Deceiving the Dead

by Col. DAN SMITH

One can only wonder at the temerity of the timing for the release of the latest book by a former Bush administration insider – Scott McClellan’s What Happened – on May 26, 2008, Memorial Day.

The irony – maybe cynicism is a better description – that drips from this volume by the former White House Press Secretary is so thick that even the  normally ubiquitous “unidentified high-ranking White House official” is hard to find for comment.

Take, for example, the book’s title, What Happened. As it stands, the title suggests an accurate, “straight-talking” account (recall John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express”) of the behind-the-scenes debates, the options and recommendations of presidential advisors, and the decisions Bush finally made. But so direct is McClellan’s attack on the coterie of advisors and even of Bush himself that those named may be reeling from the literary equivalent of boxing’s one-two punch.  If so, the book title is better put as a question from a disoriented pugilist who has gone down for the count:: “What Happened?”

McClellan opens up in the preface where he writes that History seems poised to side with the judgment  of the American people (including himself) “that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder…. No one… can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.”

This was not the only – or by far the most damning statement, about the Bush White House and the president himself. McClellan writes:

“He [Bush] is not one to delve into all the possible policy options – including sitting around engaging in extended debate  about them – before making a choice. Rather, he chooses based on his gut and his most deeply held convictions. Such was the case with Iraq.” 

Everyone is entitled to their deepest held convictions – but only for themselves. When one moves beyond the self, especially when the step up the ladder involves governing a country of 300 million people which just happens to have the ability to destroy the planet with nuclear weapons, surely the American public and people all around the globe are entitled to more from a U.S. president than “flying by the seat of his pants.

McClellan  faults Bush’s national security team, particularly  the National Security Advisor ands now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for not compensating for Bush’s aversion to exploring all options before making decisions. But then, it may have made little difference, for Bush, once he had decided that Saddam Hussein had to go, simply ignored the intelligence that pointed away from war and the justifications he used to elicit support from the American public.

McClellan’s sub-title for his book is an apt summary of this president and this administration: “Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.”

McClellan was part of that deception. As such, does he himself understand the irony of releasing his book on a day when we honor the memories of those killed in combat – in a combat that did not have to be, in a war whose whole rationale rested on lies?

We owe the world “big-time.” We must do better with the next president.  One might think we could not do worse. But  it will demand the attention and the participation of the U.S. voters  in November’s ballot to ensure we get the best person in the White House. After Iraq, it is the least we can do for the rest of the world.

Col. DAN SMITH is a retired U.S. Army colonel and a senior fellow on military affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Email at dan@fcnl.org.

 

Your Ad Here

 

 

 


Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal