Who Got Us Into This Mess?

Have some heavy weight members of the old wealthy families reached a consensus that George W. Bush constitutes a clear and present danger to their fortunes’ future? Have the CPAs of the truly well-born advised the families that the current occupant of the White House may have misplaced his mittens?

Sporadic editorials from establishment house organs like the New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times should alert the newly enlivened Democrats that they could receive substantial support from some of the upper crust. The message also arrived at the office of WH Adviser Karl Rove–a man as sensitive to potential power shifts as he is insensitive to human suffering.

But how does Rove go about repairing the damage done to the confidence of the well born–and the others who voted Republican because they thought W would bring stability and economic prudence–without having the president admit that he made serious errors of judgments about war and peace (life and death) and economic priorities? President Bush has asked for $87 billion more to “deal with Iraq and Afghanistan” while he has little to show for it: 300 plus servicemen and women dead, thousands wounded, thousands more sick with strange infirmities. And Saddam remains missing along with Osama bin Laden and the Anthrax scoundrel.

Bush has bullied his tax cut through Congress so that while he has spent about $200 billion he has not figured out how to compensate with income. He has wrecked the foreign policy alliances and partnerships that the liberal establishment considered vital pillars of stability. The UN has never felt shakier and serious bickering undermines the common interests that the old guard has with its counterparts in France and Germany. Repair all this? A formidable task!

The Bushies got warnings from the upper crusties before they bruised and bungled their way into Iraq. In August 2002, Daddy Bush’s consigliari Brent Scowcroft and James Baker placed op-eds in The Wall Street Journal and New York Times respectively, warning that the UN kosher stamp would prove essential before sending US troops into the sticky mire of Middle Eastern battlegrounds. Indeed, Daddy Bush himself offered such advice in a Tufts University lecture on February 26, 2003 shortly before Junior’s impatience overrode all prudence.

To the old elite, Bush’s neo-con advisers, some of whom are promoting new wars with Syria and Iran and repeating the discredited homilies of Saddam’s WMDs and Al-Qaeda links, take on the aura of dangerous loony birds.

A few Democrats have also finally begun to blow the critical trumpet. Liberal Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy called the Iraq War a “fraud” and even the hawkish Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha charged Bush with misleading the country. As Bush’s poll numbers drop so too does the robustness of the flag facade with which he has covered his less than prudent bellicosity since 9/11. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has chimed in as well and demanded that the President do a bit more than play “dress up” on large ships (referring to his May 1 appearance in a flight suit on the USS Abraham Lincoln) and begin to level with the Congress about how bad a mire we’re really stuck in–over there.

But how far will the Democrats push their critique? Will they figure out a way to leave Iraq? Will they have leverage in forcing concessions before they agree to Bush’s $87 billion occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan request?

More importantly, will they ask: who got us into this mess and why?

Start with a slight modification of the classical questions. What didn’t they (Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld) know and when didn’t they (Wolfowitz, Powell and Rice) know it? These questions arise in response to the Administration’s use of link-speak.

They start with a big fib and then go on to create a structure of lies on top of it. In the Fall of 2002, American and British leaders could not wait for the conclusion of UN weapons inspections team, whose forensic experts had begun a thorough search and destroy operation for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. Bush had warned repeatedly that the United Nations would condemn itself to irrelevance if it failed to take on Iraq.

So, Bush employed Secretary of State Colin Powell to present the United Nations with “overwhelming” evidence of Iraqi accumulation of WMDs and links to Al Qaeda. Powell told the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 about “the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder. Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants.”

By March most of the world concluded that the United States and England had not made a case for a UN war in Iraq. Indeed, France and Russia decided not to allow the Security Council to become a rubber stamp for a <U.S.-led> war.

Consequently, using the urgency–according to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s September 24, 2002 Dossier, “the Iraqi military may be able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so”– of stopping Saddam, the war commenced and quickly ended.

In May 2003, Bush claimed military victory, the Iraqi people were about to greet us with roses as liberators and the loss of US and British soldiers had been minimal. Bush gloated, strutted and cavorted in his triumph.

Instead of retarding the anti-Americanism that had become the base of the culture for Al Qaeda recruiting, Bush’s policies have provided nutriments for the fundamentalist zealots intent on using violence to apparently infiltrate into Iraq and fight against the American way of life and especially its Middle East policies.

But the Bush Administration, now faced with its first serious opposition from Congress members and editorial writers from leading newspapers, no longer speaks with one clear, albeit simplistic voice. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on September 8, 2003:

“…Do we know that he [Saddam] had a role in 9/11 No, we do not know that he had a role in 9/11. I think that this is a test that sets the bar far too high. I don’t think that we want to try and make the case that he directed somehow the 9/11 events.”

Or listen to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s haiku on the issue.

In a mid September Pentagon news conference, the quixotic Rummy responded to a reporter who asked about a Washington Post poll in which some 70 percent of Americans believed Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks. “I’ve not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that.”

In Washington, the Bushies have also changed their line. On September 6, John Bolton, US Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control, said that Saddam’s WMD “isn’t really the issue.” According to Bolton, “as long as that regime was in power, it was determined to get nuclear, chemical and biological weapons one way or another. Until that regime was removed from power, that threat remained–that was the purpose of the military action.”

His shift of position may link to the David Kay ‘s report. His 1,400 person Iraq Survey Group began a Sherlock Holmes like search for Saddam’s infamous weapons in May. As of September 20, Kay, a Bush buddy, and his team, had not found WMDs or signs that WMD programs were underway. On September 21, the U.S. Army further conceded that what had been reported as its only significant WMD find two mobile chemical labs and a dozen 55-gallon drums of chemicals “showed no positive hits at all” for chemical weapons. The Iraqi government did have scientists on payroll who could have restarted a weapons program, but that’s a far cry from having one.

The liberal establishment appears ready to take the issue of dumping W beyond the gossip stage. With the emergence of General Wesley Clark as a candidate, a Democratic Eisenhower type with Bill Clinton’s backing, the stubborn alcoholic in the WH, who insists that lies are truth and that God directs his most banal political moves, faces a formidable opponent.

Just as in 1973, when they lost confidence in Richard Nixon and the prestigious newspapers and TV network news shows seemed to open their pages and screens to those eager to explore the holes in his Watergate argument, so too has the liberal elite now seem to have gathered enough energy to expose the lies and weaknesses in Bush and company’s Iraq story. It’s not just that the Bushies deliberately lied to the people and Congress. That’s traditional. But playing around with language about imminent threats to our security at a very high dollar price and the alienation of our traditional allies that’s serious.

Ideally, Clark can develop the Ike appeal and win the nomination. If he only succeeds in splitting the Democrats, then a dark horse can emerge — perhaps a member of a family that served liberal establishment interests well for the last eight years of the 20th Century.

SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University. For Landau’s writing in Spanish visit: www.rprogreso.com. His new book, PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH S KINGDOM, will be published in September by Pluto Books. He can be reached at: landau@counterpunch.org


SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.