Why do so many Americans still support George W. Bush after all those damning revelations about Iraq? That's the question I'm invariably asked when abroad.
Former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, in his superb, must-read new book, Where the Right Went Wrong, provides some answers.
"In 2003," he writes, "the U.S. invaded a country that did not threaten us, had not attacked us and did not want war with us, to disarm it of weapons we have since discovered it did not have."
White House assurances that U.S. troops would be greeted in Iraq with flowers were as laughable as its pledges Mideast peace and democracy would ensue.
Chief U.S. arms inspector Charles Duelfer's recent, 960-page report contradicted almost every Bush administration prewar claim about Iraq, which were used to justify an illegal war that has killed 20,000 Iraqis and more than 1,000 Americans, caused 14,000 U.S. casualties and will soon have cost $200 billion US -- when Washington can't even supply flu vaccine.
No administration official has accepted blame for this needless conflict, lying to Congress and the public, blundering into a no-win war, condoning torture, and provoking worldwide disgust at the once admired United States.
Either the self-proclaimed "war president" and his men committed the worst set of blunders overseas since Vietnam, or they lied the nation into an imperial war to grab oil and boost Israel's fortunes.
Republicans don't care. Amazingly, a recent CNN/USA Today poll showed 62% of Republicans still believe Iraq was behind 9/11. This is after a flood of contrary evidence and Duelfer's report.
How can Republicans remain so blinkered? Part of the fault lies with the sycophantic national media, which collaborated with the Bush administration in whipping up war fever. The media still are not telling people the truth about Iraq, Afghanistan, or the so-called war on terrorism.
The media utterly failed to remind Americans that Bush, who loves to play war leader, actually claimed Iraqi drone aircraft were poised to fly off ships in the North Atlantic and bombard America with germs. Bush should have been laughed out of office for believing and promoting this comic-book nonsense.
Many Republicans simply don't see what the rest of the world does. So what if Iraq was no threat? Don't bother these golf club Rambos with details. They're delighted to see the U.S. pounding Arabs in revenge for 9/11.
Bush's core Republican support lies in the suburbs and Bible-belt rural areas, where many people rely on TV sound bites for their world view, and have little understanding of history, geography or foreign affairs. This is the new "dumbed-down Republicans Party," fertile ground for nationalist hysteria, religious extremism, and anti-foreign xenophobia.
Buchanan identifies the real secret of the Republican Party's current success: "Cut taxes and don't let the Democrats outspend us."
No matter that Bush's policies have created millions of jobs in China instead of the U.S., or that he turned a $236-billion US surplus into a $521-billion deficit. His tax cuts and spending win elections.
As the real president, v-p Dick Cheney, observed to a horrified U.S. Treasurer Paul O'Neill, "deficits don't matter." This kind of liberal-left Democrat economic voodoo used to be anathema to Republicans.
Today, there's no real conservative party left in Washington, says Buchanan. Only in tax-cutting do Republicans still hew to their principles. Otherwise, they are just like the wildest-spending liberal Democrats.
"Historically, Republicans have been the party of conservative virtues -- balanced budgets, healthy skepticism towards foreign wars, fierce resistance to the growth of government power.
"No more," Buchanan says. "To win and hold office, many have sold their souls to the very devil they were baptized to do battle with."
As for Bush's vow to wage unceasing war on America's enemies around the globe, Buchanan quotes President James Madison: "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it compromises and develops the germ of every other. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
© Toronto Sun