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No Plan, No Apologies

Bush's primetime press conference -- only the third of his administration -- offered little news and no reassurances other than the empty promise to 'stay the course.'
 
 
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In a nationally televised press conference Tuesday night, President Bush "steadfastly refused to admit mistakes and passed up opportunities to explain what it will take to achieve his goal of a free and stable Iraq," according to the Washington Post. Additionally, the Associated Press reported that while he "acknowledged a good deal of introspection after all the questions about his actions before the Sept. 11 attacks," he offered "not a whiff of contrition" for his Administration's role in the worst national security breakdown in American history. The event was "more theater than substance," according to the BBC, in which the President "offered no shocking new policy initiatives" and instead used "the language and zeal of a missionary," as the New York Times reported, to implore Americans to continue on his increasingly chaotic and directionless path in Iraq. But with Bush's approval ratings hitting a new low, the event did nothing to quell the growing questions Americans have about the Administration's national security credentials.

The Washington Post notes that it quickly became clear that the President was refusing "to lay out new details of the path forward, suggest any change in direction or acknowledge any rethinking of his decisions in the face of recent setbacks." While Bush claimed that his Administration was getting "more involvement by the United Nations," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday virtually ruled out sending a large U.N. team to Iraq "for the foreseeable future" because of worsening security, while the Russian Emergency Ministry will start evacuation of Russian specialists from Iraq. Bush tried to reassure the international community about the June 30 transfer of power, saying confidently that U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was working "with Iraqis to determine the exact form of the government that will receive sovereignty on June 30th." But U.N. officials and diplomats say Bush's "expectations are not only inflated, but they are also dangerous."

The President was asked about his Administration's past promises about Iraq, with one reporter noting that the Administration promised "that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers; that Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." But instead of acknowledging his Administration's gross overhyping of intelligence, the President instead clung to a now-discredited assertion. He claimed Iraq "refused to disarm" -- an implicit reiteration that Iraq had WMD. But according to Bush's own weapons inspector, David Kay, there remains "no evidence Iraq had stockpiled unconventional weapons before the U.S.-led invasion in March." Corroborating assertions by former Administration officials that Bush has always focused on invading Iraq regardless of circumstance, the President added that "even knowing what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would've called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein."

The President said that oil revenues in Iraq are "bigger than we thought they would be at this point in time" -- an effort to further the myth that Americans will not have to continue financing the enormous cost of Iraq reconstruction (already, U.S. taxpayers have spent $166 billion in Iraq). But according to the New York Times, Iraq oil revenues are now only "running at a rate of about $14 billion a year" -- far less than the $20 billion to $30 billion a year the Bush Administration promised would allow Iraq to "finance its own reconstruction."

President Bush once again claimed that "there was nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government that could envision flying airplanes into buildings." Yet, moments after uttering this, he said one of the reasons he asked for the August 6 Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) "had to do with the Genoa G-8 conference I was going to attend" in 2001, where he was explicitly warned that Islamic terrorists could be plotting to fly airplanes into buildings. Even his claim about "the prior government" was false: As the WSJ reported, "despite official assertions that the U.S. had little reason to suspect before Sept. 11 that airliners would be used as weapons, the federal government had on several earlier occasions taken elaborate, secret measures to protect special events from just such an attack." The measures were taken after intelligence reports warned of suicide attacks using planes, and many of them were ordered directly by President Clinton.

The President once again claimed to have no idea that a terrorist attack was imminent before 9/11, saying "had I had any inkling whatsoever" of an attack, "we would have moved heaven and earth to save the country." But a front-page report by the Washington Post today notes that according to newly declassified information, "by the time a CIA briefer gave the President the August 6 PDB headlined 'Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US,' the president "had seen a stream of alarming reports on al Qaeda's intentions. So had Vice President Cheney and Bush's top national security team." The President was specifically told that Bin Laden was "planning multiple operations," that he had designs on hijackings, and that the "Bin Laden threats are real."