White House lies prompt call for inquiry

As President Bush and other administration officials scramble to explain away their use of doctored evidence to launch a preemptive war on Iraq, calls for independent, bipartisan investigations grow. Mounting evidence shows that the administration’s top right-wing hawks manipulated a series of debunked intelligence reports to promote their policy.

Former CIA experts say the evidence trail implicates Vice President Dick Cheney. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity sent a memorandum to Bush calling for Cheney’s resignation, saying, “This was no case of petty corruption of the kind that forced Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation. This was a matter of war and peace. Thousands have died.

There is no end in sight. “The CIA veterans charged that the fraudulent intelligence” was used, also successfully, in the campaign leading up to the mid-term elections – a reality that breeds a cynicism highly corrosive to our political process.”

The White House, CIA, State Department and Pentagon are on overdrive to shift blame away from Bush, Cheney and top advisers like Condoleeza Rice.

Some may be hoping CIA Director George Tenet will be the “fall-guy.” Tenet said he took responsibility for Bush’s use of false intelligence in his State of the Union address. But few are buying that effort to divert attention from the White House.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) outlined a series of administration lies before, during and after the war, telling the Senate this week, “There is a significant amount of troubling evidence that it was part of a pattern of exaggeration and misleading statements.” He blasted administration attempts to obscure facts and confuse the public on Sunday TV talk shows, especially assailing Rice’s efforts at obfuscation.

As calls for an independent investigation stir up images of past scandals like Watergate that have cost Republicans reelection, the Republican National Committee and Bush’s re-election committee attacked Democrats for “politicizing” the Iraq war and the media for a “feeding frenzy.” But in this week’s Gallup poll, more than half of those surveyed, 53 percent, say it would matter a great deal to them if they became convinced the Bush administration deliberately misled the public. And CBS reports that 56 percent believe administration officials were hiding important elements of what they knew, or were outright lying about weapons of mass destruction.

In one of the largest online petitions ever, MoveOn.org collected, in less than a week, over 380,000 signers asking Congresspeople to support Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) legislation to establish an independent commission adding 11 new Congressional cosponsors.

Republicans with an ear to public opinion like Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel are voicing concern. On CNN’s “Inside Politics,” Hagel said, “We know, in fact, last fall the CIA was saying, this is bad intelligence. But we need to go a lot wider and deeper. Listen, it wasn’t just the CIA involved here. We had the vice president and his office involved, Secretary Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Secretary Powell’s people. This wasn’t just a one-man show.”

The New York Times, in a lead editorial, ridiculed the White House’s “the British made us do it defense,” noting mounting evidence that both U.S. and British officials were informed by the CIA that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal alleged by Bush was untrue. The International Atomic Energy Commission also discredited that claim even before the war was launched.

Damning evidence continues to mount that in fact there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, nor connections to Al Qaeda and Sept. 11.

Raymond McGovern, a 27-year CIA analyst and steering committee member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, emphasized the need for public scrutiny of the Bush administration’s foreign policy decisions, charging the White House has embarked on a “dangerous policy” of pre-emptive war,

“War should not be condoned with or without the existence of WMD,” McGovern told the World. Citing the dangers of possible new military actions against Iran, Syria, and North Korea, he said, “There are peaceful ways to address” these problems. McGovern also expressed shock at the pressure the administration put on the CIA. “I worked for 27 years at the CIA, never did a Vice President come to the [CIA] building to work or visit analysts …”

Columnist David Broder commented in the Washington Post that the past week’s TV coverage – featuring the Bush administration’s lies and the chaos in Iraq alongside the highest unemployment in 20 years – may signal the beginnings of the defeat of the Bush presidency in 2004. “If President Bush is not reelected, we may look back on last Thursday, July 10, 2003, as the day the shadow of defeat first crossed his political horizon,” Broder wrote.

Peace Action Communications Director Scott Lynch told the World, “The façade of the Bush administration being above board is crumbling. Looking at the economy and the cascading bundle of lies that were the underpinnings for winning the vote in Congress for war on Iraq, this could be their undoing.” But, Lynch added, more congressional pressure for truth is vital.

The author can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org