• Bush’s speech was about politics not policies, driven by electoral concerns. It reflected a far-right agenda designed to appeal to the wealthy and social conservatives with “faith-based initiatives,” gay marriage, drugs in sports, abstinence.
  • Bush’s policies – both domestic and international – are STILL reckless, unsafe, unfair.
  • Bush continues to rely on ratcheting up the fear factor – fear is a key component in Bush’s plan to gain support for the 2004 election.

The speech was characterized by serious omissions, denials, and lies.

What’s missing?

On Iraq

  • No mention of the thousands of deaths (500+ U.S. troops, 16,000+ Iraqis)

— Average # GIs killed – 1.6 daily; average # GIs wounded – 9.2 daily

  • No mention of the lies from the 2003 State of the Union and otherwise

— Iraq has weapons of mass destruction – oops no it doesn’t
— Iraq purchased uranium yellowcake from ‘Africa’ – oops no it didn’t
— Iraq is linked to al-Qaeda and September 11 – oops no it isn’t

  • No mention of the current insecurity in Iraq resulting from U.S. occupation
  • No mention of huge Iraqi opposition to U.S. plans for “transition to Iraqi sovereignty”
  • No mention of worsening crisis in Israel-Palestine fueled largely by unconditional U.S. economic, diplomatic and military support of Israel’s occupation

On the Economy

  • No mention of costs of war (human & economic) – war costs $162+ billion so far
  • No mention of $500 billion deficit – Bush started with $127 billion surplus
  • No mention 2.4 million lost jobs under Bush – now 9 million unemployed
  • No mention of the 40+ million people in the U.S. without health insurance

On everything else

  • No mention of Africa
  • No mention of racism
  • No mention of the environment
  • No mention of Latin America or Asia

What were Bush’s false denials?

On Iraq

  • Denied that Americans are at greater risk of terror attacks since (and because of) the U.S. war in Iraq
  • Denied that despite the arrest of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis face greater problems (insecurity, lack of water & electricity, unemployment, etc.) than before the U.S. war
  • Denied that the U.S. war in Iraq was an illegal, unilateral war of aggression waged in violation of the UN Charter and international law, and without serious international support
  • Denied that opposition to U.S. occupation is broader than “remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime” and is in fact growing, rather than diminishing
  • Denied that the plan for “transition to full Iraqi sovereignty” does not include an end to the U.S. military occupation – in which more than 100,000 U.S. troops will remain
  • Denied that the U.S. is more isolated internationally than any time in the last century

On the Economy

  • Denied that despite “economic growth” the economy is tanking for most Americans
  • Denied that tax cuts benefit the rich vastly more than ordinary taxpayers (and ignored that the average personal wealth of Bush’s first cabinet is $11 million each)
  • Denied that tax cuts actually hurt people – ignored recent $300 million cut in heat subsidies for poor families — the rich get richer, the poor get cold

What were Bush’s new and resurrected lies?

On Iraq

  • We found “WMD-related program activities” in Iraq – blurring the earlier claims of stockpiles of actual WMDs, and contradicted by the recent Carnegie Report
  • Iraq is free and on the path to democracy – contradicted by U.S. opposition to actual elections, as well as by the deterioration of life in Iraq
  • Iraq war is part of war on terror because governments “could give nuclear, chemical, biological weapons to terrorists” – contradicted by complete absence of any such weapons in Iraq and lack of ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda
  • U.S. war in Iraq “enforced the demands of the UN” – contradicted by UN refusal to endorse the call to war
  • We’re winning the war on terrorism – contradicted by Osama bin Laden remaining active, U.S. remaining on “alert” because of alleged heightened terror threats
  • “No one can doubt the word of America” because Libya agreed to international nuclear oversight – contradicted by massive international public and governmental opposition to war and by new government skepticism towards U.S. intelligence since reliance on false claims for war (and Libya’s decision was driven far more by longstanding diplomacy than by war)

On the Economy

  • Jobs are on the rise – contradicted by loss of 2.4 million overall, only 1,000 new jobs in December
  • Tax reductions, free trade and a “pro-growth economic agenda” have brought prosperity – contradicted by lack of advantage to most taxpayers & huge costs to social programs because of tax cuts

What is Bush hoping we will forget or ignore?

On Iraq

  • The war was based on lies – to the people of the U.S., Iraqis, Afghans, U.S. allies, the UN, and the entire international community
  • The war engendered the most unified and massive defiance in history– from civil society, many governments, and the United Nations
  • No WMDs have been found in Iraq – claims of undefined “program activities” or “interest” in weapons is a far cry from the 2002 claims that existing WMDs posed an imminent threat to Americans
  • Saddam Hussein’s government was armed, financed, and backed politically and militarily by the U.S. and its allies throughout the 1980s when the worst human rights abuses took place – Donald Rumsfeld’s cordial business visits to Baghdad in 1983-4 (part of a Bechtel effort to build a new oil pipeline) were only a small part of the longstanding partnership
  • While pledging to give U.S. troops “everything they need” to fight in Iraq, Bush ignored the fact that some active-duty GIs qualify for food stamps, the lack of adequate health care for active-duty and veterans, serious cuts in VA funding and more

On the Economy

  • Bush’s economic policies have made people poorer, less financially secure, more unable to get health care
  • Bush’s policies consistently reward the wealthiest at the cost of the poor and middle class
  • The Patriot Act faces massive opposition, including 225 cities that have passed resolutions against it

On the Elections

  • Bush ratings still going down – current 53% approval down from 90% in 2001
  • Only 54% of people in the U.S. think Bush was legitimately elected

What will be the result if Bush’s state of the union priorities come to pass?

  • Lies will remain the foundation of U.S. political life
  • People will continue to die in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel and elsewhere
  • Deficits will increase
  • Pentagon budgets will increase
  • Social spending – health, education, child care, social security – will diminish
  • The gap between wealth and poverty will continue to climb
  • People in the U.S. and around the world will face greater insecurity
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies where she directs the New Internationalism project. Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer and more recently Ending the Iraq War: A Primer.

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