Saturday, July 03, 2004
While the president is here, we wish he would give people some honest answers to disturbing questions hanging over the White House. If his Charleston [West Virginia] appearance were a news conference, we would put these inquiries to him:
Q: Why, really, did you start the Iraq war? Despite your claims, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, wasn’t in bed with terrorists, and its people weren’t eager to welcome U.S. troops as liberators. So why did you order the attack? Was it to gain control over Iraq’s oil? Was it to finish your father’s old vendetta with Saddam Hussein? Was it to protect Israel? Was it because you think you are serving God as a fighter against “evil”? Was it for all these motives combined?
Q: Why do you want more trillion-dollar tax giveaways to the rich, while the federal government is drowning in debt under your administration? U.S. deficits had been eliminated under President Clinton, but now they have soared to horrifying levels that pushed the national debt past $7 trillion. So why are you demanding more tax cuts for the wealthy?
Q: Why do you offer little help for the 44 million “working poor” Americans who lack medical insurance — or the 2 million who have lost jobs during your tenure — and others most in need of aid?
Many more questions could be addressed to the visiting president. But he hasn’t answered them in Washington, so it’s unlikely that he would do so in Charleston.
Friday, July 02, 2004
Nothing drove this home more than those seven clueless minutes shown in Fahrenheit. Conservatives try to say that Bush was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. Their argument goes something like “If the President had acted, Michael Moore would have shown that in a negative light.” Sorry; that dog won’t hunt! The President didn’t have to do anything special – just leave. I don’t believe myself qualified to be President, but I am smart enough to know that if I were, and my country was under attack, the last place I needed to be is in a classroom full of children reading “My Pet Goat”. The President could have quietly excused himself without causing a panic – he’s the President of the United States, I think the teacher would have understood - even with minimal explanation.
There was also a secondary concern. We were under attack. Presumably, the President may have been a target. My wife, being a schoolteacher, thought: “Isn’t he endangering the children by staying there?” Obviously no planes crashed in Florida that day, but this is a valid argument. For the possible safety of all the children, not just those in the classroom, he should have removed himself from the premises.
The reason Bush did nothing for those seven minutes is because he really had no idea as to what to do next; nobody was there to guide him along. He didn’t have Karl Rove or “Tricky” Dick Cheney to advise him to stand up, excuse himself, and get airborne. That would have been presidential. Can anyone think of any other president who would have sat there clueless for seven minutes? Not Clinton, not the first President Bush, not Reagan. If Al Gore had been president, he would have understood that he needed to be leading the country. Hell, I’ll bet even Steve Forbes would have known to get out of the chair and pull himself away from the riveting story of a boy and his goat because he had more important things to attend to.
Bush simply isn't qualified for the job. End of story.
The stealth handover seemed to symbolize the entire back-and-forth manner with which the United States has governed Iraq. At first it was going to be retired General Jay Garner as proconsul. But then, after only a month on the job, in came Paul Bremer. At first there was going to be a permanent constitution and general elections before the handover of sovereignty. But then the administration said sovereignty first followed by a constitution and elections.
One of Bremer's first acts was to disband the Iraqi army, putting 200,000 men out of work without pensions and unable to support their families. But then, after the damage was done, the United States changed its mind and began paying pensions and trying to reconstitute the army.
At first the Marines were going to root out those who had killed and mutilated four American contractors in Fallujah. Then that manhunt was abandoned and Fallujah turned over to a former general in Saddam Hussein's army.
At first Moqtada al-Sadr was going to be killed or captured. Then that was dropped and al-Sadr was left at large. At first it was going to be de-Ba'athification. Then it was re-Ba'athification, and on and on. And the Bush administration accuses John Kerry of flip-flops.
Indeed the entire history of Bush's intervention in Iraq became a series of fallback positions. When weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's connections with Al Qaeda turned out to be bogus, it was human rights that the administration turned to for justification; an irony for right-wingers who despise using military force for social engineering as something Democrats do.
But remember, it's John Kerry who is the flip-flopper. Again. John Kerry is a flip-flopper. Got it?
After my book, The Lies Of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception was published last year, two Timesfolk - James Traub and Matt Bai - wrote articles tut-tutting about writers such as myself, Al Franken and Joe Conason who dared to tag Bush a liar. In these articles, they pointed to my book as evidence of the further decline in political discourse. But they devoted little attention to evaluating the case I make against Bush. Now, just as the expanded paperback edition has been released, Times columnist Nicholas Kristof yesterday took a similar swing at me and others who have questioned Bush's integrity.
My book does not limit the indictment of Bush to only his prewar assertions about Iraq. Bush said he would not deploy an antiballistic missile system unless it worked. But that is precisely what he is doing - according to the Pentagon's own testing office. In promoting his supersized tax cuts during the 2000 campaign, he claimed, "The vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum." By any analysis of the numbers, that was a false statement. When he announced in 2001 his decision to ban federal funding for research using new lines of stem cells, he said that 60 stem cell lines were already available and that these lines could support an effective research program. But biotech experts immediately declared there were closer to ten existing lines, which was not nearly enough to support major research. Yet the Bush administration kept insisting 60 or more lines were available. Three years later, Bush and his aides (and even his wife) continue to maintain there are enough stem cell lines for federally-funded researchers. The wide-ranging consensus among experts in the field is that Bush is not telling the truth.
Can all of these statements - and many others - be dismissed only as hyperbole? Repeatedly, Bush has issued untrue assertions to persuade Americans to think something that is not true. That is deception.
[Also check out this further commentary on the Kristof column.]
Thursday, July 01, 2004
No nation on earth has more ignored the values from which it was birthed than America under the Bush administration. The result is the greatest gap between rich and poor in human history, achieved by a nation birthed from the values of honesty, human rights, fairness and equality in the eyes of God. The result is the overt emergence of class warfare.
If Americans were the stupidest people on the planet, then America would be in a good deal of trouble. Fortunately, self-imposed ignorance, as a state of mind, can be overcome very quickly in the face of honest information placed in historical context. Ignorance is only employed for convenience's sake or survival's sake in feigning allegiance to the powers that be. It is oftentimes only part of being loyal and obedient in the interest of maintaining personal employment.
[Michael] Moore's documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," goes a long way toward the elimination of self-imposed ignorance. Not being stupid but misled, the American people have been falling away from the Bush administration on their own volition. In "Fahrenheit 9/11," Moore places all the dubious actions of the Bush administration into chronological and historical context to provide a story from which the people can ascertain the despotic nature and direction of it all. In doing so, Moore's efforts clearly come from a higher source than that relied upon by the Bush administration.
More worrisome than the state of mind of the American people is the state of mind of the Bush administration and its religious capitalistic followers, who continue to abide deceit and coercion, who continue to abide the Bush administration's religious folly and its resulting domestic and international failures.
Psychosis can be defined as thoughts, words and actions that are devoid of reason. With this criterion, the Bush administration is the most psychotic administration in American history. Every issue is politicized and defined with spin, no issue is discussed openly with reference to empirical fact and historical or cultural context, every issue is decided on the basis of religious faith, i.e., you are with us or you are against America. This is religious self-righteousness personified.
The guys in brown shirts or white sheets are digital now, but their message is the same.
Flat Earthers tingle the airwaves. The Rapture Rules! To be 'Liberal' is to be worse than a traitor. To even ask why our troops are dying is considered treason by some. They don't believe the 'Elite Media.' Neocon hatespeak can work some strange magic. Thanks to their efforts to stifle his film "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore is quickly becoming a multi-millionaire. Nothing makes Americans crave something more than pious people telling them it's evil.
The tone of the debate is sinking fast. Despite all the flag waving and Jesus talk, the best Mr. Cheney could do on the Senate floor this week was to use a four letter word to defend his failed policy. The Bush folks are currently stonewalling growing investigations of Abu Ghraib, CIA Leaks, 9/11 blunders, missing WMD, Halliburton, and lest we forget, Ken Lay still has your money. The Supreme Court bought Mr. Cheney some time before his Energy secrets come out, but alas, it had to admit even terror detainees do have rights. The resulting litigation will outlive us all.
What happened in Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force?
The secrets are still safe because the U.S. Supreme Court punted on a case important not just to Californians, but also to anyone concerned about open government.
The court declined to rule on whether the vice president's task force should have to disclose documents to the public, including proceedings of meetings with Enron and other energy industry executives. The court kicked this case to the lower courts for a decision, conveniently assuring this three-year battle will drag on beyond the November election.
California's 2001 energy crisis was a primary topic of task force meetings. Yet, in the end, the task force declined to address the problem. What happened? We know then-Chairman Ken Lay of Enron met one-on-one with the vice president. We know that Cheney or members of his staff met several times with Enron executives during discussions held by the task force.
Inquiring minds want to know whether Enron urged a "hands-off" policy in California and the West at a time California officials were pleading with the Bush administration for relief and asking for investigations of energy companies allegedly manipulating California's energy market.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
When will Fredericksburg get "Fahrenheit 9/11"? Certain really hot places will get snowballs first, say some.
Russ Nunley, marketing director for Regal Cinemas, claims the decision not to bring Michael Moore's film here is based on profits, not politics ["'Fahrenheit' too hot here?" June 26].
"Documentaries are usually shown at art houses," Nunley says. Remember, even Moore's Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine" grossed only $21.6 million.
"Fahrenheit 9/11," however, surpassed that on its opening weekend. It also outperformed, with fewer than a third of the screens of its nearest competitor, every film in the country.
Certain Republicans, such as John Goolrick, aide to 1st District Rep. Jo Ann Davis, a Republican, suggest the views of a "sleazebag, far-out left winger" would be ignored in a predominantly conservative area.
"This is not a serious work," Goolrick insists (adding that he has not and will not see it), "but a film that twists the truth by a despicable, well-known liar." The man's froth practically flecks off the page.
Personally, I think Goolrick and his pals are missing an opportunity. Go see "Fahrenheit." In droves. Talk politics loudly in line. Yell at the screen. (That's what the liberals are doing.) Make it a midnight movie craze, like "Rocky Horror Picture Show." "Anyone wanna say, 'Nice shot'?" President George W. Bush prompts repeatedly. "Nice shot, Mr. President!"
What a great idea! How would something like this get started?
A CNN/Gallup poll found six out of 10 people believed that Monday's hasty handover - at a moment when Iraq remained so perilous - was a sign of failure. Just a third regarded it as a sign of success.
Major questions still remain about Bush's handling of the war, challenging his image of straight-dealing and plain talking.
Of those polled by the New York Times and CBS, 59 percent said Bush was hiding something in his public statements on Iraq, compared to 18 percent who thought he was telling the full truth.
A further 20 percent considered the president was "mostly lying".
The Bush administration is spending tens of billions of dollars to “fight terrorism,” but what we are doing will only increase the problem.
We continue to tilt our foreign policy toward the hard-liners in Israel at the expense of the Palestinians and ignore their land grabs and blatant defiance of U.N. resolutions.
We have insulted our long-standing allies and adopted an arrogant go-it-alone foreign policy. We blew off the United Nations as irrelevant.
We conducted a pre-emptive war against Iraq on false premises. Thousands of civilians were killed in an effort to “save them for democracy,” then written off as “collateral damage.”
We have brutalized and humiliated prisoners with aggressive interrogation techniques that we are learning now came with approval high in the ranks.
This administration spends more on our military than the next 25 countries combined. Meanwhile, the State Department and non-military foreign aid receive relatively few resources for the kinds of programs that might address root causes of conflict and prevent crises: diplomatic efforts, refugee programs, development assistance, humanitarian relief, international arms control, international peacekeeping and foreign exchange activities. We are putting our children’s future in debt trying to build a defensive wall around ourselves at the same time we make it easier for the terrorists to recruit new followers.
That is not the future I want to leave my children.
This guy really nailed it.
But by analogy, if a charity was able to arrange an appointment with a large corporation or foundation in an attempt to get a contribution but then ultimately got rejected in its solicitation, the Bush administration's logic would conclude that the charity and the corporation had established a philanthropic relationship. A similar outcome apparently occurred between Al Qaeda and the Iraqis. According to the commission, Osama bin Laden requested a haven for his training camps and help in buying weapons, but the Iraqis apparently never responded. That doesn't sound like much of a relationship.
All of the Bush administration's quibbling about the definition of the word "relationship" is as ridiculous as President Clinton's hair-splitting over the definition of the word "is" during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. When a president's justification for actions taken hinges on the definition of a single word, that usually spells trouble.
If mere meetings between functionaries are sinister, then U.S. envoy Donald Rumsfeld's friendly meeting in the early 1980s with Saddam Hussein, just after Saddam had used poison gas against the Iranians, may take the prize.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Many see Bush’s bedrock fault as a lack of honesty. Clearly, he has not been forthright with us about his motivation for war, his devotion to the environment, the purpose of his tax cuts, or his respect for women, blacks, gays, and the poor. In each of these, he has made proclamations -- my clear skies initiative will let us all breathe easier -- but then followed with policies that produced the opposite: increased pollution from power plants, increased arsenic in water, increased mercury in the air, inadequate testing for mad cow disease. This lack of trust is also indicated in the most recent poll.
For three years, most Americans rated Bush very high for honesty, as if they were blind to the disconnect between what he said and what he did. But that percentage is falling, from a high of 70% to the current 52%. No doubt the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq played a crucial part in this, as did his administration’s stonewalling of the abu Ghraib torture scandal. Perhaps, too, Dick Cheney’s continued claims about Iraq’s weapons are beginning to be seen as an intentional distortion, along with his refusal to release the names of those who formulated his administration’s energy policy.
One thing that helps to explain American’s tenacious belief in George Bush’s honesty is his very public displays of religion. In spite of abusive priests, scandalous television evangelists, and obvious attempts by various religious groups to alter the next election, many of us believe that openly religious people are more honest, that anyone who wears his religion on his sleeve must certainly have internalized the teachings of their church. And we know that George Bush is religious: religion reportedly saved him from alcohol and drugs. He apparently believes that he speaks to God, getting advice from Him rather than George Sr.
When I was young, I believed that people who were super religious were somehow better than the rest of us. With the passing of the years I came to realize that they were actually about the same. Now, I finally see that they are much, much worse, and dangerous to boot. And that goes whether they are Christian or Muslim, or anything else.
The outing of Valerie Plame in the column of Robert Novak has now led to the resignation of Jim Plavitt from the CIA. Mr. Plavitt was Valerie Plame’s superior. His work has been devastated by this catastrophic security leak, and he has apparently chosen to resign as a result. The announcement of his retirement is the tip of an iceberg of national disaster.
Don’t believe for a moment the rantings of lying radio hosts about this case. Valerie Plame was no small fish. The revelation of her name is, in fact, the most serious intelligence disaster in the history of this country. Only a tiny number of high officials, such as the president, the secretaries of state and defense, and a few high White House officials even have access to the names of the CIA’s NOC “non-official cover” officers. These are seemingly private individuals who are actually key CIA personnel, whose clandestine activities are run via carefully designed covers, companies that are legitimate from top to bottom and are not in any way thought to be CIA-associated, and have survived years of scrutiny from foreign intelligence operations, and are believed by even the best of them to be entirely non-CIA connected.
The names on the NOC list are among the greatest secrets possessed by our country, and the leaking of this particular name at this particular time could well be the single most traitorous act in our history, because it has blinded us to the actions of Iran as they are in the process of acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.
The President has retained the services of a criminal lawyer, Jim Sharp, to represent him before the grand jury.
The Washington rumor mill also has it that he’s done this because he knew the source of the leak and may have violated the law by not informing the FBI. The rumor mill also has it that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney may be indicted in the matter.
I live for the morning I step onto my front porch and find a newspaper with the headline Cheney Indicted. It's getting closer every day.
The film shows in stunning clarity that Bush was completely dumbfounded when informed that the planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. He continued to sit for seven minutes before leaving the classroom.
Although Moore goes to the edge in some instances, the film raises questions that members of the administration will never answer: Why did they wait so long before going into Afghanistan when they knew the Taliban was harboring Osama bin Laden? Was the sending of troops connected to the building of a pipeline that would create huge profits for Bush's friends?
What is the connection of the Bush family and the Carlyle Group to the House of Saud? How is it that the Saud family owns almost one trillion dollars worth of America? What effect does this money have on our nation and its leadership? Why are the 28 pages of the congressional report on 9/11 edited? What is in there that citizens ought to know? The film raises serious questions about many subjects, foremost of which is the Saudi nexus.
The men and women soldiers dying and being maimed in the Middle East are largely representative of the working classes. Why is there no investigation of recruiting methods in poor and underemployed neighborhoods?
The broadcast and cable media have fallen down on their responsibility to challenge this administration. They have too often supported the war in Iraq, even when confronted with evidence that there was no imminent threat. We need an exhaustive evaluation of this sordid episode in American history. And we need films such as "Fahrenheit 9/11."
White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales assembled reporters in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building last week for what has become an administration ritual: disavowing the conclusions of official documents.
Administration memos - some of which appeared to sanction torture of prisoners - were "unnecessary, over-broad discussions" and "not relied upon" by policymakers, Gonzales said. "In reality, they do not reflect the policies that the administration ultimately adopted."
A week earlier, it was Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's turn to step away from an official document, this one State's "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report, which showed the number of terrorist incidents worldwide falling to the lowest level in more than three decades. "Unfortunately, the data that is within the report, the actual numbers of incidents, is off, it's wrong," Powell said. "And I am regretful that this has happened." A revised report showed that 625 people died in terrorist attacks in 2003, not 307 as first reported.
Before that, the administration publicly disavowed - or at least tiptoed away from - a budget memo calling for spending cuts next year, unrealistically upbeat reports about job growth, Medicare prescription costs and minority health care, and optimistic assumptions in a proposed regulation governing mercury emissions.
Democrats say this is no accident. "It's either political manipulation or incompetence," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a former top aide to President Bill Clinton. "I know it's not incompetence." Emanuel, with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), alleges "a rampant pattern of crafting government reports to match the administration's political objectives."
Well, part of it could still be incompetence.
Since the vice president's influence is already embedded in the administration through his numerous friends appointed to high positions - including his mentor, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld - Cheney's character and motivations ought to be fair game for the media as the campaign heats up. So should efforts to connect the dots on his unusual ascent.
It began with a move that was, in retrospect, perfectly illustrative of his approach to power: Charged with heading the committee to choose Bush's running mate, Cheney quietly shifted his voter registration from Texas (the presidential nominee's state, and thus ineligible) to Wyoming and appointed himself to the job.
Cheney combined all three. Like a first lady, his stature is unique. Unlike a staff member, he can't be fired. Like Regan, Cheney, a former chief of staff to President Ford, is clearly the chief operating officer of the White House, overshadowing the titular chief, Andrew Card, like an elephant over a mouse. And he's made himself the president's prime policy adviser, supplanting Cabinet chiefs like Secretary of State Colin L. Powell or Attorney General John D. Ashcroft.
As a result, Cheney looms larger than Hillary Rodham Clinton in the '90s, with about a tenth as much scrutiny, even during a campaign. So far, Cheney has stuck to the traditional vice-presidential role of raising funds and tending to the party's base. But he's been anything but a traditional vice president.
And now, with the country completely Cheneyed up, who is to blame?
Monday, June 28, 2004
Q. How do you account for all the glowing obituaries of [former president Reagan]?
A. I think it was a relief for Americans to look at pictures of something besides men on leashes. If you are going to call yourself a Christian - and I don't - then you have to ask yourself a fundamental question, and that is: Whom would Jesus torture? Whom would Jesus drag around on a dog's leash? How can Christians tolerate it? It is unconscionable. It has put our young men and women who are over there, fighting a war that they should not have been asked to fight - it has put them in greater danger.
Q. Did you vote for Bush in the last election?
A. No. I did not.
Q. How did your mother feel about being ushered to her seat by President Bush?
A. Well, he did a better job than Dick Cheney did when he came to the rotunda. I felt so bad. Cheney brought my mother up to the casket, so she could pay her respects. She is in her 80's, and she has glaucoma and has trouble seeing. There were steps, and he left her there. He just stood there, letting her flounder. I don't think he's a mindful human being. That's probably the nicest way I can put it.
I can think of a few other ways to put it, if you need help.
Cheney is the administration's pit bull, and his Halliburton connection is a major sore point for the Bushies. Despite the General Accounting Office's repeated requests for information about who attended a 2001 meeting Cheney headed on energy policy, he has steadfastly refused to turn it over. Americans have the right to know if their country's energy policy is being set by the big oil companies. But Cheney claimed executive privilege.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court seemed to side with the administration on this point, which could only embolden them more. But there've been many other examples of the Bushies going their own way, and saying their critics be damned. Such as the way they keep insisting that certain things are true, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary. So what if a commission of distinguished citizens conducted a thorough investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks and found absolutely no link whatever between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. President George W. Bush and Cheney just keep saying there was one.
Attorney General John Ashcroft is another administration stonewaller. For weeks a Senate committee has been trying to get him to hand over documents that might shed light on whether the administration gave the green light to the torture of war prisoners. But Ashcroft has refused. Yet the documents surfaced anyway, and they're making the Bush administration look bad.
I can't remember a recent White House that was so hostile to Congress, or to any form of criticism or dissent.
I caught a few seconds of Vice President Dick on one of the Sunday shows this week. Someone must have told him to bag his "snarl face", so he wore this macabre, zombie-like "smile". Advice for Dick: go back to the snarl. The smile is even scarier.
As Michael Moore brilliantly captures the nightmarish years we have spent under the Bush occupation government - and it came to power through a judicial/media/political coup, which is where Moore begins "Fahrenheit 9/11," so don't start thinking to yourself that BuzzFlash is exaggerating - he interviews an American soldier wounded in Iraq. The young man recounts his injury and then states matter-of-factly (and we are paraphrasing here) that he is voting against Bush this year because "Basically, the Republicans conduct business in a dishonest way."
And that about sums it up, doesn't it?
Yes, deception and demagoguery are the tools by which the Republican Party have come to rule America - all the time blaming the Democrats and "elite liberals" for all of America's problems, at a time when the Republican Party controls every branch of government.
They couldn't do this, of course, without the mainstream media -- including the news departments of the so-called "liberal media" being on their side. And this includes the Washington Post and the New York Times, even if they write an occasional article revealing the truth about Bush Cartel malfeasance. (The NYT and WP were basically news outlet megaphones for the Republican attempt to impeach Clinton.)
I have noticed that my own local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch (the only newspaper in town), has so far not run a single story about the unprecedented early success of F911. Yet, they publish letters from right-wingnuts every week decrying the paper's "liberal" views. Hogwash!
President Bush's overly cautious policy on stem-cell research shackles scientists and limits hope for many Americans. The United States has always been a leader in pushing the outer limits of scientific research. Science should trump ideology; Bush lets it be the other way around.
The death of former President Ronald Reagan, and Nancy Reagan's poignant plea to loosen rules on stem-cell research to help Alzheimer's' patients, did not change Bush's mind.
In a recent speech to the Southern Baptist Convention, he restated his commitment to an earlier policy that limits federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research to cells already isolated in the lab and grown into stem cell "lines." The policy becomes less defensible every day.
No one knows for certain all that can be helped by stem cells. Scientists believe they hold extraordinary healing powers and may aid everything from brain function impaired by Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to pancreas function limited by diabetes and heart function after a heart attack.
In contrast to Bush, Sen. John Kerry's call to restore the role of scientific advancement more clearly represents the American character. With the endorsement of 48 Nobel Prize laureates, Kerry called for the United States to find the cures of tomorrow.
The article touches on an important point. So many of Bush's policies seem, well, un-American. He doesn't seem to be "one of us". He doesn't appear to care about the values that have made America strong and great. In fact, he wants to unravel everything this country stands for in order to reconstitute it as a sort of giant corporation operating for the benefit of the top 1% - his people.
The occupation of Iraq has increasingly undermined, even discredited, the core tenets of President Bush's foreign policy, according to a wide range of Republican and Democratic analysts and U.S. officials.
In going to war 15 months ago, the president's Iraq policy rested on four broad principles: The United States should act pre-emptively to prevent strikes on U.S. targets; Washington should be willing to act unilaterally, alone or with a select coalition, when the United Nations or allies balk; Iraq was the next cornerstone in the global war on terrorism; and Baghdad's transformation into a new democracy would spark region-wide change.
But these central planks of Bush doctrine have been tainted by spiraling violence, limited reconstruction, failure to find weapons of mass destruction or prove Iraq's ties to al Qaeda, and mounting Arab disillusionment with American leadership.
"Of the four principles, three have failed, and the fourth - democracy promotion - is hanging by a sliver," said Geoffrey Kemp, a National Security Council staff member in the Reagan administration, now director of regional strategic programs at the Nixon Center.
OK, so why are we there?
With smiling allies at his side, United States President George Bush has sailed through June with splashy photo opportunities to answer charges that he follows a lone-man approach to foreign policy that alienates America's friends.
The polls show Bush is unpopular overseas, but the pictures tell another story.
Bush has teamed up with world leaders from D-Day ceremonies in France to the Group of Eight summit to a US-European Union summit in Ireland to the Nato summit in Turkey.
16 of 26 NATO nations are helping in Iraq and Afghanistan
Each click of the shutter captures the president smoothing relations with allies. Some "photo ops" amount to public makeup sessions with friends who have not seen eye-to-eye with Bush on policy in Iraq. But each image can help counter complaints that America has not been served well by Bush's no-nonsense style on the world stage.
Bush says he cares about America's image, but isn't too concerned about his own.
That's funny - he acts as though the opposite were true.