Hitting the Fan
By Michael Shannon
We still have a long way to go, but this could turn out to
be the dream come true scenario. In spite of all the missteps,
all the mangled elocution, all the self-serving policies and
all the arrogance, it has long appeared as though it would
take an elongated economic slowdown, or - God forbid - another
catastrophic attack on America to bring the true face of the
Bush administration into view. Developments that absolutely
no rational person would want. But as fate would have it,
it now seems that through its key player's unbridled, avaricious
mendacity, this administration may self-destruct - with no
one to blame but themselves.
The next several weeks will be critical in the history of
this Bush presidency. The chorus of voices calling for an
explanation as to whether, from the President on down, the
administration lied to the United Nations Security Council,
Congress, and most importantly the American people in regards
to the war in Iraq, is on the cusp of reaching critical mass.
The first crucial step will be taken in Great Britain. Prime
Minister Tony Blair was more than an ally to Mr. Bush is this
affair, they have been joined at the hip on this project from
Day 1. Although Mr. Blair has, as this is being written, offered
a limited and tepid mea culpa, he remains adamant that the
information he touted was valid. Unfortunately for him, his
rhetoric was at least as hyperbolic as Mr. Bush's. His declaration
that Saddam not only had WMD but that the Iraqis could bring
them to bear on the battlefield on 45 minutes notice is particularly
troublesome. That these weapons have proven remarkably elusive
may leave him fatally exposed. A vote of confidence is much,
much easier to call for and get in a parliamentary form of
government than it is in one such as ours. If such an action
is taken, Mr. Blair may be in for the shock of his political
life - a shock that will roll all the way across the Atlantic.
As for the rest of the international community, 90 percent
of them believed they were being sold a bill of goods all
along so the thought that the Bush team may have lied comes
as absolutely no surprise. What is a surprise is that
they seem to have lied so poorly.
Hans Blix, the head of the ill-fated UN weapon inspection
team, noted in his farewell report to the United Nations that
he was disappointed in the quality of the information supplied
to his team by the US prior to the onset of hostilities. "My
God, if this is the best intelligence they have and we find
nothing, what about the rest?" he said.
Where the problem really lies for Team Bush is, of course,
here in the United States. It's here that the questioning
is no longer relegated to those who have long been antiwar
and/or anti-Bush. Now the sniping is coming much closer to
home and hitting that much harder.
It appears as though the pressure put on by senior members
of the Bush administration on the intelligence community is
now coming back to haunt them in a big way. Many of the people
who work in the intelligence community do so in careers that
far exceed the tenure of a particular President. Their allegiance
is not as ironclad to the party in power as politicos would
like to believe. Reports are surfacing with increasing regularity
- some from unnamed people who are still on the government
payroll , and others who, being retired, are much less fearful
of discovery - that the reports they were providing to the
principals in private were not in keeping with what these
people were then turning around and saying in public.
Adding credence to this tendency was the bombshell of a
comment from William Kristol that "misstatements" were made.
For a man like Mr. Kristol - a charter member of PNAC and
a card-carrying neo-conservative - to make such an statement
is an extraordinary development. Although his comrade in arms,
Paul Wolfowitz, had opened a few pinholes with his admission
in a recent magazine article that the WMD issue was selected
for "bureaucratic" reasons, Kristol's comments are the first
real crack in the dam.
As would be expected, the administration has sent out its
two most "credible" heavyweights to fight back. Both Condaleezza
Rice and Colin Powell were adamant on the Sunday morning talk
shows that, "there is no question that Saddam had WMD before
the war." Such an observation in and of itself, is correct.
There is hard evidence that Saddam possessed, and used, unconventional
weapons "before the war." What they refuse to admit is the
possibility that these weapons, due to losses suffered in
the first Gulf War, actions taken by the UN teams over the
seven year period they were actively working in Iraq, and
attrition as a consequence of the lack of replacement parts
and supplies due to the sanctions in place, no longer exist.
Rice, Powell and their bosses counter that contention with
an argument in reverse, "If he didn't have these weapons,
why didn't Saddam give the UN free and unlimited access in
the weeks and months immediately proceeding this conflict?"
This is a relatively rational question, but it is being asked
to explain the actions of a thoroughly irrational man. Why
this guy acted the way he did will most likely forever remain
unanswerable. It is possible though that Saddam's prewar actions
were merely the continuation of a lifetime of surviving at
all cost behavior. It has been nearly universally accepted
that Saddam was a rotten-to-the-core bully. A man who ruled
through fear and intimidation. If a man like that is shown
to be afraid and intimidated, then the illusion loses its
effect; the spell is broken. He either maintains the aura
of invincibility in front of his own people or he opens himself
up to attack from all sides.
President Bush now finds himself in a similar fix, only
without the threat of military invasion hanging over his head.
If he and his top people are shown to be guilty of lying to
Congress and the American people then the bond of trust with
the American electorate will be forever shattered. They can
hope and pray that this storm will pass, but if it doesn't;
they have two choices: They can either admit that they were
woefully wrong, or that they lied. As reluctant as they are
to admit the former - the head guy has been fighting the incompetency
issue from the day he took office - at least it's not against
the law to be inept.
As for where all this is leading; it is not a stretch to
note that the question may soon evolve into, "who will be
the fall guy?" As difficult as that may be to answer from
the inside, it is equally vexing for those of us outside looking
in. With a lineup of blackguards as lengthy as this administration
provides, finding one to fix blame on is a tough choice.
Personally, I would love to see Cheney fall on his sword.
Not only is he at the very heart of all that is wrong with
this administration, he goes and the whole house of cards
goes with him.
Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org