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Surfing a Tidal Wave of Lies
July 22, 2003
By Weldon Berger

This isn't something I'm comfortable saying in polite company, but I sometimes experience a substantial twinge of sympathy for people who unstintingly support George Bush. I suspect there are moments when they feel like this guy, only without the skills.

The feeling doesn't extend to Bush, though. His supporters face the same risks as the rest of us, but the worst that can happen to him is he might lose his job somewhere down the road and have to return to his home planet in disgrace.

It's not only the Niger fiasco and the general inflation of the nuclear thing, or his remark that we went to war because Saddam "didn't let the inspectors in;" there's the parroting of unsubstantiated claims like Britain's 45-minutes-to-doom scenario, and Rumsfeld's "bulletproof evidence" of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection.

There's Judith Miller, the Ahmed Chalabi cheerleader who moonlights as a New York Times reporter, writing two months ago about the military's nonchalance in regard to securing a site with radioactive materials (Drew said he was not concerned that terrorists or elements of the deposed government might try to steal the material to make a crude nuclear bomb. He said exposure to the radioactive material itself would be lethal to anyone who tried to move or steal it. "It is a self-solving problem," he said.)

And writing now about the general confusion reigning over the search for evidence of banned weapons ("Because we arrived at sites so late, so often," said Capt. J. Ryan Cutchin, the leader of the team known as MET Bravo, "we may never know what was there, and either walked or was taken away by looters and Baathist elements under the guise of looting.").

Y'all remember, right, that we went into this to secure all those hurtful things?

Then there's the pathological insistence on being right, with its consequent cost to others. My guess as to why the White House story on the uranium claim went from being a mistake to being "technically accurate" a week later is that Bush threw a hissy fit at the notion he might have said something that simply wasn't true.

And the rest of the gang isn't much better. Rumsfeld has finally come round to admitting that the occupation will require more troops, more time and more money than he or his posse predicted, but there's still a hallucinatory optimism; maybe we won't have to send more troops, maybe the Marshall Islands will kick in a division, maybe we can get out of this without having to go humble ourselves at the UN.

Saturday, not many hours before two more US soldiers were killed, the new commander in Iraq said that the optimum troop strength for asserting control in the country was around 160,000. We have 148,000 troops; the Brits and a rag-tag assortment of other countries, another 13,000. Add it up. This is optimum?

It just goes on and on, and of course it isn't limited to the war. The blossoming deficit - and they're still lowballing it; $500 billion is a good bet - the sordid games with VA benefits and military death benefits, squeezing the 9/11 commission, unfunded mandates for states with no money, the vicious little bouquets thrown to the jingos and bigots... it's unrelenting, it doesn't stop for a moment, behind every lie or meanness is another and maybe even bigger one.

Ah, well. Now that the press has unaccountably awakened from its long slumber, perhaps the meme that Bush is not the mack daddy of war and other manly arts will take hold and people will be willing to listen to alternative ideas on how to conduct our national affairs, and if we're really, really lucky, a Democratic candidate or two will be so kind as to recognize the moment and offer some up.

The wave in the photo I linked to at the beginning of this little rant looks to me to be about 40 or 50 feet; it's at a spot called Jaws, about a half-mile off Maui's north shore. The people who surf it do so with the assistance of a jet ski - hanging onto a tow rope while the craft pulls them onto the wave - because the waves are moving at about 30 mph and even if the break wasn't so far off shore, it's hard to paddle in to a wave moving that fast. They use boards with foot straps on them to keep from falling off when they're being towed and when they're plunging down the face of the wave.

It's an only marginally sane pastime. You wouldn't want to wake up in the middle of a wave like that but if you did, your best option would be to jump before it fell on you.

Weldon Berger is a freelance writer living and working in Hawaii, where he has nearly mastered the art of bailing out of the massive 1-foot swells at Waikiki. He can be reached by email at

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