by Rahul Mahajan
July 19, 2003
"It is 16 words, and it has become an enormously overblown issue." That's Condoleezza Rice's official assessment of the scandal over White House deception regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
It's 16 words. It was an intelligence failure. There were problems in vetting the information. But the claims were "technically accurate." And we liberated the people of Iraq.
That's the mantra of the Bush administration, to be repeated in the media until everyone gets bored and moves on. It's untrue on all counts.
There was no intelligence failure. Since the fall, there have been warnings that the pressure the Bush administration was putting on intelligence agencies had brought "cooked information" into official speeches.
There were more than 16 words. The Niger claims were just part of a much larger pattern of lies, half-truths and misrepresentations that the administration used to justify its pre-planned war.
Accounting discrepancies in squaring Iraq's known imports of biological and chemical agents with documents about how much was used or destroyed became claims that Iraq had massive stockpiles. Iraq and 9/11 were so constantly linked by the administration that most Americans thought Iraq was responsible.
Even now that we know Iraq wouldn't use its alleged weapons of mass destruction while being invaded, the administration still claims Iraq posed an imminent threat.
This administration also has deceived us about its goals for Iraq. Far from bringing democracy, it is pursuing an extended military occupation and counterinsurgency. The new governing council is made up of selected figures who agree with the U.S. program. The Iraqi press is being censored, with no calls to oppose the occupation allowed.
U.S. deaths from hostile fire have reached those of the 1991 Gulf War, 147, and more than 6,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed.
We have a history of investigating the wrong issues. Watergate was about a third-rate burglary, not the "secret" bombing of Cambodia. Iran-contra was about arms-for-hostage deals, not creating a terrorist insurgency in Nicaragua.
This time, let's do it right with televised hearings into how this administration manipulated us into war.
Rahul Mahajan is a founding member of the Nowar Collective (http://www.nowarcollective.com) and serves on the Steering Committee of United for Peace and Justice (http://www.unitedforpeace.org). His latest book is Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond (Seven Stories Press, June 2003). His articles can be found at http://www.rahulmahajan.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org