2003-07-25 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky

Lies and Damn Lies
The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky Lies and Damn Lies

Does anyone seriously think that the recent furor over the administration’s Iraqi policies and the question of WMD and who knew what and when, is really about the Iraqi intervention and removal of Saddam Hussein? Or even about whether Saddam really had so-called weapons of mass destruction or posed a danger to the United States? Of course these issues are the currency of the present debate, but they are nothing more than a pretext. What is really going on here is an extension of what happened in the presidential election of 2000. The matter of George W. Bush’s election by means of an electoral college vote at slight odds with the "popular" results, which had to be secured by legal action in the courts, has never been fully accepted by many of the partisans of the left. Their subsequent loss of political control of both houses of Congress has only rubbed salt in this wound. And so the upcoming presidential election has already begun (indeed it sometimes seems as though it never ended!) and the latest issue on the table is Bush’s Iraqi policy.

First, they castigated him, back during the 2000 election, for opposing so-called nation building. But, since 9/11 and his decision to become proactive (and even pre-emptive) in world affairs, they blame him for being arrogant and unilateralist. On the other hand, when Bush called for multi-lateralist policies against North Korea to contain its avowedly dangerous nuclear development program, his opponents said he should agree, instead, to the one-on-one talks demanded by the North Korean dictator (and apparent madman) Kim Jong Il, i.e., he should take a unilateralist tack and buy Kim off, just like Clinton thought he had done back when Jimmy Carter, representing the Clinton administration in the mid-90’s, negotiated the shutdown of the North Korean nuclear program ...you know, the one that never got shut down!

When Democratic government officials in the Clinton administration and Congress voiced concern over Saddam’s build-up of military power, his efforts to develop and secure WMD and his coziness with Middle Eastern terrorists in the 90’s, that was perfectly fine. But let Bush and the Republicans say the same thing now, and act on it, and they are guilty of rushing us to war, of cowboy diplomacy, etc., etc.

The latest anti-Bush missile from the partisan left (both in politics and in the media) is this business about the President’s assertion, in his State of the Union Address, that the British government believed Saddam was seeking to secure illicit uranium in Africa for nuclear bomb production. Never mind that the President said no more than this, i.e., that the British held this to be the case. The intelligence behind the claim was disputed at the time in some American quarters. Even the administration now admits the controversy over the claim’s supportability should have kept it out of the President’s speech.

Not that it was necessarily wrong, mind you, since the British government still maintains it was not ... despite some tainted evidence in the dossier. And there are many in American governing and intelligence circles who also believe the underlying claim. Certainly, there is a very credible historical trail indicating that Saddam had done just this sort of thing in Africa in the past. But the fact that this specific claim was shaky, while other claims were clearly much stronger, made it an unwise addition to the President’s text. The CIA apparently cleared its inclusion but now regrets that. End of story? Not in this lifetime!

The media predators who are drawn whenever there’s blood in the water and the Democratic "hopefuls" who are so desperate to reclaim the levers of power they will do and say almost anything if it offers a chance to rip Bush from the White House, are out in full "bay". The wolf-pack is howling for meat, claiming this shows the perfidy of the Bush White House. Where is the WMD, they ask! Did Bush and Blair trump up the case for war and is this the hoped-for "smoking gun"? Is this the proof needed to show they lied to us? If Bush would tell us the British believed Saddam was after uranium in Africa (even if the British did, and still do, believe it!), though some American intelligence experts weren’t completely convinced, he might just tell us anything at all, right? Heck, he might even lie in sworn testimony before a Grand Jury. Or tell the nation he didn’t have sex when he did! You can’t tell where this all might lead.

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