April 14, 2005

MORE HISTORICAL REVISIONISM: "I don't recall any prewar speeches about delivering democracy to the Middle East."

Hmm. Must've missed the 2003 State of the Union address, where Bush said:

Different threats require different strategies. In Iran we continue to see a government that represses its people, pursues weapons of mass destruction and supports terror.

We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty and human rights and democracy. Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government, and determine their own destiny, and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom. . . .

And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country.

And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. . . .

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity.

Just, you know, correcting the record.

UPDATE: Reader Paul Escalona sends these remarks by President Bush to the U.N. General Assembly from 2002:

The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.

And this Feb. 27, 2003 transcript (a month before the war) from PBS's Newshour:

MARGARET WARNER: Last night, Pres. Bush laid out his argument that a post-Saddam Iraq could become a flourishing democracy.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. (Applause) The nation of Iraq, with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people, is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom. (Applause)

MARGARET WARNER: The president further asserted that a democratic Iraq could transform the entire region in a similar way.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: There are hopeful signs of the desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the freedom gap, so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. From Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward political reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region. (Applause) It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world, or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim, is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life.

Don't these guys realize that we have Google?

Not to mention, apparently, better memories . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Scott Helgeson writes:

There's plenty of antiwar articles that dismissed the administration's arguments about promoting democracy.

From Alternet, Jan. 30, 2003: Link

It's "bogus" reason #3.

From Counterpunch, Mar. 19, 2003: Link

"...he proclaims that his war against the people of Iraq will bring about something called 'democracy' for the struggling peoples of the Middle East."

From Znet, Oct. 8, 2002:

"In his speech, Bush claimed that he is motivated by a desire to see democracy in Iraq and by the 'non-negotiable demands of human dignity.'"

This was from a quick search, I'm sure you can find many, many more examples. And yet now there's a shocking case of amnesia.

So back then the claims were bogus -- and now they're new! As reader Matthew Tanner writes: "Y'know, you gotta laugh (or in your case, go 'heh') at these guys. Next: Bush hid his nefarious agenda in plain view! That bastard!"

Wasn't it Cavour who said that the way to lie to diplomats is to tell the truth, since they will never believe that? I guess it's not just for diplomats.

Meanwhile, here's an earlier post by Jon Henke on related issues.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve Foley emails:

Bringing democracy to Iraq was also stated as one of the reasons for going to war in the congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to use military
force against Iraq.

"Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to
remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;"

In fact, bringing democracy to Iraq has been this nation's policy since 1998, signed into law by Bill Clinton. And here's what President Clinton said in
his own speech way back then


"The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq's
history or its ethnic or sectarian make-up. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else. The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life.

My Administration has pursued, and will continue to pursue, these objectives through active application of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The evidence is overwhelming that such changes will not happen under the current Iraq leadership. "

Now that's a really pre-war speech!

MORE: Ian Hamet offers an explanation for the selective memory:

The reason a large block of the country doesn’t recall Bush’s speeches calling for Iraqi liberation is that they simply were not listening. After all, they had already decided that they knew what Bush “really” meant, so they ignored what he said.

Makes sense.

STILL MORE: The Mudville Gazette notes that this revisionism is a case of history being written by the losers, and offers some further correction.

MORE STILL: Reader Chris Breisch makes a telling point: "In case no one remembers, the name of the operation wasn’t 'Operation Let’s Go Kick Some Butt and Get Some WMD’s,' it was 'Operation Iraqi Freedom'."