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By Bill Gallagher

"Many of these politicians have put exclamation marks where we put question marks." -- Former Chief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix.

DETROIT -- That astute remark came in an interview in which Dr. Blix also offered his belief that President Bush's re-election campaign would contort and distort his reports on Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons to justify the brutal and unnecessary war in Iraq. Asked if the Bush crowd would attempt to alter the meaning of his findings, Dr. Blix said flat-out, "I'm sure they will."

People in the Bush administration belittled and vilified Blix and his work in Iraq. Time has shown the value of his efforts, and his assessments of Iraq's capabilities were honest and forthright and far more accurate than anything that the Bush administration claimed with dramatic exclamation marks.

The simplicity of Blix's political punctuation insight is intriguing and most instructive when applied to just about anything that comes out of the Bush administration. Whatever the president and his minions declare with a great exclamation mark, just apply a question mark and you'll be much closer to the truth.

Last May, Bush told Polish reporters, "We found the weapons of mass destruction!"


Those phantom weapons, of course, were the primary justification for the war, and each day more Americans and Iraqis die because of the bogus claims. His cockiness went even farther when he assured the Polish journalists that "we'll find more weapons as time goes on!"


The evidence Bush pointed to at the time was "mobile labs to build biological weapons."

He dismissed critics who questioned his assertions and said, "For those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We have found them!"

Where are they?

Eight months after George W. made those bold claims, the world now knows they were simply not true. The evidence Bush was so certain about turned out to be trailers used to store helium for weather balloons.

The ploy now is to blame intelligence agencies and lying Iraqi defectors for the bad information, but let's never forget the words Bush and his cadre of warmongers used to convince the American people war was imperative for our national survival.

The words and arguments were loaded with exclamation marks, never a question mark. There was no doubt, only certainty, about Saddam Hussein's weapons arsenal and his evil intentions toward the United States. The threat from Iraq was "immediate," "significant," the "most dangerous threat of our time," "real and dangerous" and, yes, "imminent."

CIA Director George Tenet made a belated attempt to distance his agency from the notion that Iraq posed an "imminent threat." Remember the use of the word "imminent" came right out of the White House communications office and the flacks there used it several times. It was deliberate and calculated and had the desired effect of scaring the hell out of people. It was also a monumental lie!

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Bush told Tim Russert, "I got an honorable discharge and I did show up in Alabama!" Is that so? Bush also claimed his military records had been released and scrutinized during the 2000 campaign. Six days later, the White House released the records the president said had already been reviewed four years ago.

The more than 300 pages of records provide no more documentation about why Bush skipped months of required drills in Alabama and Houston between May 1972 and May 1973 and how he got away with it. Bush's superior in Alabama says he never saw him. The White House claims payroll records and evidence that he might have had his teeth cleaned once in Alabama prove he fulfilled his military duties.

But another pilot who was stationed at Dannery Air National Guard in Montgomery says he never saw Bush there and he was actually looking for him. Bob Mintz told the Memphis Flyer he was looking forward to meeting the young pilot from Texas who got a transfer to Alabama so he could work on the U.S. Senate race of one of his daddy's pals.

Mintz said he assumed that Bush "changed his mind and went somewhere else." The folksy Mintz, now a FedEx pilot, said the Texan would have stood out. "There's no way we wouldn't have noticed a strange rooster in the hen house, since we were looking for him," Mintz insists. He notes that pilots and their crews were tight. "If he did any flying at all, on whatever kind of craft, that would have involved a great number of supportive personnel. It takes a lot of people to get a plane into the air. But nobody I can think of remembers him."

There were only about 25 pilots at the Alabama base. Mintz said, "I talked to one of my buddies the other day and asked if he could remember Bush at drill at any time and he said, 'Naw, ol' George wasn't at the Pit, either.'"

The "Pit" was The Snake Pit, a favorite local watering hole for the squadron's pilots, who gathered there after hours. Imagine, if you possibly can, George W., in his admitted wild drinking days, skipping cocktails with the guys!

After years of searching, the Republicans finally produced some retired National Guard lieutenant colonel who claims he did see Bush on the base. The problem is, the old officer placed Bush in Alabama when he was assigned to a base in Texas. Nice try!

Far more significant than Bush's absence from drills is his failure to undergo a physical examination required for pilots. The records state that "failing to accomplish annual medical examination 1st Lt. George W. Bush is suspended from flying status."

Why has he never explained why he skipped his physical? Bush's records show he thought of "making flying a lifetime pursuit," but after the taxpayers spent $1 million training him to fly, he gets himself grounded. Explain that.

Two retired National Guard generals told the Boston Globe that "it was unheard of for a military aviator to miss an annual flight physical" and that regulations would have required an investigation of Bush's failure to show up for his physical.

"I did my duty. I was honorably discharged!" Bush proclaimed, as though that proves anything. Keep this in mind. Convicted D.C. sniper and serial killer John Muhammad served in the Louisiana National Guard from 1978 to 1985. He was twice court-martialed, once for striking an officer, another time for stealing. He was AWOL and spent time in the jail. Muhammad left the National Guard with an honorable discharge.

George W. brought this on himself with that shameless (and expensive for the taxpayers) aircraft landing stunt. He drew attention to his military record and deserves all the heat he's now feeling. It is refreshing to see many in the big, corporate media who were literally gushing over Bush's flight suit photo op finally asking the tough questions and giving George W.'s murky military service the attention it richly merited long ago.

George W. Bush was eager to send young men and women to die in Iraq for a war of choice. When he had a chance to fight, he chose to serve in the National Guard. He was lax, at best, in fulfilling his obligations there. His entire life reflects a pattern of privilege and protection from responsibility.

"We continue to build prosperity and economic security for our people!" We often hear that glowing exclamation from the president. What about the millions of jobs we've lost during his term? How's it feel to be the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs during your term of office?

What about the record $500 billion deficit and fiscal trainwreck conductor Bush has us on? What about his reckless spending and refusal to include the cost of war in his budget?

When he spoke about "economic security," Bush must have missed the fact that the U.S. trade deficit reached a record $490 billion, and that translates directly into the loss of more jobs.

Robert Scott, a trade scholar at the Economic Policy Institute, tells The New York Times, "As a consequence of the trade deficit people are being pushed out of well-paying jobs with benefits in manufacturing and into poor-paying service jobs often with no benefits."

But that's a good thing, according to Bush's top economic adviser. Sending U.S. jobs to Mexico, China and India is positive for our economy, according to Gregory Mankiw, who chairs George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.

Mankiw trumpeted the value of the exodus of U.S. jobs, saying, "Outsourcing is a growing phenomenon, but it's something that we should realize is probably a plus for the economy in the long run."

Tell that to the 2.8 million people who've lost manufacturing jobs since Bush took office. Mankiw quickly back-peddled, whining that his comments were "misinterpreted." That pitiful, lie-spewing automaton, White House spokesman Scott McClellan, defended Mankiw and blew off calls for his resignation. "That's kind of laughable," McClellan said. "Our economic team is doing a great job helping the president work to strengthen the economy even more. The president is committed to creating jobs here at home!" The only thing laughable in all this is the Bush administration's disgraceful record in creating jobs.

George W. Bush has made the world a far more dangerous place, we are stuck in a bloody mess in Iraq and our nation is less secure! George W. Bush's tax cuts benefit the richest Americans at the expense of the middle class and corporations are paying the lowest taxes since the 1930s! George W. Bush should be run out of office on a rail!

Will the American people wake up and send him packing?

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com February 17 2004