We have two competing narratives of the Bush administration out there. We have the court stenographer, Bob Woodward, and we have the dissident chronicler, Ron Suskind. His book, "The One Percent Doctrine," really is a must-read. Two things in particular stuck out for me. Suskind has CIA sources saying that, as part of the torture devised by Bush and Rumsfeld for Khalid Sheik Muhammed, they threatened to harm his wife and children if he did not talk. KSM told the interrogators to go ahead and kill his family, if necessary. I find it telling that the president, in this instance, became the moral equivalent of a mafia boss, committing what is clearly a violation of the Geneva Conventions, even if his motives were good ones. KSM is a disgusting, evil, Jihadist mass murderer. But he gave up no useful intelligence under this sort of tactic and succeeded in reducing the president of the United States to an evil thug, threatening violence against innocent children. One recalls the following exchange between John Yoo and Doug Cassel at Notre Dame law school:
"Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?
Yoo: No treaty
Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...
Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that..."
Suddenly you see that Yoo's endorsement of evil had real life effect.
The second fascinating and completely convincing narrative is about the remarkable decision of Muammar Ghadafi to give up his entire WMD program. At the time, the president credited it to the psychological impact of the war to depose Saddam. He claimed it scared Ghadafi into compliance. Back in the days when I trusted president Bush's words, I echoed this analysis. It was a lie. I apologize to my readers for echoing it. It turns out Ghadafi had been entrapped by careful intelligence work long before the Iraq war was launched. The timing of the announcement was choreographed coincidence.
In the last few years, I have gone from lionizing this president's courage and fortitude to being dismayed at his incompetence and now to being resigned to mistrusting every word he speaks. I have never hated him. But now I can see, at least, that he is a liar on some of the gravest issues before the country. He doesn't trust us with the truth. Some lies, to be sure, are inevitable - even necessary - in wartime. But when you're lying not to keep the enemy off-balance, but to maximize your own political fortunes at home, you forfeit the respect of people who would otherwise support you - and the important battle you have been tasked to wage.