Eight Questions for George Bush
Tim Russert, the Grand Inquisitor of Sunday morning, is scheduled to have George W. Bush in the witness chair for a full hour on the next Meet the Press. He's a lucky man -- Russert, that is. This will be high drama, as the nation's politerati -- and millions of others -- watch to see if Russert gives Bush the hot-seat treatment.
There is, of course, much to ask Bush about. Did he decided to use military force against Iraq before 9/11? Where are the WMDs he insisted were there? Why is he using phony budget numbers? Did he engage in less-than-proper business dealings before he entered politics? Why he has misled the public while promoting his policies on stem cells research, global warming, and missile defense? Why has he opposed certain homeland security measures and not adequately funded others? It's a long list, and I'm sure Russert is busy preparing his own queries. But in an unsolicited act of kindness, I have crafted eight questions for Russert -- several on matters in the news, a few on issues that have received less attention. And, Tim, since you always like to display your source material when you ask the tough questions, feel free to call me, and I'll send you the citations or the clips. Unlike many of Bush's WMD assertions, these questions are based on real evidence.
- In October 2002, during a speech in Cincinnati, you said that Saddam Hussein had a "massive stockpile" of biological weapons. But the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq did not report there was any "massive stockpile" of bioweapons in Iraq. And this past Thursday, CIA director George Tenet said, "We said we had no specific information on the types or quantities of [biological] weapons, agent, or stockpiles at Baghdad's disposal." So if the CIA did not say there was a "massive stockpile" of biological weapons in Iraq, what was your basis for asserting a stockpile existed? Did you know something the CIA did not? Did you overstate the intelligence?
- In December 2002, you said, "We do not know whether or not [Hussein] has a nuclear weapon" -- a remark suggesting that Hussein might have one. But the National Intelligence Estimate said that he did not have a nuclear weapon and that it would take Iraq five to seven years to produce a nuclear weapon -- and then only if its nuclear weapons program was "left unchecked." This past week, Tenet said, "We said Saddam Hussein did not have a nuclear weapon." Was it not misleading to tell the public that "we don't know" whether Iraq had a nuclear weapon, when, in fact, we did know?
- Before the war, you said Hussein was "dealing" with al Qaeda. On May 1, you called Hussein an "ally" of Al Qaeda. At a press conference in July 2003, you were asked to provide evidence to back up your claims that Hussein had been working with al Qaeda. You replied,
"Yes, I think, first of all, remember I just said we've been there for 90 days since the cessation of major military operations. Now, I know in our world where news comes and goes and there's this kind of instant -- instant news and you must have done this, you must do that yesterday, that there's a level of frustration by some in the media. I'm not suggesting you're frustrated. You don't look frustrated to me at all. But it's going to take time for us to gather the evidence and analyze the mounds of evidence, literally, the miles of documents that we have uncovered."
That is, you said that investigators were still looking for evidence. But the question was, what evidence did you have at the time that you made those prewar claims that al Qaeda and Hussein were in cahoots? You did not answer that question then. Can you tell us what evidence you had for saying that Hussein was an "ally" of al Qaeda?
- In July 2001, US intelligence produced a warning that read, "Based on a review of all-source reporting over the last five months, we believe that UBL [Usama bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against U.S. and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning."
This was less than two months before the horrific 9/11 attacks. According to the final report of the joint inquiry on 9/11 conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees, this warning was prepared for "senior government officials." The committees did not publicly say who received the report, and they said this was because the CIA would not permit them to tell the public which "senior government officials" were warned. The committees were angry about being gagged this way. But committee sources did tell reporters that this report was sent to the White House.
Why wouldn't your administration tell the public who saw this warning? Did you or any of your national security team see this report? If so, what did you or they do in response? If this report did not make it to you or your senior aides, wouldn't you consider that a terrible mistake and want to find out who was responsible for that?
- In your Air National Guard records, your annual performance review, dated May 2, 1973, says that you did not report for duty to your home base for an entire year. When this was disclosed during the 2000 campaign, your campaign said that you had spent part of that time doing service at an Air National Guard base in Alabama. But the commander of that base said -- and recently confirmed -- that you never showed up there. In 2000, your campaign promised to produce the names of people whom you served with in Alabama and who could vouch for your presence at the base there. It never did so. Why not? Can you now give us names of men or women with whom you served in Alabama?
- During the year in question, you lost your flight status and were grounded for failing to submit to an annual physical examination. In 2000, your campaign aides said that was because you were in Alabama at the time and your personal doctor was in Houston. But the Boston Globe noted, "Flight physicals can be administered only by certified Air Force flight surgeons." Not personal physicians. And there were military physicians stationed in Alabama, where you were living for part of that year. Why did you not take a flight physical? Why did your campaign put out an explanation that was wrong?
- By your own account, you returned to Houston after the November election of 1972. Yet the records show you did not report in to your Air National Guard base there for six months -- not until after that performance review noted you had been missing for a year. Why not? What were you doing during that time?
- When you ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1978 in Texas, you gave an interview to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper. You were asked about your position on abortion, and this is how that newspaper reported your answer: "Bush said he opposes the pro-life amendment [which would outlaw abortion] and favors leaving up to a woman and her doctor the abortion question." Sixteen years later, when you ran for governor in Texas in 1994, you campaigned as an antiabortion conservative. Few people seem to realize your position on abortion changed 180 degrees. Please tell us, when did you change your view on abortion and why?
David Corn is Washington editor of the Nation.