Could the WMD scandal lead to Impeachment?
by Ted Rall
MINNEAPOLIS--Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction. He
lied to us, the United Nations, and the soldiers he sent to die in Iraq.
Bush's apologists defend his attempts to sell this obscene war as
mere spin, but claiming certain knowledge of something that doesn't
exist is hardly a question of emphasis. It's time to stop wondering
where the WMDs are. Even if nukes and gases and anthrax turn up in
prodigious quantities, it won't matter. Proof of Bush's perfidy, unlike
his accusations that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, is irrefutable.
Before he ordered U.S. forces to kill and maim tens of thousands of
innocent Iraqi soldiers and civilians, Bush and Co. repeatedly
maintained that they had absolute proof that Saddam Hussein still
possessed WMDs. "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has
weapons of mass destruction," Dick Cheney said in August. In
January, Ari Fleisher said: "We know for a fact that there are weapons
there." WMDs; not a "WMD program" as they now refer to it.
WMDs--not just indications of possible, or probable, WMDs.
During the first days of the war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
stared into television cameras, looked right at his employers (that's
you and me), and said that he knew exactly where they were. "We
know where they are," Rumsfeld said. "They are in the area around
Tikrit and Baghdad."
Uh-huh. So where are they?
"Absolute" proof is a high standard--heck, it's a nearly impossible
benchmark. The last time I checked, my cat was in my kitchen,
licking the milk at the bottom of my cereal bowl. As intel goes, mine
is triple-A-rated--I witnessed it this morning, and I've spent the
better part of a decade observing that animal. But if you were to
demand absolute proof of kitty's current location, I couldn't give it to
you. I'd bet that he's sleeping on my bed. But he could be in the
litter box, on the windowsill, or sneaking out an open window. Truth
is, I don't know where he is. To say otherwise, to present even a
well-founded hypothesis as Fact, would be a lie.
Bush had conjecture, wishful thinking and stale intelligence going for
him. He needed absolute proof, and the absence thereof is leading
to talk of impeachment. Before the invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld
argues, "Virtually everyone agreed they did [have WMDs]--in
Congress, in successive Democratic and Republican administrations,
in the intelligence communities here in the United States, and also in
foreign countries and at the U.N., even among those countries that
did not favor military action in Iraq." Untrue.
The Bush Administration didn't have proof, so they spent last fall
making it up. As Robin Cook, who resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet
over the war, told the British Parliament: "Instead of using intelligence as
evidence on which to base a decision about policy, we used intelligence
as the basis to justify a policy on which we had already decided."
By January 2003, 81 percent of respondents to an ABC News poll said
they believed that Iraq "posed a threat to the United States."
Previous administrations, reliant on the CIA for reliable information,
have traditionally respected a "Chinese wall" between Langley and the
White House. As Republicans blame the CIA for the missing WMDs,
leaks from within the CIA increasingly indicate that Dick Cheney and
others sought to politicize its reports on Iraq, cherry-picking factoids
that backed its war cry and dismissing those that didn't. This dubious
practice culminated with Colin Powell's over-the-top performance
before the U.N., where he misrepresented documents he knew to be
forged--which he privately derided as "bullshit"!--as hard fact.
The Administration's defenders, whose selective morality makes Bill
Clinton look like a saint, argue that the WMDs don't matter, that
Saddam's mass graves vindicate the war liars. But no one ever denied
that Hussein was evil. The American people knew that Saddam was a
butcher during the '80s when we backed him, and during the '90s when
we contained him. They weren't willing to go to war over regime change
in the '00s, which is why the Administration invented a fictional threat.
Now that we know that presidents lie about the need for war, how will
future presidents rally us against genuine dangers?
Lying to the American people is impeachable. Waging war without
cause is subject to prosecution at the International War Crimes
Tribunal in The Hague. But insiders have to talk before the media can
aggressively pursue the WMD story, prosecutors can be appointed
and top evildoers brought to justice.
Now Slaughtergate has its own Alexander Butterfield. Christian
Westermann, a respected State Department intelligence analyst
talking to Congress, has testified that Undersecretary of State John
Bolton, a Bush political appointee, pressured him to change a report
on Cuba so that it would back Bush claims that Cuba was developing
biological weapons. Westermann says that when he refused, Bolton
tried to have him transferred.
Westermann's testimony doesn't relate to Iraq, but it puts the lie to
Bushoid assertions that they never messed with the CIA. A reliable
source informs me that there's a "jihad" underway between Administration
political operatives and the career intelligence community. "Guys are pissed
off that they're being asked to take the fall for the White House. Look for
more leaks in the future," this official says.
Meanwhile, Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, has been reduced to parsing the meaning of intelligence:
"Intelligence doesn't necessarily mean something is true," he says.
Now he tells us.
(Ted Rall is the author of "Gas War: The Truth Behind the American
Occupation of Afghanistan," an analysis of the underreported
Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project and the real motivations behind
the war on terrorism. Ordering information is available at
amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.)
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