Liars and Enablers

Lying has been standard operating procedure of the Bush administration for so long that some Republican operatives may not have gotten the memo that lying to the FBI and/or grand jury is where they draw the line.

Now that US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, in his investigation of the administration's role in "outing" undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame, has traced the lies and liars to the White House, those who supported the election and re-election of George W. Bush owe the rest of us an apology.

It's not like we didn't know Bush & Co. played fast and loose with the facts. Bob Somerby of DailyHowler.com noted in May 2003 that Bush has been lying to us at least back to October 2000, in the first debate with Al Gore. Bush then said he would take one-half of what was then projected to be a $4.6 trillion federal surplus over the next decade and dedicate it to Social Security. Instead, when he got the chance, Bush spent $1 trillion on tax cuts for the rich, the economy sputtered and the projected surplus, which had been on track to pay off the national debt by 2015, turned into a deficit that is expected to top $500 billion next year.

But lies that take us into war are even more serious. To gin up support for its invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration claimed that Iraq was providing weapons training to al Qaeda even after the Defense Intelligence Agency in February 2002 warned the administration that the claim was based on tales of a non-credible witness. The Progress Report (americanprogressactionfund.org) noted that every piece of evidence offered by the administration to justify Iraq's supposed link to al Qaeda has been rejected, as the 9/11 Commission made clear. Still, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell used the claimed Iraq-al-Qaeda link in his UN presentation on Feb. 5, 2003, and the administration repeated that claim for the next two years. In a letter to Congress on March 21, 2003, Bush justified the Iraq war by arguing he was going after al Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist network.

Bush also played up the Iraqi nuclear threat, claiming in his 2003 State of the Union that Iraq was close to developing a nuclear weapon. As evidence, he stated, "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" and Iraq "has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."

On the first count, the administration was warned at least three times not to claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, claimed the aluminum tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs" despite the fact that she had previously been informed that nuclear experts seriously doubted the tubes were for nuclear weapons. The day before Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech, the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded the tubes "would not be suitable" for a nuclear program. The Department of Energy also published a dissenting view of the use of the aluminum tubes in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

Democratic Congress members finally are admitting that they voted to support the war in Iraq because Bush and other administration figures lied to them about the threat. They should not take anything the administration tells them at face value anymore.

Instead, they should press for independent investigations of the allegations that the CIA was using a secret prison network in Eastern Europe and Asia to hold suspected terrorists. The Washington Post report on the CIA rehabbing Soviet-era gulags comes on top of reports that US military and intelligence officers and their contractors have abused terror suspects in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Bush defended US detention and interrogation practices and denied that torture is part of those practices. "We do not torture," he said in Panama Nov. 7. But Dick Cheney is still lobbying against a congressional initiative to outlaw torture, the Associated Press reported. That, and forbidding Red Cross access to prisoners in US custody, undercuts Bush's assurances that the government is following any law in its treatment of terrorist suspects.

Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell at the State Department, said Nov. 3 on NPR that he had uncovered a "visible audit trail" tracing prisoner abuse directions back to Vice President Dick Cheney's office. In 2002, a presidential memo ordered that detainees be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions that forbid torture. But Cheney's office, led by David Addington, the vice president's lawyer, pushed for deviations from the Geneva rules, Wilkerson said. Paperwork from the vice president's office through the secretary of defense down to the commanders in the field said, basically, "We're not getting enough good intelligence and you need to get that evidence, and, oh, by the way, here's some ways you probably can get it. And even some of the ways that they detailed were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the law of war."

Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, added that, "If you're a military man, you know that you just don't do these sorts of things because once you give just the slightest bit of leeway, there are those in the armed forces who will take advantage of that. There are those in the leadership who will feel so pressured that they have to produce intelligence that it doesn't matter whether it's actionable or not as long as they can get the volume in. They have to do what they have to do to get it, and so you've just given in essence, though you may not know it, carte blanche for a lot of problems to occur."

Addington, by the way, was promoted to the position of vice presidential chief of staff after Scooter Libby was indicted.

Kick Him Again, Harry

After Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid took the Senate into a closed session on Nov. 1 to demand action by foot-dragging Republicans on an overdue report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Majority Leader Bill Frist complained that Reid's move was "a slap in the face." In fact Frist deserved a kick somewhere lower on the body after his high-handed attempts to railroad the Senate to conform with right-wing ideology.

If invocation of seldom-used Rule 21 was a stunt on Reid's part, it forced the GOP leadership to move on a long-promised report on the use and abuse of intelligence information before the invasion of Iraq. Reid's rebellion also demonstrated that Frist does not control every facet of Senate operation.

Congressional Republicans have been loath to investigate wrongdoing at the White House and the Pentagon. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Intelligence Committee, agreed two years ago to investigate the obvious intelligence failures after the promised weapons of mass destruction failed to turn up in Iraq.

But Roberts divided the probe into two parts: first an examination of the intelligence and then its use by senior administration officials. The second phase was put off until after the 2004 election, but ranking Democrat Jay Rockefeller was not able to get Roberts to make good on the follow-up. So the Democratic leadership used Senate rules to force a discussion of the intelligence issue -- albeit in secret -- and came out with a six-senator panel, with three from each party, and orders to come up with a status report by Nov. 14.

Good for Harry Reid. Tom Daschle tried to play nice with Frist and all it got him was beaten in the 2004 election. Frist, who is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible insider trading in dumping stock that was supposed to be in a "blind" trust, can't be trusted any more than the Bush White House. -- JMC

From The Progressive Populist, Dec. 1, 2005

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