In the wake of David Kay's revelations and resignation, one would think the White House had hired former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Saeed al-Sahaf as special media adviser. Remember him? The tragicomic King of Da Nile?
What else could explain the administration's (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Rice, Powell) delusional notions that it never claimed Iraq was an imminent threat and that an Iraq without WMDs was even more dangerous than an Iraq with WMDs? Or its attempts to blame the intelligence services? How else to explain the presidentially appointed commission that won't conclude its work before November? Mad cow disease?
The truth can't be uncovered unless the commission is legitimately constituted and asks the right questions. Nor can it operate from that place of denial. It must be able to investigate the administration's purported use/abuse of intelligence and the war's legitimacy itself. And it must ask: Did Iraq pose a genuine threat to history's most powerful nation? And is the current threat so great as to warrant a permanent state of war and the surrender of our Constitutionally protected privacy, rights, liberties and freedoms?
While Kay revealed that Iraq was but a paper tiger, truthfully, Iraq's WMDs were never the principal issue. Frankly, Iraq wasn't a threat to Israel, much less to Europe and certainly not the United States. Yet that didn't stop the president from rushing to war and berating everyone (labeling his critics disloyal or appeasers) who dared question his wisdom. (Ironically, he can't see the tragicomedy in labeling himself the "war president.")
Despite that, the United Nations and the UN Security Council resisted the president's urgent "you're either with us or against us" call to war. It remained satisfied that Iraq was in check, due to U.N. sanctions, inspectors, and the U.S. and British aerial bombardment.
The proof of a lack of imminent threat comes not from "deep throat" sources (though there are plenty of those), but from the administration itself. The war cabinet continually stated that its case for war was not triggered by new Iraqi developments or intelligence. Instead, they noted that as a result of 9/11, they began to view Iraq through a new prism.
This has been contradicted by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's account, that plans for toppling Saddam Hussein began at President Bush's first Cabinet meeting. Sept. 11 simply gave him cover. This transparency -- which involved the U.S. blackmailing nations to support the war and to exempt it from an international war crimes tribunal -- is what caused the United Nations to balk. Worth noting is that during this critical period, Congress surrendered its constitutional duties, the intelligence services buckled (CIA Director George Tenet could have resigned), the courts gave (and continue to give) the president a pass, and mainstream/corporate media were reduced to cheerleading as it abandoned its governmental watchdog function.
The president's moves against the tribunal are key because his objective, as clearly enunciated in his 2002 doctrine, is U.S. world dominance. This requires a massive arms buildup, global militarization and a permanent state of war. Through the skillful manipulation of fear and patriotism, his promise is eternal peace and prosperity through pre-emptive war. Such a policy is both immoral and illegal by international standards. This might explain his insistence upon U.S. exemption from that tribunal and ensuring that the public be kept in the dark until long after the elections.
This crisis isn't about intelligence failures or the misreading of intelligence, but rather about the deliberate and premeditated march toward war. Neither is it about the lack of leadership; he's actually shown forceful leadership, if pre-emptive war against "pre-imminent" threats is the objective. Of course, that doctrine (and its architects) has now been thoroughly discredited. What's in question is wise leadership.
The president's actions have unleashed not peace, but the gates of hell in Iraq and the greater Middle East, at a tremendous human and financial cost. In November, regardless of the commission's work, voters will render their own early verdict. The failure of the commission to assert its independence early on and to report by election time will most assuredly erode the little credibility and moral authority that the president now enjoys. If he is re-elected, it could also invite early impeachment proceedings (or even proceedings from that same tribunal he's demanded exemption from) and the continual, needless shedding of blood. What's indisputable is that he's guilty of very bad planning and atrocious miscalculation. Nothing that is happening in Iraq today was not forseeable.
A commission is not needed to search for the root of the truth (nor should we expect it from the president's forthcoming $100 million reelection ad campaign). What's needed is an investigation to see if the president and his administration is using the same dictionary as the rest of us.
Gonzales is the author of 'The Mud People: Chronicles, Testimonios & Rembrances' ($19.95, Chusma House, ISBN: 1-891823-05-1). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org She can be reached at: email@example.com
Rodriguez is the author of 'Justice: A Question of Race' - Bilingual Review Press and the electronic books, 'The X in La Raza' and 'Codex Tamuanchan: On Becoming Human' . Both are coeditors of 'Cantos Al Sexto Sol' - Wings Press
Copyright 2004 Universal Press Syndicate