The Bigus Dickus himself came out swinging yesterday against critics who say the administration misled us into war in Iraq. Michael A. Fletcher and Peter Baker write in today’s Washington Post:
President Bush and Vice President Cheney lashed out again against Democratic senators who have questioned the handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq, with the vice president accusing critics of engaging in “one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.”
Speaking before a Washington dinner of the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a conservative research organization, Cheney said last night that Democrats who say they were misled by the administration are “making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war.” The criticism, Cheney said, threatens to undermine the morale of U.S. troops while “a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie.”
I’d normally feel obligated to wade through The Dick’s rhetoric and refute it. Fortunately, many others have already done this job, including — praise be! — some reporters.
James Kuhnhenn and Jonathan S. Landay of Knight Ridder write that in defending its old lies, the administration has come up with some new ones. The reporters present each of the administration’s arguments and knock them down. I’m not going to paste it here; just go read it. And bookmark it.
Sidney Blumenthal writes in Salon that Bush “has retreated from the ruins of his grandiose agenda into a defense of his past.” And in the past few days Bush, and now Cheney, have been caught up in a “paroxysm of revenge.”
In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, Bush was the man of action who never looked back, openly dismissive of history. When asked shortly afterward by Bob Woodward how he would be judged on Iraq, Bush replied, “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” But his obsessive interest in the subject is not posthumous. The Senate’s decision last week to launch an investigation into the administration’s role in prewar disinformation, after the Democrats forced the issue in a rare secret session, has provoked a furious presidential reaction.
Josh Marshall writes that the administration’s counterattack is right out of Karl Rove’s playbook:
How do you go after a decorated war veteran running against a quasi-draft-dodger? Hit him hard for cowardice and disloyalty to country.
How do you knock out a respected juvenile court judge? Spread rumors that he’s a pedophile.
You can see pretty clearly that Karl Rove is back in the saddle because what we’re seeing now is straight from the Karl Rove play book. You throw them off balance by charging directly into their line of fire.
When the veil is finally being lifted on your history of lies, hit hard against the other side for ‘rewriting history’ or trying to deceive the public.
This strategy has served the Bushies well for many years, but I don’t believe it will work this time.
Oh, the Big Lie strategy will work on the bitter-enders; the hard-core
37 percent 34 percent who still believe, after all that’s happened, that Bush is doing a good job. These people would believe in the Tooth Fairy if Bush made her part of his attack on the Dems. But now a solid majority — 57 percent last I checked — of American adults believe that Bush deceived them into going to war. I don’t think screaming at them and calling them traitors for their lack of blind faith will bring them back to Bush’s side.
Robert Scheer writes in The Nation (web only) that “Bush now sounds increasingly Nixonian as he basically calls the majority of the country traitors for noticing he tricked us.”
Here’s a nice little detail from Scheer:
… the idea that individual senators and members of Congress had the same access to even a fraction of the raw intelligence as the President of the United States is just a lie on its face–it is a simple matter of security clearances, which are not distributed equally.
It was enormously telling, in fact, that the only part of the Senate which did see the un-sanitized National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq–the Republican-led Senate Select Intelligence Committee–shockingly voted in the fall of 2002 against the simple authorization of force demanded by a Republican President. Panicked, the warmongers in the White House and Pentagon pressured CIA Director George Tenet to rush release to the entire Hill a very short “summary” of the careful NIE, which made Hussein seem incalculably more dangerous than the whole report indicated.
And, of course, in recent days we’ve learned much of this “intelligence” had been flagged as untrustworthy by the Defense Intelligence Agency several months earlier –a flag the Senate never saw.
Even Richard Cohen catches on now and then:
In one of the most intellectually incoherent major speeches ever delivered by a minor President, George W. Bush last week blamed “some Democrats and anti-war critics” for changing their minds about the war in Iraq and now saying they were deceived. “It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began,” the President said. Yes, sir, but it is even more deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how history was rewritten in the first place.
It is the failure to acknowledge this that is so troubling about Bush and others in his administration. Yes, the President is right: Foreign intelligence services also thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; Saddam Hussein simply ignored more than a dozen UN resolutions demanding that he reopen his country to arms inspectors.
We can endlessly debate the facts. More important, though, is the mind-set of those in the administration, from the President on down, who had those facts – or, as we shall see, none at all – and mangled them in the cause of the war.
For example, the insistence that Saddam was somehow linked to 9/11 tells you that to Bush and his people, the facts did not matter. It did not matter that Mohamed Atta never met with Iraqis in Prague. It did not matter that Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was finding no evidence of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program. None of that mattered to Vice President Cheney, a fibber without peer in the realm, who warned of a “reconstituted” nuclear weapons program, promoted the nonexistent Prague meeting and went after legitimate critics. “We will not hesitate to discredit you,” Cheney told ElBaradei and Hans Blix, the other important UN inspector. ElBaradei recently won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The President’s recent speech conflates all sorts of terrorist incidents – neglecting that they are specific to their regions and have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. Every bombing somehow becomes an attack on Western values.
Like his pathetic attempts to re-create a “bullhorn moment” after the Katrina disaster, Bush’s desperation to take back the narrative on how we got into his war is more pitiful than persuasive.
Update: See “In Lawsuit, Team Bush Swore Saddam Was Behind 9/11” at DU.
Update update: Big MUST READ and big smooch to the Heretik for finding it … read about Iraq War deceptions by Stephen Zunes in Foreign Policy in Focus.