By Jack Rabbit
The White House has begun firing back at its accusers in
the public relations war concerning the reasons given for
the invasion of Iraq. The salvos fired by White House officials
seem to miss the point.
The controversy surrounds the infamous Niger document, known
to be a forgery. Despite the fact that it was a forgery, Mr.
Bush made an accusation that Saddam Hussein was attempting
to obtain material for constructing nuclear weapons in his
State of the Union message that was supported by information
in the Niger document. The question becomes: Did Mr. Bush
know the document was a forgery?
From all reports, the Niger document appears to have been
a particularly crude forgery. The US government gave a copy
of it to the International Atomic Energy Administration while
the IAEA was conducting weapons inspections of Iraq last winter
prior to the war. On March 7, IAEA director Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei
to the UN Security Council that the document was "not
authentic". What Dr. ElBaradei didnít say is that it
took his people less
than a day to debunk the forgery. It is highly unlikely
that a document so crudely forged as to be quickly judged
a forgery by the IAEA would have fooled anyone in the CIA.
Last Thursday, CBS news reported that parties in the CIA
known their misgivings about the Niger document to parties
in the White House. According to reports, the White House
knew 10 months before the State of the Union message that
the Niger document was unreliable. However on Friday morning
Mr. Bush's National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice,
stated that no one passed these concerns on to Mr. Bush.
Perhaps that's not as implausible as it sounds.
For some time, many on the Left have been using a working
hypothesis about the invasion of Iraq. This morning's accusations
and denials by Dr. Rice present no reason to abandon it. Indeed,
there is every reason to embrace it tighter.
The hypothesis is elaborate, and may be stated as follows:
The war against Iraq and the occupation of
that nation is colonial.
The purpose of the war and occupation is:
- To take control of Iraq natural resources and
place them in the hands of multinational corporations based
in the US which paid the bills for Mr. Bush's political
- To assure that the business of reconstructing
the infrastructure of a post-Saddam Iraq would go to multinational
corporations based in the US which paid the bills for Mr.
Bush's political career;
- To impose the neo-liberal economic paradigm
on Iraq in order to open markets for multinational corporations
based in the US which paid the bills for Mr. Bush's political
career and with which native Iraqi businesses cannot compete;
- To initiate the implementation of a grand colonial
design put forward in the last decade by a group of rightwing
ideologues under the name Project
for the New American Century (PNAC).
The war had nothing to with fighting terrorism,
disarming a rogue state of weapons of mass destruction, enforcing
UN resolutions or liberating anyone from a brutal dictator.
Everyone in the Bush administration knew very
well they could not sell the war to the American people or
to the world for the real reasons.
In order to sell the war, they alternately
claimed the war to be about fighting terrorism, disarming
a rogue state of weapons of mass destruction, enforcing UN
resolutions and liberating the Iraqi people from a brutal
Since those weren't the real reasons for the
war, but merely pretexts for public relations purposes, the
veracity of facts used to support them were not as important
as the impact they had on the public.
As this pertains to the Niger document, the hypothesis would
continue that nobody was concerned about it being a forgery
because nobody was really concerned whether Saddam was trying
to obtain material for nuclear weapons. Regardless of Mr.
Bush's personal knowledge of the reliability of the document,
the information was seen as something on which to sell the
war, not as anything that was an actual concern. The information
would be used for public relations.
However, according to this hypothesis, the fight against
terrorism, the actual existence of Saddam's unconventional
weapons, the sanctity of the UN charter and Security Council
resolutions and Saddam's brutal tyranny are all red herrings,
at least as far as the administration is concerned. They were
used as selling points for what White House Chief of Staff
Andrew Card called "The Product" and nothing else. The members
of the administration, including Mr. Bush, didn't care whether
these reasons were true or not as long as people could be
made to believe they were. As long as they didn't care about
the veracity of the claims, why should they have been concerned
about the authenticity of material used to support those claims?
It is possible that no one bothered to tell Mr. Bush that
the document was a forgery. No one cared that it was a forgery,
and every one knew Bush didn't care, either.
Last Friday afternoon, CIA director George Tenet issued
a mea culpa in which he stated that the responsibility
for the information from the false document being included
in the State of the Union rested with him. However, the only
thing to which Mr. Tenet admitted is not removing the remarks
from the speech. The fact remains that the Niger document
or a summary of what was in it was given to the White House
by the CIA in the Spring of 2002 and that the CIA warned the
White House that claims about the Iraqís nuclear aims were
not supported by any reliable evidence. How those sixteen
words got in to the the State of the Union address in the
first place is till a mystery.
By accepting the working hypothesis outlined about, we can
see what happened.
Mr. Bush was not the first administration official to make
the claim that Saddam was seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Mr. Cheney said
in September that Saddam had an active nuclear weapons
program and again
on March 16, just two days before the invasion commenced,
that Saddam had "reconstituted" his nuclear program
since the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
Also in September, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld elaborated
on Cheneys remarks. Said Rumsfeld, "We know they were
a lot closer (to developing a nuclear weapon) than any of
the experts had estimated."
On January 23, just five days before Mr. Bush delivered the
State of the Union message, Dr. Rice published
an op-ed piece in The New York Times in which she
charged that Iraq was not providing information about its
nuclear arsenal and stating that the answer to the question
"Has Saddam Hussein finally decided to voluntarily disarm?"
is "a clear and resounding no."
Of course, no catalogue of misinformation about Iraq's weapons
arsenal would be complete without including Colin
Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council on February
5. Mr. Powell did not rely on the Niger document for any of
his accusations that day. However, much of what he said was
quickly shown to be inaccurate and no assertion he made in
his presentation about Saddam's weapons arsenal as it stood
on that day has been verified. Unfortunately, it now appears
that Saddam had indeed disarmed. It appears that the White
House had no reason to believe he hadnít.
These statements were no less erroneous than the one made
by Mr. Bush in the State of the Union message. If Mr. Bush's
statement should have been removed from the State of the Union
message, shouldn't these statements also have been removed
from any prepared notes from which Mr. Cheney, Dr. Rice and
Secretary Rumsfeld were speaking? Were these people not briefed
on the unreliability of their information? If not, why not?
After all, as noted above, the information had been furnished
to the White House by the CIA.
Indeed, there appears to have been no reliable information
about Saddam's weapons arsenal that administration officials
used in support of their case for war. No weapons have been
found. If the information that they made public were reliable,
they would have had no trouble finding weapons. US and British
troops would have been tripping over them all the way to Baghdad.
Perfectly consistent with the hypothesis that administration
officials were unconcerned about the veracity of the information
that they made available to the public are the reports that
intelligence was culled for facts, no dubious, that justified
the predetermined decision to go to war against Iraq and to
ignore facts that contradicted public statements. In May,
The New Yorker published
a report by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh detailing
the operations of group whose task was to select intelligence
that supported the administration's aims. According to Hersh,
this operation was the brainchild of Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz. However, one needn't have waited until after
the invasion to learn that the administration was up to this
kind of deception.
In October, a
report by Julian Borger in the Guardian of London
charged that the administration "simply requires a lower
standard of proof" concerning intelligence justifying
their posture against Iraq. Borger's report documented an
ongoing fight between intelligence professionals who provided
facts to people who were supposed to make decisions based
on those facts and some of those very same people who turned
out to be ideologues not the least bit interested in facts.
It is the lack of interest in facts that should most concern
the citizens of a democratic state. Democracy assumes an open
society in which the government shares information with the
citizens in order for them to make an informed judgment. Even
where secrecy is important, the government at the very least
should not be deliberately misleading the citizens for any
reason. The idea that the government may have been misleading
the citizens in order to go to war for the benefit of the
wealthy friends of those in power is particularly odious to
This is indeed why arises the question of this administration
being allowed to continue, let alone whether Mr. Bush should
be removed from office. It is clear that more people than
Mr. Bush knew or should have known that their public utterances
and decision to go to war were based on dubious information.
The information delivered by the CIA to the White House, so
we must assume that somebody knew about it.
One conclusion is inescapable. Top administration officials
knew that they were lying about the reasons to go to war.
They should resign. If Mr. Bush is an honest man, then he
should demand their resignations. On the other hand, if he,
too, is so little concerned about the real facts - so long
as the ones presented gave him enough public support for a
long enough time to invade a sovereign nation for reasons
so nefarious that they could not be named - then he, too,