Saturday, June 7, 2008

Coverup and Call to Action

Doubtless you already know that the Senate Intelligence Committee, now under Democratic control, has finally released the second part of its report on the Bush administration’s misuses of intelligence in the prelude to the Iraq war.

For those who haven’t followed the issue closely, Bush and his cronies set up an "alternative" intelligence outfit in the Pentagon (the Office of Special Plans, run by Douglas Feith) to provide the administration with phony “evidence” to back up a decision he arrived at beforehand. Like Alice in Wonderland, “first the sentence, then the evidence.”

Then, adding to the fun, when forced to set up a congressional investigation of government activities in the lead-up to the war, Bush and Cheney, working with their cronies in Congress, arranged to have the “investigation” split in two—the first part, dealing with intelligence failures, focused on the CIA and was completed before the 2004 election (the timing is crucial here). The second part, dealing with the activities of the White House, was delayed until after the 2004 election (again, timing is everything here). Then the Republicans in Congress dropped the second part altogether, which is why it’s taken until now for a Democratic Congress to finish and issue the report. Clever, yes/no? I believe the term that describes this whole process (except the last part, obviously) is “coverup.” Needless to say, even if there were enough Democrats willing to support impeachment (and a number of Dems representing conservative districts do not), it’s too late now for that.

Now add another piece to the puzzle. The obvious question when faced with all this is, why didn’t people organize massive protests, flood the media with letters, e-mails and phone calls, and generally raise a ruckus about this? Let me answer that by asking another question: Who was going to tell them? As you can see, the machinations undertaken by Bush and friends were pretty convoluted. It bears mentioning here that 80% of the public gets ALL of its news from television. Yet there were no arresting visuals to show on the evening news. There hasn’t been, until now, anything close to a smoking gun—just a steady stream of reports occurring outside the glare of MSN exposure (McClatchy newspapers were stellar, as were the National Journal and a number of lefty blogs). The result? Up until fairly recently, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% of the public thought Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Many thought Iraqis were among the 9/11 hijackers. In short, a news media devoted to entertainment in the chase for advertising dollars and cowed by the administration into docility provided no useful information for the American public to use in evaluating the situation. After all, it was only a story about the way this country was manipulated into backing the unprovoked invasion of another country, with its attendant loss of thousands, perhaps millions, of lives.

So here’s where we come in. Barack Obama, as we all know, is running on a platform of bringing change to the way Washington functions and the ways we think about what government can and should do. Part of that, obviously, involves ending the misbegotten war in Iraq. To do that, we need to educate the public about the reality of what’s been done by President Katrina and his cronies in our name. The starting point of that education, it seems to me, has to be alerting people to the coverup outlined above and then the reality that coverup was designed to obscure.

Please feel free to offer your observations in the Comments section below.


For an excellent collection of essays on the Iraq war by noted historians, see Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn from the Past, ed. Lloyd Gardner, Marilyn B. Young

emptywheel has a discussion of the politics around the release of Phase II of the report here:

See the Center for Public Integrity’s War Card for an exhaustive record of the entire history of manipulation.

John Dean on the Bush Administration’s manipulation of the Senate’s Iraq Commission

Republican Senate Intelligence Committee chair shifted blame from the White House

Rep. Jane Harmon charges House Intelligence Committee Republicans with refusing to investigate White House behavior prior to the war

NYT: Report Warned Bush Team About Intelligence Doubts

White House hid evidence of NIE doubts re claims made in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech

Cheney, Libby withheld key documents on Iraq war intelligence from Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004

NPR: Iraq War Intelligence Fact Check

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