(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES – On Nov. 17, 1973, President Richard Nixon stared directly into the eyes of his nation, and with all the vigor he could muster, pronounced, “I am not a crook.”
That night, Nixon dug his own grave. History would forever remember him as one of the most infamous liars in American political history.
But this information is news to no one. Even now, 34 years later, anyone who passed the seventh grade knows of that fateful night when the president of the United States lied through his teeth.
Robert Draper’s book, “Dead Certain,” released Sept. 3, profiles the presidency of George W. Bush and includes statements from the president on American policy in Iraq. The New York Times recently cited a statement made by Bush from Draper’s book: During the initial war effort in Iraq, policy was “to keep the [Iraqi] army intact” but that it “didn’t happen.”
In response to Bush’s statements in the book, L. Paul Bremer — the United States’ former top envoy to Iraq — released a series of formerly undisclosed letters to the Times. The letters, dating back to May 2003, state clear intentions on Bush’s behalf to dismantle Saddam Hussein’s army and rebuild it from scratch.
The exchange of letters between Bremer and Bush contradicts our previous conception that Bush had wanted to keep the Iraqi army together and reveals that Bremer had aimed to dismantle the Iraqi army from the beginning.
Quite simply, our president, the man we elected to represent the United States, lied to us.
While evasion and blame deflection could possibly, and will probably, ensue in the days to come as a result of these letters, the unavoidable fact will remain that President Bush knowingly made completely false statements to the American public. Not since the days of Nixon has a president shown such blatant disrespect and disregard for his people.
Certainly, other presidents have uttered untruths between the early 1970s and the present day. After all, who could forget the Southern Democrat who “did not have sexual relations with that woman?”
But Bill Clinton’s lie, while incriminating and a bit scandalous, was whiter than the hair on his head.
The politically inconsequential nature of Clinton’s lie, however, did not prevent his opposition from immediately lashing out against him. Angry Republicans in Washington and elsewhere took the national stage with confidence and charisma, demanding impeachment and worse.
But what has happened to our ability to hold accountable the people who represent us?
Unlike Clinton’s fib, Bush’s is anything but inconsequential. His misleading comments about the administration’s intentions in Iraq have helped perpetuate a distorted public image of America’s military efforts in the Middle East.
According to the Times, “the dismantling of the Iraqi army in the aftermath of the American invasion is now widely regarded as a mistake that stoked rebellion among hundreds of thousands of former Iraqi soldiers and made it more difficult to reduce sectarian bloodshed and attacks by insurgents.”
Because of Bush’s dishonesty, millions of Americans have been misled for four years and have reconciled with a mistake of catastrophic proportions.
Many political analysts have pointed out that impeaching our president at this stage of the game would be more trouble than it is worth. In all likelihood, the process would become complex and messy, and it would surely linger on long after Bush’s departure date.
Perhaps these analysts are correct. But let us not forget that Bill Clinton was impeached in December 1998, less than two years before departing office. The House that impeached Clinton could not possibly have considered impeachment to be the simplest or most practical solution.
This, however, is not to say that impeaching Bush is the answer. Clearly, there was a time in our nation’s history when people strongly believed in a principle: holding leaders accountable for their actions.
We have a responsibility to the people who will, one day, read about this time in American political history. They will sit in their history classes, learning and discussing what we did when our president lied to us.
For their sake and for ours, lets hope this marathon of a presidency has not yet made our country too tired to use its voice.