Tag Archives: iraq

Before Bombing Syria, Read “The Italian Letter”

Posted on September 4, 2013 by Laurie Garrettcover1 copy

          As Congress debates whether President Bashar al-Assad’s apparent use of sarin gas to kill some 1,400 fellow-Syrians merits retaliatory American military action, many are recalling the “weapons of mass destruction” rationale used to justify U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
         Though Secretary of State John Kerry has been at pains in recent days to underscore the caliber of intelligence supporting the Obama administration’s claims of Assad genocidal use of nerve gas, there is public doubt.
      We’ve been here before, and Americans are weary not only of war, but also of con artists in positions of power.      Much of the language used to describe the Syrian situation is reminiscent of phrases and claims utilized by the George W. Bush administration to garner intervention backing from the United Nations Security Council, a long list of allies, and the United States Congress.

         So it is inevitable that nine years later, amid chatter of U.S. cruise missile launches to take out Syrian government military stockpiles I should revisit the sorry history of Bush’s drumbeats of war. 

          The Italian Letter is my choice for a brilliantly researched, jaw-dropping book that ought to be on every politician’s reading list this week.  READ ENTIRE POST

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G.W. Bush–The Foolish Rewrite

Bush-Library-3The rehabilitation of G.W. Bush this past week requires participation of very, very gullible people with bad memories. Worst-best ratings, and polls aside, G.W. Bush took the United States to war on fraudulent grounds.

To this hour, too many Americans accept the incessantly repeated phrase about Iraq — “he was acting on the best available intelligence at the time.”

That is not true, mightily disproved, for instance, in my book, The Italian Letter, which I wrote with my colleague Knut Royce. We show, quoting officials by name, that Bush’s 16 words uttered in his 2003 State of the Union message were a lie:  “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” I later summarized the case in the Washington Post.

Bush and his former aides have been on the hustings once more during the period leading up to inauguration of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. They had the same talking points, praising Bush because he “made decisions…presidential decisions.”  The tautology must be a joke. Of course he made decisions,  indeed, presidential decisions, because he was president.

But the decisions were wrong. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost or changed, one trillion dollars gone, those were the results of presidential decisions. The stupidity of it all and the presidential civility of the week were well-covered  by Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

Harsh but apt words for “the decider,” including an assessment in the MSNBC story from Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for then-secretary of state Colin Powell. The retired colonel is one of the sources for The Italian Letter. Wilkerson, along the way, casts as much blame on the American people, for succumbing to apathy. He finds that nothing has changed.

We may be doomed, thinking of George Santayana, not only failing to learn from history, but disinterested and badly informed as others produce a fake rewrite.

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Torture and US

Almost lost in the news is a report  from a blue-ribbon bipartisan Constitution Project commission that states bluntly that the U.S. government has conducted torture in violation of law.

The commission found there is “indisputable” evidence that U.S. government officials bear responsibility for mistreatment of detainees. Members reached unanimous consent on their findings, although they were stonewalled in receiving some official documents and full interviews with officials of the administration of George W. Bush. The committee includes Democratic and Republican former lawmakers, jurists, academics and retired and decorated high-ranking military officials. They cannot be dismissed on political grounds.

The commission said in a 560-page report:

“U.S. Forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading  treatment.’  Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to the values of the Constitution and our nation.”

Among other things, the report debunks the notion that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” — the euphemism for torture — obtain useful information. The report concludes:

“The nation’s most senior officials … bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some US personnel on detainees in several theaters.”

The commission was hampered by the lack of subpoena power to get to the bottom of the systematic decision during the Bush administration to torture detainees. The commission says authorization of subpoenas should be the next step, a step that might lead to something akin to what many people have advocated for years — a Truth Commission.

Here’s what the organization Human Rights said about the commission report:

“The American people deserve a full accounting of the torture conducted in their name…The work of this private, bipartisan commission sends a clear message that full disclosure is an issue of great importance to all Americans, no matter their political leanings.”

Will Americans demand accounting or will they be complacent to the techniques of torture practiced in their name?

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A Vision Test on Iraq and the Media. Choose A or B

Here are two competing visions of the media handling of the war in Iraq

This is the way it works at the eye doctor. He holds letters in front of your eyes and asks you to choose. The answer gets better and better, hopefully vision more and more clear.

Choose A….

This is a piece by Greg Mitchell, substantially published by The Nation, after being spiked by the Washington Post

For awhile, back in 2003, Iraq meant never having to say you’re sorry.  The spring offensive had produced a victory in less than three weeks, with a relatively low American and Iraqi civilian death toll.  Saddam fled and George W. Bush and his team drew overwhelming praise, at least here at home.

But wait.  Where were the crowds greeting us as “liberators”?  Why were the Iraqis now shooting at each other–and blowing up our soldiers?  And where were those WMDs, bio-chem labs, and nuclear materials?  Most Americans still backed the invasion, so it still too early for mea culpas–it was more “my sad” than “my bad.”

or B

A story by Paul Fahri published on the Opinion Pages

There’s no doubt that many news organizations, including this one, missed important stories, underplayed others that were skeptical of the administration’s case and acted too deferentially to those in power. A few instances — such as the New York Times’ September 2002 report hyping Iraq’s aluminum tubes as evidence of a reconstituted nuclear program — have become infamous. The Times and The Washington Post have publicly examinedand admitted their shortcomings.

But “failure” grossly oversimplifies what the media did and didn’t do before the war, and it ignores important reasons the reporting turned out the way it did. As new threats loom, from Iran to North Korea, better understanding these circumstances can help us assess what happened and whether we’re better positioned today.

Can they both be right? I don’t think so. Somebody will need new glasses.

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Truths and Lies in the Senate

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Libya, a Tea Party Republican senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, used indirect language to blame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the killing of four American diplomats in Benghazi last year. Paul described their deaths as the worst tragedy involving Americans since 9/11. Partisan politics, ignorance and nonsense.

A newly elected senator answered him strongly:

“I think if some people on this committee want to call the tragedy in Benghazi the worst since 9/11, it misunderstands the nature of 4,000 Americans plus lost over ten years of war in Iraq fought under false pretenses,” newly elected Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in response.

Under a Republican president, George W. Bush, the United States went to war using lies about U.S. intelligence information. To this hour, a number of Americans — perhaps the same number that voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election — think that President Bush invaded Iraq based on “the best available intelligence” at the time. That has been proven to be a lie, as I wrote with my colleague, Knut Royce, in the book, The Italian Letter. I also wrote about it in the Washington Post.

President Bush has not stood before the Senate to answer that serious charge. It is fairly certain that he never will.

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Nothing Like the Real Thing (As opposed to Dick Cheney’s Version of History)

Dick Cheney is on the circuit talking about events surrounding his possible departure from the vice presidential re-election campaign in 2004.

Here’s a piece of a chat I had with John Roberts in April 2008 on CNN about Cheney discussing The Italian Letter, the book I wrote with my colleague Knut Royce:

PETER EISNER, CO-AUTHOR, “THE ITALIAN LETTER”: We found out that, as a result of Cheney’s role in developing the march toward war in Iraq, Rove started to question, has he gone too far; is he a little bit too much out there for us for running again in 2004?

So, Rove started to talk to people, particularly Grover Norquist, and, in turn, to conservative financial backers, just gently, to say, do we really want him on the ticket? It’s an outrageous thing to say. And it really upset Cheney, when he found out about it. And it was squelched quickly. But the bad blood between Rove and Cheney, as a result, exists to this day.

ROBERTS (voice-over): The Rove-Cheney drama is just the latest revelation in a complicated story that began more than four years ago and continues to this day. But how did we get here?

One of many key players in the run-up to the war, the White House Iraq Group — its mission, claims Eisner, to sell the war in Iraq to the American public by whipping up fear about Iraq’s nuclear program. In 2003, what looked like the perfect smoking gun emerged, a letter now known as the “Italian letter,” supposedly documenting Niger’s intentions to sell uranium to Saddam Hussein.

The only problem, the letter was a fake.

Truth is, even Cheney’s conservative buddies in the Bush administration thought he was off the deep end. Former aides to Cheney thought that by the time he reached the presidency, his personality and actions had changed, and they questioned his rationality for pushing the Iraq War. After my comments on CNN, Cheney and the White House issued a denial. Now, struggling to find news in Cheney’s tell-little memoir, they drag out the resignation passage, revealing little, if anything.

Cheney and his cohorts manufactured the cause for war in Iraq, and it wasn’t just cherry-picking. They promoted a story that the US intelligence community agreed had never existed — Saddam purchasing yellowcake in Niger. To this hour, he and Bush and their cohorts say they “acted on the best intelligence available at the time.” That is a lie.

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