June 24, 2005

Commentary:

The Elusive Truth

By Robert H. Linnell

We now know that Britain was discussing participating in a US led invasion of Iraq long before the actual invasion. A briefing paper for members of Tony Blair’s senior staff, meeting on July 23, 2002, pointed out that regime change was illegal so it was “necessary to create conditions” which would make it legal. The paper pointed out that “U.S. plans assume, at a  minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia,” so the issue of legality “would arise virtually whatever option ministers chose with regard to UK participation.”

Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of British intelligence M16 reported to that July 23, 2002 meeting that there “was a perceptible shift in attitude in Washington and that military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wants to eliminate Saddam, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC (National Security Council) has no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion of the aftermath after the military action”.

The idea of a regime change in Iraq did not start with President Bush. Congress in 1998 passed a law, signed by President Clinton, authorizing up to $94 million in military assistance to Iraqi opposition forces “to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein and promote the emergence of a democratic government.” These are tiny funds compared to the $300 billion that has now been committed. After the Bush Presidency started in January 2001 there is considerable evidence of a focus on Iraq.

In “Against All Enemies” Clarke blames Bush for failing to act to prevent September 11, 2001. He recounts how Paul Wolfowitz (then Deputy Secretary of Defense) pressed the case against Iraq as sponsors of terrorism. To this day there is absolutely no evidence that Iraq sponsored terrorism. This book lays out a major case against the Bush administration and how they led the country into war in Iraq based on misinformation. Bob Woodward covers the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq, pushed by Wolfowitz who claimed that getting rid of Saddam would be easy. Only Colin Powell held out claiming (correctly, as it turned out) that Wolfowitz’s ideas were one of the most absurd and strategically unsound proposals he had ever heard. Although Powell was right and Wolfowitz wrong, Powell was (in effect) fired by Bush and Wolfowitz was made President of the World Bank.

Both Clarke and Woodward report that from the beginning President Bush was focused on Iraq. Evidence supporting going to war was exaggerated and bent to support war to eliminate Saddam. Clarke says “The decision to invade Iraq, largely unilaterally, in 2003 was both mistaken and costly. The costs were in lives, in money, but even more important, in opportunities lost, and in future problems created or exaggerated ... In fact, with our army stretched to the breaking point, our international credibility at an all-time low, Muslims further radicalized against us, our relations with key allies damaged, and our soldiers in a shooting gallery, it is hard to believe that America is safer for the invasion as it is to believe that President Bush had good intelligence on weapons of mass destruction or that ‘this country was threatened with Saddam Hussein in power.’ ” (a quote from President Bush).

Every White House has, when possible, slanted news in its favor. The current White House has refined this to an art and has become very creative in making news fit its preconceived policies. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and 88 other Congressmen submitted a letter to President Bush, on May 5, 2005. There are five questions in the letter; the key one asks if  there was a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to “fix” the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states? The President apparently does not intend to answer.

And so we are left with a smoking gun but we are not quite sure who fired it. The current administration’s secrecy policies make it difficult to find the truth. The weight of evidence on the need to go to war against Iraq seems now to swing to negative ground. The public senses this as opinion polls indicate a majority feel the war has not made us more safe from terrorism. Until or unless the Bush administration is willing to “come clean” the public must decide where the truth lies. At best Bush misled us and he may have lied.

Linnell is a member of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. Reproduced with permission from: www.my-oped.com.

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