The Speech Bush Should have Given
This is the speech that I wish President Bush had given in fall, 2002, as he was trying to convince Congress to give him the authority to go to war against Iraq.
My fellow Americans:
I want us to go to war against Iraq. But I want us to have our eyes open and be completely realistic.
A war against Iraq will be expensive. It will cost you, the taxpayer, about $300 billion over five years. I know Wolfowitz is telling you Iraq’s oil revenues will pay for it all, but that’s ridiculous. Iraq only pumps about $10 billion a year worth of oil, and it’s going to need that just to run the new government we’re putting in. No, we’re going to have to pay for it, ourselves. I’m going to ask you for $25 billion, then $80 billion, then another $80 billion. And so on. I’m going to be back to you for money more often than that unemployed relative that you don’t like. The cost of the war is going to drive up my already massive budget deficits from about $370 billion to more like $450 billion a year. Just so you understand, I’m going to cut taxes on rich people at the same time that I fight this war. Then I’m going to borrow the money to fight it, and to pay for much of what the government does. And you and your children will be paying off that debt for decades. In the meantime, your dollar isn’t going to go as far when you buy something made overseas, since running those kinds of deficits will weaken our currency. (And I’ve set things up so that most things you buy will be made overseas.) We’ll have to keep interest rates higher than they would otherwise have been and keep the economy in the doldrums, because otherwise my war deficits would cause massive inflation.
So I’m going to put you, your children, and your grandchildren deeply in hock to fight this war. I’m going to make it so there won’t be a lot of new jobs created, and I’m going to use the excuse of the Federal red ink to cut way back on government services that you depend on. For the super-rich, or as I call them, “my base,” this Iraq war thing is truly inspired. We use it to put up the deficit to the point where the Democrats and the more bleeding heart Republicans in Congress can’t dare create any new programs to help the middle classes. We all know that the super-rich–about 3 million people in our country of 295 million– would have to pay for those programs, since they own 45 percent of the privately held wealth. I’m damn sure going to make sure they aren’t inconvenienced that way for a good long time to come.
Then, this Iraq War that I want you to authorize as part of the War on Terror is going to be costly in American lives. By the time of my second inaugural, over 1,300 brave women and men of the US armed forces will be dead as a result of this Iraq war, and 10,371 will have been maimed and wounded, many of them for life. America’s streets and homeless shelters will likely be flooded, down the line, with some of these wounded vets. They will have problems finding work, with one or two limbs gone and often significant psychological damage. They will have even more trouble keeping any jobs they find. They will be mentally traumatized the rest of their lives by the horror they are going to see, and sometimes commit, in Iraq. But, well we’ve got a saying in Texas. I think you’ve got in over in Arkansas, too. You can’t make an omelette without . . . you gotta break some eggs to wrassle up some breakfast.
I know Dick Cheney and Condi Rice have gone around scaring your kids with wild talk of Iraqi nukes. I have to confess to you that my CIA director, George Tenet, tells me that the evidence for that kind of thing just doesn’t exist. In fact, I have to be frank and say that the Intelligence and Research Division of the State Department doesn’t think Saddam has much of anything left even from his chemical weapons program. Maybe he destroyed the stuff and doesn’t want to admit it because he’s afraid the Shiites and Kurds will rise up against him without it. Anyway, Iraq just doesn’t pose any immediate threat to the United States and probably doesn’t have anything useful left of their weapons programs of the 1980s.
There also isn’t any operational link between a secular Arab nationalist like Saddam and the religious loonies of al-Qaeda. They’re scared of one another and hate each other more than each hates us. In fact, I have to be perfectly honest and admit that if we overthrow Saddam’s secular Arab nationalist government, Iraq’s Sunni Arabs will be disillusioned and full of despair. They are likely to turn to al-Qaeda as an alternative. So, folks, what I’m about to do could deliver 5 million Iraqis into the hands of people who are insisting they join some al-Qaeda offshoot immediately. Or else.
So why do I want to go to war? Look, folks, I’m just not going to tell you. I don’t have to tell you. There is little transparency about these things in the executive, because we’re running a kind of rump empire out of the president’s office. After 20 or 30 years it will all leak out. Until then, you’ll just have to trust me.