In one of the most quoted and remarked upon moments of his scrambled-together press conference on Monday, Bush said that not only did Iraq have nothing (NOTHING!) to do with the attacks on 9/11, but that no one in his administration had ever suggested such a connection (emphasis added):
Q Quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?
THE PRESIDENT: I square it because, imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would -- who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East.
Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was -- the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question -- my answer to your question is, is that, imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.
You know, I've heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of "we're going to stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.
Q What did Iraq have to do with that?
THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?
Q The attack on the World Trade Center?
THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective. I have made that case. . . .
Now, the question is how do we succeed in Iraq? And you don't succeed by leaving before the mission is complete, like some in this political process are suggesting.
How do you complete a constantly changing mission? Bush just said--on the record--that we were wrong about the WMD. That Saddam had NOTHING to do with 9/11 (though an incredible number of Americans still believe that--any guesses why?). So what is the mission now? Spreading democracy? Is that only until the Iraqi people elect someone we don't like? Because it sometimes seems as though we only support democratically elected governments when they toe the Washington line. And in a free and fair election in our own country, our vice president insinuates that those who voted against Joe Lieberman were somehow advancing the terrorist agenda. Pathetic. But Bush says:
I will never question the patriotism of somebody who disagrees with me. This has nothing to do with patriotism; it has everything to do with understanding the world in which we live. . . .
So is it not a lie if you get the Vice President to do the questioning?
Note to those keeping track of words added to the English language by GWB:
Maybe he'll turn out to be our very own Shakespeare after all!