In the immortal words of radical American journalist I.F. Stone (1907-1989), all governments lie. And governments lie the most when they’re seeking public support for war. That is why the recent flap over Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and the Iraq War is so unsettling.
It’s heartening to see former Senator Hillary Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War and Jeb Bush’s support for the war become an issue so early in the presidential campaign. With 500,000 Iraqi dead, 4,400 American dead, hundreds of thousands of American wounded, an estimated three trillion dollars squandered, and Iraq and the entire Middle East much worse off than before, candidates’ position on the war – past and present – should be an issue.
As has been said many times, no government decision is graver than that of going to war, and with her decision to vote for the Iraq War, Hillary Clinton failed miserably. And now Clinton is trying to blame her vote for war on the “faulty intelligence” she, like everyone else, was spoon fed by the Bush administration and the so-called Intelligence Community. Well, that’s just not good enough.
It’s not good enough because all governments lie, and Hillary Clinton knew that. Her husband’s administration lied when it said the North American Free Trade Agreement would create jobs in this country. As First Lady and a quasi-government official, Hillary Clinton’s support for her husband’s draconian “welfare reform” bill gave lie to her endless claims of being an advocate for children. That one piece of legislation is the single worst thing that has ever happened to children in this country.
Defense Secretary Robert McNamara lied to President Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin incident so he would support a full-scale war in Vietnam, and McNamara and General William Westmoreland continued to lie to Johnson so Johnson would continue to prosecute the war. If Hillary Clinton didn’t know this history, she should have.
It’s not good enough because Clinton knew, as did everyone who was paying attention, that George W. Bush had a personal ax to grind with Saddam Hussein. In the lead-up to the Iraq War, Bush repeatedly referred to Hussein as the man who tried to kill his father. Even before the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, Bush was caught on camera saying of Hussein to Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, “He tried to kill my daddy.”
It’s not good enough because Hillary Clinton knew – or should have known – that the George W. Bush administration would not be averse to lying in pursuit of its goals. In the 2000 election, staff members of Republican members of Congress flew to Florida and literally screamed at Florida election officials trying to conduct a completely legal and lawful recount of Florida’s 2000 election results; and the Bush campaign made no effort to distance itself from this jackboot thuggery. Clearly this was a group of people not averse to a little creativity in the pursuit of its goals. After September 11, Bush tried to tie Saddam Hussein to the September 11 attacks. When that failed, he switched to allegations of weapons of mass destruction. Clearly Bush wanted war.
Knowing all this, Clinton should have been much more skeptical about the information she and others were being given by intelligence officials in the employ of the very same George W. Bush.
But it’s worse than all that. She didn’t even need to know all that. The evidence against the case for war was right there in her morning Washington Post and New York Times on an almost daily basis.
In the lead-up to war, the Bush administration was yelping almost daily that Saddam Hussein was not allowing UN weapons inspectors access to all the places they needed to access. That may have been true in the early going, but later on the Iraqi government, perhaps because of the threat of war, became more cooperative. Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, said Iraq was becoming more cooperative, that solid progress was being made, and that he and his team were being granted access. Blix said he needed a little more time to wrap up his work. Not a lot more time, a little more time. And that’s when we went to war – before Blix could issue a final report that might seriously undermine the case for war.
Hundreds of thousands of people in this country, acting on nothing more than the same public information available in Hillary Clinton’s newspapers, marched in the street against war with Iraq, and thousands were arrested. I was among them. With only public media information available to us, we got it it right – Hillary Clinton did not.
So those are the facts. It’s not so much that Hillary Clinton was fed faulty intelligence, it was that she chose to believe Bush administration intelligence officials instead of giving UN weapons inspectors a little more time. In doing so she displayed very poor judgment. She rushed to war. She took the gravest, most important decision governments make – and she blew it. And now, rather than come clean and say she made a mistake, that she blew it – rather than apologize to the American and Iraqi people – she is hiding behind the woefully lame excuse that she was given faulty intelligence. This does not bode well for world peace under a possible Hillary Clinton administration.
But Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one suffering from miserably poor judgment. Jeb Bush recently told an interviewer that even knowing what he knows today, he still supports his brother’s decision to go to war with Iraq. If that’s the case, Jeb Bush is clearly well short of the level of judgment one would hope for in a president.
Lawrence Reichard lives in Belfast, Maine, and can be reached at email@example.com.