Bush at Waterloo

Ted Rall On Line

December 26, 2002

NEW YORK–Eleven days after September 11, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell promised to release proof that Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were guilty of planning and executing the attacks on New York and Washington. “We will put before the world, the American people, a persuasive case that there will be no doubt when that case is presented that it is Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, who has been responsible,” Powell told ABC News.

National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, speaking a few channels over, on CNN, echoed Powell’s pledge. “Clearly we do have evidence, historical and otherwise, about the relationship to the Al Qaeda network to what happened on September 11,” Rice said on Sept. 22nd. “We will begin to lay out that evidence and we will do it with friends, allies and the American people and others.”

Afghanistan, along with Pakistan, had hosted Al Qaeda training camps. Al Qaeda, Bush said, had attacked us. So we bombed Afghanistan. The Bush Administration spent the next three months overseeing the dropping of explosives, killing an estimated 10,000 Taliban soldiers and at least 3,500 Afghan civilians. During the year since we installed a puppet ruler, Hamid Karzai, as interim Afghan president, at least 36 American soldiers have lost their lives defending Karzai’s fragile regime.

So where’s Rice’s “evidence, historical and otherwise,” confirming that Al Qaeda carried out 9/11? Where is Powell’s “persuasive case”? The Bushies, as usual, are keeping mum. We, the American people, have yet to see the slightest shred of evidence tying Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Michael Jackson or the Easter Bunny to the attacks.

Fifteen months and still no proof! There are only three logical explanations for Bush’s failure to produce the goods:

Al Qaeda and the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. Possible, but unlikely. Who else would have done it?

What with the war and all, the Bushies simply forgot to write up a report. Impossible. If proof existed, the Administration would have released it to make people like me shut up.

The evidence is circumstantial at best. Now we’re talking. More likely than not, American intelligence strongly suspects bin Laden et al. but can’t prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Police detectives are repeatedly frustrated by this dilemma. What do you do when you know in your gut that a suspect is guilty, but you don’t have enough evidence to press charges? The answer is painfully obvious: you let the bastard walk. In a society based on law, evidence must be sufficiently compelling in order to charge a defendant, much less convict him. To settle for less is to sacrifice the essential principle of our nation which holds that everyone–even radical Islamists–is presumed innocent.

George W. Bush, an unscrupulous man whose arrogant contempt for the law elevated him to the White House, despises basic American values. He acted as Afghanistan’s judge, jury and executioner–without even possessing sufficient proof to charge bin Laden in an American court.

Now, however, Bush is paying a price for the decision not to lay his cards on the table regarding Afghanistan. While 90 percent of voters say they don’t doubt that Saddam Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction, 72 percent told a Los Angeles Times poll on Dec. 15 that Bush has not yet provided enough evidence to justify starting a war against Iraq. This figure clearly includes many Republicans who otherwise support Bush’s policies.

Most Americans have a gut feeling that Iraq has WMDs. But they don’t think a gut feeling is sufficient cause to go to war.

Here we go again. Does the U.S. really possess proof, as it claims, that Saddam is up to no good? Or does it merely suspect–in other words, have a gut feeling–that Iraqi scientists are cooking up smallpox bombs hundreds of feet beneath the desert? The American people aren’t being allowed to see the evidence excusing the bloody war about to be waged in their name. Nor are the prospective allies whose help–and young men–we are requesting. “To say that we know but we won’t tell you is not very persuasive,” Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, said. “It’s not a poker game where you call your cards and call the other’s bluff.”

Incredibly, Bush even resisted turning over intelligence data on Iraqi weapons to the U.N., information might help inspectors prove that Saddam was violating the 1991 ceasefire agreement.

Approval ratings for an American war on Iraq are slipping. Unless he coughs up definitive proof of Iraqi wrongdoing or calls off the whole thing, this latest oil-driven military misadventure may become Bush’s political Waterloo.

(Ted Rall is editor of “Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists,” an anthology of cartoons, ephemera and interviews with 21 of America’s best editorial cartoonists. Ordering and review-copy information are available at nbmpub.com.)

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