Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Iraq - Deception and Denial"*

* - A title given to the President's 2003 State of the Union address

"It really comes down to the administration misrepresenting the facts on an issue that was a fundamental justification for going to war. - Joseph Wilson

by Fred Vaughan

(This article was originally published in July 2003, but its message is at least as poignant today as it was then.)

When sexual escapades of a former president rocked this Nation, Kenneth Starr was the man of the hour - year… or rather… years - through our prolonged travail. No stone was left unturned in a sixty-six million dollar pursuit of Truth. And what was that priceless gem of truth with such a costly price tag? President Clinton lied about having had sex with a consenting adult. We now know this as fact because even though both tried their damnedest to hide the ugly fact from us, Kenneth Starr persisted in his sordid "duties" until peeking under sheets on private sex acts became a national pastime. Finally the President's untruths to conceal such facts from us were found by House Republicans to constitute an impeachable offense. As ridiculous as it sounds, that's the truth! Congressmen who had concealed their own infidelities now deemed it treasonous for a President to lie about anything - even that - well, at least "under oath," whatever that means. Truth and Honesty writ large. Henceforth the American people must demand no less of their Presidents?

drawing by Caryl Clark

So is a constitutionally mandated State of the Union address "under oath" or is lying OK in such an informal dispatch of Presidential responsibility? Are there no standards with regard to honesty in Presidential addresses to congress in pursuit of proclamations of war? Or could hoodwinking a nation including its elected representatives with regard to national security matters only frivolously be considered impeachable?

The White House has finally disclosed what everyone in the world with a shred of objectivity suspected even as the words were uttered - that the touted evidence for Iraq attempting to secure uranium from an "African nation" for an alleged program of developing weapons of mass destruction had been trumped up. Eleven months earlier it had been shown by an independent investigation at the behest of the Bush Administration to have been a forgery. Never mind for now who the forgers were. Vice President Cheney had himself sent a special aide, former Ambassador to several African nations and chief US diplomat in Baghdad prior to the first Gulf War, Joseph Wilson, to uncover the truth in Niger. Wilson found the truth and reported his findings that the documents referred to were in fact crude forgeries. This "British Intelligence data" that Bush cited in this regard had also been shown to be bogus by the CIA months before the State of the Union. Of course other "classified British Intelligence data" was cited by the Bush Administration to convince the US Congress to hand its constitutional powers to declare war over to the President. This too was bogus; it was shown to have derived as a mere word-for-word plagiarism from an angry British student's term paper with absolutely no authenticity. This was all well known before President Bush sent troops to battle. This administration's professed reasons for going to war were in fact fabrications! In Joseph Wilson's words to Meet the Press on Sunday July 6th, "That information was erroneous, and they knew about it well ahead of both the publication of the British white paper and the President's State of the Union address."

Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice both claim to have known nothing of the forged evidence. They claim that that information had been buried amongst so much data that…well…how could they be expected to have known? Vice President Cheney's office similarly ducks responsibility. Given Wilson's assignment by Cheney and the reported resolution, all these claims seem doubtful at best. A 27-year CIA veteran Ray McGovern, states, "The fact that Cheney's office had originally asked that the Iraq-Niger report be checked out makes it inconceivable that his office would not have been informed of the results." Nor are Wilson and McGovern alone. Greg Thielmann who was Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research for the State Department until his retirement last September made these statements at a press conference held July 9th. "I believe the Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq." And furthermore, that as of the commencement of military operations in March, "Iraq posed no imminent threat to either its neighbors or to the United States." He added, "This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude."

But could intelligent people with cognizance of world political situations - even without "classified British intelligence" - really have believed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that threatened the security of the United States even without proof of crude forgeries and plagiarism from puerile sources? Or that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were somehow in cahoots with regard to 9/11 or could even conceivably have resolved longstanding differences to lend credibility to administration justifications for invading a sovereign nation without UN approval? I don't think so. On July 8th, however still trying to strengthen that link, Reuters indicated that an unnamed "US official" claimed an Iraqi had met with 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta in Prague shortly before the 9/11 attack. But Newsweek reported on June 9th under the title, "Where are the WMDs?" that: "The hard-liners at Defense seized on a report that Muhammad Atta, the chief hijacker, met in Prague in early April 2001 with an Iraqi intelligence official. Only one problem with that story, the FBI pointed out. Atta was traveling at the time between Florida and Virginia Beach, Va. (The bureau had his rental car and hotel receipts.)"

Also on July 8th that White House spokesman Ari Fleischer finally stated before the press corps that the President's statements during the State of the Union address had been "incorrect." We all know that no one can determine for certain whether untruths (however egregious) have resulted from dishonesty or the perpetrator having unwittingly been duped. But if these were not lies then incompetence of the current administration with regard to our national security interests is so flagrant that either offense would make impeachment imperative would it not?

Nonetheless, on July 11th CIA Director George Tenet took the fall for "wrongly allowing President Bush to tell the American people that Iraq was seeking nuclear material from Africa when analysts had doubts about the quality of the intelligence." In fact the CIA's "doubts" had purged a White House speech in October well before the State of the Union. Tenet contritely stated that he was culpable for not insisting the President remove the comment from his speech once more - whose speech? Whose lies? Ah yes! The Buck Stops where? Immediately following Tenet's abject acquiescence President Bush announced, "I now consider the uranium issue closed!" And does he still have confidence in his scapegoated CIA Director? "Absolutely!" Furthermore, he is without doubt that he did the right thing regardless - "the world is a better place." That's what "faith-based intelligence" is all about.

Where was this guy during Watergate and Whitewater? Surely Kenneth Starr will step out of a phone booth once more - for American family values…won't he?


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