Thursday, May 21, 2015

With Iraq so much in the news, we should remember how much the news media lied about Iraq.

The lies actually started with 911 with the Bush administration trying to cover up their culpability in what was the worst case of presidential malfeasance and gross, even criminal negligence with regards to the national security of the United States in American history.

The Bush administration story was that there was nothing they could have done to have prevented 911. Two years later the 911 Commission hearings provided documentary proof that Bush, Rice and Cheney had so much intelligence, specific actionable intelligence that would have prevented the 911 attacks, there was not a cab driver in New York city who couldn't have prevented the attack with the information Bush and Rice was given, which included intelligence that Al-Qaeda was going to attack within the United States, that there were operational Al-Qaeda cells already within the United States, that Al-Qaeda had New York buildings under surveillence, that the attack was imminent, that, according to CIA intercepts of Al-Qaeda chatter, the attack was going to be "spectacular" and, the piece de' resitance, Bush and Rice was given intelligence on August 6, 2001 that the Al-Qeda attack  was going to involve the hijacking of U.S. commerical airliners. They did nothing.

Except use the attack as an excuse to invade Iraq, something the neo-cons had tried to convince Bill Clinton to do back in 1998.

Just as the news media rolled over for the Bush administration on 911 and even turned what amounted to a confession of incompetence by Condoleeza Rice when she admitted they had enough information but  " we couldn't connect the dots", into a term of art, they rolled over for Bush in Iraq and still are.

There were the New York Times famous front page stories spoon fed to Judith Miller by  Dick Cheney about Sadaam's WMD that the Times printed without lifting a finger to try and get a single second source of corroboration. The stories were rubber stamped by  Miller's Washington editor Jill Abramson (later promoted to executive editor, then fired)  and executive editor Bill Keller.  All  the stories confirming the existence of  Sadaam's WMD were false, provided by Cheney,  then used by Cheney himself citing the Times as an "independent" source confirming the existence of Sadaam's WMD which the Bush administration used to influence members of congress to vote for the war authorization.

Years later, in an online Q&A with Miller which I watched real time, Miller was asked about the fact that her reports on WMD were all wrong. Miller's response: " I'm sorry but if my source is wrong than I'm wrong".

The answer struck me as highly significant because anyone who had seen "All the President's Men" much less knew about journalistic craft,  knew that Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee insisted that Woodward and Bernstein get at least two separate sources to corroborate a  fact before they would publish a Watergate story.

 It was clear to me that Miller's use of the singular " source" and not " sources" showed how shoddy and irresponsible the Times had been in trying to get a scoop by publishing stories "confirming" Saddams' WMD as fact without any independent  corroboration. And there were plenty of sources at the time which would have disputed Cheney's claims,some from weapons inspectors like Hans Blix, some from the IAEA, and most of them reported by two reporters, Warren Stroebel and Jonathan Landay from Knight Ridder  newspapers which went unnoticed by other news outlets who instead preferred to run with the  bogus Times stories.

The Times must have recognized the significance of Miller's using "source" instead of "sources" because days later  when I went back to download a copy of the Q&A to have a copy of that particular exchange, they had doctored the transcript to change Miller's original wording from " source" to "sources". 

What we know about Iraq which the news media and some politicians are still  trying to bury is the indisputable fact that Bush and Cheney lied the country into war. And the news media as a whole and blind conservatives who accused anyone who opposed the war as being unpatriotic,  went right along with it and were instrumental in shaping public opinion about going to war.  And the news media continues to bury the truth because to admit it now is to admit their own complicity and malfeasance in spreading and promoting those lies, too afraid to contradict them which contributed  to the country being lied into war.

We know now that despite Jeb Bush's attempt at defending the Iraq invasion or Lindsay Graham saying Bush did the best he could with the intelligence he had,  the big lie still told by apologists  is that Bush received faulty intelligence about Sadaam's WMD.  The truth is there was no faulty intelligence because there was no intelligence from anyone that reported with any reasonable degree of certainty that Saddaam had WMD. None. The only faulty intelligence was at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

And speaking of intelligence,lest anyone forget given the current negotiations with Iran and their nuclear program, when former ambassador Joe Wilson went to Niger to try to confirm for the CIA if Bush and Cheney's assertion about Saddam trying to buy yellow cake uranium for an  atomic bomb was true and found that it wasn't, the Bush administration, in retaliation for Wilson's public statements blew the cover of Wilson's  wife Valerie Plame who was a covert agent for the CIA and whose undercover work involved guess what -- gathering covert intelligence on Iran's nuclear program.

 Thanks to the Bush administration's cheap political payback, exposing Plame destroyed her informant network inside Iran, 20 years in the making,  including scientists and other informants who were providing intelligence about Iran's nuclear program. Bush and Cheney destroyed that pipeline because Wilson's public statements undermined their dishonest pitch to invade Iraq. To this day the news media still ignores all  that and continues to let them all off the hook.

There is much more regarding the lies that took the U. S. to war in Iraq, which the news media promoted and still ignore to this day. 

Colin Powell's entire presentation to the UN to justify the invasion of Iraq was all based on false information given by an Iraqi  informer code named Curveball, who defected to Germany and  who, in return for asylum gave German intelligence information about Saddam's so called WMD. German intelligence was certain the informer was telling them what he thought they wanted to hear to gain asylum and  told the CIA that none of the information checked out and in fact they had learned the informant had lied about his own background and was an alcoholic.  

All of Curveball's  "intelligence" was passed on to the CIA station chief  in Germany as a courtesy with the caveat that none of it checked out and none of it was believed to be true. The station chief passed the information on to CIA headquarters who in turn passed it on to the Bush administration along with the same caveat,  that nothing checked out or was believed to be true. Yet Cheney fed that information to Colin Powell without telling him that the information was likely false.  Powell used what he  was given by Cheney and  it was that false "intelligence"  by Curveball that made up Powell's entire UN presentation.  To this day Powell considers that presentation to be the lowest moment of his life.

In another instance, former conservative Republican House majority leader Dick Armey who opposed the Iraq war authorization and was going to vote against it  said that Dick Cheney personally told him they had intelligence that Saddam had developed a nuclear suitcase bomb capable of destroying Washington  D.C.It was enough to get Armey to change his vote. To this day  that lie is also ignored by the mainstream news media and current GOP presidential hopefuls.

Florida Democratic senator Bill Nelson, a former astronaut said that to get his vote former Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, told him that they had intelligence that Sadaam had drones capable of reaching the east coast of the United States with the capability of launching a chemical or biological attack. That was enough to get Nelson's vote too. A few years ago  Nelson learned about an Air Force intelligence report that was intentionally kept from him that stated that Saddam did have drones but their range was only 250 miles, were made of wood and had no military or attack capability. Nelson's press conference expressing his outrage went largely ignored by the news media. The same news media that was SRO for a press conference about Anthony Weiner's online sex chats.

Nothing has changed.  News media outlets like CNN  ignore the proof of Bush adminstration lies that drove the country to war because to bring it up also necessitates bringing up their own journalistic cowardice, malfeasance and culpability which allowed the invasion of Iraq to happen. And they are still ducking.

While Bush,Cheney and Rice are ultimately responsible for their horrendous dishonesty and judgement in lying the country into war and President Obama's decision making and judgement regarding Isis has been a disaster that has gotten worse every day, none of it could have happened without the news media rolling over and playing dead.   Isis is running rough shod in Iraq and Syria and causing death and destruction on a mass scale. Yet Wolf Blitzer in trying to carry water for Obama keeps trying to blame all of it on  the failures of the Iraqi army when the truth is Obama was told by everyone in a position to know from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and others that it was essential to keep a residual U.S. force of about 10,000 in Iraq. Obama refused. 

When Lindsay Graham pointed out the need to now send U.S. ground troops if Isis is to be defeated, Blitzer, in a response that smacked both of his own cowardice and obnoxious willingness to take cheap shots to make himself look tough and that he was defending the troops  said "even if it means U.S. soldiers coming back in body bags"?

Today the news media still refuses to hold anyone in power accountable including themselves.  And a news media who wont tell the truth about itself can't be trusted to tell the truth about anything else. Had the news media been willing to do their jobs with  a fraction of the courage the soldiers who fought there did theirs, those soldiers probably wouldn't have been there in the first place.  And the mess that is now Iraq, never would happened, a mess made even worse by Obama rejecting the advice of people a lot smarter and more knowledgeable than he is to arm the moderate Syrian rebels to stop Isis from the very start. 

The upshot is that the news media supported an invasion of Iraq when it was a lie and is now beating the drum for no U.S. combat forces on the ground when that might very well be necessary to destroy Isis because, like in 2002, they think that's where public opinion is. And Obama panders to the media and many in the media reciprocate. 

Obama got a lot of mileage during the 2008 primaries by claiming he was against the war in Iraq from the beginning and how history  proved he was right and had the  judgement to be president . His judgement could not have been more wrong and as we have seen all through his presidency, his statement was not exactly honest.

As a state senator, not a U.S. senator Obama was against the war. But for all the wrong reasons. Though not privy to any of the lobbying and phony intelligence  U.S. senators were subjected to, and of course not having a vote and so not having to worry about consequences, Obama accepted and believed  the existence of WMD in Iraq and  still was against invading Iraq because he didnt believe the U.S. should intervene in the affairs of another country. Had Sadaam actually had WMD as Bush and  Cheney were selling and  as Obama believed, he would have been a grave threat justifying the invasion.  So Obama's  judgement  and position was wrong on both counts, a judgement we are seeing manifest itself in dealing with Isis who, quite frankly, is winning in both Iraq and Syria. And a wrong headed judgement, as with Bush, the news media still ignores. 

Why all this matters now is because too many people in the news media, congress and the White House are using Bush's  war in Iraq and its disastrous consequences as a basis for decisions on what to do now in terms of destroying Isis. We've heard things like "learning the lessons of Iraq" and learning from the "mistakes of the past". The lessons to be learned from the mistakes of the past is simple: don't lie.

The news media who were so influential in taking the country to war by spreading those lies are trying to make up for their past mistakes by going in the opposite direction. Which could be another mistake. 

Obama recently sent out Defense Secretary Ash Carter to pin the blame for more failures on the Iraqi army by saying its up to them to fight for their country. It is. But this is Obama and other politicians getting it backwards.  Because  this is not about fighting for or defending Iraq. It's about whether Isis is or will be a serious threat to U.S. national security . 

Carter said,"they're (the Iraqi army) the ones who have to defeat Isil". They are? And what if they don't?

If Isis is in fact a real threat to U.S. security at home, or will be if not destroyed,  and it's looking like they could be,  then  it's not about saying that U.S. troops shouldn't be doing what the Iraqi army needs to do for itself, it's about not asking the Iraqi army to do our fighting for us. 

What just might be needed is sending enough  U.S. ground troops to Iraq to destroy Isis if in fact U.S. national security is at stake. 

And Carter's comment could be further proof of what everyone from John McCain to Robert Gates , Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta has believed from the beginning   - Obama has no strategy for destroying Isis. He can't even correctly define the problem and if he can't do that then he can't solve it. 

The American military as always has the will and capability to defend America against it's violent enemies when necessary. And as one congressman and an Iraq war veteran put it, that's what the American military is there for.  Despite Wolf Blitzer's obnoxious  " body bags" comment in trying to do now what he didnt have the courage to stand up and do in 2002 when it mattered. Which could now  put  Blitzer crying wolf and Obama and the news media as a whole, on the wrong side of what might actually need to be done.  Once again.


Anonymous said...

tdraicer: I agree with this post, but would add that I think it is clear that if Obama had been in the US Senate back then, he would have voted to authorize war, because he would have gone along with the tide there.

Marc Rubin said...

"would add that I think it is clear that if Obama had been in the US Senate back then, he would have voted to authorize war".

Given Obama's political history and his penchant for saying one thing and doing another, there is little doubt you're right. Had Obama been in the senate he would've voted with the majority for the war.