on a Pig
By The Plaid Adder
"Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."
That's what we went to war over, according to Bush's most
recent State of the Union address. Weapons of mass destruction-related
At least, that's the story this year.
I know they knew the risks when they signed up; but still,
I have to pity Bush's speechwriters. Any of them who retain
even the smallest vestige of what must have at some point
been a love of the written word and an allegiance to the basic
principles of logical argument must feel exquisite pain when
they sit down at the big conference table and look wearily
up at the giant, hairy, snorting pig standing on top of it.
The pig was kind of cute in January of 2000, when it was
only a few weeks old. But pigs are highly efficient consumers,
and no matter how much slop the Bush administration dumped
into its trough, the pig would just snort happily and hoover
it down. The handlers would come in the morning after some
new debacle, and look at it, and think, by God, it's grown
overnight. For the first year or so, they could still dress
it up-little Sunday school outfits complete with white gloves
and patent leather shoes for its trotters, little doctor outfits
with white coats whose pockets bulged with affordable prescription
The pig outgrew most of the domestic-issues costumes within
the first year, but September 11 was just the burst of inspiration
that the Bush administration's Department of Porcine Cosmetics
had been waiting for. The pig, now solidly fleshed with radiant
pink skin and about the size of a Fiat, loved his new military
uniforms. He pranced about in them, squealing with delight.
Sometimes he would get loose from the handlers and take a
wallow in the mud, but the news networks never showed that
part. Instead, all across America people tuned in to see the
embedded reporters talk about how great the pig was and how
much the entire world loved him.
But by June of 2003, the pig himself rarely appeared on
camera. He had gotten too big. The military uniforms were
starting to look grotesque, and anyway they couldn't get him
to stand still long enough to get them on. Photo-op after
photo-op ended in disaster as the pig crashed through the
set, trailing bits of unphotogenic garbage. On one memorable
afternoon the pig struggled into the studio entirely covered
in bits and pieces of no-bid contracts that had just been
freshly prepared for Halliburton and Bechtel. Attempts to
remove them proved difficult; staffers were reluctant to go
near him, deterred as much by the smell emanating from his
manure-moistened skin as by his size, teeth, and increasingly
Plans for a behind-the-scenes look at the pig's private life
via a Diane Sawyer special had to be scrapped when one of
Sawyer's researchers discovered that human blood was now part
of the pig's regular diet. That revelation led to a somewhat
heated conversation with the staff of Prime Time Live, which
finally ended when the producer stated flatly that a pig fed
on Iraqi blood was one thing, but a pig fed on the blood of
American soldiers was something not even FOX News could love.
The pig, not understanding why his popularity was waning
so rapidly, became depressed. It wasn't, after all, the pig's
fault. He was just doing what a pig does: eating up all the
scraps and trash that fell from his owners' tables. If they
didn't want him to be a monstrous behemothal vampire pig,
they could have fed him something more nutritious and wholesome.
This would have required Bush and his friends to eat better
themselves, however; and they just didn't have the discipline.
They gorged themselves on tax cuts, backroom deals, corruption,
and war every night, and so that's what found its way into
the poor pig's slop bucket. They left him alone in the dark
for months at a time, and then once a year they would wrangle
him, stuff him into some new outfit, make him up to look pretty
for the cameras and then lead him into a room full of flashing
lights that gave him a headache.
The pig, not having read the Constitution apart from the
bits of it that John Ashcroft cut out and dropped into the
slop bucket, didn't understand that the law of the land required
him, as the allegorical representation of the reality of the
Bush presidency, to put in an annual appearance for the American
people. It wasn't the pig's fault that by January 2004, he
was the size of a Ford Explorer, with high blood pressure,
weak ankles, and a serious mean streak.
No wonder they had some trouble getting the lipstick on
him this year.
Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.
This year's line was lifted from David Kay's report on the
search for WMDs in Iraq. That's the best they could come up
with. Last weekend Kay himself resigned, on the grounds that
since there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he's
not going to waste any more time looking for them. Cheney,
having apparently lost his mind, continues to maintain anyway
that Iraq had these weapons. Bush, who was in the embarrassing
position of having to trot that pig out for his annual photo-op,
could not quite pass this year's pitifully weak WMD line off
with all the "confidence" the commentators praised him for.
Possibly his handlers remember his having been burned by his
overselling of the evidence in the 2003 State of the Union
"The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed
in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear
weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear
weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching
uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that
Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of
uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that
he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes
suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein
has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly
has much to hide."
The IEAE had long disavowed the 'report' on which the first
claim was based even when he made that speech; the famous
"sixteen words" about uranium from Africa were based on a
document that the CIA had already determined to be a forgery;
the "high-strength aluminum tubes" had already been ballyhooed
by Colin Powell and then discredited by more objective authorities.
Even though this was a younger pig-a svelter, cuter, less-obviously-vampiric
pig-that lipstick was not doing too much for it even then.
On the index page they made at whitehouse.gov for the 2004
SOTU speech, there are links to the SOTU pages for 2003 and
2002. The one for 2003 doesn't work - it just directs you
right back to 2004 - but the 2003 index page is still up here.
It doesn't include a complete transcript; just chunks, each
linked to its topic, and a webcast you can watch in its entirety
if you have a DSL line and a spare 90 minutes.
What you do find, tucked away in one corner, is a link to
a lengthy document entitled, Iraq:
Apparatus of Lies. This piece serves two purposes: it
puffs up the bogus case for war, and hardens Americans against
any images of Iraqi suffering that they may see after we invade.
The "Crafting Tragedy" section, while admitting that civilian
casualties are an inevitable result of our military campaigns,
nevertheless goes on to argue that this is Saddam Hussein's
fault for deliberately putting his own civilians in harm's
way in order to deceive people into thinking that these civilians
died just because we dropped bombs on them. The entire document
works on the same argument: since Saddam Hussein is cruel
and deceptive, it doesn't matter how cruel and deceptive we
Reading it is painful, especially the descriptions of
Saddam Hussein's manipulation of the mass media, which now
have an unpleasantly familiar ring. Here's a choice bit from
the section on "Corrupting the Public Record:"
The following scenario reflects another, especially
egregious corruption of the public record: An Iraqi government
intelligence officer, diplomat, or operative provides a
journalist or publication in another country with a false
story. The story contains specific details that appear to
bolster the story's main theme but cannot be verified. Sources
or protagonists in the article are described in convincing
detail but without actually being named. Dates or places
of supposed events are provided in order to give the article
texture and credibility.
Compare with Scott McClellan's explanation of why the
alleged conversation between the Air Force One pilot and the
British Airways pilot who 'almost spotted' Bush's plane during
his Thanksgiving jaunt to Baghdad turned out not to have actually
"And what we always try to do for you all
in the press corps is to provide you a little color of important
events, because we believe that's helpful to you for your
stories, and to do your reporting to the American people.
And so we reported it based on what we knew, and the conversation
did take place. It was heard by the pilots on Air Force
One. That was relayed to White House staff, and it was shared
with you all in the media to help you keep the American
people informed about what was a very important event."
At this point, "Iraq: Apparatus of Lies" appears to be
not so much anti-Iraq propaganda as an instruction manual.
The Iraqis have also built false stories around
real events or meetings, so that falsehoods can be built
around a skeleton of truth.
We, of course, would never do such a thing, especially
not to one of our own soldiers who had been seriously wounded
in the line of duty.
For 2002's SOTU, the pig was a little more sprightly,
a little better suited to the color palette they chose for
him. After all, we had just succeeded in ousting the Taliban
and building a better Afghanistan:
"The American flag flies again over our embassy
in Kabul. Terrorists who once occupied Afghanistan now occupy
cells at Guantanamo Bay. (Applause.) And terrorist leaders
who urged followers to sacrifice their lives are running
for their own. (Applause.) America and Afghanistan are now
allies against terror. We'll be partners in rebuilding that
country. And this evening we welcome the distinguished interim
leader of a liberated Afghanistan: Chairman Hamid Karzai.
You don't hear much about Afghanistan any more. Nor do
you hear much about Osama Bin Laden, who even in 2002's SOTU
speech was not mentioned once, even though capturing him and
bringing him to justice was the original stated goal of the
So there they were. Bush's speechwriters, confronting
the reality of the Bush presidency, wondering how on earth
they were going to get it into telegenic shape before the
cameras started rolling. The poor thing was bulging out at
every conceivable seam. The Afghanistan triumph was unraveling,
American soldiers were still being blown up regularly in Iraq,
there were no WMDs to be found anywhere (except maybe over
the border in Syria? But then what if we want to invade Syria
someday, it'll be so embarrassing when we don't find them
The economic 'recovery' wasn't fooling anyone, Valerie
Plame's name was still in the news, Cheney had taken one too
many supervillain pills and gone chortling to reporters about
how much he enjoys operating in stealth behind the scenes
moohoohahaha, and seniors were starting to quit the AARP in
protest over its endorsement of the pseudo-prescription drug
bill. Language is a marvelous thing with many powers, but
all the same, there it was: a 2000 pound pig that all the
lipstick in the world couldn't pretty up. What could they
They did their best, I suppose. Steroid use in professional
athletics. Same-sex marriage. Faith-based initiatives. Ashley
Pearson, age 2 - no, 10 - asking what she could do for her
country. And, of course, the obligatory insistence that the
war in Iraq was justified, no matter what anyone else might
Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.
Over 500 American soldiers and uncounted Iraqis died
so that we could save the world from weapons of mass destruction-related
It's a damn good thing this is an election year. That
pig has been through enough, and so have we. I've already
made my decision. The only way I'm going to watch the 2005
State of the Union address is if someone other than Bush is
The Plaid Adder's demented ravings have been delighting
an equally demented online audience since 1996. More of the
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