| MINNEAPOLIS -- Bush lied about
the weapons of mass destruction. He lied to us, the United Nations, and
the soldiers he sent to die in Iraq. Bush's apologists defend his attempts
to sell this obscene war as mere spin, but claiming certain knowledge of
something that doesn't exist is hardly a question of emphasis. It's time
to stop wondering where the WMDs are. Even if nukes and gases and anthrax
turn up in prodigious quantities, it won't matter. Proof of Bush's perfidy,
unlike his accusations that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, is irrefutable.|
Before he ordered U.S. forces to kill and maim tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi soldiers and civilians, Bush and Co. repeatedly maintained that they had absolute proof that Saddam Hussein still possessed WMDs. "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Dick Cheney said in August. In January, Ari Fleisher said: "We know for a fact that there are weapons there." WMDs; not a "WMD program" as they now refer to it. WMDs--not just indications of possible, or probable, WMDs.
During the first days of the war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stared into television cameras, looked right at his employers (that's you and me), and said that he knew exactly where they were. "We know where they are," Rumsfeld said. "They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad."
Uh-huh. So where are they?
"Absolute" proof is a high standard--heck, it's a nearly impossible benchmark. The last time I checked, my cat was in my kitchen, licking the milk at the bottom of my cereal bowl. As intel goes, mine is triple-A-rated--I witnessed it this morning, and I've spent the better part of a decade observing that animal. But if you were to demand absolute proof of kitty's current location, I couldn't give it to you. I'd bet that he's sleeping on my bed. But he could be in the litter box, on the windowsill, or sneaking out an open window. Truth is, I don't know where he is. To say otherwise, to present even a well-founded hypothesis as Fact, would be a lie.
Bush had conjecture, wishful thinking and stale intelligence going for him. He needed absolute proof, and the absence thereof is leading to talk of impeachment. Before the invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld argues, "Virtually everyone agreed they did [have WMDs]--in Congress, in successive Democratic and Republican administrations, in the intelligence communities here in the United States, and also in foreign countries and at the U.N., even among those countries that did not favor military action in Iraq." Untrue.
The Bush Administration didn't have proof, so they spent last fall making it up. As Robin Cook, who resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet over the war, told the British Parliament: "Instead of using intelligence as evidence on which to base a decision about policy, we used intelligence as the basis to justify a policy on which we had already decided."
By January 2003, 81 percent of respondents to an ABC News poll said they believed that Iraq "posed a threat to the United States."
Previous administrations, reliant on the CIA for reliable information, have traditionally respected a "Chinese wall" between Langley and the White House. As Republicans blame the CIA for the missing WMDs, leaks from within the CIA increasingly indicate that Dick Cheney and others sought to politicize its reports on Iraq, cherry-picking factoids that backed its war cry and dismissing those that didn't. This dubious practice culminated with Colin Powell's over-the-top performance before the U.N., where he misrepresented documents he knew to be forged--which he privately derided as "bullshit"!--as hard fact.
The Administration's defenders, whose selective morality makes Bill Clinton look like a saint, argue that the WMDs don't matter, that Saddam's mass graves vindicate the war liars. But no one ever denied that Hussein was evil. The American people knew that Saddam was a butcher during the '80s when we backed him, and during the '90s when we contained him. They weren't willing to go to war over regime change in the '00s, which is why the Administration invented a fictional threat. Now that we know that presidents lie about the need for war, how will future presidents rally us against genuine dangers?
Lying to the American people is impeachable. Waging war without cause is subject to prosecution at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. But insiders have to talk before the media can aggressively pursue the WMD story, prosecutors can be appointed and top evildoers brought to justice.
Now Slaughtergate has its own Alexander Butterfield. Christian Westermann, a respected State Department intelligence analyst talking to Congress, has testified that Undersecretary of State John Bolton, a Bush political appointee, pressured him to change a report on Cuba so that it would back Bush claims that Cuba was developing biological weapons. Westermann says that when he refused, Bolton tried to have him transferred.
Westermann's testimony doesn't relate to Iraq, but it puts the lie to Bushoid assertions that they never messed with the CIA. A reliable source informs me that there's a "jihad" underway between Administration political operatives and the career intelligence community. "Guys are pissed off that they're being asked to take the fall for the White House. Look for more leaks in the future," this official says.
Meanwhile, Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been reduced to parsing the meaning of intelligence: "Intelligence doesn't necessarily mean something is true," he says.
Now he tells us.
(Ted Rall is the author of "Gas War: The Truth Behind the American Occupation of Afghanistan," an analysis of the underreported Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project and the real motivations behind the war on terrorism. Ordering information is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2003 TED RALL