12/17/2008

CHENEY: INTEL BAD, BUT SO WHAT?

I hesitate to blog about this. While I am always outspoken in terms of education policy, I say very little about politics otherwise. Many of my colleagues differ from me on points of policy in other areas, and I think it is unwise to link education policy to other areas of public life. I also have family members with whom I respectfully differ, and I'm just not that comfortable bad-mouthing our leadership. I've always tried to respect the Executive branch of government, even if I didn't vote for those filling it and disagreed with the policies. As far as I'm concerned, President Bush is my President, too.

But I just have to say that I am still angry about the way the Bush Administration got us into the war, and Dick Cheney's recent statements (and, frankly, his self-aggrandizing attitude) brings all those dyspeptic feelings to the surface.

I trusted my President in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq. It was very clear that the Administration was selling us on the likelihood that Saddam Hussein's band of thugs were in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It was also clear that it was a 'hard sell' to the American people and the world at large. The Administration sent one of its most respected members, Secretary of State Colin Powell, to make that case to the U.N. Security Council based upon the intelligence available. We found little support there, and many Americans were angered by the refusal of Security Council members (notably France) to accept the Administration's interpretation. The President, acting to defend the American people based upon that interpretation, then put into action an essentially unilateral policy that led us, step by step, to invade Iraq.

I have vivid memories of agonizing about the whole mess. Three weeks prior to the war, I was still waffling: yes, Saddam is bad....no, we don't have clear evidence of his supporting Al-Qaeda....yes, there is a global war on terror.....no, we don't have clear evidence that Saddam would ever supply terrorists with WMD......yes, it would be good to not have to rely on the Saudis or the Turks in order to intervene in the strategically-important region.....no, we don't have the support of the international community.....

What finally tipped me into supporting the policy were the constant insinuations that Saddam didn't merely have a WMD program, as in the gassing of the Kurds, but a nuclear program. Much was made of the existence of aluminum tubes. Vice President Cheney alluded to mushroom clouds in a speech, a clear reference to nuclear terror. With a week running down on the clock, normally-invisible NSA analysts were getting time on C-SPAN to talk about the possibility of nuclear terror in the Mideast. I can remember going to my wife and friends and saying that this was the tipping point in me, and that I believed that the President wouldn't follow this course unless the intelligence was credible. The belief that WMD's existed was so strong that many people, including me, considered the possibility that they might be used against our troops in Iraq when the Republican Guard became desperate.

Well, we know what happened after that. We didn't find an active program for WMD, and once this became so clear that the President had to own up or else lose all credibility, there was an admission and a shift in justification. Later, Vice President Cheney claimed that WMD's or no, that invading Iraq was still the right decision. Cheney elaborated on this point in a recent ABC interview: basically, the Veep argues that while there were no WMD's, that Hussein had the means to put together a biological or chemical program and intended to do so. The justification for Cheney's conclusion? Hmm....the same intelligence operatives whose cherry-picked findings pointed to WMD in the first place.

Can there be any clearer indication that Bush plans to pardon Scooter Libby, and that the various shadow dealings of the Cheney Vice-Presidency are going to remain in shadow? Cheney is essentially taking the presumption of past failure as the high ground. The bad decisions based upon faulty intelligence are now justified by more faulty intelligence. Here's how another blogger sums up Dick's prevarications: he just can't admit that he was wrong.

I'll go further: Dick Cheney is a real piece of work, whose opinions on national security seemed to have best served his political cronies rather than the American people. He was good for oil companies, good for Halliburton, good for defense contractors----and bad for the rest of us. But he doesn't lack for confidence, does he? No matter how wrong he and the neo-cons were about the WMD, he says, they were still right about Iraq. The rest of us, who doubted and who were only persuaded to support the policy by a barrage of nuclear misinformation, we're terrorist dupes in Cheneyland, and he thinks history will vindicate him and the President.

Again, in my opinion, that's only going to happen if the truth doesn't come out about what they actually did. Since that seems unlikely, the best I can hope for at this point is that Cheney slinks back into the secretive bosom of Big Oil.

3 comments:

Bjørn Østman said...

many Americans were angered by the refusal of Security Council members (notably France) to accept the Administration's interpretation.

This is another really depressing and embarrassing part of the story, don't you think?

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Well, again, even though I didn't vote for Bush, I trusted him to do the right thing on something so momentous--just like a lot of other Americans did. And, because I was inclined to believe him, I was inclined to support his efforts to build international consensus, and to be frustrated by other nations that refused to go along with Bush's agenda.

So, in that sense, I was part of the problem. I mean, I'm still angry because I feel I was misled on a number of points, and this is another.

Kimmers said...

We can only hope that the next administration will file charges, treason (in my opinion) would be just fine.