‘Emperor’ Bush has no clothes: a post-Iraq-invasion


By By Kaleem Omar

Let me first of all say that it is an open question whether US President George W. Bush has ever heard of the nineteenth-century Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, who, in 1837, wrote a wonderful fairy tale which he titled “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Even if he has heard of him, he probably thinks Anderson’s middle name ‘Christian’ means that he is a member of America’s “Moral Majority” – an evangelical group that was among Bush’s staunchest supporters in the 2000 and 2004 US presidential campaigns. Today, however, with the chaos in US-occupied Iraq showing no sign of decreasing, even many members of the Moral Majority seem to have turned against Bush.

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a story about a ruler of a distant land who was so enamoured of his appearance and his clothing that he had a different suit for every hour of the day.

One day two rogues arrived in town, claiming to be gifted weavers. They convinced the Emperor that they could weave the most wonderful cloth, which had a magical property. The weavers said the clothes were only visible to those who were completely pure in heart and spirit.

The Emperor was so impressed that he ordered the weavers to begin work immediately. The rogues, who had a deep understanding of human nature, began to feign work on empty looms.

Minister after minister went to view the new clothes and all came back raving about the beauty of the cloth on the looms even though none of them could see a thing.

Finally a grand procession was planned for the Emperor to display his new finery. The Emperor went to view his clothes and was shocked to see absolutely nothing, but he pretended to admire the fabulous cloth, inspect the clothes with awe, and, after disrobing, go through the motions of carefully putting on a suit of the new garments.

Under a royal canopy the Emperor appeared to the admiring throng of his people – all of whom cheered and clapped because they all knew the rogue weavers’ tale and did not want to seem less than pure of heart.

But the bubble burst when an innocent child exclaimed, for the whole kingdom to hear, that the Emperor had nothing on at all. He had no clothes. Hence, the expression: “The Emperor has no clothes!”

Well, now there is a new version of the tale. It comes to us courtesy of US Senator Robert Byrd, who, speaking in the Senate on October 17, 2003, said that Andersen’s tale seemed to him very like the way the United States went to war against Iraq.

Byrd said: “We were told that we were threatened by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they have not been seen. We were told that the throngs of Iraqis would welcome our troops with flowers, but no throngs or flowers appeared. We were told to believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but no evidence has ever been produced.”

Byrd added: “We were told in 16 words that Saddam Hussein tried to buy ‘yellow cake’ (uranium) from Africa for production of nuclear weapons, but the story has turned into empty air. We were frightened with visions of mushroom clouds, but they turned out to be only vapours of the mind. We were told (by President George W. Bush on May 1) that major combat was over, but 101 (as of October 17) Americans have died of combat since that proclamation from the deck of an aircraft carrier by our very own Emperor in his new clothes. Our Emperor says that we are not occupiers, yet we show no inclination to relinquish the country of Iraq to its people.”

Byrd said that those who have dared to expose the nakedness of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq have been subjected to scorn. He said: “Those who have noticed the elephant in the room – that is, the fact that this war was based on falsehoods – have had our patriotism questioned. Those who have spoken aloud the thought shared by hundreds of thousands of military families across this country, that our troops should return quickly and safely from the dangers half a world away, have been accused of cowardice. We have then seen the untruths, the dissembling, the fabrication, the misleading inferences surrounding this rush to war in Iraq wrapped quickly in the flag.”

Byrd said that the right to ask questions, debate, and dissent was under attack. “The drums of war are beaten ever louder in an attempt to drown out those who speak of our predicament in stark terms,” he said.

“Even in the Senate, our history and tradition of being the world’s greatest deliberative body is being snubbed,” he said. “This huge spending bill (to authorise $ 67 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next one year and $ 21 billion for the so-called ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq) has been rushed through this chamber in just one month. There were just three open hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee on $ 87 billion, without a single outside witness being called to challenge the administration’s line.”

In fact, Paul Bremer, the then-US proconsul in Iraq, went so far as to refuse to return to the Appropriations Committee to answer questions because, in Bremer’s own words, “I don’t have time. I’m completely booked, and I have to get back to Baghdad to my duties.”

Lambasting his fellow senators for their pusillanimity, Byrd said: “Despite this callous stiff-arm of the Senate and its duties to ask questions in order to represent the American people, few dared to voice their opposition to rushing this bill through these halls of Congress. Perhaps they were intimidated by the false claims that our troops are in immediate need of more funds.”

But the time has come, Byrd thundered, “for the sheep-like political correctness which has cowed members of this Senate to come to and end.” Byrd’s remarks apply equally to the members of the House of Representatives, who also approved the spending bill with hardly any debate.

“The Emperor has no clothes,” he said. “This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation. Eighty-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoods.” (In the four years since Byrd’s speech, the cost of the war in Iraq has soared to over $ 500 billion and counting.)

Byrd said that taking the nation to war based on misleading rhetoric and hyped intelligence was a travesty and a tragedy. “It is the most cynical of all cynical acts,” he said. “It is dangerous to manipulate the truth. It is dangerous because once having lied, it is difficult to ever be believed again. Having misled the American people and stampeded them to war, this administration must now attempt to sustain a policy predicated on falsehoods. The President asks for billions from these same citizens who know that they were misled about the need to go to war. We misinformed and insulted our friends and allies and now this administration is having more than a little trouble getting help from the international community. It is perilous to mislead.”

While Byrd was right on the mark in saying all this, he failed to point out that, if the American people were misled and stampeded into war by the Bush administration, it was because they are a gullible people and tend to believe whatever their government tells them when it comes to foreign policy, no matter how far-fetched the government’s claims may be.

The rest of the world, however, was not misled even for a single minute by the Bush administration’s claims, as evidenced by the fact that millions of people in countries around the world opposed the war. They knew only too well that, contrary to the Bush administration’s claims, Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction and posed no threat whatsoever to the mighty United States. If there were any WMD involved, it was the weapons of mass deception invented by the Bush administration to justify its rush to war.

I do not say this in hindsight. I had pointed out in a series of articles published in The News months before the war that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction because any such weapons it may have once possessed were destroyed by UN weapons inspectors back in the mid-1990s. In those articles, I had also pointed out that there was no evidence linking Iraq to the 9/11 attacks and that Iraq posed no threat to the US or its allies.

Byrd said: “The single-minded obsession of this administration to now make sense of the chaos in Iraq, and the continuing propaganda which emanates from the White House painting Iraq as the geographical centre of terrorism is distracting our attention from Afghanistan and the ’60 other countries’ in the world where terrorists hide.”

Actually, even this figure of “60 other countries” is one that was first put out by the Bush administration in September 2001 without producing any evidence to back it up.