Following the declaration by President Bush’s chief U.S. weapons hunter David Kay that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S. invasion – the administration’s stated reason for the Iraq war – Bush’s move to set up an investigation commission to look into “intelligence failures” is being assailed as a damage control and cover-up effort. Bush has put himself in control of choosing its members, giving it a very broad, vague mission, and setting its reporting date conveniently after the November presidential elections.

Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich called the focus on intelligence failures a “red herring” to divert attention from the role of Vice President Dick Cheney and top Pentagon officials in fomenting war on Iraq.

Retired Army Col. James Burkholder, whose 33-year military career included service on Gen. William Westmoreland’s staff in Vietnam and 14 years at the Pentagon, told the World he is concerned that Bush’s proposed commission “will become a tool of the White House” to cover up the role of administration ideologues in promoting the war.

“You can thwart a commission by making its scope too broad to handle,” he noted. Expressing a “feeling of disgust,” Burkholder said, “I see our government as something I went to war in 1940 to defeat.”

Former Air Force 1st Lt. Joe McFatter, 57, told the World, “It sounds to me like they’re trying to dilute the investigation so it gets absolutely nothing done.” He believes the administration’s drive to launch a preemptive strike “was already planned out and they were looking for an excuse.” McFatter, who managed nuclear missiles in North Dakota during the Vietnam War and now heads North Texas Veterans for Peace, said veterans he is in touch with are upset “when we see people like Cheney arrogantly acting like kings of the hill.”

“We are very concerned that Bush not be re-elected,” said McFatter. “We’re going to do everything we can to unseat him.”

Since Bush launched the war last March, at least 528 American soldiers have been killed and thousands badly wounded. Thousands of Iraqis have been killed and maimed. Depleted uranium spread throughout Iraq from the Pentagon’s “shock and awe” weaponry is a ticking time bomb that will damage thousands more Americans and Iraqis.

Voluminous evidence indicates that Bush, Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top officials lied and manipulated intelligence to take the nation to war, with cooperation of “embedded” media.

A detailed December 2003 report by David Albright, a former weapons inspector who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, concluded that, while “a small number of CIA individuals” incorrectly linked Iraq’s aluminum tubes to nuclear weapons development, “a host of qualified experts were ignored and even disparaged” by top administration officials.

Henry Perritt, professor and former dean at Chicago-Kent College of Law, told the World, “For the president to mislead the public on matters of national security and to start a war is a serious breach of his duty to the American people. It’s far more serious than the things Clinton was impeached for.” Regardless of how much Bush knew about intelligence details, said Perritt, “He is the president. He is accountable.”

Dave Collins, 54, a former Marine and fourth-generation Texan who served 19 months in Vietnam, told the World, “I do not believe there has ever been a situation in which the president and those around him have so cynically misled the American people.” Among vets he interacts with, Collins said, “there is an anger, a sense of betrayal.”

Meanwhile, with Bush’s re-election campaign clock running, he has been forced to turn to the United Nations, which he previously scorned, to manage a process for handing over political power to an Iraqi government.

The Iraqi Communist Party and other longtime opponents of Saddam Hussein had strongly opposed the U.S. invasion, arguing that the international community, through the UN, working with the Iraqi people, could have unseated Hussein and achieved a democratic Iraq without war.

In a Jan. 19 statement, the ICP said, “It is well known that the occupation forces did not want, from the start, to give the UN a central and ‘vital’ role … Among the most important reasons was the desire to control … the political process and its outcome in accordance with their interests.”

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Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.