Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 11:46 pm
Randolph T. Holhut: 'The lies of war can no longer be ignored by the press'
By Randolph T. Holhut
DUMMERSTON, Vt. - Is the tide finally turning?
Americans are now starting to learn what was in the Downing Street Memos. The memos provide confirmation for what those who opposed the war against Iraq knew from the start: the Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq even before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the White House was simply looking for enough rhetorical fig leaves to cover their naked aggression.
The Associated Press, the primary source of news for most of America's print and broadcast media, is finally writing about the seven memos, which are basically minutes of cabinet meetings held by the Blair government after meeting with their U.S. counterparts in 2002. While others have reported upon the memos, for most newspapers it's not news until the AP reports upon it..
Republicans who once supported the invasion of Iraq are starting to have second thoughts. They see President Bush's approval ratings in freefall and see that Americans no long have the stomach for an occupation that could last for decades, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently said.
The Army is scrambling for new recruits. The baby boomers who control the media may make fun of how brain-dead "Generation Y" is, but today's young people are smart enough to know that it is not worth getting their limbs blown off to make rich corporations richer.
It's looking like historian Arthur Schlesinger's prediction is coming true. He recently said that what Korea was to Harry Truman and Vietnam was to Lyndon Johnson, Iraq will be to George W. Bush. Both Truman and Johnson's presidencies foundered and eventually fell apart over Korea and Vietnam, respectively. The public had no stomach for those wars once it became clear that they were bloody stalemates at best and tragic wastes of blood and treasure at worst.
We have now reached that point in Iraq. The deceptions and lies used to get us into that quagmire have been crystal clear to anyone who was paying attention over the past four years. The trouble was, most people - including the corporate press - weren't paying attention.
The Washington Post and The New York Times are all saying that the Downing Street Memos are old news. So were the Pentagon Papers, but that didn't stop these papers from printing excerpts back in 1971, when we still had an adversarial and independent press.
Both papers ran the Bush administration's rationales for invading Iraq prominently on Page One, day after day. Dissenting opinions were buried on the inside pages. And the rest of the big print and broadcast news organizations decided early on that critical reporting of the Bush administration's motives was beyond the accepted realm of debate. As every journalist eventually finds out, attacking conservatives usually means the end of your career in journalism. Few reporters in the corporate press have lost their jobs for ripping liberals.
But the Downing Street Memos aren't really old news, any more than the Pentagon Papers were old news. Both provide a glimpse into the decision-making process and show the lies and distortions that governments inevitably employ to support a war.
Over the past few weeks, we've learned the following:
- According to the Times of London, British and American warplanes increased the number and intensity of bombing raids on Iraq beginning in May 2002. The idea was to provoke Saddam Hussein into retaliation and provide a pretext for a U.S. invasion. Saddam never retaliated, but the raids, aimed at air defense and communications sites, made the "shock and awe" raids, when the war began in March 2003, that much easier.
- The British government believed the evidence justifying an invasion of Iraq was flimsy and could constitute a violation of international law. They were also concerned that the Bush administration gave little thought to post-war planning. "The U.S. government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace," stated a July 21, 2002, briefing paper. "But as yet, it lacks a political framework. ... A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation building exercise." The Bush administration instead focused on coming up with a plan that would be seen as legal under international law.
- The Bush administration was obsessed with what it called "regime change" in Iraq from the day it took office. The Blair government believed that, according to a memo written by Blair political adviser Peter Ricketts to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, arguing for regime change in Iraq alone "does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge match between Bush and Saddam."
- The White House maintained the fiction right up until March 2003 that it tried to avoid war. We now know that preliminary planning for an Iraq invasion began in November 2001 and that by February 2002, according to the Knight Ridder News Service, President Bush had decided in principle to overthrow Saddam and ordered "a combination of military, diplomatic and covert steps" to achieve that goal.
All the whistleblowers in the Bush administration - Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson and others - turned out to be right. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and there was no Iraqi link to the Sept. 11 attacks. Yet these fictions still get trotted out by defenders of the war.
Invading Iraq was never a last-resort option. It was the plan all along. And, as the British memos show, the Bush administration was shaping, doctoring and fabricating the intelligence it used to justify the war. Just imagine what the Bush meeting summaries, if any are still in existence, might reveal.
Does the truth not matter on a such a fundamental issue as committing a nation to a war of choice that was sold to Americans as a war of necessity? Is the growing evidence that the Bush administration lied about almost every aspect of the Iraq invasion not troubling?
Those are questions that need answers now.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com
"Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."
Honore de Balzac
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That other party, they work for people who don't need help.
That's all there is to it."
~Harry S. Truman