That most useless of all organizations, the U.S. Congress, finally released a report stating that President George Bush built the case for war through exaggerations, shading the truth and ignoring any intelligence he didn’t like. If this comes as a surprise to anyone it can only be a result of their being comatose for the last five years, and only awakening today and reading the report.
The hapless Senate couldn’t even get this information out before Scott McClellan, Mr. Bush’s former press secretary, wrote a book basically saying the same thing. It took a Senate ‘study’ to confirm facts that the world has known now for years: Mr. Bush knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction; no link between Saddam Hussein and the September 11 attacks in the United States, and no threat from Iraq to the United States. The Senate report omits pointing out one fact that he did not: Iraq is an oil-rich nation.
How, one wonders, will Congress react? This is the Democratic-Party controlled Congress, the one that was elected in 2006 with a mandate to end the war. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has stated that impeachment is, in her words, off the table, and at this point in Mr. Bush’s reign of terror that is probably a reasonable decision. However, it is only timing now that makes it so; such was not the case when she first came to power.
So what could the reaction be? The U.S. Senate has determined that the President of the United States used lies, scare tactics and chicanery to start a completely unnecessary war (what exactly constitutes a ‘necessary’ war is the topic for another discussion). The war has caused the deaths of over 4,000 Americans, and an estimated 1,000,000 Iraqi men, women and children; tens of thousands more have been maimed. It has cost billions upon billions of U.S. dollars at the same time that 47,000,000 Americans are without health care, 10% of the U.S. home-owning population is in danger of foreclosure and unemployment continues to increase. As the U.S. economy implodes, the money drain of Iraq continues.
Might there not be some response from Congress besides a few indignant statements? Is there any possibility that, even after Mr. Bush leaves office, some Congressional investigation into his behavior might be initiated? Is the concept of a president committing a crime and then being held accountable for it so foreign to Congress that it cannot fathom fulfilling its Constitutional duties? What about others at the highest levels of government that colluded with Mr. Bush to start the war? Are they to be allowed to retire from public life, write books and live off the proceeds of their crimes?
If lies and deceptions were used to launch the Iraq War, as even Congress finally admits, such behavior is hardly new to U.S. imperialism. In the fall of 1963, President John F. Kennedy sent Vietnam Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge on a ‘fact-finding’ tour of that nation. The purpose of Mr. Lodge’s visit was to obtain information to make an effective case with Congress for continued prosecution of the war; the outcome of the visit was predetermined. Nearly a year later, in August of 1964, a non-existent event was used by the U.S. in order to dramatically escalate the Vietnam War. An alleged attack by North Vietnam on U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin was seen as an act of aggression that somehow threatened the United States. The members of Congress, always looking to show their patriotism (American flag lapel pins were not seen as a litmus test for love of country at that time) rushed to grant President Lyndon Johnson the authority to take all measures he deemed necessary to repel this ‘aggression.’ The result of this Congressional act was the death of over 50,000 Americans and between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 Vietnamese citizens. Any responsible investigation regarding whether or not North Vietnam had in fact attacked U.S. ships (it hadn’t) was simply not performed; when members of Congress could stand up and be counted as ‘strong on Communism,’ what possible difference could facts make?
Thirty-eight years later, Congress, with different members but the same mentality, looked no further than the lies of Mr. Bush to authorize yet another war. What a wonderful opportunity it was for members of Congress to bask in the jingoistic light of anti-terrorism. In 2002 as in 1964, when one can get a few minutes on the evening news, what do facts have to do with anything? Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), a member of the Senate panel that in 2008 condemned the president’s actions was not so diligent in his investigation of the facts in 2002: He said, just prior to the vote giving Mr. Bush carte blanche to unleash unprecedented terror against the Iraqi people, that he had reached the “inescapable conclusion that the threat posed to America by Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is so serious that despite the risks, and we should not minimize the risks, we must authorize the president to take the necessary steps to deal with the threat.” Six years later, once presented with facts that could have been discovered before the war began had he taken the time and made the effort to look for them, that ‘inescapable conclusion’ somehow escaped him. He said this: “The president and his advisers undertook a relentless public campaign in the aftermath of the attacks to use the war against Al Qaeda as a justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein.” Does Mr. Rockefeller feel he is absolved from all responsibility for the war? Why did he not, in 2002, look more carefully at the facts?
So once Congress authorized the escalation of the Vietnam war, thus effectively signing the death warrants for 3,000,000 people, honesty too was killed off. Mr. Johnson utilized the services of various cabinet members and diplomats to continue the lies and deceptions that Mr. Kennedy had begun. Mr. Johnson relied upon the services of his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, among others, to conceal from U.S. citizens and Congress the increasing costs of America’s growing Vietnam disaster. President Richard M. Nixon continued this disgraceful tradition. And so that war continued for years, until finally the Vietnamese people were able to rid the nation of its foreign oppressors.
The lies that enabled Mr. Bush to start the Iraqi War were, like those that perpetuated the Vietnam War a generation ago, continued. As late as June of 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney was disputing the September 11 Commission Report, and said that the evidence was ‘overwhelming’ that al Qaeda had close ties to Saddam Hussein. He referred to media reports to the contrary, those that reported on the facts presented by the September 11 Commission, as ‘irresponsible.’
And even as the lies were exposed over a period of years, Congress kept funding the war. Both current presidential candidates, Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Barack Obama, never met a war funding bill they didn’t love. Mr. McCain voted for the initial war resolution in 2002; Mr. Obama was not in the senate at that time, but his words opposing the war then lose much of their power when viewed against his voting record since. He presents himself as the candidate of change, yet he has done little to show that there is anything behind his high-sounding rhetoric. Mr. McCain unabashedly (and incredibly) simply states that he will continue most of Mr. Bush’s disastrous policies. Of the two, Mr. McCain is far more frightening.
And so once again the world is victimized by U.S. imperialism; innocent people are suffering and dying daily in a war that never should have been, that was built on lies and supported continually by the weakness of the only people in the world with the power to end it. How long it will last is anyone’s guess. Mr. McCain has said that U.S. involvement lasting 100 years would be acceptable to him. In 1972 South Vietnam’s U.S. puppet leader, Nguyen Van Thieu, predicted that that war, and U.S. participation in it, “would go on for many years.” And while the Iraqi people fight their U.S. oppressors, and die at their hands, members of Congress look on with no more concern today than their predecessors did regarding Vietnam. And these decision-makers rest easy in their comfortable homes, while those they send to fight their imperial wars cause, and themselves experience, unspeakable suffering. U.S.- sponsored terrorism approaches the horrors perpetrated by any other terrorist activities seen in the world since the atrocities of World War II, and there is nothing to suggest that they might end anytime soon.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.