87 Billion Apologies

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: George W. Bush Views: 4296
4296

President Bush will get his $87 billion for a year's worth of victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he will have to endure a lot of I-told-you-so along the way. He could have avoided all this irritation-and he is just the kind of man to find it incredibly irritating-with two little words in his TV address last Sunday evening: "I'm sorry." If he had acknowledged with a bit of grace what everyone assumes to be true-that the administration was blindsided by the postwar challenge in both these countries-this would have cut off a politically damaging debate that will now go on through the election campaign. And he would have won all sorts of brownie points for high-mindedness. Instead, he and his spokes folk will be defending a fairly obvious untruth day after day through the election campaign.

Why do politicians so rarely apologize? Why in particular won't they admit to being surprised by some development? Lack of scruples can't explain it: Denying the obvious isn't even good unscrupulous politics. For that reason, it is beyond spin. If spinning involves an indifference to truth, what's going on here looks more like an actual preference for falsehood. The truth would be better politics, and the administration is fanning out to the talk shows to lie anyway. 

This is not meant to be a partisan observation. Bush's predecessor was, if anything, a more flamboyant liar. What's going on here is something like lying-by-reflex. If the opposition accuses you of saying the world is round, you lunge for the microphone to declare your passionate belief that it is flat. Or maybe it has something to do with the bureaucracies that political campaigns have become. The truth, whatever its advantages, is messy and out-of-control. A lie can be designed by committee, vetted by consultants, tested with focus groups, shaped to perfection. Anyone can tell the truth. Crafting a good lie is a job for professionals.

This $87 billion request is a minefield of embarrassments, through which a simple "We got it wrong" would have been the safest route. After all, Bush either knew we'd be spending this kind of money for two or more years after declaring victory-and didn't tell us-or he didn't realize it himself. Those are the only two options. He deceived us, or he wasn't clairvoyant in the fog of war. Apparently, Bush would rather be thought omniscient than honest, which is a pity, since appearing honest is a more realistic ambition. Especially for him.

What's more, this would have been a truth without a tail. Telling one hard truth can lead you down, down, down into a vicious circle of more truth, revelation, embarrassment, and chagrin. That's one reason for the truth's dangerous reputation. But the Bush administration's failure to realize how much its postwar festivities would cost is a truth that doesn't lead anywhere in particular. Clearly knowing about the $87 billion bill for Year 2 would not have stopped Bush from conducting the war to begin with. Nor would this knowledge have stopped opponents from opposing it. Among supporters, there may be a few people who bought Bush's initial war-on-terrorism rationale, didn't mind the bait-and-switch to his revised reedom-and-democracy rationale, reveled in the military victory, and yet would have opposed it all if they'd known about the $87 billion. But it is an odd camel whose back is broken by this particular straw.

Bush needs some truth-telling points, because another aspect of this $87 billion request is driving him to dishonesty that he can't abandon so blithely. That issue is: If he gets the $87 billion, where will it have come from? Bush is sending Colin Powell around the world with a begging cup. But whatever can't be raised from foreigners apparently can be conjured out of thin air.

Raising taxes to pay the $87 billion would be a bad mistake, Bush says: Economic growth-fed by tax cuts-will cover the $87 billion and then some. But however miraculous Bush's tax cuts turn out to be, economic growth will not be $87 billion more miraculous just because that much more is suddenly needed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor does Bush plan, or even concede the necessity, to harvest this $87 billion at some point by raising taxes (or not cutting them) by that amount. And although he talks vaguely about spending restraint, he and the Congress controlled by his party have shown very little of it. He certainly has not pinpointed $87 billion in other spending that the new $87 billion can replace.

So, spending $87 billion costs nothing, apparently. This makes it even sillier to deny being blindsided. What difference does it make?

While apologizing to the citizenry, Bush could win even more brownie points, at almost no cost, by apologizing specifically to his predecessor. Bush ridiculed Bill Clinton's efforts to follow up military interventions with "nation building." Believe it or not, this was a pejorative term, implying unrealistic ambitions. Now Bush talks about turning Iraq into a Jeffersonian democracy. 

And if Bush wants credit for an apology, he should apologize to his father, who stopped Gulf War I at the Iraqi border. Armchair Freudians believe that in going to Baghdad and toppling Saddam, George II was playing Oedipal tennis with George I. If so, junior has lost. The elder Bush's most notorious decision as president looks better every day. And not just because of the $87 billion.

Source: www.slate.msn.com


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: George W. Bush
Views: 4296

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Older Comments:
RONNI FROM USA said:
Do Muslims ever say "I'm sorry" when they so often get things wrong?
2004-03-04

GABRIEL MOSELEY FROM UNITED STATES OF AMERICA said:
Remember there was to be $15 billion dollars in aid to
aid in the fight against AIDS in Africa. Let see, that
initiative was wiped out by our elected officials. Now
"Dubya" wants more money to help "liberate and
democraticize" the people of Iraq. This war on terrorism
began when the electoral college elected Commander-
in-Chief awarded the Taliban regime some 40 odd
million dollars in the spring of 2001. It completely, well
not that much, astonishes me how this country attacks
terrorist everywhere but within its own borders, Klan,
Neo-Nazis, the "Militia Men". These groups still
operate, heavily, amongst these good citizens of
America; some of them are in Congress right now! If
Americans expect to have a Pharaoh or a Caesar, then
we should expect nothing less but war from all angles.
If George W. Bush is a liar, then George Washington
was a liar, Thomas Jefferson a liar, and Abraham
Lincoln an even greater liar. We live in a country where
we like being lied to. It eases the pain of the truth.
What ever happened to wars against Crime, Drugs,
Illiteracy, Poverty, or Racism? Those wars don't mean
as much since those towers were brought down.
Instead we have moved to the "T's". I guess by the year
2012 there will be the war on Washington, lead by the
self righteous G-d-fearing Heathens. Point....ever since
Christopher Columbus landed somewhere, accidently,
in the Bahamas these Americas have been at war. And
with war come lies. Hitler, that German turned,
Supreme Aryan said what to do: Don't tell small lies,
nobody believes you. Tell big ones over and over
again, then you will have the people's minds and
hearts. So as not to end with the words of a crazed
lunatic. I say politicians will stop lying to US when we
stop wanting to believe those lies.
2003-09-18

FARHAD M FROM U.S.A said:
Does anyone know exactly how much money out of the 87 billion will be going to aiding afghanistan. Since Afg want to enforce an islamic way of government, and not completely comply with U.S.A I would think they would get less than One billion of the 87 billion in aid. The article is so right I remember Bush II critisizing Clinton for his nation building. What do we have here Mr. Bush.... An attack on islamic countries not being democratic like the U.S.A so they have to enforce it so the Iraqis and Afghans can be happy like the Americans are in the U.S.A...LOL funny...Nation building more like Be like Us or else no money for you!!!!
2003-09-17

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un. (Verily to Allah we belong and verily to Allah we return.)

Perhaps some brave volunteers might request and be given leave to walk (bravely) in the funeral processions of those who are lost through friendly fire incidents. Peace would seem to have victories that are no less important than those of war - nor less challenging (or so it may seem).

Allah hafiz wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu. (Allah protect and be merciful and bless you.)

--Yahya Bergum
2003-09-16

MEBROCKY FROM USA said:
Good article! As Mr. Kinsley says, "politicians so rarely apologize". This is not peculiar to Bush, he has just done it bigger and better that most, at least in the last couple of years. Lots of Americans know this about Bush, and I hope a lot more find out.
2003-09-16

VINCENT FROM NW USA said:
Like it says, I'm an American and I just want to say that I am proud to know that someone on Earth still has their head screwed on straight. Some Americans see exactly what is described in thsi article and then some. Bush is by far the most reckless and irresponsible leader we've ever had. I am not islamic, in fact I'm atheist, very firm atheist at that and personally I think that many of the disputes oversears between Jews and Muslims seem a little overdramatized, by both sides. So I like to think I've got a pretty acurate view of the universe. Thanks for writing! Keep spreading the word and the truth will be heard, that's one thing Bush can never fool everyone with. He just has most of the Americans fooled and, for now that's all that matters. But yah, I've been rambling on long enough. I'd like to hear comments, e-mail me. I'm 18 and I live in the NW, Oregon.
2003-09-15

H.A. FROM CHECHAN said:
I do not directly blame the COWBOY for the mess he is in now. He is biochemically challenged. The thugs around him and all of us are to blame.

How many Muslims protested against the WAR??? We all were too busy making $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. How many Arab leaders were against the WAR? Instead of firmly standing up against the WAR, they were active particiapants in promoting the WAR.

American public are also to blame. They are too emotional. Can't get over 9/11.

They forget to see that 9/11 is hapenning almost everday in Palestine, Israel, and in Chechnya. They wanted WAR. Did the war solve the problems? b/c...

Saddam is still smoking CIGAR and drinking VODKA in the countryside of Tikrit. Where is WMD? I thought the U.S. gov't knew the exact coordinates of the bombs in Iraq. It's been 5 months now...still looking... still looking....and will be looking for them..., but

I am afraid another Saddam will be fed and clothed (in the new Iraqi gov't) in Baghdad by the U.S. gov't before the OLD Saddam and bombs are found, exactly like the OLD EVIL SADDAM WAS shaped into EVILITY.
2003-09-14

SABER ASADULLAAH MUSLIM FROM USA said:
It is not in "W's" nature to apologize. As a Muslim who happens to be an American; I find it intersting that some of us Americans - not all - choose to remain blind to the FBI and CIA facts that Usama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and yes the alleged highjackers of 9/11 have (or had) solid inside connections with these two organizations. The highjackers were taught to fly by the CIA. Bin Laden is CIA-trained. He is a CIA agent, plain and simple; remember the CIA aided Bin Laden during the Aghan War. Hussein was a "friend" of past US Administrations. Both these men will not be "caught." To do so would take way part of the reasons Bush must as for this money. So, the cover-up, or lies, must continue. We know that we are living in the end times; Bush's lies are true; and what Muslims and anyone else who opposes him believes or says is false. Insha'Allah, more Americans and the rest of the world will wake up to the US and its imperialistic/oil-grabbing policies, and rise up to stop it. If not, we are headed for the end times faster than we think.
2003-09-13

KOVITZ FROM TORONTO, CANADA said:
This is an interesting site... "Cost of the War in Irq". Why Bush is crying for help!

http://www.costofwar.com/
2003-09-13

ANISULLA KHAN FROM CANADA said:
Article makes sense, We should have concentrate on building our economy than going on war based on false evidence. Bush II would have faced this situation had, firstly, not gone against the UN and secondly knew the post war challenges which obviously Chalabi didn't tell him.
2003-09-13

MUZAMMIL FROM MALAYSIA said:
Wow! $87 billion a year (or two?) to fund post-war Iraq and Afghanistan?

US is truly a caring country to spend $87 billion for others sake. Psst! My country's annual budget is only half of that.

It fits you Mr Bush! We have told you to get the world to approve your stupid war. But, NO...
You and your stupid neo-con advisers bulldozed the war through thinking that US is invincible, mighty powerful and mighty rich.

Now it proves otherwise. You are now suffering from your foolish and arrogant mistake Mr Bush.

Thanks to your neo-con idoits you have around you, giving you false advices and blown-up input.

Well... it is worth it, right Mr Bush? $87 billion is chiken feet! Who cares what happen to US economy and American? As long as Israel is safe. At whatever cost! Right

Good for you Bush!

Job well done!
2003-09-13

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Alhamdulillah (Praise God)! America is about to be converted by the sword that she herself is wielding. Does it really seem so implausible? Are we not running out of options to insure lasting victory in Muslim lands - as an alternative to simply giving up (and bringing our military personnel back home)?

If victory is what we seek then why fight what assures us of victory? Why not submit - to the One in whose name we are waging global war? What other ally would we ever require and who could be a better planner?

Cheer up. Insha'Allah (God willing) our streets may yet be paved with gold - in which case a bar of the stuff would surely be considered less valuable than a single prayer to the One who made it all possible.

Assalamu alaikum (Peace be with you).

--Yahya Bergum
2003-09-13

SHUJA FROM LOS ANGELES, US said:
Let him take 87 billion. The minute Pakistan and Saudi Arabia stop cooperating with U.S., the war on Islam will continue.

Shuja
2003-09-13