Lie and you thrive

By James Bovard, AlterNet. Posted September 17, 2004.

Bush’s campaign “assets” are his worst liabilities.

George Bush is seeking re-election as the Hero of 9/11 and as the Strong Leader against terrorism. At the recent Republican convention, speaker after speaker portrayed Bush’s reaction on and shortly after 9/11 as an entitlement to extending Bush’s power over the American people.

Perhaps never before has a president sought a second term by endlessly hyping the catastrophic failures of his first four years in office. On both 9/11 and Iraq, the Bush campaign team long ago decided that truth is a luxury American voters can no longer afford.

Instead of admitting that 9/11 was the biggest U.S. intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor, the Bush administration turned 9/11 into a moral Dunkirk. From the first days after 9/11, the Bush administration created a mythology that would spur reverence for both the president and the government. Bush wrapped himself in a flag drenched with the blood of Americans who died due to the failure of the federal government he commanded, and sadly the people bought it – and still continue to buy it. In a September 7-9 national poll, Bush led Kerry on who the people believed would keep the United States safe by 23 points.

In the days after 9/11, Bush and his top officials again and again falsely denied that the government had received prior warnings of a terrorist attack. If Americans had learned in mid-September 2001 how badly federal agencies failed across the board, the number of Americans who trusted the government to do the right thing would not have doubled in the days after the attacks. The government failed – so the government declared itself infallible.

As public confidence in government soared, the Bush administration raced to capitalize on the window of gullibility. The Bush administration strong-armed Congress to speedily enact the Patriot Act, and issued orders gutting habeas corpus and nullifying all rights of those Bush labeled enemy combatants. Bush exploited people’s grief and fear to add new fetters to American citizens, to empower federal agents to intrude further into private lives, and to seek to change the permanent balance of power between the federal government and American citizens.

Bush’s manipulation of 9/11 for his re-election campaign helps explain why his administration fights so doggedly to suppress the details of what happened that day. Bush promised to cooperate fully with the congressional Joint Intelligence Committee investigation in 2002. The Bush administration blocked the committee from interviewing an FBI informant who rented rooms to two of the 19 hijackers, refused to disclose whether the Office of Management and Budget had slashed counterterrorism budget requests, refused to permit an interview with CIA chief George Tenet, refused to disclose the National Security Agency’s plans to cope with new technology challenges, and fought to prevent congressional investigators from learning when Bush received specific warning information about terrorist plots. The report was finished in late 2002 but the White House blocked its publication until July 2003.

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