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When Presidents Lie

Tuesday’s revelation that W. Mark Felt, the former number two man at the FBI, was the anonymous source known as Deep Throat, who helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein unravel the Watergate scandal in the pages of the Washington Post 30 years ago should be seen as an important reminder that even the leader of the free world can be devious, corrupt and dishonest.

Some things never change.

The parallels between the Bush and Nixon administrations are eerily familiar. Both bullied the press, were/are highly secretive, obsessed over leaks, engage(d) in massive cover-ups and quickly branded aides as disloyal if they dared to raise questions about the President’s policies.

The Washington Post, the very paper that is credited with forcing Nixon’s resignation, summed it up perfectly in a Nov. 25, 2003 story on the similarities between the two administrations.

“Bush structures his White House much as Nixon did. Nixon governed largely with four other men: Henry A. Kissinger, H.R. Haldeman, John D. Ehrlichman and Charles Colson. This is not unlike the “iron triangle” of aides who led Bush’s campaign and the handful of underlings now — Cheney, chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr., national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and communications director Dan Bartlett — who are in on most top decisions. Nixon essentially ended the tradition of powerful Cabinets in favor of a few powerful White House aides — a model Bush has followed.”

“The most striking similarity is in the area of secrecy and what Nixon staffers called “managing the news.” Nixon created the White House Office of Communications, the office that has become the center of Bush’s vaunted “message discipline.”

Unfortunately, neither the Washington Post nor any other mainstream newspaper or magazine in this country will ever be credited with exposing another Watergate. For one, mainstream reporters just don’t have the balls to put their careers on the line to sniff around, ask tough questions, and, perhaps, find sources like W. Mark Felt. Not even Woodward has the muckraking qualities of what Woodward used to have. Worse, editors’ at large papers don’t encourage reporters to practice that kind of reporting anymore because they don’t want to rock the boat or risk losing their jobs or be seen as liberal and therefore become the ire of the blogoshpere.

The sad reality these days, however, is that it takes a scandal such as a president receiving oral sex in the Oval Office by an intern to qualify for above the fold headlines and impeachment. Leading the country into a war under false pretenses? Sorry, not juicy enough.

The Downing Street memo that was unearthed by the Times of London last month should have been the smoking gun that finally resulted in Bush being brought up on High Crimes and Misdemeanor charges under the United States Constitution’s impeachment clause. The memo was written a full eight months before the U.S. led invasion in Iraq by Matthew Rycroft, a British national security official, based on notes he took during a July 2002 meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his advisers, including Richard Dearlove, the head of Britain’s MI-6 intelligence service who had recently visited the White House to meet with Bush administration officials.

Among other things, the memo said:

Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The [National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route…. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action. …

It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.

These are some of the public statements about Iraq that President Bush made after Rycroft revealed in the July 2002 memo that Bush wanted to use military force to overthrow Saddam Hussein and that he would say that Iraq had a massive weapons arsenal, was a threat to the U.S. and its neighbors in the Middle East in order to build public support for a case for war:

“We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons — the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.”
(Radio Address, October 5, 2002)

“The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his “nuclear mujahideen” – his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.” (Cincinnati, Ohio Speech, October 7, 2002).

“Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.” (State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003).

Despite the fact that the memo was splashed across the front pages of dozens of international newspapers, it was relegated to the back pages-or not covered at all-in U.S. papers.

The memo’s authenticity has never been called into question by either the Bush administration or Tony Blair’s office.

“But the potentially explosive revelation has proven to be something of a dud in the United States,” the Chicago Tribune said in a May 17 story.

“The White House has denied the premise of the memo, the American media have reacted slowly to it and the public generally seems indifferent to the issue or unwilling to rehash the bitter prewar debate over the reasons for the war,” the Tribune said. “All of this has contributed to something less than a robust discussion of a memo that would seem to bolster the strongest assertions of the war’s critics.”

How sad for the more than 1,400 soldiers and the tens of thousands of innocent civilians who died in the Iraq war and the thousands more who will no doubt perish as this bogus and unjust war rages on. How much more evidence do we need to pile on in order for those gutless Democrats and those fanatical Republicans in Congress and the Senate to hold this president accountable for either war crimes or defrauding the United States?

One of the key figures during Watergate made a compelling case a couple of years ago for impeachment if President Bush intentionally misled Congress and the public into backing a war against Iraq.

“To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked,” wrote John Dean, President Richard Nixon’s former counsel, in a June 6, 2003 column for findlaw.com. “Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be “a high crime” under the Constitution’s impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony “to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.”

Dean said that statements made by presidents that pertain to national security issues are supposed to be held to a higher standard of truthfulness.

“A president cannot stretch, twist or distort facts and get away with it. President Lyndon Johnson’s distortions of the truth about Vietnam forced him to stand down from reelection. President Richard Nixon’s false statements about Watergate forced his resignation.”

JASON LEOPOLD is the author of the explosive memoir, News Junkie, to be released in early 2006 by Process/Feral House Books. Visit Leopold’s website at www.jasonleopold.com for updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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JASON LEOPOLD is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires where he spent two years covering the energy crisis and the Enron bankruptcy. He just finished writing a book about the crisis, due out in December through Rowman & Littlefield. He can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

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