Friday, May 15, 2015

Let's play the blame game

Paul Waldman, writing in The American Prospect, makes the same point that Ray McGovern has made in a recent interview. Now that the Iraq war is entering the "historical revisionism" stage, we must not allow the Republicans to get away with saying that the debacle was based on "faulty intelligence."

Although the polite political class wants us to pretend that the Downing Street memo never existed, I refuse to go along with any exercise in self-deception. Remember these words?
Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
You can't understand the decisions that led to the Iraq War without grasping just how incredibly politicized the intelligence process had become in the months before the war. Every piece of intelligence that passed through the American government was subject to different interpretations depending on who was looking at it, and throughout there was intense pressure on people within the intelligence community to deliver to the senior people in the Bush administration—the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, and others—exactly what everybody knew they wanted.

And what they wanted was war. Today, Republicans act as though the intelligence community burst into the Oval Office and said, "Mr. President, Mr. President, Iraq is a terrible threat, and if we don't invade we're doomed!" and then Bush said, "Gee, if you say so, I guess we'd better." But it worked the other way around.
Fixing the intelligence is the reason why the White House went after Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie.

Fixing the intelligence was the primary reason why torture became standard practice.

It's also the reason why the government accepted the claims of an outrageously dubious defector who was given the all-too-appropriate code-name "Curveball." As the CIA's Jim Angleton discovered a long time ago, you can rewrite reality itself if you can induce (or force) people from the enemy camp to say what you want them to say.

(Desperate to "prove" his bizarre theory that the Sino-Soviet split was a commie ruse, Angleton developed his own Curveball-esque defector named Anatoly Golitsyn; Angleton also engineered the torture of a more honest defector named Yuri Nosenko. It's almost as though W and Cheney worked from that playbook.)

The current attempts at Iraq war revisionism stem from Jeb Bush's changing stances. At first, he said that the war was a good thing, then he hilariously sputtered Let's not play the blame game. At the same time, he tried to hide behind the soldiers, pretending that any critique of his brother's war was a critique of those who had fought on America's behalf. (The Republicans used that tactic shamelessly throughout the early years of the war.)

Jeb finally admitted that the decision to invade was a mistake. I don't think he'll ever admit that it was a crime -- yet so it was.

Another point: We need a lot more honest discussion about news management throughout the pre-invasion period. Such a discussion could shed light on the media manipulation going on right now.

As I've mentioned in a couple of posts, CBS News conducted an early poll -- published (if memory serves) on September 17, 2001 -- which revealed that only three percent of the American public believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Two years later, some 70 percent considered Saddam Hussein responsible. As late as 2007, 50 percent of the population was saying the same thing, even though Bush had, by that point, admitted on camera that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attack.

This sort of thing does not happen by accident.

It should be noted that at no time during the 2001-2003 period did Bush ever say explicitly that Saddam bore responsibility. Our compliant news media can be manipulated into telling a lie that the government itself does not officially endorse.
On the one year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, Bush dropped the name Osama Bin Laden from his vocabulary and began repeating the name of Saddam Hussein. It was a clever manipulative psychological ploy that substituted Saddam for Bin Laden in the minds of the American public.
Of Jeb Bush's 21 foreign policy advisers, 17 of them are from the Bush administration. A key figure is Paul Wolfowitz. David Corn gives some more details of this, along with a fascinating account of Wolfowitz's adoption of the conspiracy theories of academic Laurie Mylroie which were fixed around the figure of Saddam Hussein. It's an interesting read.
W must have put Iraq and 9/11 in the same sentence a hundred times. He didn't say they did it, but a lot of people "learned" to associate the two...
W would say things along the lines of "The road to our war on terror in Iraq began on 9/11," allowing the intellectually lazy to connect the dots for themselves.
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