Saturday, November 19, 2005
Sat Nov 19th, 2005 at 11:10:13 AM EDT
The best op-eds today are not so much about last night's embarrassing shouting and parliamentary trickery in the House (WaPo and NYT), but about the deeper issues behind Bush's maniacal rush into the Iraq war, the administration's countless lies and manipulation of both intelligence and the CIA, and Bush's utter incompetence in administering a war.
Today's best include "White House plays chicken with a war hero," written by the Boston Globe's Derrick Z. Jackson and Prof. Juan Cole's "Straw Man Resolution in Congress: Joking around with the Lives of the Troops," posted at his blog.
And tomorrow's WaPo carries a must-read op-ed by former Florida senator Bob Graham who was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence "during the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and the run-up to the Iraq war."
The president's attacks are outrageous. Yes, more than 100 Democrats voted to authorize him to take the nation to war. Most of them, though, like their Republican colleagues, did so in the legitimate belief that the president and his administration were truthful in their statements that Saddam Hussein was a gathering menace -- that if Hussein was not disarmed, the smoking gun would become a mushroom cloud.
The president has undermined trust. No longer will the members of Congress be entitled to accept his veracity. Caveat emptor has become the word. Every member of Congress is on his or her own to determine the truth.
Below, some of the meatiest sections of these important writings:
In a 2002 press briefing, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz termed the support of politicians like Murtha for the Pentagon as ''wonderful." In the 2004 vice presidential debate, incumbent Dick Cheney said, ''One of my strongest allies in Congress when I was secretary of defense was Jack Murtha."
For all those shows of patriotism, Murtha was skeptical about the rush to invade Iraq in 2003 of Iraq even though he voted to give President Bush the authorization to go to war. He publicly said Bush beat the war drums before building an international coalition. Murtha said he had not seen anything in intelligence reports that indicated an imminent threat. Murtha said Bush ''has put the country in such a box. He can say, 'You'll undercut me if you don't vote for this resolution.' "
Writes Bob Graham in tomorrow's WaPo:
As chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and the run-up to the Iraq war, I probably had as much access to the intelligence on which the war was predicated as any other member of Congress.
I, too, presumed the president was being truthful -- until a series of events undercut that confidence.
In February 2002, after a briefing on the status of the war in Afghanistan, the commanding officer, Gen. Tommy Franks, told me the war was being compromised as specialized personnel and equipment were being shifted from Afghanistan to prepare for the war in Iraq -- a war more than a year away. Even at this early date, the White House was signaling that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was of such urgency that it had priority over the crushing of al Qaeda. ...
Graham then describes his concerted efforts to learn more about the reliability of our intelligence and to obtain reports from the CIA.
Graham was shocked to discover that, inside Iraq, the U.S. had no "operative responsible to the United States" and that "[m]ost of the alleged intelligence came from Iraqi exiles or third countries, all of which had an interest in the United States' removing Hussein, by force if necessary."
This is just stunning. I'm reading Bob Baer's book and he describes in detail how he was trained to go to other countries and develop reliable agents. The U.S. had NO OPERATIVE in Iraq? That's Intelligence 101!
In "What I Knew Before the Invasion," Graham urges:
The American people needed to know these reservations, and I requested that an unclassified, public version of the NIE be prepared. On Oct. 4, Tenet presented a 25-page document titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs." It represented an unqualified case that Hussein possessed them, avoided a discussion of whether he had the will to use them and omitted the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version. Its conclusions, such as "If Baghdad acquired sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year," underscored the White House's claim that exactly such material was being provided from Africa to Iraq.
From my advantaged position, I had earlier concluded that a war with Iraq would be a distraction from the successful and expeditious completion of our aims in Afghanistan. Now I had come to question whether the White House was telling the truth -- or even had an interest in knowing the truth.
On Oct. 11, I voted no on the resolution to give the president authority to go to war against Iraq. I was able to apply caveat emptor. Most of my colleagues could not.
The writer is a former Democratic senator from Florida. He is currently a fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.
Juan Cole analyzes Murtha's proposal compared to the fraudulent rseolution brought to the House last night by the GOP, and concludes:
Well, this stupid resolution is not what Murtha was saying, and the vote on it is meaningless. It is worse than meaningless. It is political clowning.
Indeed, given the GIs being blown up on a daily basis, the Republican phony resolution was the equivalent of trying to do a stand-up comedy routine at the funeral of someone's beloved son who had died at age 20.
I don't think the American people will find it amusing. We'll see in 2006 whether they did.
"I don't think the American people will find it amusing. We'll see in 2006 whether they did."
I hope so.
Last night was an embarrassment. We need to keep going back to what the experts -- such as Sen. Bob Graham and Rep. John Murtha -- saw early on as the administration did its sales job on the American people and an easily duped media.
Let's make sure that in 2006, the American people know all about the lies they were told, and that stunts don't dominate the news.
Tim Russert's main guest tomorrow on NBC's Meet the Press (local air times) is Rep John Murtha (D-Pa), the ranking member, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. (All other guests are experts on avian flu.) (MTP Podcast)