Friday, November 11, 2005

By Robert Burrows: Conservative defense of war seriously flawed

Recent columns of two widely syndicated conservative defenders of the Bush administration, Jonah Goldberg and David Brooks, nakedly attempt to foist blame for alarming the public about the dire threat posed by Saddam Hussein onto the Democrats during the Clinton years.

To do so, Goldberg resorts to that weakest of arguments--the attempt to undercut the message by destroying the messenger. The public's awakening to the distortions of the Bush administration which led us to war is blamed upon former ambassador Joe Wilson, that "feckless weasel," who seriously undercut Bush's reasons for going to war in a New York Times article demolishing the president's claim that "Iraq had attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium in Africa." Justifying the retaliations against Wilson by blowing the cover of his secret CIA-agent wife, Goldberg smugly concludes "Wilson deserved everything he got."

Brooks, with a string of references to the warnings about Saddam given by top level Democrats in the 90s, writes a snide attack on Harry Reid whom he accuses of staying up so late nights that he suffers from wild delusions that the "Republican plot to manipulate intelligence" about the war led the United States into the fiasco in Iraq.

As Goldberg avoided the consequences of Wilson's news by attacking the newsbearer, Brooks insidiously attempts to switch the burden for going to war from those immediately responsible to those who were sidelined by the 2000 presidential election.

Such bait and switch tactics won't sell in any American marketplace today. Americans now know, as the head of the British intelligence service told his government on 23 July 2002, that U.S. "military action" against Hussein "was seen as inevitable" because the "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The pattern is now clear that President Bush, strongly led by Vice President Dick Cheney, with the connivance of Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, exaggerated alarmist statements about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein because of his possession of weapons of mass destruction, probably including chemical and biological weapons and perhaps verging on the capability to launch atomic weapons against his foes.

The deception of the Congress is now understood most clearly by the circumstances surrounding the critical Senate hearings on the supposed threat of Iraq on 1 October 2002. The full version of the 90-page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was not sent to Congress until late the night before the hearings were to begin. Most senators presumably relied on the 25-page abbreviated version which omitted dissenting views on the magnitude of Iraq's threat and exaggerated the dangers posed by that threat.

The facts are clear: President Bush and his administration misled Congress and the American people to acquiesce in their program to move us to war against the Saddam Hussein regime. Elizabeth de la Vega, who has served as a federal prosecutor for many years, claims that the abbreviated NIE report was the primary source for the talking points for war. "It was completely misleading," she emphasizes, because "it mentioned no dissents; it removed qualifiers and even added language to distort the severity of the threat."

The pattern of such exaggerations and distortions is now clear as the evidence has accumulated showing the manner in which President Bush and his administration led us to war. No, Harry Reid is not spending sleepless nights suffering from delusions about the war but rather from his realization that the evidence of fraud on the part of the Bush administration, including both the president and vice president, is so telling that motions of impeachment for their misconduct in leading us to war must be seriously considered.

Robert Burrows

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