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Lipstick on a Pig
January 28, 2004
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 program activities.

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 drugs.

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 bad temper.

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 address:

"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 are.

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:"

COVERT PLACEMENT.

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 happened:

"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. It continues:

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. (Applause.)"

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 Afghanistan campaign.

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 there either).

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 do?

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 say.

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 program activities.

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 giving it.


The Plaid Adder's demented ravings have been delighting an equally demented online audience since 1996. More of the same can be found at the Adder's Lair.


View the Adder's Archive

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