Back to Basics
   by Gene Lyons

According to what Gen. Wesley Clark told "Meet the Press" on June 15,
President Junior may eventually have to resort to the ultimate GOP
excuse to explain away Iraq's missing Weapons of Mass Destruction. No
need to blame looters as Bush did recently, a preposterous alibi which
raised more alarming questions than it pretended to answer. (Only days
before, he'd claimed they HAD been found.) Instead, he can blame Bill
Clinton, the man whose own extravagant folly helped make it possible for
this epic liar to be appointed president.

Host Tim Russert asked Clark about his April 9 column in The Times of
London. "This is the real intelligence battle and the stakes could not
be higher," Clark wrote "for failure to find the weapons could prove to
be a crushing blow to the proponents of the war [in Iraq], supercharge
Arab anger and set back many efforts to end the remarkable diplomatic
isolation of the United States and Britain."

How you can tell Clark's a Democrat, incidentally, is that he thinks
alienating the known world is a bad idea. After acknowledging that
banned weapons may yet materialize in Iraq, although nothing resembling
the "imminent threat that many feared," Clark reminded Russert of
something the pundit-fixated like everybody in Washington on Bill
Clinton's zipper at the time-had probably forgotten.
"We struck [Iraq] very hard in December of '98," Clark said. "Did
everything we knew, all of his [Saddam's] facilities. I think it was an
effective set of strikes. Tony Zinni commanded that, called Operation
Desert Fox, and I think that set them back a long ways. But we never
believed that that was the end of the problem."

Back then, Republicans charged that Clinton bombed suspected Iraqi WMD
sites to distract the public from his Oval Office sex antics, as if THAT
were possible. But it's beginning to look as if economic sanctions, UNSCOM
inspectors and cruise missiles may have done the job. (Actually, some
defectors, including Saddam's son-in-law, whom he had murdered, claimed
the Iraqi dictator had the forbidden weapons destroyed after the Gulf War,
which admittedly begs the question of why he refused to prove it.)

Anyway, after Gen. Clark observed that there had been "a certain amount
 of hype in the intelligence," leading up to Junior's 2003 invasion of  Iraq
 Russert pounced.

"Hyped by whom?"

"I think it was an effort to convince the American people to do something,"
Clark began carefully. "There was a concerted effort during the Fall of 2001
starting immediately after 9/11," he added "to pin 9/11 and the terrorism
problem on Saddam Hussein."

"By who?" Russert insisted. "Who did that?"

"Well, it came from the White House," Clark said. "It came from people around
the White House...I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my
home saying,  'You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism.
This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.' I said, 'But-I'm willing to say it but
what's your evidence?' And I never got any evidence...It was a lot of pressure to
connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally
saw the evidence and didn't talk to anybody who had the evidence to make
that connection."

Now in a rational world, the media watchdogs at Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting pointed out, this would be newsworthy. The former NATO Supreme
Com-mander says the Bush White House pressured him to blame 9/11 on Iraq
even as the World Trade Center Towers were still smoking. Perhaps because
Clark's own political ambitions remain unclear, however, little has been made
of the allegation.

Outraged by 9/11, many Americans have been content to let Junior pick
the targets. A fawning press corps has gone to extraordinary lengths to
protect Bush from the consequences of his dishonesty. The New York Times
led its "Week in Review" section with an astonishing piece of equivocation by
David E. Rosenbaum arguing, among other absurdities, that if Bush didn't
actually KNOW he was peddling phony "intelligence" about Iraqi nuclear
weapons, its nonexistent links to al Qaeda, or even who benefited from his
tax cut schemes, then it's unfair to say he lied.

Elsewhere, however, many in the national press have awakened to their
responsibility. New York Times columnists Nicholas Kristoff and Paul
Krugman have taken on Bush's habitual mendacity over matters of war and
peace and economic justice. "Misrepresentation and deception," Krugman
writes "are standard operating procedure for this administration."
Most persuasive, however, is a brilliantly dispassionate analysis by John
Judis and Spencer Ackerman in The New Republic depicting in compelling
detail how Bush administration zealots manipulated the evidence to
justify their obsession with Iraq and why "the cost to U.S. democracy
could be felt for years to come."

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