Not for the first time, but most egregiously, did a President of the United States violate both his oath to uphold the Constitution and international law when President Bush ordered the unprovoked invasion of Iraq. Unbeknownst to the American public at the time, criminal plans for removing Saddam Hussein not only dominated the early 2001 meetings of Bush's National Security Council, they also crowded out time and attention that would have been better spent attempting to thwart the impending terrorist attacks by al Qaeda terrorists — about which the Bush/Cheney regime had been frequently warned.
Why the obsession with Iraq? Credit the decade-old drumbeat for war by America's neoconservatives. Then, like cockroaches, they literally infested the newly installed Bush/Cheney regime. Thus, it became an article of faith - explicitly expressed during the NSC meetings in early 2001 — that regime change in Iraq would reshape the Middle East and, thus, enhance Israel's security and strengthen America's ability to leverage the region's oil.
Unfortunately the very success of al Qaeda's criminal plans for 9/11 provoked the very anger and fear within the U.S. that enabled the Bush/Cheney regime to implement its criminal plans. By successfully (although falsely) linking Iraq to al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks, the Bush/Cheney regime was able to portray its long-planned war as unavoidable self-defense. After all the UN Charter permits its members to engage in wars of self-defense while explicitly prohibiting "the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."
Thus, members of the Bush/Cheney regime soon were giving speeches that falsely and maliciously conflated 9/11 and Iraq. Subsequently, they also began to warn about the grave and growing threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ties to al Qaeda. Although nobody but the dumbest of ignorant Americans should have been persuaded by hints of Iraq's complicity in the 9/11 attacks, in fact, a majority of Americans were persuaded. Imagine, then, how easily persuaded they were by false assertions about Iraq's WMD and ties to al Qaeda.
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Only after the invasion would Americans learn conclusively that Iraq possessed no WMD, that Iraq had no significant ties to al Qaeda. Then the questions cascaded: Were the false assertions by the Bush/Cheney regime mere mistakes or were they evil lies?
The Bush/Cheney regime responded by blaming the failure to find WMD on the poor intelligence provided by America's intelligence community — adding that the intelligence services of other countries also mistakenly believed that Iraq possessed WMD. Although such scapegoating contained a large nugget of truth, it was designed to obscure two important facts: (1) the intelligence reports often contained qualifiers, expressions of doubts about Iraq's WMD that were not publicized by the Bush/Cheney regime before the invasion and (2) senior officials in the Bush/Cheney regime embellished the faulty intelligence, lied about it, and fabricated contrary intelligence to render the evidence more ominous than it actually was (see "Immorality").
Moreover, when it became certain that the UN would not approve a second resolution, one that authorized the use of force against Iraq, the U.S. (acting jointly with Britain and Spain) withdrew its draft of the second resolution from the UN Security Council. Why? Because Britain's Lord Goldsmith warned, "if the sponsors of the U.S.-UK draft resolution sought a vote at the council and failed to get it, serious doubts would be cast on the legality of military action against Iraq."
After withdrawing the second resolution, the Bush/Cheney regime made the following argument: because resolution 1441 "decided that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of all relevant resolutions," the U.S. already possessed the authority to use force. This argument was blatantly false, especially because it is up to the UN Security Council, not individual members, "to decide whether and how to enforce its resolutions." [John Burroughs and Nicole Deller, "The United Nations Charter and the Invasion of Iraq," Neo-Conned Again pp. 368-69]
Such slimy behavior fooled almost nobody in the world except a large number of Americans, including Americans in the news media. Which explained why the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, called the Bush/Cheney regime's subsequent invasion of Iraq "illegal." In fact, as the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal put it (in the wake of Nazi Germany's defeat), "To initiate a war of aggression" is "the supreme international crime."
Lesser war crimes by the Bush/Cheney regime already had been committed. As the Guardian reported, "Evidence of prisoner abuse and possible war crimes at Guantanamo Bay reached the highest level of the Bush administration as early as autumn 2002, but Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, chose to do nothing about it." ["Bush team 'knew of abuse' at Guantanamo," Sept. 13, 2004] The paper also reported, "The secret 'special access program' facilitating much of the mistreatment, widely held to have contravened the Geneva convention, was established following a direct order from the president." [Ibid]
The criminal rot from Guantanamo was "eventually transferred wholesale" to Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where subsequent revelations of prisoner torture there by U.S. soldiers irreparably dishonored the United States in the eyes of the world. Writing in the 27 June 2007 issue of the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh notes a May 2004 meeting, during which Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba informed Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others about the torture of prisoners occurring at Abu Ghraib. Taguba "described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, 'That's not abuse. That's torture.'"
According to Hersh, General Craddock and Vice-Admiral Timothy Keating, the director of the Joint Staff of the J.C.S., were e-mailed a summary of the Abu Ghraib abuses in January 2004. Thus, Rumsfeld appears to have lied when, "in his appearances before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees on May 7th, [he] claimed to have had no idea of the extensive abuse." [Hersh, New Yorker 27 June 2007] Only when the scandal became public, did the regime's cover-up fall apart.
Yet, the crimes continue. According to Human Rights Watch, "In the past five years the administration has authorized torture and other abusive interrogation techniques, "disappeared" dozens of suspected terrorists into secret prisons, twisted domestic law to permit indefinite detention without charge of persons suspected of links to terrorism, and confined hundreds at Guantanamo Bay without charge while denying them information about the basis for their detention and meaningful opportunity to contest it. The administration has sought to exempt its actions from court oversight." [Human Rights Watch, "United States," World Report 2007]
In order to support their BIG LIE about the grave and growing threat to the U.S. posed by Iraq, the Bush/Cheney regime not only pressured the intelligence community to produce conclusions that supported its own preconceptions about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda, it also embellished and lied about that intelligence. Moreover, it fabricated damning intelligence where the intelligence community found none.
Thus, to say "the intelligence community got it wrong" or "intelligence agencies in other countries also concluded that Iraq possessed WMD" still doesn't explain Cheney's deceptive half-truth, asserted at the Veterans of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention on August 26, 2002. Cheney told his audience, "The Iraq regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents." Worse, he claimed, "We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons."
To support that claim, Cheney cited evidence provided by Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel Hassan, who claimed that Iraq possessed WMD. What Cheney failed to mention, however, was that Kamel also said: "All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered the destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons-biological, chemical, missile, nuclear-were destroyed." Only after the illegal, immoral invasion would we learn that Kamel had told the truth - and that Cheney had deceived us.
Neither do the glib assertions, "the intelligence community got it wrong" and "intelligence agencies in other countries also concluded that Iraq possessed WMD" explain why the then National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, would assert that the high-strength aluminum tubes that Iraq was allegedly attempting to purchase could "only" be used in a nuclear weapons program. In fact, when she told her lie, Ms. Rice already knew that disagreement existed within the intelligence community about how such tubes might be used.
Building upon that lie, Ms. Rice then fear mongered by asserting: "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
When, in September 2002, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said, "American intelligence had "bulletproof" evidence of links between Al Qaeda and the government of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq," he deceived Americans about the nature of that intelligence. First, America's intelligence community already had dismissed such "links" as insignificant. Second, because the intelligence community already had discounted such "links", a rogue intelligence unit headed by neocon ideologue Douglas Feith was set up inside the Pentagon and specifically tasked with finding such links.
Feith's "Gestapo Office" proceeded to fabricate "intelligence" from shards of evidence already dismissed by the intelligence community. Such shards were then passed to neocon Paul Wolfowitz, then Rumsfeld and Cheney for public dissemination. Former Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, has commented on such intelligence in his recent book, At the Center of the Storm. [W]e weren't too impressed with their work…especially their willingness to blindly accept information that confirmed preconceived notions." [p. 348] Calling such work, "Feith-based analysis," [Ibid] Tenet adds, "The best source of information was our January 2003 paper, which said that there was no Iraqi authority, direction, or control over al-Qa'ida." [Ibid, p. 358]
President Bush, not only conflated Iraq and 9/11 and reiterated the canards about Iraq's WMD and ties to al-Qaeda, he also repeated Ms. Rice's scare mongering about a mushroom cloud and added a few unique lies of his own. For example, while speaking to reporters in mid-July 2003, our immoral President answered a question about Iraq by asserting: "The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."
In fact, Saddam had permitted the UN weapons inspectors to return. But our lying President preempted their work, lest they prove that Iraq had no WMD. As USA Today, reported on March 17, 2003: "In the clearest sign yet that war with Iraq is imminent, the United States has advised U.N. weapons inspectors to begin pulling out of Baghdad." Although such lies failed to persuade most of the world, they did persuade the dumbest or most frightened of Americans. And, armed with their support, the Bush/Cheney regime was able to exert political pressure on incumbents in Congress during the months before mid-term Congressional elections of November 2002, by questioning the patriotism of any congressman (congresswoman)), who didn't support the regime's rush to war.
To get a better idea of the effectiveness of such immoral political hardball, simply compare the votes in favor of authorizing the Bush/Cheney regime's war of choice with the actual number of congressmen who actually read the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate - the document that supposedly proved (while actually raising doubts about) the existence of Iraq's threatening WMD, and thus justified war.
On the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002," the House of Representatives adopted the resolution on October 10, 2002, by a vote of 296-133 and the Senate adopted the resolution on October 11, 2002, by a vote of 77-23. Yet, "no more than six senators and a handful of House members who did not serve on the house and senate Intelligence Committess read beyond the five-page National Intelligence Estimate executive summary." [Tenet, quoting from the Washington Post , p. 337] Such gross negligence on the part of our congressional representatives constitutes a distinct type of immorality.
But nothing captures the immorality of the Bush/Cheney regime as the contrast separating the President's very gestures on the eve of initiating his war of choice and the devasting impact it made - and continues to make - in Iraq. Recall that during the moments before Bush "gave his national address announcing that the war had begun, a camera cought Bush pumping his fist as though instead of intiating a war he had kicked a winning field goal or hit a home run. 'Feels good,' he said." [Paul Waldman, Fraud, p. 8]
Some two weeks later, at eleven A.M on March 30, fourteen-year-old Arkan Daif was killed by an explosion that lacerated his body with white-hot shrapnel. One piece tore off the back of his skull. You see, Arkan and two cousins were digging a trench in front of his house; a feeble attempt to protect it from the bombs that Bush unleashed two weeks earlier with such inhuman insouciance. [Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near, pp. 73-74]
To date, Bush's immoral insouciance has claimed the lives of more than 3,500 American sokdiers, wounded another 29,000 plus - many having their brains shattered or becoming double or triple amputees — killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and caused some five million Iraqis to flee their homes for other parts of Iraq or for safety outside the country.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
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