Saturday, May 1, marks the one-year anniversary of George W. Bush's landing on an aircraft carrier, in full flight suit, and declaring an end to "major combat operations" in Iraq as a banner reading "Mission Accomplished" fluttered behind him. In that year we've learned two things: The dire predictions about postwar Iraq so readily dismissed by the Bushies were dead on, and the fearsome weapons of mass destruction used to justify the war don't exist.
So those opposed to this war before it began have reason to gloat, but that doesn't feel right when 18- and 19-year-kids are dying for a cause sold on false pretenses. Those 700-plus soldiers didn't die defending their country; they died to advance an ambitious foreign policy that makes the Middle East, and the world, more susceptible to terrorism. So why, then, did we do it?
I for one never bought the arguments that the war was about oil. That seemed too simplistic. Instead, I thought it was a political maneuver, a way to unite the right and divide the left ahead of the midterm elections.
Then I changed my mind: Maybe this thing wasn't as cynical and calculated as I assumed. Maybe America just needed someone to kick around, post-Sept. 11. Taking down a sovereign state -- and an ugly, brutal dictatorship at that -- would give us that release. That wouldn't make it right, but it would at least make sense.
Now, in the wake of Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," I've had to reassess yet again. With the book's quotes that Bush believed he was enforcing God's will to bring democracy to the Middle East, I realized it's time to ask an uncomfortable question: Is the president of the United States of America drool-on-his-shirt crazy?
After a two-day perusal of Woodward's 443 pages, I found no solace. I wanted to know why, when the United States had so many more serious threats to address, Dubya went after Saddam. If the answer is that Bush is nuts, then at least we have an answer.
But, according to Woodward's book, the war just sorta happened. An inertia that started 72 days after Sept. 11, 2001, when Bush asked Donald Rumsfeld to review the outdated Iraq war plans, eventually reached critical mass. War plans crept from the ether to the urgent, though it wasn't until months later that all this talk of weapons of mass destruction and the possibility of nuclear capabilities started. That wasn't the reason for the Iraq war, it was the excuse. And by summer 2002, the book reports, the CIA had already committed to a war via covert operations, long before the idea of United Nations diplomacy even came up.
This much I have concluded: Bush is probably sane. And at the risk of sounding like a radical rightist, I'll go so far as to say he isn't as stupid as the left generally assumes. The imperialistic, on-a-mission-from-God talk reportedly in Woodward's book wasn't as forthright as I feared. Instead, Bush comes across as simply self-assured, someone who trusts in his own decisions absolutely.
Vice President Dick Cheney, on the other hand, is wacked. According to Woodward, the idea of going to the United Nations "terrified" Cheney because it might work, and war would be avoided.
Dix pops up again
I was at City Hall on Dec. 10, the day before Buddy Dyer's then chief of staff, David Dix, filed his resignation letter. Dyer was hosting a press conference and a slumlord asked Dyer why the city was picking on him.
Dix exploded. For 10 minutes after the press confab adjourned, he screamed at the slumlord, accusing him of endangering children. It was more than over the top; it was scary. The next day, he resigned, saying the job left him "weary."
But he didn't go far. After all, he bought a $250,000 house in Lake Nona in October. Word had it he was running the campaign of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a South Florida state senator running for Congress.
Apparently, Dix is bored, or at least convinced Schultz is in a cakewalk, because he's been a frequent face around City Hall of late. Not only has he been Dyer's sounding board during the mayoral election, but several sources in and around City Hall tell Slug Dix is playing a heavy, if unofficial, role in Dyer's administration. One source said he'd been told that department heads were reporting to Dix, who is no longer on the city payroll. "That is my impression," the source said. Another source said that whenever she goes to the mayor's office, there's Dix hanging around. It's Slug's job to get beyond the scuttlebutt, so we called Dyer's office. And according to the official line, Dix is totally unofficial. "That's totally untrue ...," Dyer mouthpiece Lauren Hames says of rumors that Dix is back.
Well, kinda. Dyer held an April 27 press conference to announce that city clerk Jose Fernandez was taking over Dix's vacated chief of staff role. Dix did come up.
Upon questioning, Dyer admitted that he'd been talking to Dix about coming back, but not before cracking wise about his associate's penchant for not paying parking tickets. "We have the parking amnesty program going on for the month of April, so it would be easier for Dave to come back now, now that we can take care of all those parking tickets," Hizzoner said.
But seriously, folks: "We've had some discussions about him coming back," Dyer told us. It would be a contracted position to "take on special projects" like economic development and federal lobbying. He expects to have more details before the city council meeting May 3.
A little caution would be in order. Dix has a history that is, shall we say, sullied. A dozen years ago, Dix was forced to resign from his position as Democratic party leader in the Oregon state House amid accusations his staff falsified campaign finance documents. As one Dyer supporter says, "Everything `Dix` touches turns to crap. He's just a political consultant. You can't make those people your friends."