Thursday, February 26, 2004

This article reminds us that deception about the Iraqi threat to the U.S. originated with the Clinton White House. Useful ammo for responding to the "anyone but Bush" crowd. The problem is not so much this or that presidential administration as it is the entire history of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. As we fight to unseat King George the Illegitimate and his cabal of neo-con artists it is important to bear this in mind.

A Legacy of Lies:
President Bush misled the nation about the threat
Iraq posed. But he wasn't the first to do so.

Seth Ackerman
Mother Jones. January/February 2004 Issue

It was a devastating blow to the White House.
David Kay, the man hand-picked by the Bush
administration to lead the search for weapons of
mass destruction in Iraq, confirmed to a Senate
committee in late January that the intelligence
supporting Washington's case for war against
Saddam Hussein was baseless.

"It turns out we were all wrong and that is most disturbing," Kay declared.

But who exactly got it wrong? Intelligence
agencies obviously exaggerated Iraq's WMD
potential, and it's well known that they were
egged on by their political masters in the Bush
administration. But that's not the whole story.
In fact, Bush's manipulation of Iraq intelligence
was built on a foundation established during the
late 1990's, when Bill Clinton was in the White

Faced with the need to justify an economically
devastating and internationally unpopular embargo
of Iraq, the Clinton administration engaged in a
pattern of stretching and distorting weapons data
to bolster their claim that Saddam Hussein was
still hiding an illicit arsenal. The Clinton
White House never used that "intelligence" to
push for an invasion of Iraq, as Bush so
effectively did. But in its desperate quest to
salvage a crumbling Iraq policy, the Clinton
White House laid the groundwork for the
deceptions of their successors.

In a November 1997 Sunday morning appearance on
ABC, Defense Secretary William Cohen held up a
five-pound bag of sugar for the cameras to
dramatize the threat of Iraqi anthrax: "This
amount of anthrax could be spread over a city --
let's say the size of Washington. It would
destroy at least half the population of that
city. One breath and you are likely to face death
within five days."

"It could wipe out populations of whole
countries!" Cokie Roberts gasped as Cohen
described the Iraqi arsenal. "Millions,
millions," Cohen responded, "if it were properly

A year later, at a nationally televised town hall
meeting on Iraq at Ohio State University,
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright brought
home the dangers: "Iraq is a long way from Ohio,
but what happens there matters a great deal here.
For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state
will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons
against us or our allies is the greatest security
threat we face. The evidence is strong that Iraq
continues to hide prohibited weapons and

These claims from the Clinton team, we now know,
were every bit as wrong as the exaggerated
assertions of the Bush administration.

In recent weeks, at least one former Clinton
official - former White House advisor Kenneth
Pollack -- has dutifully acknowledged that fact.
An influential supporter of Bush's invasion
plans, Pollack's best-selling 2002 book 'The
Threatening Storm,' published just as the debate
over war was heating up, convinced many waverers
of the dangers posed by Saddam's supposed WMD

Now, Pollack has revisited his prewar arguments.
In a sort of analytical mea culpa published in
The Atlantic, he tries to explain how he and his
Clinton colleagues so badly misread the WMD
evidence. Everyone outside Iraq, he admits,
missed important signs that Saddam had abandoned
serious efforts at WMD capability. Pollack chalks
up this intelligence blunder to a straightforward
case of assuming the worst. The Clinton
administration and others simply "assumed that
Iraq's earlier behavior was continuing more or
less in a straight line. This misperception took
on considerable weight" as the years passed.

In fact, there is compelling evidence to suggest
that the Clinton administration's false alarms on
Iraqi weapons, like Bush's, were much more than
just honest mistakes. One astonishing series of
events in particular illustrates the ways in
which the Clinton White House cleared the path
for Bush's war.


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