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It's Hitting the Fan
June 13, 2003
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 shnnn613@cs.com

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