The American press and public rarely get riled up these days over new revelations concerning President George W. Bush and his administration’s sorry history. Perhaps America’s outrage has been tapped out. Maybe that’s why so little attention was given to this past week’s Senate Intelligence Committee report on the misuse of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War. Bush lied, people died — tell us something we don’t know.
Well, apparently not everybody knows yet. Five of the seven Republicans on the committee refused to endorse the report, and instead blasted its findings. (Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine joined the Democrats.)
And John McCain, who touts his military and foreign-policy experience as his main credential for the presidency, has yet to concede that the Bush administration misled anyone in order to wage an unnecessary war — indeed, he continues to claim that the invasion was justified, even knowing what we do now.
Despite this glaring lack of judgment, McCain remains nearly even with Barack Obama in national polls. So, apparently people still need to be reminded of how we got where we are with this war.
This latest Senate report, as well as former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s new book, makes the answer increasingly clear. It is not that the administration was acting upon, and relaying to the public, faulty intelligence. It was that Bush administration officials didn’t care what the intelligence — either from our own agencies or other countries’ — said. And they had even less interest in conveying that information to the American people, so that they might have all the facts at their disposal.
“As Scott McClellan has now confessed, and as the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed just this week,” veteran journalist Bill Moyers said Monday in a speech at the National Conference for Media Reform, “the administration, with the complicity of the dominant media, conducted a political propaganda campaign using erroneous and misleading intelligence to deceive Americans into supporting an unprovoked war.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee looked at false public statements made by Bush, Dick Cheney, and others, and compared them with the intelligence information that the administration actually had. Some of those statements were, in fact, based on the best intelligence available, which happened to be wrong. Other claims were deliberately puffed up, and contrary intelligence opinions tamped down. In other cases, they were based on no intelligence at all, such as the suggestion that Iraq was developing drones to spread chemical or biological agents over the United States. (The committee’s report has prompted Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich — over objections from the timid Democratic leadership — to introduce 35 articles of impeachment against Bush, beginning with “Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign To Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.” Another prominent Democrat, Rob Wexler of Florida, is a co-sponsor.)
Were that not enough to prove this administration’s disdain for the intelligence community, further evidence was given in a second report released by the Senate committee this past Thursday. Presaging what has now become both the Bush administration’s and McCain’s openly bellicose approach toward Iran, that one detailed how the Bush White House tried to fund an Iranian regime-change uprising — without going through the CIA and State Department, who knew that the sources the White House was relying on for the project were liars and phonies.
It matters little how good the intelligence is if the policy-makers aren’t listening to it.
Again, you might shrug your shoulders and say that we have already learned this lesson — the need to cautiously consider all the input, so as not to make the same mistaken rush to war again.
But, as Adam Reilly reported, it is far from clear that the media is applying the lessons of Iraq to the current developments with Iran.
And amazingly, Republicans in Washington — who blindly followed the White House, defended it, and refused to investigate it — seem to have learned nothing.
They should arguably be the angriest about the deceptions, just as many of those who were angriest at Bill Clinton were the ones who defended him upon his assurance that the Monica Lewinsky story was a fabrication. Instead, the Republicans — and McCain in particular — continue to defend the Bush administration’s behavior, both on Iraq and Iran, even as the country has come to see it as indefensible.
The party now faces what its leaders refer to as a “branding” problem. Republicans talk a lot about “distancing” themselves from Bush. But most of them, including their supposedly maverick presidential candidate, refuse to break from the Bush White House on this most fundamental issue.
Perhaps that is because if McCain were to do so, he would have to admit his own atrocious errors.
McCain, after all, was one of 10 congressional leaders who sent a letter, way back in December 2001, urging Bush to invade Iraq. He was among those repeatedly calling Saddam Hussein a “clear and present danger” to the United States during the October 2002 debate on war authorization. He spoke of Iraq’s WMD as a given fact, just as the Bush officials did. He predicted that the US would be greeted as liberators, and would not require a large post-invasion force.