Washington's Bloody Make-Believe
Editor’s Note: It's taken years for Washington's insider crowd to grasp that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney launched the Iraq War based on lies and distortions. But the idea of demanding serious accountability still remains too hard to accept.
In this guest essay, journalist Carla Binion says it's time to finally bridge the gap between Washington's land of political make-believe and the bloody reality that it has caused:It's astonishing that members of Congress are either unaware George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied the nation to war with Iraq, or they are aware of the fact and don't care. A Congress grounded in reality would have unequivocally acknowledged the administration's lies long ago and taken appropriate action - almost certainly impeachment.
If we say the pre-war lies don't matter and the country should sweep them under the rug and only focus on the best way out of Iraq, what we're really saying is that the truth itself doesn't matter.
If we say we should look away from the fact that thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died for a lie, we're saying the lost lives don't matter, the war-injured and maimed don't matter, America's honor and integrity don't matter.
The logic-free anti-impeachment excuse is that the nation can't handle running the country and impeachment simultaneously. John Nichols wrote in The Nation recently, (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070507/nichols) "[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi fears that impeachment would distract from the Democratic legislative agenda and provoke an electoral backlash."
However, the bottom line is, the country can't afford to let Bush and Cheney get away with deceiving us into a costly and bloody war. Decisions on a matter of this weight shouldn't be based on fear, whether fear of an impeded agenda or threat of backlash.
According to Nichols, such fears are unwarranted. He mentions the Watergate Congress was able to carry out a complex agenda in addition to conducting impeachment proceedings against Nixon. Nichols also points out that "Democrats had one of their best years ever at the polls after pressuring Nixon out of office."
The public would likely reward congressional Democrats for their courage if they impeached Bush and Cheney. Impeachment proceedings will shed additional light on the administration's malfeasance, and the increased exposure would likely cause the country to support the Democrats' efforts.
Though Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) filed articles of impeachment against Cheney on April 25, he hasn't gained support from certain members of Congress. According to an article by the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer declined to support Kucinich's efforts. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said, "Dennis can do what he wants; I'm not going to support it."
It's ironic that Kucinich is dismissed, while Hoyer and Emanuel are actually the ones with the frivolous position. What could be more superficial and feckless than Hoyer's and Emanuel's writing off the idea of impeachment without first examining the abundant evidence for it?
The case for impeaching Bush and Cheney has already been made by prominent public figures, including former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman. In a January 2006 article for The Nation, Holtzman says, "A President can commit no more serious crime against our democracy than lying to Congress and the American people to get them to support a military action or war."
Holtzman continues, "Given that the consequences can be death for hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of people - as well as the diversion of vast sums of money to the war effort - the fraud cannot be tolerated." Members of Congress should read the entire Holtzman article.
Impeachment opponents say Bush and Cheney haven't committed documented impeachable offenses. However, Michael Schudson writes in Watergate In American Memory, "A president can be impeached not only for directly engaging in criminal acts but for failing to fulfill his oath of office, failing to see in good faith that the laws of the land are executed. There is no legal 'bar' to interpreting impeachment in this light."
Any member of Congress who doubts the Bush administration lied and fixed the intelligence around the Iraq policy should read the many books and articles which detail the deceptions. In Worse Than Watergate, John Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, says, "The evidence is overwhelming, certainly sufficient for a prima facie case, that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense."
Dean states, "Bush deliberately violated the very authorization he sought from Congress, which was not merely a serious breach of faith with a trusting Congress, but a statutory and constitutional crime." He reminds us that Bush lied to Congress at a classified briefing when he claimed Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons and was able to use them via unmanned drone aircraft against the United States.
According to Dean, at a congressional leadership meeting on October 3, 2002, Bush falsely claimed Saddam's regime had the ability and materials needed to build nuclear weapons. Dean also notes that Bush deceived Congress in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union address when he falsely claimed Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.
Peter Eisner is a veteran foreign correspondent and is currently an editor at the Washington Post. Recently he discussed his book, The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq, in a Democracy Now broadcast with interviewer Amy Goodman.
Goodman asked about the CIA's role regarding the misleading Niger claim. Eisner said, "The CIA actually had attempted to block the statement…There was quite an argument between lower CIA officials and White House staff…Finally, George Tenet, the head of the CIA, had to intercede on October 7 and demand that the White House remove the sentence describing uranium purchases in Niger."
However, Bush did include the sentence in his address. He omitted any mention of U.S. intelligence reports, saying only that the information came from British intelligence. During the interview with Eisner, Amy Goodman aired a portion of her earlier Democracy Now interview with former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Well before the State of the Union, Wilson had told the CIA the British reports weren't reliable.
Wilson said Bush referred to British intelligence and left out reference to U.S. intelligence, because the CIA had refuted the claim. He adds, "So there was real deception there. This was not just an accident. This was not a slip of the tongue. These were people who wanted to put something in there that was actually deceptive to the U.S. Congress and to the American people."
Goodman returned to the discussion with Eisner and asked whether Congress might later consider impeachment. He responded, "What do we know that President Bush himself knew about this, and what do we know the Vice President knew…Of all people, Vice President Cheney is not just some latter-day vice president that had no relationship to the intelligence community."
Eisner added, "[Cheney] was considered one of the most minute analysts of information that was coming in. He knew more than many other people that Italian military intelligence was providing this information, and he also knew there were highly placed doubts about all of the information…So there's a lot of investigation to be done, subpoenas to be issued, before I would know enough to talk about impeachment."
The investigation and subpoenas should go forward, and Congress shouldn't let administration officials get away with evading the subpoenas or whitewashing and covering up the facts. Given the vast amount of evidence on public record and easily available to Congress, it's likely that any honest, rigorous investigation would lead to impeachment.
Though impeachment isn't the focus of his book, David Corn lists dozens of Bush's and Cheney's serious deceptions in The Lies of George W. Bush. The information in this book alone would give any member of Congress ample reason to issue subpoenas and follow up with impeachment proceedings.
Corn makes it clear the Bush administration exaggerated the threat from Iraq and lied about and fixed the intelligence. He describes how Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union Address, falsely implied that U.N. inspectors believed Iraq had large amounts of WMD.
Instead, U.N. inspectors expressed doubt, stating they had dismantled Iraq's key weapons-making facilities and destroyed most existing WMD. Corn refers to a September 2002 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The document said: "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has - or will - establish its chemical warfare production facilities."
In conclusion, Corn says it was obvious Bush had "misinformed - if not misled - his own country and the world. It was undeniable that he had launched a war on the basis of false assertions…George W. Bush had also provided the entire world with good reason to doubt the word of America. And that was unlikely to make the nation safer."
Many Americans act as if we're aware the administration deceived us to war, while others, including some in Congress, operate as if they fail to see that reality. Those who don't or won't see and respond to what actually happened are living in a make-believe state of mind, a form of denial that resembles a psychotic break with reality.
Burying the pre-war lies under the rug harms this country on many levels. The national pretending is disturbing, because Bush's and Cheney's pre-war fabrications aren't just any lies; they're lies that led to, and continue to cause, widespread loss of life and limb, not only for Americans, but also for soldiers of other nationalities and for Iraqi civilians.
Congress's failure to confront the untruths that led to the death and bloodshed dishonors those who suffered and died for the lies. When people acknowledge on some occasions that Bush and Cheney lied us to war, yet at other times act as if the lies never happened, they have one foot in reality and the other in a world of make-believe.
Many members of Congress, the media and the American public float along day to day, pretending the administration has been truthful, behaving as if nothing can be done to set right the fact that we were lied into war. How did we get to the point where vast numbers of citizens turn a blind eye by choice?
Imagine American streets filled with the blood of the war's victims, citizens moving forward doggedly, smiling vacantly, with self-centered plans and agendas, oblivious to the wet red substance. This is America today, sloshing through knee-deep blood in the land of make-believe, living in heart crushing denial about gravely significant events.
A nation that doesn't care enough about the truth to investigate tenaciously and impeach Bush and Cheney if the probe warrants, is a nation divorced from reality and conscience. No fear-based or politically expedient excuse could possibly justify Congress's hesitating to pursue this issue in a sober, principled and timely manner.
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