti-Semite. Because I take that as a personal insult."
President Bush: "That's not what I said. I am sorry if I offended you."
Q: "Offense taken but apology accepted. Moving on. I went through that speech you gave to the FDD. Another day. Another speech. Another new plan for victory. However, I did notice one new item in the speech. It's the first time you have acknowledged that militias have infiltrated the security forces. You also mentioned a startling figure - that less than 1 percent of last October's police trainees were Sunni. So, I assume some folks in the Pentagon must have been aware that the police force was systematically being transformed into the military arm of SCIRI - a group that was established, armed, trained and indoctrinated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. It's also fair to assume that you must have heard of the well-documented accounts of police forces acting as death squads and operating torture cells a few blocks from the Ministry of the Interior and the Green Zone. Was this just an oversight that you are now moving to correct? Why has it taken since last October to address this disturbing development? Was this just another blunder or an unintended consequence of whatever your last plan was? Some Iraqis are suggesting it was a deliberate plot to incite a civil war."
President Bush: "That's a long question. Before I give you an answer, I'll have to review my speech and figure out what I was talking about. War is an art - not a science. We do our best to correctly assess our situation, adjust our goals and come up with solutions. Our mission is to complete the job and emerge victorious in our fight with a vicious enemy. On 9/11, we saw the nature of that enemy. We will never forget and we will never retreat."
Q: "Your Ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, recently said that the invasion of Iraq has opened a Pandora's Box that threatens the stability of the whole region and increases the terror threat. How do you respond?"
President Bush: "Pandora's Box? Well - you know - life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get. Everything hasn't worked out the way we would have wanted. We've made a few mistakes and we're taking corrective measures. But the terrorists are determined to roll back our progress in bringing democracy to the region. Unlike the Ambassador, I personally wouldn't buy a box of chocolates from a girl named Pandora. That's why I am a little more optimistic. I think the media has really neglected to tell the whole story in Iraq. Good news doesn't sell. But the Iraqi people see tangible evidence that their lives are better than under Saddam."
Q: "OK. But let's go back to the bad news for a moment. Sectarian militias allied with Iran are now in virtual control of the ministry of the interior. Police officers fully attired in their official uniforms moonlight as death squads. The insurgency is still raging. Baghdad morgue employees say thousands of dead bodies have been delivered to their facilities with obvious signs of torture. Reconstruction efforts are now in deep freeze. Iraq has become a breeding ground for terrorists. Three months after the elections, the Iraqi parliament has yet to convene - much less put together a functional government. The rule of law no longer exists; gangs roam the streets preying on innocent victims and kidnapping has become a growth industry. While Iraqis have to line up to get gas, international oil prices have doubled. Now, tell me more about the good news?"
President Bush: "Iraqis voted in democratic elections. Saddam is on trial. We are hopeful that, once a new government is in place, the situation will improve very rapidly. We expect the insurgency will run out of steam and we can then begin do withdraw our troops. The decision on the number of troops we need to complete our mission will be made by our generals based on their best judgment of the conditions on the ground."
Q: "You keep using that word 'Hopeful'. Is 'hope' a foreign policy? Did we lose 2300 men, kill tens of thousands of Iraqis, torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib, use illegal phosphorous weapons in Fallujah, demolish the country's basic infrastructure, ignite a civil war and waste hundreds of billions of our tax dollars only to be left with a hope and a prayer?"
President Bush: "I pray every day for the safety of our troops. Our mission in Iraq is a small price to pay for the security of our country. As your commander in chief, my primary responsibility is to defend our nation against foreign enemies - regardless of the cost."
Q. "Most Americans now believe that Iraq is sliding into a state of anarchy and civil war and that they don't seem to share your passion for a mission they no longer understand."
President Bush: "I think they are mistaken and misinformed. Let's not prejudge history based on polls."
Q. "Rumsfeld has just testified before Congress that in the event of civil war - American troops would take a neutral stand and leave it to the Iraqi army. Is that official policy?"
President Bush: "The policy of my administration is to prepare contingencies for all possibilities. In the unlikely event of a civil war, it will be up to the newly elected Iraqi government to shoulder the responsibility of intervening and cooling tempers. That's not an appropriate role for our troops."
Q. "Once again, you have me a little confused. If it's their burden to handle a civil war that came about as a result of our intervention - why didn't we consider it their responsibility to get rid of Saddam Hussein without our intervention?"
President Bush: "I don't understand the question."
Q. "Yes you do."
President Bush: "No I don't."
Q. "Do you want me to rephrase the question?"
President Bush: "No I don't."
Q. "Can you handle another question?"
President Bush: "No I can't."
Q. "Well then, I am just going to have to end this interview and attend to my laundry."
President Bush: "I get to say when you do your laundry."
Q. "No you don't. This interview is over, Mr. President."
President Bush: "No it's not. I'm your commander-in-chief."
Q. "No you're not."
President Bush: "Yes I am."
Q. "Not for Long."
Ahmed Amr is the editor of NileMedia.com
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