Democratic Underground  

They Should Resign
July 17, 2003
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 reported 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 made 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 career;

- 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 dictator;

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 democratic principles.

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, should resign.

Printer-friendly version
Tell a friend about this article Tell a friend about this article
Discuss this article
Democratic Underground Homepage