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Pushing his new memoir in an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer which aired Monday, George W. Bush addressed one of the defining episodes of his presidency. Finding no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush claimed, left him feeling "sickened." But in 2004, as you may recall, President Bush found his Iraqi WMD fiasco side-splittingly funny.
In his NBC special, George W. Bush insisted that the absence of weapons of destruction from Saddam's arsenal stick induces feelings of nausea and fury.
LAUER: Your words. "No one was more sickened or angry than I was when we didn't find weapons of mass destruction." You still have a sickening feeling--
BUSH: I do.
LAUER: --When you think about it.
BUSH: I do.
As well it should. After all, President Bush, Condi Rice and others in the administration warned Americans about "the smoking gun that could come in the form of mushroom cloud." With that and other rationales for the Iraq conflict debunked and discredited, the staggering cost in blood (over 4,000 U.S. dead, 30,000 Americans wounded, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties), treasure and diminished U.S. influence is a national catastrophe of epic proportions.
Or, as then President Bush told the 2004 Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner, hilarious.
In that presentation as in so many others, Bush showed his contempt for the truth and the suffering of the American people. His tasteless (and rightly panned) slideshow made light of the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Coming one year and hundreds of American dead and wounded after the invasion of Iraq, President Bush the cut-up hoped to regale the audience with his White House hijinx. As David Corn of The Nation reported:
Bush notes he spends "a lot of time on the phone listening to our European allies." Then we see a photo of him on the phone with a finger in his ear. But at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn't the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. "Nope," he said. "No weapons over there." More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: "Maybe under here." Laughter again.
Whether his Iraq war was side-splitting or stomach-turning, George W. Bush told NBC's Lauer he'd do it all again. As he claimed many times before, Bush insisted, "I mean apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision," adding, "I don't believe it was the wrong decision."
The American people, seeing their military overstretched, Al Qaeda emboldened, Iranian influence enhanced and U.S. prestige deeply damaged, long ago concluded otherwise. That is truly sickening. As for the legacy of George W. Bush, there's nothing funny about it.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)