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Time to Pay the Piper, Mr. President
January 29, 2004
By Michael Shannon

As anyone who has read more than a few paragraphs of my work is plainly aware, the low esteem in which I hold Mr. Bush knows few rivals. While I do not consider myself a "Bush-hater," I find him so sorely lacking in the qualities his high office demands that the very fact that he occupies such a position is a never ending source of embarrassment.

There is however one area of great social and political importance where I find myself in complete agreement with Mr Bush. This is when he calls for more people, both on the private level as well as the governmental, to be held to a higher level of accountability and to take more personal responsibility for their actions. As he himself put it in the Presidential debate on October 3, 2000, "I think that people need to be held responsible for the actions they take in life. I think that's part of the need for a cultural change. We need to say that each of us needs to be responsible for what we do."

These are principles that I too hold in the highest regard. Unfortunately, as with many, many other principles in which Mr Bush has publicly pledged a position, Mr Bush says the right thing and then promptly does absolutely nothing to insure its implementation.

His appalling record in holding himself and those who serve at his pleasure to task for their failings will be once again be placed in the spotlight with the implosion of the contention that an Iraqi arsenal of WMDs was a clear and present danger to the United States. Even the most diehard of apologists for Team Bush are being forced to admit that the exhaustive search for these weapons has failed utterly in proving the frenetic pre-war hyperbole of Bush and company.

Although he has engaged in a certain predictable degree of backing and filling, David Kay's - the man hand-picked by the Bush administration to scour Iraq until he found what they were looking for - recent comments that he no longer believed that Iraq had much of anything in the way of WMD's in the years and months leading up to the US led invasion pretty much seals the deal.

In light of these and other recent developments it has become almost impossible to continue to question whether or not the pre-war analysis concerning the Iraqi arsenal was wrong, it only remains to be seen whether the analysis was wrong by ideologically driven design or through systemic incompetence. Of the two, obviously the former is the more insidious and dangerous. If the intelligence community deliberately misled the senior members of the Bush administration to achieve a political objective, or - as is more likely - the Bush people insisted on being told precisely what they wished to hear, then we as a democratic and law-abiding people are in grave peril.

Even setting such concerns aside, we are still faced with a vexing problem. Let us assume for the sake of this discussion that the error was benign in intent. That still puts the future well being of this nation into serious question. How is is that the combined efforts of the entire intelligence community could be so wrong about a subject of such vital importance?

One of the first arguments put forth in defense of the Bush administration is that they were not the only ones to get this wrong. And they have a point. They were not alone in thinking that Hussein was sitting on a stockpile of "some of the world's most dangerous weapons." However, while it may be true that they had plenty of company in their error, that fact does not make them any less wrong or any less culpable. For centuries the greatest minds on earth thought the sun revolved around the earth but that certainly didn't make it so.

. There is also a very profound difference between the two principal parties that the Bush people point to as being in agreement with their erroneous assessment: the Clinton administration and the UN. While it is true that there were many in those organizations who believed Iraq still had a WMD capability they did not declare war based on that belief. And that is the defining difference.

How Mr Bush will handle that fact will go a long way in defining him. He has proven more than willing to take the credit when things go right, we are now about to see how willing he is to take the blame when they go wrong.

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