Wed., June 11, 2003
Here's his premise:
"With their growing cacophony of charges against the Bush Administration for allegedly lying about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the Democratic machine and its media allies are committing the very sin they're imputing to President Bush: undermining our national credibility."
The part about "the Democratic machine and its media allies" could easily be set aside as the mad ravings of a delusional mind. The manipulation of intelligence by the Bush administration has been a story since long before the Iraq invasion, and the corporate press, deciding there was insufficient room to carry both it and Bush war propaganda, has largely shunted it aside until very recent days. Rather than merely dismissing this part of the premise, however, I suggest translating it into normal English for those not impaired by Limbaugh's peculiar right-leaning ailment:
Rush's brother is claiming that the charges of intelligence manipulation being leveled against the Bush administration are "undermining our national credibility," the very "sin" these detractors impute to "President" Bush by saying he manipulated intelligence in order to drive us into a war.
What question does this beg?
Why, of course, the question of whether there was, in fact, intelligence manipulation. If there was, it's hardly fair to insist those who point it out are the ones "undermining our national credibility"--those who actually fudged the intel have already taken care of that. Limbaugh, however, expects us to believe Bush and his minions were telling the truth--he wants that as our default position, as it is his ("For the record, of course, I don't believe President Bush lied..."). This is fairly brazen, as expectations go, especially given what we know as of right now. Here are the basics:
a) The administration claimed the Iraqis possessed largescale and active programs for the production of weapons of mass destruction, maintained massive stockpiles of such weapons, and had no qualms about using them. They had allied themselves with terrorist organizations--al Qaida, in particular--and were studying ways to attack the United States--the spectre of a mushroom cloud over a major U.S. city was invoked by the "President" and his men repeatedly. They were an imminent threat, and must be dealt with immediately and in the harshest possible manner.
b) The U.S. has occupied Iraq for a few months now, and none of this--not a single assertion contained in part "a"--has been found to be true.
There are a lot of details in between, of course, but that's the basic story. What we're faced with here, then, is either one of the worst intelligence failure in the history of U.S. intelligence, or an administration that consciously manipulated the process in order to create the justification for a war it wanted.
The evidence has been leaning strongly towards the second scenario almost since the administration began the march to war last year. Some of it has been covered by I and others here on Left Hook! Limbaugh even quotes some of it in his column.
Unfortunately, he wants his readers to close their eyes, plug their ears, and run away from this information, chanting "lalalalala." He never offers any real evaluation of it; he chooses, instead, to repeatedly imply it is inaccurate, "unsubstantiated," and/or politically motivated, in the apparent hope that this will discourage his readers from delving into the matter in any more detail.
"...the disingenuousness of the president's accusers is manifest in the nature of their unsubstantiated allegations. Why? Because the inevitable result of those charges will be a diminution of American credibility. For pure partisan reasons they are causing the very damage they wrongly say that Bush has caused. In full view of the world, they have disparaged the integrity of the administration, the DOD, DIA, CIA and our military elite. They've undermined America's credibility with foreign nations--all in the name of safeguarding our credibility with foreign nations."
What are Americans supposed to do, then? Sit back and, in the face of the ever-mounting evidence of intelligence manipulation, never even ask questions about it because David Limbaugh says doing so will lead to "a diminution of American credibility?" It's as ridiculous a notion on its face as it is in its details. If there wasn't any manipulation, no harm can possibly be done by raising the issue. If there was manipulation, however, it's something the public definitely needs to know, something that can't just be set aside for phantom concerns about "American credibility." The ultimate outcome of the intelligence, whether real or fake, was U.S. involvement in a full-scale invasion of another country. Limbaugh recognizes the importance of the issue:
"Do you understand the gravity of the charge? Bush's opponents are contending that Bush, in order to snooker the public into supporting his neo-conservative, war-mongering appetite, deliberately--not negligently--distorted intelligence data to make Iraq's WMD program look much worse than it was. The whole pretense for the war, say the critics, was a fraud, and we were manipulated by a bunch of empire-building megalomaniacs in the executive branch."
Despite the obvious hyperbole, the columnist is correct in noting this is an extremely weighty matter. Unfortunately, he also sees it as something that should be dismissed lightly if it may be politically damaging to the Bush administration.
Monday, June 9, 2003 -- Something White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said at today's White House press briefing:
Q: Ari, one of the most vocal of the administration officials in emphasizing unambiguously that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was the Vice President. And, particularly, he was putting forward this--what was later seen to be forged evidence about the letter indicating purchase of yellow cake from Niger. Can you tell me, at what point did the Vice President know that this evidence or suspected that this evidence was forged in this process?
FLEISCHER: I haven't talked specifically to the Vice President about it, so I can't answer specifically, from his point of view. What I can tell you is, is the American intelligence community, as the information was received about the forgeries behind this, very frankly, spoke up and said that this information was incorrect.
What's missing here? The matter of "when", of course. When did the intelligence community know these were forgeries and speak up about it? Bush and his thugs threw the Niger uranium story around constantly during the buildup to war--the speechwriters for the "President" even included it in his State of the Union Address. Fleischer never addresses the "when," here, which is the most important question.
With that in mind, here's Nicholas Kristof, on the question of "when," from the New York Times last month (6 May, 2003):
"I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.
"The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible. The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted--except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway."
The administration began peddling the allegations about the uranium buy from an unnamed African nation at the end of September 2002. Niger was named as the nation in question in December. If the above is correct, it means the administration knew, at least 7 months before they started peddling the story as genuine and 10 months before they named Niger as the country, that the documents on which the allegation was based were utterly phony.
The IAEA team that investigated them described them as not only phony but laughably crude--it took them only a few hours to discover they were forgeries, and one of the IAEA officials said many of the errors in them were so glaringly obvious that "they could be spotted by someone using Google on the Internet." No serious investigator, IOW, would have been fooled by them at all.
And the scandal rolls on...
 "Missing In Action: Truth", Nicholas Kristof, New York Times,
Tuesday, May 6, 2003
 "Who Lied to Whom?", Seymour Hersh, New Yorker, March 31st issue
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