Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal


Book of revelations
As details about the lead-up to the Iraq war are revealed, it's time to ask how much political resonance they really have.

David Corn
September 7, 2006 11:01 AM

A British editor sent me an email asking whether new revelations about the lead-up to the war in Iraq can cause political damage to President Bush and his Republican comrades in Congress. I knew why he was asking. I have a new book out (co-written with Michael Isikoff of Newsweek), Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, which is loaded with revelations.

The book chronicles the intelligence battles that raged within the hallways and offices of the CIA, the State Department, the White House and Congress in the year before Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq. The book opens with a scene from May 2002, in which Bush tells his aides he intends to "kick [Saddam Hussein's] sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast."

This is a tip-off that the White House was being, shall we say, misleading throughout 2002 and early 2003 when it repeatedly declared that no decision had been made to attack Iraq. The book exposes details of an extensive covert operation approved by the White House to pave the way for war in Iraq (again, at a time when the administration was claiming Bush had no plans to invade Iraq.)

It shows how (and why) Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress were scared to challenge intelligence briefings they received directly from vice president Dick Cheney on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction - briefings that these legislators did not find convincing. (Still, they voted to grant Bush the authority to wage war against Iraq.)

The book details how the CIA overstated flimsy intelligence and how the White House then overstated these overstatements and didn't bother to review the intelligence reports. (Bush did not even read the full National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which was only 90 pages long, before ordering the war.) The book reports that CIA officers (before the war) suspected Iranian intelligence was working through the Iraqi National Congress (an exile group led by Ahmad Chalabi, who wanted war in Iraq) to influence the Bush administration and American public opinion.

I could go on. For more information on the book and its revelations, click here. But the question at hand is this: does any of this matter?

Of course, one answer is, of course. That is, uncovering and presenting the truth about such a historically important issue as what led to the launching of a war must, at some point, matter. There still is debate in the United States over the wisdom (or lack thereof) of Bush's Iraq endeavour. This book will provide material that will inform that ongoing battle.

But to reply to the query honestly I might have to admit that the revelations of Hubris (and those of other books and news articles) may not have political resonance. That's because the American public has already rendered a judgment on the war: it was a bad idea. Over 60% of Americans, according to opinion polls, now say Bush was wrong to have invaded Iraq. Only about a third back his decision to start this war.

The widespread dissatisfaction among Americans with Bush and his war, no doubt, is driven by the abysmal results. Thousands of American lives have been lost. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent. And still Iraq is a mess - and one that seems to be getting worse (with thousands of civilians being slaughtered in sectarian violence on a monthly basis).

My hunch is that most Americans care less about how we got to this point than about this point itself - had the war and the post-invasion period been a cakewalk, as some war advocates promised prior to the invasion, there would not be much talk in the United States about how Bush had misled the country into battle. Also, Bush has lost almost as much of the country as he could lose. He is down to his diehard base.

After sticking with Bush through the past three years - as his initial WMD rationale for the war evaporated, as his strategic decisions (de-Ba'athification, dissolving the Iraqi military) were proven wrong, as his policies in Iraq failed to stem the chaos and violence enveloping that nation - these people are unlikely to cut and run on Bush just because there is new and dramatic evidence that he rigged the road to war.

Republican candidates in the coming congressional elections are already weakened by Bush's low approval rating. Many do not want to campaign with Bush (though they still accept the campaign cash he raises for them). And they have to face the challenge of what to say about the war. Support the unpopular president and the unpopular war? Distance themselves and admit a mistake? But since politicians draw house district lines to favour incumbents, only about 35 of the 232 Republicans in the House of Representatives are in competitive races. So the war, and revelations about Bush and the war, will not affect most Republicans, who are in safe seats.

The Iraq fiasco, though, is clearly the undercurrent of this election. Bush and the Republicans are trying to tie the Iraq war to the so-called "war on terrorism". They are going to great lengths to depict critics of their Iraq misadventure as being soft on al-Qaida. (This is not logic; this is politics.)

Such a tactic may yet work. But the war appears to be the albatross around the neck of the Republican party. Its weight grows daily. And revelations about the run-up to the war - while perhaps not determinative in a political sense - do serve to remind people of an important fact: this war was a chosen war. And that means that the chooser-in-chief and all his aides and supporters still have to answer for that choice.

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