But They're There
When I was a young child, my father used to tease me about leprechauns. He would spin out long and mystifying yarns about the mischievous pranks they would play, and the things one must to do protect oneself from them. He would talk and talk, enjoying my wide-eyed rapt attention, but when I asked, "Daddy, is that really true?" he would smile and say, "Nah, leprechauns are just made- up stories."
Thus reassured that the fairies weren't going to break down my window and spirit me away in the night, I would sigh and relax visibly.
Then, just as he turned out the light, he would turn in the doorway and add, "But they're there," which invariably drove me into paroxysms of outrage. I'm quite certain he derived great pleasure from tormenting me, a time-honoured prerogative of parenthood.
As it turns out, the Bush administration is doing exactly the same thing with the American public; only the leprechauns in this set of fantastic stories conflate Saddam Hussein with the terrorists who attacked America on September 11, 2001. Instead of disorienting unwary travelers and turning cream sour, these fairies establish nefarious links with terrorists and distribute weapons of mass destruction to ‘evildoers’ everywhere.
President Bush and company spent the past year planting seeds of fear by painting horrifying pictures of the terror and destruction America’s enemies could perpetrate, if only we allowed Saddam to give them some of his weapons. The Bush administration’s senior spokespeople stopped just short of saying that Saddam personally sponsored the 9/11, speaking instead about “links” and consistently discussing Iraq and al-Qaeda in the same breath.
Clearly, this was enough to convince the American public, since polls consistently show that a large majority of Americans believe Iraq was implicated in 9/11. Just the possibility of Saddam giving weapons to terrorists, repeated ad nauseum by administration officials, was enough to garner public support for the US invasion of Iraq. Even Congress was willing to give the White House carte blanche to prevent such a disaster from happening.
There was little discussion around longstanding principles of justice, like presentation of evidence and reasonable doubt. There’s just no debating with fear and insecurity.
Now, after the Bush administration’s explicit claims about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction have fallen apart, the same group’s implicit claims about Saddam’s involvement in 9/11 are falling apart, too. In a furious bout of backpedaling, one official after another has come out and admitted that they don't have any actual evidence of Saddam’s complicity.
White House Spokesperson Scott McClellan just announced that, “If you're talking specifically about the September 11th attacks, we never made that claim.” National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice insists, “We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either direction or control of 9/11.” And President George W. Bush admits, “We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with Sept. 11.”
Vice President Dick Cheney, a long-time proponent of alleged Iraq/al-Qaeda links, put a spin on the new party line by noting that the government can neither confirm nor deny claims of a link – which is his misleading way of saying there’s no evidence. “We just don’t know,” he says, leaving open the appearance of conflicting evidence rather than the absence of evidence.
And so, after the long, dark story of Saddam’s crimes has unfolded, the Bush administration admits that its leprechauns, like my father’s, are just made-up stories.
Finally, as they stand silhouetted in the doorway after tucking us in, giving us a kiss goodnight and a fresh glass of water, the Bush administration officials spring their final trap, conflating terrorists and the Middle East, conflating everyone that the US considers an enemy into a big, shadowy miasma of danger – or an Axis of Evil, if you prefer.
Dick Cheney maintains that “there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda” throughout the 1990s, which “involved training” on chemical and biological weapons. George W. Bush flatly states, “There's no question that Saddam Hussein had Al Qaeda ties.” Condoleeza Rice recalls the leprechauns through a form of guilt by proximity, when she warns that Saddam “was a threat in this region ... a region from which the 9/11 threat emerged.”
So there aren't really any leprechauns...but they're there!
And like my childhood experience, the public lies awake late long into the night, wondering where and how the imps will strike next.
September 18, 2003