Gather round, all ye conspiracy addicts and other interested parties, and listen to a July 4th tale that should be setting-off some serious fireworks, if only folks were paying attention. Mind you, we don't have a smoking firearm here, nor are we likely to ever have one. But indulge us in this round of substantiated speculation.
On or about Independence Day, 2002, things were getting rather nasty for President Bush. If you remember, enormous scandals at Enron, WorldCom et. al. were grabbing headlines. Bush was beginning to get tarred. The Washington press corps was finally recovering from its post-9-11 servility. The question was (and, for that matter, still is), why should Bush, a former Harken Energy officer, a man implicated in an insider trading scheme four times the size of Martha Stewart's boo-boo, be trusted to ride in on a white horse and protect us all from evil corporate dirty-doers?
The New York Time's Paul Krugman poised the question on July 2nd. By July 8th, Bush was badgered with Harken queries at one of his rare press conferences. A Nexus search reveals that, during the week of July 6th., about 300 major news stories and opinion pieces were generated in the U.S. media on either the Bush-Harken issue or the questionable actions of Dick Cheney during his tenure as C.E.O. at Halliburton. Not a happy time for the White House, and a November election was looming.
What to do? It's clear from innumerable sources that Bush and his cronies wanted to go after Iraq from way back, that 9-11 provided the opportunity, that once the Taliban was thrown out of power in Afghanistan, the propaganda mill, with virtually no evidence, could wrap Saddam in 9-11 finery. Crank it up in September, just in time to scare the be-jesus out of every Joe six- pack and soccer mom on election day in 2002. You ideally don't want to start any earlier than that. As Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, said last summer, you don't begin a sales campaign in August.
But then those pesky Enron/WorldCom irritants forced the issue, so the White House appears to have sped-up its scheme by wagging-the-dog on July 4th. That's when the Pentagon leaked its Iraq war plans to the New York Times. Although some say the spill was done by those opposed to a war, Bush and company clearly had ample motivation to distract the public from the burgeoning corporate tempests. They had a long lineage of switcher-roos to draw on: the Monica-gate Iraq attack by Clinton in '98 and Reagan's invasion of Grenada in 1983, close on the heels of the massacre of some 240 Marines in Beirut, to mention just two examples.
The leak, along with a few other choice moves, seems to have worked like a charm. Soon after July 4th, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz visited Ankora to talk turkey about invasion plans, and Tony Blair was invited to Camp David to meet Bush and discuss war strategy. By the end of July, the Bush-Harken stories were down to a trickle, apparently drowned out by the growing title wave of pieces on a possible invasion of Iraq. Nexus shows us that while there were a small number of stories on a possible U.S. attack on Iraq before July, by early August there were close to 300. By the middle of September, the number more than doubled. It can be argued that Bush-Harken stories would have died anyway, that correlation is not necessarily causation. But Bush certainly had a motive to up-the-anti on Iraq.
Nor is this discussion idle historical chatter, bent on remembering Bush's purely political/electoral expediency in going to war, something that's been lost in all the clammer about wmd, oil, lucrative contracts for friends, smashing support for the Palestinians, reconfiguring the Middle East, getting revenge for Poppy, etc.
Our wagging dog could take another bow (wow!). The president is increasingly weakened by awol wmd in Iraq, along with growing numbers of body bags and a failed occupation. Add in the other occupational mess in Afghanistan, a stagnant U.S. economy, an enormous deficit, sinking state budgets, and you've got trouble in (Potomac) River City.
If you were George Bush, or more accurately, Karl Rove, what would you do? Changing the subject worked beautifully last year. Why not try it again? Let's pick on another Axis of Evil country, or perhaps go out and actually arrest/kill Osama-Been-Forgotten. With all that intelligence at their disposal, they have to know where some guy hooked up to a dialysis machine is hiding out. Or why not make an early announcement of Condi Rice as your 2004 running-mate. That would really confuse everybody. They just need to decide which bone to pull out of the bag and when to wag it. Wait till September 2004? Maybe sooner if things get too shaky? Stay tuned.
Who knows? Maybe Bush's opponents can start chatting this up, something they were, for the most part, too afraid to do last year. Then perhaps we can declare some real independence on
November 2, 2004.