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Thursday, March 02, 2006

The President Either Knew and Lied...Or He Doesn't Bother Doing His Job

Here's my conclusion after reading Murray Waas' exceptional new piece in the National Journal today: (1) the President either knew that Saddam posed no immediate threat to the United States and repeatedly lied to the American public and leaders around the world (and allowed multiple members of his Administration to lie about it as well) or (2) he doesn't bother doing his job, and had no idea what information was contained in multiple sensitive national security briefs that he was given over a long period of time, and no one in the Administration bothered to clue him in on this.

You choose.

I've wracked my brain this afternoon to come up with another alternative -- but no matter how I twist it around in my brain, it comes back to "he knew and lied" or "he doesn't bother doing his job."

The information regarding the aluminum tubes and the fact that the WH was aware of alternate uses for them isn't new -- Eriposte covered this issue back on Nov. 23rd on LeftCoaster in his exceptional series (which is up for a Best Series Koufax, btw -- congrats!).

What Waas does with this article, though, is put it in terms that major media outlets can distill into real questions for the White House -- and also gives excellent quotes and context to show how the Administration deliberately used each other to spin the false story on the tubes out. (I covered some of this WH story circle jerk, as has Jane, in our reporting on the WHIG. See here as just one example.)

One of the most damning aspects of the Waas article is this section, discussing the WH knowing -- via multiple reports from multiple intelligence agencies -- that Saddam Hussein posed NO threat to the US unless we attacked him first. (In other words, as a defensive action rather than an offensive one, should it come to that.)
The conclusion among intelligence agencies that Saddam was unlikely to consider attacking the United States unless attacked first was also outlined in Senior Executive Intelligence Briefs, highly classified daily intelligence papers distributed to several hundred executive branch officials and to the congressional intelligence oversight committees.

During the second half of 2002, the president and vice president repeatedly cited the threat from Saddam in their public statements. "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us," Cheney declared on August 26, 2002, to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

In his September 12 address to the U.N. General Assembly, Bush said: "With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors."

In an October 7 address to the nation, Bush cited intelligence showing that Iraq had a fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons. "We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States," the president declared.

"We know that Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America," he added. "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."
These were all lies. All of them. The President and his staff knew -- or damn well should have known -- that the information they were feeding all of us, on talking head pundit shows or during national speeches or in testimony to Congress, all of it was lies.

And these lies were fed to a nation already reeling from the horror of 9/11, living in the ghostly shadow of the fallen towers in Manhattan, and looking to this Administration to keep them safe.

This Administration spit on the nation's trust, lied to our faces, and chose to start a war that we never needed to fight.

Because the scary threat that the Administration built to a fever pitch was a precariously balanced house of cards, on a false foundation of mis-used intelligence, cherry-picked so that no opinion that contradicted what George Bush and Dick Cheney wanted ever got into the public domain until we were already in Iraq.

Public statements made by officials in this Administration -- including by the President himself -- were unwavering in their accusations of wrongdoing on the part of Saddam Hussein. On the threat he posed to this nation. On the possibility of a "mushroom cloud." On the potential for nerve agents or other biological toxins being in his possession and being unleashed on the United States by Saddam's ties to al qaeda.

All lies. And all lies that the Administration knew -- or should have known, had they been doing their damn jobs -- were false before they were ever publicly uttered.
The report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack the United States -- except if "ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime" or if he intended to "extract revenge" for such an assault, according to records and sources....

On numerous other occasions, Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and then-U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte cited Iraq's procurement of aluminum tubes without disclosing that the intelligence community was split as to their end use. The fact that the president was informed of the dissents by Energy and State is also significant because Rice and other administration officials have said that Bush did not know about those dissenting views when he made claims about the purported uses for the tubes.
The President of the United States and his advisors have an obligation to the public to be honest and forthright with them if we are going to go into battle to defend our nation. To start a war is the single most critical decision a President ought ever make. For all those mothers and fathers who send their child into battle on behalf of our great nation, we owe them nothing less than full honesty -- and the President owes them nothing less than honesty with himself as to all of the information available before he gives the orders that will potentially send their children to their death.

This President has lost faith with these soldiers and their families. And Congress ought to be ashamed of themselves for providing what little oversight has been done -- they bear just as much responsibility as the President. Our men and women in uniform deserve much better than this.

They are facing death every day in the streets of Iraq because the President was too dishonest, too craven, too lazy to stand up and be honest with the American people about the reasons he was taking the nation to war. But the people who pay the price for this war are not the sons and daughters of privilege by and large -- and too often they are the families who can least afford to pay the price of so great a sacrifice. But pay it they do, for they love their nation. And for their love of country, what they have gotten in return is a President who has broken faith with them, and sent them into battle based on lies ginned up to create an atmosphere that would support Bush's War.

All that false caring about the troops, the praying with the families of the dead, the false bravado of the boo-yah in a speech on a base, is worthless if you didn't care enough about their lives to do the work to start with before they went into battle.

Just as all that false caring about the people in the Gulf Region here in the US is meaningless when you stay on vacation for days after you know how dire the situation is. All of the public staging, the spin, the Mighty Wurlitzer storylines about what a great, genial, wonderful man you are doesn't mean squat if you aren't man enough to listen to criticism when it is warranted -- and to information that contradicts what you want to hear. A real man faces reality, a coward hides in his bubble surrounded by sycophants who tell him only what he wants to hear and feeds him hand-picked audiences to stroke his ego.

To say that I am disgusted doesn't even come close today. No more lies without accountability.