Pump Up the Cult
  by Gene Lyons

Ask Karl Rove for an apology? Not me. Apologies are appropriate for
foolish remarks made in the heat of argument. Rove read from a script.
The White House handed out copies. Besides, what would an apology from
that flabby little apparatchik be worth? Heís the human equivalent of a
fear-biting dog: His Masterís Voice. "Conservatives," Rove said, "saw
the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw
the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and
offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11,
conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the
United States military against the Taliban. In the wake of 9/11, liberals
believed it was time to submit a petition. I am not joking."  No, he was
fabricating. The House gave President Bush the authority to attack the
Taliban and Osama bin Laden by a vote of 420-1. The Senate voted
unanimously, 98-0. To my knowledge, nobody mentioned therapy.

The usual Washington pundits say Rove wasnít attacking Democrats,
only "liberals." Oh, really? Rove claimed that the party chairman, Howard
Dean, opposed fighting the Taliban. In fact, Dean supported the Afghan
war. He criticized Bush for letting bin Laden escape in order to pursue
his obsession with Saddam Hussein.

Rove also alleged that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbinís poorly worded
response to an FBI report detailing torture by American soldiers at
Guantanamo Bay "certainly [put] Americaís men and women in uniform in
greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

See, itís not torture that inflames opinion in the Muslim world, itís what
American politicians say about it. In other words, according to Bushís
right-hand man, Durbin, the Senate Democratic whip, wants to see
American soldiers killed.

Thatís how desperate the White House has become to distract attention
from the disaster in Iraq and the propaganda campaign that got us there.
The idea is to pump up the Bush cult of personality, equate dissent with
disloyalty and warn wavering Republicans that they, too, can be smeared.
Itís as cowardly as it is contemptible.

In response, letís return to that famous Downing Street memo of July 22,
2002. Written by the head of British intelligence, it stated that Bush had
already decided to overthrow Saddam, "justified by the conjunction of
terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed
around the policy."

Instead of debating the meaning of "fixed," Bob Somerbyís inimitable Web
site The Daily Howler asked a simple question: What happened next? Based
on Bob Woodwardís "Plan of Attack," a book Bush personally urged the
reporter to write, Somerby lays out the evidence. It ainít pretty.

That summer, Bush insisted publicly that war wasnít what he wanted. To
White House chagrin, his fatherís foreign policy team, Gen. Brent Scowcroft
and Secretary of State James Baker, wrote articles warning that invading Iraq
could become a major strategic blunderóbasically what Gen. Colin Powell
also thought.

While Bush vacationed in Texas during August 2002, Vice President Dick
Cheney gave bellicose speeches declaring that there was "no doubt" that
Iraq would soon acquire a nuclear arsenal. He warned that Saddam "could
then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control
of a great portion of the worldís energy supplies, directly threaten Americaís
friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other
nation to nuclear blackmail."

In reality, the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate claimed only that
Saddam maintained an "infrastructure capable of producing" chemical
weapons and possible "low-level theoretical R & D" regarding nukes.

In September, the drumbeat became relentless. Using the anniversary of
9/11 as its focus, the administration leaked to The New York Times a
bogus story about Iraq acquiring aluminum tubes for centrifuges to enrich
uranium for nuclear weapons. Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice
appeared on the Sunday talk shows. Rice memorably warned, "We donít
want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Again, thatís not what intelligence experts thought, as John Judis and
Spencer Ackerman reported in an unjustifiably neglected June 30, 2003,
article in The New Republic. Next came Rummy claiming "bulletproof"
evidence of operational links between Iraq and al-Qaíida that didnít
exist. On Oct. 7, 2002, Bush himself warned that "[t] he Iraqi dictator
must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible
poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons." He claimed that Iraq
had "unmanned aerial vehicles" capable of "missions targeting the United
States." Their actual range was 300 miles; too short to allow, say,
Oklahoma to target Austin, Texas. During his State of the Union message
in January 2003, Bush made his now infamous reference to Saddamís
supposed attempts to buy uranium in Africa based upon a crudely forged
document whose suspect origins were already known. Did they fix the
evidence? To borrow a phrase, itís a "slam dunk." Karl Rove doesnít want
you to know it.

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