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Friday, March 07, 2003
30 Questions for Bush
President George W. Bush's meet-and-greet with the press yesterday would be great comedy, if wasn't for the fact that this is what currently passes for serious discussion in many quarters.
If Bush actually believes the things he says, then he is an idiot. It he doesn't believe the things he says, it appears that he assumes that the vast majority of people in and out of the U.S. are idiots. I tend to think that latter is true.
If the questions asked by the reporters are the best that they could up with, then they are idiots. If those questions are not the best they could come up with, then they are willing propagandists for the Bush Administration and embarrassments to their profession. I tend to think the latter is true. That said, I have a hard time believing that not a single one of the sixteen journalists who got to ask a question yesterday would not ask a critical question if they could up with one, so maybe they are idiots.
Here are some questions that should have been asked and which easily could have been prepared:
1) Mr. President, you have said many times, including during your October 7 speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, that Saddam Hussein is a threat because he seeks weapons of mass destruction. However, the Federation of American Scientists says at least 31 countries, excluding Iraq and the United States but including a number of countries that are not friendly to the U.S., that have weapons of mass destruction or are trying or have tried to acquire or develop them. What makes Saddam so much of a threat and if it is matter of him having used chemical weapons in the 1980s, do you believe the U.S. was right to continue to support Saddam's government after it was known that it had used chemical weapons?
2) If Saddam is as much of a threat as you say he is Mr. President, why has he failed to attack the U.S. or any other country for over decade, and if your answer involves the actions of the U.S., why will a continuation of the current policies fail to protect the country?
3) Given the threat that you say Saddam poses, why have you still not removed him from power after being in office for nearly 26 months and why did you not make removing Saddam a bigger part of your campaign for the White House in 2000?
4) Do you have or have you had any fear that openly talking about overthrowing Saddam for over a year might provoke him to strike preemptively?
5) Clause 10 of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, which the U.S. of course supports, "requests" that member states provide "any information related to prohibited programmes or other aspects of their mandates, including on Iraqi attempts since 1998 to acquire prohibited items, and by recommending sites to be inspected, persons to be interviewed, conditions of such interviews, and data to be collected." Yet members of your administration have repeatedly talked of information relating to Iraqi weapons programs that weapons inspectors from the U.N. did not have. The most notable example of this is Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 speech before the Security Council. Why is the U.S. not in full compliance with 1441 and given this what credibility does it have to being leading the charge to get Iraq to comply?
6) This past October 16 you said, ""Iraq is a part on the war on terror." Nine days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, you said "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Mr. President what is the maximum level of opposition that a country can provide to a U.S. war against Iraq and not be "with the terrorists"?
7) Do you plan to use the proceeds of Iraqi oil to finance the war effort and the military occupation that will follow and have you consider do so as has been reported?
8) Under what circumstances, if any, would you approve of an employee of the U.S. federal government engaging in an act of torture?
9) In your February 26 speech at the American Enterprise Institute's Annual Dinner, Mr. President, you said one of the reasons for going to war with Iraq was to bring "human freedom" to Iraq. How do you define "human freedom" and what freedoms are worth going to war to ensure that they exist in another country?
10) Mr. President in the same speech you also said, "we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more." Is that the same standard the U.S. uses with regard to the stationing of troops in Germany and Japan?
11) One final question about that speech, Mr. President. In it you imply that the key to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is Palestinian concessions. Why do you feel that Israel should not also have to make concessions?
12) You've spoken of bringing democracy to Iraq on numerous occasions. If some Islamic fundamentalist group in Iraq wants to form a party and participate, as has been done in Turkey, in that democracy, will they be allowed to?
13) Mr. President during your many speeches about Iraq you have hardly addressed the possibility that escalating the current war with Iraq might increase anti-American sentiments amongst Arabs and Muslims throughout the world. Why have you not informed the American people of this possibility?
14) How do you defend the fact the U.S. might soon be going to war with Iraq in the name of "freedom," but continues to give billions of dollars in aid to countries like Colombia and Egypt, which are governed by brutal governments?
15) After the U.S. has disarmed Iraq, what other countries do you feel must be dealt with?
16) Mr. President, many have said that you have turned the "war on terror" into an imperial enterprise because you have said that the targets of the "war on terror" would not be limited to those who perpetrated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks or even those who are allied with them. What gives you and your administration the right to use the terrible events of September 11, 2001 for a war that has no conceivable end?
The above questions could all have been prepared before the press conference while the following questions relate to things that Bush said during the event.
17) Mr. President, tonight you said Iraq threatened scientists from cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors. Have you shared this information with Hans Blix's team as you should do to be in compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441?
18) Tonight you said, "If the world fails to confront the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, refusing to use force, even as a last resort, free nations would assume immense and unacceptable risks." Given that the only two countries Saddam has attacked in the past -Iran and Kuwait- are hardly "free" in the sense that most Americans would use the term, why is Saddam a particular threat to "free nations"?
19) Tonight you used the term "terrorist state." What is your definition of a "terrorist state"? and what terrorist groups is Iraq allied with and what evidence do you have of this alliance?
20) Mr. President, whatever the sins of Saddam, there is no evidence that he was involved with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. As you have done multiple times in the past, tonight you said that we can get some idea of Saddam's intention to strike the U.S. by looking at the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and that this justifies war. What is the connection and how you learn something about what Saddam wants from the actions of a group like al Qaeda that opposes him?
21) Mr. President tonight you talked about the need to "protect innocent lives" in Iraq and how the U.S. would bring food and medicine to that country. What is your opinion of the economic sanctions on Iraq that have been conservatively estimated to played a role in the premature deaths of 100,000 Iraqis?
22) At several points tonight you mentioned that war, actually the escalation of the current war, with Iraq is not inevitable, given that you do not believe Saddam can be trusted, what scenario or scenarios do you envision that could prevent the escalation of the current war?
23) Mr. President tonight you mentioned that it is not in the "interest" of North Korea to have nuclear weapons and said, "we must deal with weapons of mass destruction" Since you have not proposed the elimination of the U.S.' weapons of mass destruction, you are obviously not talking about the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. What factors determine when it is in a country's "interest" to have nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and what standards must a country meet before you are not concerned with them having weapons of mass destruction?
24) With all due respect Mr. President, why did you twice tonight not answer questions regarding why the leaders of a number of other countries are not as concerned about the Iraqi threat as you are?
25) Mr. President tonight you implied that the resolution on Iraq pending in the U.N. Security Council only said that Iraq was not in compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. In fact what the proposed resolution is understood within the context of Chapter VII of U.N. Charter, which the proposed resolution mentions, it is clearly a call for war. Why did you leave that part out?
26) Tonight you said that your administration was not being defiant of the U.N. because it had gone to the U.N. and asked for U.N. support in escalating the current war with Iraq. Isn't the basic message of what you said, that if U.S. asks the U.N. for something, the U.N. is obligated to give it to the U.S?
27) Mr. President tonight you said, "it's hard to envision more terror on America than September the 11th, 2001." As terrible as the events of that day were, a basic knowledge of history would reveal that there have been other events as horrible or more. And it is hardly difficult to imagine worse events happening in the future, especially if the events involve weapons of mass destruction. Do you have honestly find it "hard to envision more terror on America than September the 11th, 2001" and what would you say to those who believe you only used that phrase as part of an attempt to convince Americans that their suffering is more important than the suffering of other people so that they will be less concerned with the already existing and possible future negative effects of your "war on terror"?
28) The Vietnam War was brought up tonight Mr. President. Do you feel that there are any lessons to be drawn from that conflict about problems involved with trying to control other countries?
29) You referenced the alleged al Qaeda chemical factory in Northern Iraq during your response to one of tonight's questions as a way of showing a link between al Qaeda and Saddam. Why didn't you mention that Northern Iraq is not under the control of Saddam?
30) Tonight Mr. President you said, "We will not wait to see what terrorists or terrorist states could do with weapons of mass destruction" but you have already waited a fair amount of time to see what Saddam would do with the weapons of mass destruction he most likely already has. If Saddam is as much of a threat as you say he is, haven't you effectively put the safety of people in the U.S. at risk?
There are of course many more questions that could be asked of Bush. Furthermore, the answers to any of these questions are not necessarily going to convince anyone of the folly or wisdom of escalating the current war with Iraq. What they do get at are some important questions about the "war on terror," specifically as it relates to Iraq, that anyone who is interested in Iraq, U.S. foreign policy or the U.S. should want the answer to. If even one of them had been asked of and answered by Bush last night, the press conference would have been infinitely more informative.
UPDATE: I just emailed President Bush this list of questions with editing done for continuity. I will post his responses as soon as I receive them. Don't worry I didn't send the email on a library computer. 11:12 a.m. 03/08/03
UPDATE #2: White House Mail Relay Autoresponder; on behalf of; Autoresponder@WhiteHouse.GOV has responded and writes:
Thank you for emailing President Bush. Your ideas and comments are very important to him.Bush is ducking me.
UPDATE #3: "Holmquist has one legitimate question on his list: 'After the U.S. has disarmed Iraq, what other countries do you feel must be dealt with? The rest are crap," says the compliant Richard Bennett. 12:56 a.m. 03/13/03