Republican Candidates Repeat Bush Lies on Iraq and Terrorism

There was a time when it felt like the absurd foreign polilcy of the Bush administration was an aberation, not only from what we would expect from a rational leader, but even from what we would expect from a Republican. It appeared that in George Bush we had a poorly informed President who followed the lead of extremists like Dick Cheney which did not represent the more moderate views of other Republicans. I suspected that even when Republicans backed Bush’s policies, it was more out of party loyalty than out of being so out of touch with reality to really believe what they were saying.

As the campaign for the 2008 nomination goes on, it is becoming increasing apparent that the views of the Bush administration now represent the Republican mainstream. This may partially be a result of so many moderates and sane conservatives leaving the GOP, but we are still left with the prospect of a major party candidate continuing to advocate policies which undermine the national security of the United States.

The Boston Globe reviews many of the claims being made by the Republican candidates which have been shown to be counter to fact:

In defending the Iraq war, leading Republican presidential contenders are increasingly echoing words and phrases used by President Bush in the run-up to the war that reinforce the misleading impression that Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In the May 15 Republican debate in South Carolina, Senator John McCain of Arizona suggested that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden would “follow us home” from Iraq — a comment some viewers may have taken to mean that bin Laden was in Iraq, which he is not.

Former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani asserted, in response to a question about Iraq, that “these people want to follow us here and they have followed us here. Fort Dix happened a week ago. “

However, none of the six people arrested for allegedly plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey were from Iraq.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney identified numerous groups that he said have “come together” to try to bring down the United States, though specialists say few of the groups Romney cited have worked together and only some have threatened the United States.

“They want to bring down the West, particularly us,” Romney declared. “And they’ve come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, with that intent.”

Assertions of connections between bin Laden and terrorists in Iraq have heated up over the last month, as Congress has debated the war funding resolution. Romney, McCain, and Giuliani have endorsed — and expanded on — Bush’s much-debated contention that Al Qaeda is the main cause of instability in Iraq.

Spokespeople for McCain and Romney say the candidates were expressing their deep-seated convictions that terrorists would benefit if the United States were to withdraw from Iraq. The spokesmen say that even if Iraq had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists have infiltrated Iraq as security has deteriorated since the invasion, and now pose a direct threat to the United States.

But critics, including some former CIA officials, said those statements could mislead voters into believing that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks are now fighting the United States in Iraq .

Michael Scheuer , the CIA’s former chief of operations against bin Laden in the late 1990s, said the comments of some GOP candidates seem to suggest that bin Laden is controlling the insurgency in Iraq, which he is not.

“There are at least 41 groups [worldwide] that have announced their allegiance to Osama bin Laden — and I will bet that none of them are directed by Osama bin Laden,” Scheuer said, pointing out that Al Qaeda in Iraq is not overseen by bin Laden.

Nonetheless, many GOP candidates have recently echoed Bush’s longstanding assertion that Iraq is the “central battlefront” in the worldwide war against Al Qaeda and have declared that Al Qaeda would make Iraq its base of operations if the United States withdraws — notions that Scheuer said do not withstand scrutiny.

“The idea that Al Qaeda will move its headquarters of operation from South Asia to Iraq is nonsense,” said Scheuer.

The belief that there is a clear connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks has been a key determinant of support for the war. A Harris poll taken two weeks before the 2004 presidential election found that a majority of Bush’s supporters believed that Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks — a claim that Bush has never made. Eighty-four percent believed that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had “strong links” with Al Qaeda, a claim that intelligence officials have long disputed.

But critics have maintained that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney encouraged these ideas by using misleading terms to describe the threat posed by Iraq before the war.

Bush, for instance, repeatedly spoke of Hussein’s support for terrorism — which many Americans apparently took to mean that Hussein supported Al Qaeda in its jihad against the United States. The administration, however, sourced that claim to Hussein’s backing of Palestinian terrorist groups targeting Israel.

Now, some GOP presidential candidates refer to “the terrorists” as one group, blurring distinctions between Al Qaeda, which has attacked the United States repeatedly, and groups that former intelligence officials say have not targeted the United States.

Romney said Friday: “You see, the terrorists are fighting a war on us. We’ve got to make sure that we’re fighting a war on them.”

Romney’s comment in the earlier debate that “they’ve come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” struck some former intelligence officials as particularly misleading. Shia and Sunni, they said, are branches of Islam and not terrorist groups. There are an estimated 300 million Sunni Muslims in the Middle East, many of them fighting Al Qaeda.

The article provides additional examples, and quotes one CIA analyst a saying, “There’s a tendency to exaggerate in a debate. You push the envelope as far as you can.” In this case, pushing the envelope is just a polite way to say they are lying. We’ve already seen the consequences of one Republican President who has based his foreign policy on claims which are counter to fact. We cannot afford another President who both plays politics with our national security, as the Repubicans do, or who fails to understand the basic issues on matters so crucial to our national security. I’m not sure which is worse–a candidate who repeats these claims which have been discredited by most experts, or a candidate who is ignorant enough to believe these claims. Regardless of whether these views are stated out of political expediency or out of ignorance, those who repeat them are not fit to be President.

Michael Moore and Cuban Health Care

I wish Michael Moore had stuck with documenting the problems needing reform in our health care system. Sicko has received favorable reviews, including form conservative sources such as Fox News and The Wall Street Journal for doing this. I fear that the important facts will be forgotten as the media dwells on the more controversial aspects of the film, such as Moore’s comments on Cuba’s health care system. The New York Times looks at Cuba’s health care system, and does find that there is some validity to what Moore says:

Dr. Robert N. Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author on aging, has traveled to Cuba to see firsthand how doctors are trained. He said a principal reason that some health standards in Cuba approach the high American level is that the Cuban system emphasizes early intervention. Clinic visits are free, and the focus is on preventing disease rather than treating it.

Dr. Butler said some of Cuba’s shortcomings may actually improve its health profile. “Because they don’t have up-to-date cars, they tend to have to exercise more by walking,” he said. “And they may not have a surfeit of food, which keeps them from problems like obesity, but they’re not starving, either.”

Cuban markets are not always well stocked, but city streets are dotted with hot dog and ice cream vendors. Bellies are full, but such food can cause problems in the future, as they have in the United States.

Dr. Butler has just completed a study that shows it is possible that because of the epidemic of obesity in children, “this may be the first generation of Americans to live less long than their parents.”

There could be one great leveler for Cubans and Americans. While all Cubans have at least minimal free access to doctors, more than 45 million Americans lack basic health insurance. Many are reluctant to seek early treatment they cannot afford, Dr. Butler said. Instead, they wait to be admitted to an emergency room.

“I know Americans tend to be skeptical,” he said, “but health and education are two achievements of the Cuban revolution, and they deserve some credit despite the government’s poor record on human rights.”

The overall record in Cuba is mixed, as described by a doctor who has practiced both in Cuba and the United States:

“Actually there are three systems,” Dr. Cordova said, because Cuba has two: one is for party officials and foreigners like those Mr. Moore brought to Havana. “It is as good as this one here, with all the resources, the best doctors, the best medicines, and nobody pays a cent,” he said.

But for the 11 million ordinary Cubans, hospitals are often ill equipped and patients “have to bring their own food, soap, sheets — they have to bring everything.” And up to 20,000 Cuban doctors may be working in Venezuela, creating a shortage in Cuba.

The fact that 45 million Americans are uninsured, and many more are uninsured, is a problem worth addressing. While looking at Cuba might be of interest, their system provides a poor model for repairing our problems at home.

A Review of “The Assault on Reason”

Books by candidates for office are typically watered down, and limit discussion to what could be said on the campaign stump. Al Gore shows in The Assault on Reason that he could make a far better President than most candidates for the office as he gets at the core problems of the Bush years in a manner which we rarely hear from politicians seeking office. I wish there was a way to require all those who seek the Presidency to write a book of this nature. We would both see the underlying principles held by the candidate, as well as whether they are up to the task of intelligently discussing these ideas. If their underlying principles were honestly laid out as Gore does, the vast majority of Americans would be appalled by the views of the Republican candidates, and there are candidates from both parties who would not be up to the task of discussing them as intelligently as Gore does.

Gore frequently bases his political philosophy on the works of the founding fathers, as well as taking from other great philosophers of history. Gore writes at length on the dishonesty behind recent Republican arguments, and how they have relied on exploiting fear. They have been successful in exploiting fear, and avoiding arguments which would disprove their claims, due to a breakdown in the bodies which have acted in the past to place a check on such power.

Gore repeats many of the facts showing that the Bush administration lied to get us into the Iraq war, but also chastises Congress for not holding real debates. The Republicans created an atmosphere where Congress was made subservient to the Executive Branch, and there was no deliberation over public policy and no oversight hearings as were common in the past.

The media also receives part of the blame, as Gore criticizes the movement from people obtaining their news from newspapers to television. Television news has become dominated by trivial stories while the real news gets ignored. Gore sees the internet as a way to move beyond these problems.

The country has also turned from reason under a President who lacks intellectual curiosity:

There are people in both political parties who worry that there is something deeply troubling about President Bush’s relationship to reason, his disdain of facts, and his lack of curiosity about any information that might produce a deeper understanding of the problems and policies that he is supposed to wrestle with on behalf of the country.

Yet Bush’s incuriosity and seeming immunity to doubt is sometimes interpreted by people who see and hear him on television as evidence of the strength of his conviction, even though it is this very inflexibility–this willful refusal even to entertain alternative opinions or conflicting evidence–that poses the most serious danger to our country.

This naturally leads the manner in which the religious right violates the principles of our founding fathers as reason and fact-based arguments are replaced by religious fundamentalism. Gore rejects the idea that the problem is simply a lack of intelligence in George Bush:

I know President Bush is plenty smart, and I have no doubt that his religious belief is both genuine and an important motivation for many things that he does in life, as my faith is for me and as it is for most people. I’m convinced, however, that most of the president’s frequent departures from fact-based analysis have much more to do with his right-wing political and economic ideology than with the Bible. I’ve alluded to James Madison’s warning, over two centuries old, that “a religious sect may degenerate into a political faction.” Now, with the radical Right, we have a political faction disguised as a religious sect, and the president of the United States is heading it. The obvious irony is that Bush uses a religious blind faith to hide what is actually an extremist political philosophy with a disdain for social justice that is anything but pious by the standards of any respected faith tradition I know.