Monday, June 27, 2005

I admit that when I first read the now famous phrase, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy", I was underwhelmed. Was there any sensible person who didn't know that? Indeed, Eric Mink, a generally left-leaning Post-Dispatch columnist, recently called those of us up in arms about it "hyperventilating liberals". Mink points out that, whatever platitudes Bush may have spouted about diplomacy, nobody took those mouthings seriously:
A lengthy Time magazine story published in March 2003, barely a week after the war's start, opened with this salty Bush quote from one year earlier: "F--- Saddam. We're taking him out." The remark, made in a White House meeting, was the president's dismissive response to talk about coalition-building and possible U.N. actions.

Mink's got a point, but so does Ray McGovern, the former CIA analyst who testified at the Conyers hearing. McGovern knew, of course, about the intelligence fixing because of Cheney's 8-12 visits to CIA headquarters. When asked if it was unusual for a sitting vice-president to come there in person, he replied that "it wasn't unusual. It was unprecedented." But McGovern points out that, whatever people may have suspected about what the administration was thinking, we didn't expect to get it documented like this, and Paul Krugman believes we'd be foolish not to use it:
We need to deprive these people of their ability to mislead and intimidate. And the best way to do that is to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility, and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism.

But the hoopla has all been about that one phrase, and Michael Smith, the reporter who uncovered the memos, thinks people are focusing on the wrong sentence. In the L.A. Times he says that the memos:
were most striking for the way in which British officials warned the prime minister, with remarkable prescience, what a mess post-war Iraq would become. Even by the cynical standards of realpolitik, the decision to overrule this expert advice seemed to be criminal.

Despite the prescient advice, and because he knew the war was illegal, Blair fished for a way to bait Saddam:
Downing Street had a "clever" plan that it hoped would trap Hussein into giving the allies the excuse they needed to go to war. It would persuade the U.N. Security Council to give the Iraqi leader an ultimatum to let in the weapons inspectors.
Although Blair and Bush still insist the decision to go to the U.N. was about averting war, one memo states that it was, in fact, about "wrong-footing" Hussein into giving them a legal justification for war.
British officials hoped the ultimatum could be framed in words that would be so unacceptable to Hussein that he would reject it outright. But they were far from certain this would work, so there was also a Plan B.
....Another part of the memo...quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that "the U.S. had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime." This we now realize was Plan B.
Put simply, U.S. aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict.

When ten tons of bombs a month in August didn't work, 54.6 tons were dropped in September, before Congressional approval of war. Smith concludes:
The real news is the shady April 2002 deal to go to war, the cynical use of the U.N. to provide an excuse, and the secret, illegal air war without the backing of Congress.

So instead of focusing only on "intelligence fixed around policy", we need to dish up for this nation large portions of the cold porridge of lies and miscalculation.
In fact, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne deems the self-delusion of Bush and Cheney the most dominant ingredient in the gruel. We see their foolishness in:
recently disclosed documents in which British officials warned that "there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." The British worried at the time that "U.S. military plans are virtually silent" on the fact that "a postwar occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise."

Dionne contends that the administration believed it was invincible. Just before the war, Tim Russert, interviewing Cheney, painted the possibility of post-war chaos and insurgency. Cheney kept insisting we'd be greeted as liberators.
So maybe they're not liars, only arrogant incompetents.
These egotists thought they could igore facts. Ron Suskind bragged, "When we act, we create our own reality." Suskind et. al. need to take care about turning their backs on other people's reality lest it bite them in the heinie. If Democrats do their job, the G.O.P. ought to be whirling defensively toward every point of the compass to defend themselves over the multitude of lies and miscalculations revealed by the Brit memos. As Eric Mink concluded:
In fabricating a house of cards, there inevitably comes a moment when weight trumps architecture, and the structure falls in on itself. The Bush house of cards is not collapsing, but it is increasingly precarious.
And the wind's picking up.


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