Fri. Nov. 22, 2002
Some words from the recent past on Iraq:
"Even the suggestion that the timing of something so serious could be done for political reasons is reprehensible."
--White House press secretary Ari Fleischer,
quoted in the Washington Post
Sept. 16, 2002
"The suggestion that I find reprehensible is the notion that somehow, you know, we saved this and now we've sprung it on them [congress] for political reasons."
--Vice President Dick Cheney,
on NBC's "Meet the Press" program
Sept. 8, 2002
Even as these comments were being made, senior administration officials were conceding, on record, that they'd cooked up a marketing strategy to sell the public and congress on the idea of war and had intentionally delayed implementing that strategy until the final stretch of the campaign. They didn't admit this was done for political purposes, of course, but they were incapable of providing any real reason for why the Iraq situation had suddenly become so important that it must be addressed in the final stages of a political campaign. The proffered reasoning, once the strategy was unveiled, was that the Hussein regime was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. If this had been a real concern of the administration, however, the delay between their creation of the marketing strategy and its implementation--a delay of at least several months--could only be regarded as negligence, bordering on the criminal.
Those of us who bother to follow such things were left with only two possible conclusions from this: Either those in the administration genuinely believed what they were saying about Iraq, in which case they're incompetent to the point of criminality, or they don't believe it at all, in which case their actions had a different motivation.
Either of these conclusions is a tricky business.
The first one has to be ranked as extremely unlikely. The "President" has never shown anything even remotely approximating the competence necessary to handle the job required of his office, but are we to believe the same is true of all of his subordinates? Or that, when faced with that degree of incompetence from those around them, they would all remain silent? It can be argued, in favor of the "incompetence" conclusion, that the administration's subordinates haven't remained silent. This summer, a dossier outlining, in extensive detail, a planned military assault on Iraq was leaked to the New York Times by the Pentagon. Such a monumental leak is quite literally without precedent, and represents a message, writ large in flashing neon, about exactly what the professional military thinks of the administration's plans. Arguing against the "incompetence" conclusion--and doing so even more strongly than the question of subordinates--is the matter of evidence. If the administration is going to insist that the Hussein regime is on the verge of developing a nuclear capability, it stands to reason that they would have some evidence of this, yet they refuse to provide any, and offer, instead, misinformation and nonsense (as LeftHook! has documented repeatedly).
The second conclusion is even trickier; it's always tricky to invite speculation as to motivation in such matters. It must be said, however, that the evidence supporting the idea that Iraq was an election ploy--recorded here for several months now--is, to understate matters, substantial. Newsweek offered another example of it last week:
"A genial sort, seemingly casual about details, Bush is actually a methodical executive with a penchant—almost an obsession—for planning. Last August, his inner circle gathered in Crawford, Texas, to 'plan the fall,' as one aide later put it. The first decision, made Aug. 8, was to keep Iraq front and center for months, not by dropping Daisy Cutters on Baghdad but by going on a long, stately march through Congress and the United Nations."
This appeared, appropriately enough, in an article detailing the strategy the Bush team employed for this year's congressional elections. After manufacturing an issue of Iraq, then keeping it on the front page during the final stages of the campaign, the "President" spent weeks flying around the country at taxpayers' expense using slanderous accusations that Democrats are being "soft" on national defense and terrorism to campaign for Republican candidates. He also managed to raise a record amount of campaign cash along the way. All of this payed off on election day, when Republicans broke a record that had stood for nearly 70 years by gaining, instead of losing, seats in congress during the first midterm of the new administration. Come January, Republicans will "officially" control every body of all three branches of the U.S. government.
"Officially" is in quotes there because Republicans have had functional
control of these bodies for years. Bush's accusations are "slanderous"
because the congressional Democrats have gone along with every major Bush
proposal in this area. They may genuinely be somehow judged as "soft" here,
but not by the standard used by the "President."
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