The chattering classes are doing what they do best, and that is to shed darkness wherever they go. This writer informed readers about the Niger lie in March 2003, after Muhammad ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief, unceremoniously and politely called the allegation that Saddam Hussein had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa “inauthentic.” It’ll take the mainstream media a few years to work out, but many in the administration (not least Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney) had been sitting on this intelligence since February 2002, when a diplomat called Joe Wilson was sent to Niger by the CIA and the State Department to ferret it out.
Members of the media aren’t capable of much more than fragmenting and atomizing information. Integrating facts into a conceptual understanding is certainly not what Howard Fineman, Chris Matthew’s anointed analyst, and the brain trust on MSNBC’s “Hardball” does. To disguise the pedestrian politicking that is his thought process, Fineman discussed who, at what time in the afternoon, as well as when in the estrus cycle of the next door cow, did an official put the infamous 16 words about nukes and Niger on the president’s desk. That ought to make a nation already bogged down in concrete bits of disconnected data see the forest for the trees, wouldn’t you say?
Reducing this administration’s single-minded will to war to an erroneous 16 words ignores the big picture. First came the decision to go to war. The misbegotten illegality that was this administration’s case for war followed once the decision to go to war had already been made. The administration’s war wasn’t about a few pieces that did not gel in an otherwise coherent framework; it wasn’t about an Iraq that was poised to attack the U.S. with germs and chemicals rather than with nukes; it was about a resigned, hungry, economic pariah that was a sitting duck for the power-hungry American colossus.
By all means, dissect and analyze what, in September 2002, I called the “lattice of lies” leveled at Iraq: the uranium from Africa, the aluminum tubes from Timbuktu, the invisible “meetings” with al-Qaida in Prague, an al-Qaida training camp that existed under Kurdish – not Iraqi – control, as well as the alleged weaponized chemical and biological stockpiles and their attendant delivery systems that inspectors doubted were there and which never materialized.
But then assemble the pieces and synthesize the information, will you? Do what the critical mind must do. The rational individual, wedded to reality, reason and objective, non-partisan truth saw Bush’s sub-intelligent case for war for what it was. He saw Bush as the poster boy for “the degeneracy of manner and morals” which James Madison warned war would bring – the same “bring ‘em on” grin one can also observe on the face of a demented patient with end-stage syphilis. The rational individual saw all this, and understood that when Madison spoke of “war as the true nurse of executive aggrandizement,” he was speaking of the disposition of this dictator.
Hold the CIA responsible for giving in to the War Party’s pressure, if you will. But recognize that the CIA was only obeying the wishes of its masters. The CIA had attempted to resist. Witness the early statements by Vince Cannistraro, former counterterrorism chief, who scoffed at the concoction of an al-Qaida-Iraq connection. Having come under fire after Sept. 11, the agency gave in to White House pressure to politicize and shape the lackluster information.
Unforgivable? Yes. But consider who the intelligence community takes its corrupt cues from. Perhaps New Jersey’s poet laureate Amiri Baraka had a point when he wondered, “Who know [sic] what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza.” The National Security Adviser has since Sept. 11 been rocking the intelligence community with her antipathy to the truth. As if her Saddam-seeded nuclear-winter forecasts were not bad enough, on Sept. 8, 2002, she told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “We do know that there have been shipments into Iraq of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to nuclear weapons programs.” “That’s just a lie,” an appalled David Albright of the Institution for Science and International Security told the New Republic.
In her latest damage control interview with Blitzer, Rice continued to insist that Saddam Hussein was threatening his neighbors when the president pounced, and, as justification for the war, she still makes reference to Saddam’s effort to pursue a nuclear program in … 1991, and to the burying of old centrifuge parts prior to the first Gulf War. Rice, of course, continues to deny the Niger forgery.
Clearly, Whitehall and Washington will not willingly give up their dark secrets. With few exceptions such as U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Bob Graham of Florida, the utterly disposable and detestable Democrats have been only too pleased to aid and abet this executive dictatorship.
And the media will continue to do what their collective intelligence permits: focus only on the one lie, thus making the lattice more impenetrable.