The great country singer Willie Nelson likes to tell a story about the time his then-wife came home unexpectedly and found him in bed with another woman.
"Are you going to believe what you see, or are you going to believe what I tell you?" he asked. Needless to say, the marriage didn't last long after that.
I never thought I'd say this, but President George W. Bush reminds me more and more of Willie Nelson every day.
And not just because they're both from Texas and have had problems in the past with substance abuse, although both of those things are interesting enough. No, it's because George W. has seemingly taken Willie's offhand remark and turned it into political philosophy. In matters as diverse as the situation in Iraq, the economy and the environment, Bush's rhetoric attempts to create perceptions entirely at odds with any objective reality.
Take the recent suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia that killed eight Americans. Last week, the Washington Post and just about every other news organization in the civilized world reported that most of the attackers were Saudi citizens, and that all of the small arms and explosives they used had been supplied by units of the Saudi National Guard.
Whoa. Aren't the Saudis supposed to be our trusted allies? Doesn't Saudi Crown Prince Bandar frequently weekend at George W.'s Texas ranch? Doesn't the president's father take money from a company that has significant interests in Saudi Arabia? Didn't Vice President Dick Cheney's company make millions there?
And yet it was Saudis who killed 19 Americans in the Khobar Towers attack on June 25, 1996. And it was Saudis who killed 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, and it was Saudis, with weapons traced back to the Saudi government, who killed eight Americans on May 12.
This collaboration constitutes nothing less than a betrayal of the American people by the president, and especially of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. At least the Iraqis only shoot at us when we're invading their country.
And speaking of the Iraqis, tens of thousands of them took to the streets of Baghdad last week in what amounted to a classic "Yankee, go home" demonstration, the likes of which has not been seen in decades. In sharp contrast to the several dozen cheering Iraqis present when that big statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by a U.S. tank and repeated ad nauseam on the Fox News Network, the throngs last week clearly did not appreciate the chaos that has ensued since we took their country over.
Multitudes of men, women and children chanted, "No, no, no USA," in apparent reaction to the widespread looting and lawlessness, the lack of electricity and running water and the fact that so many of their friends and family members had been killed by American smart bombs gone dumb.
On the same day, Bush talked about our "liberation of the Iraqi people" at a press conference. Also on the same day, five more Americans died when a Marine Corps helicopter crashed into a canal near Karbala, Iraq.
Bush might not have the sense God gave a turnip when it comes to international affairs but, when dealing with the domestic economy, he and his advisers really shine.
At least that's what Willie Nelson and outgoing Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told me. Wait, I was just kidding about the Willie Nelson part, only Ari Fleischer said that.
Since George W. has taken office, the stock market has tumbled from 11,000 to around 8,500. Two million Americans have been thrown out of work. The price of gold is at historically high levels and the value of the dollar is at a 20-year low. The Bush White House has responded to this unmitigated disaster by advocating a cut in the inheritance taxes that the spoiled brat kids of dead rich people have to pay and also a cut in the taxes rich people pay on the income they derive from stock dividends.
Ari Fleischer said last week that there's an "upturn in the economic trend," whatever that means.
No wonder he quit his job. No one could lie like that, day in and day out, without wondering, at some point, whether or not he might actually be going to hell.
At the same press conference, Fleischer described a Bush scheme to open America's national forests up to private logging interests as an "environmental initiative" designed to reduce the risk of forest fires. I think I remember Smokey the Bear once saying that, if we just paved everything over, only then could we prevent forest fires.
And there's more.
There's the weapons of mass destruction that Bush, Rumsfeld, Colin Powell -- and other lackeys of the military-industrial complex President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about -- said with great certitude would be found in Iraq.
Two weeks ago, the specialists looking for these weapons were pulled out of that country after finding none.
Still, I feel sure that some eventually will be found, quite probably manufactured at the same U.S. government laboratory in Maryland that produced the deadly strain of anthrax mailed to Democratic politicians and members of the liberal news media two years ago.
Likewise, not a single shred of paper, not one recorded telephone call or a video image, has shown any link whatsoever between the evil government of Saddam Hussein and the evil al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden. The significance of this lies only in the fact that Bush said it was one of the main reasons for going to war in Iraq.
Then there was Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who bravely fought off her attackers until her carbine ran out of ammunition, was shot, stabbed and then tortured until a rescue mission was mounted by Special Forces.
It was a great yarn the White House spun until it became apparent that the poor girl had been injured in a highway accident, hadn't fired a shot, and had not been shot, stabbed or tortured.
The "rescue mission" amounted to a shock and awe campaign against a bunch of frightened doctors and nurses who were taking care of Lynch.
As for bin Laden and Hussein themselves, they remain free to roam the countryside, and there's mounting evidence to suggest that their billions of dollars and political connections here in the United States have permitted them to do so.
Remember when Bush was going to "smoke 'em out" and bring them back "dead or alive"?
That our most recent war was fought for nothing more than oil and Bush family pride seems transparent. Vice President Cheney's former company, Halliburton, and the president's father's company, the Carlyle Group, stand to make a killing on the thousands of dead bodies -- American, British and Iraqi -- racked up during our recent overseas adventure.
Our smirking, and often apparently medicated, president -- who, by the way, lost the general election by 500,000 votes -- will tell us only, "Are you going to believe what you see or are you going to believe what I tell you?"
Damn you, Willie Nelson.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||May 27 2003|