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Who must shoulder the blame for this fiasco of fiascoes?




To the Editor:

In some spot-checking rereading of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, I looked more closely at the photo section. The first photo is of Bush and General Tommy Franks. The cutline was an eyeopener. President George Bush with General Tommy Franks, after a first major top secret warplanning session on Iraq in Crawford, Tex., on December 28, 2001. “We have made a start,” Franks told an aide afterward.

This prompted me to take a look at a time-line in my files from Mother Jones magazine. What I found blew the cover of all the claims about using diplomacy and expressed indecision.

To send a clear signal to Saddam, the United States and the United Kingdom bombed targets near Baghdad (Feb. 16, 2001). The Pentagon produced a document titled “Foreign suitors for Iraq oilfield contracts” for Cheney’s task force. It included a map of areas of potential exploration (July 17, 2001). (So, oil had nothing to do with the invasion.)

On Sept. 12, 2001, according to counterterror director Richard Clark, “Bush told us I want you as soon as you can to get back over everything. See if Saddam did this.” He was told “evidence was overwhelming against Al Qaeda.” Bush asked for “any shred that Saddam was involved.”

On Sept. 19, 2001, the Pentagon Defense Policy Board, chaired by Richard Perle and featuring Henry Kissinger and Newt Gingrich, declared that Iraq should be invaded after Afghanistan even though Bush was briefed by intelligence on Sept. 21, 2001 that there was no evidence linking Saddam to 9/11.

On Nov. 21, 2001, Bush collared Rumsfield physically and asks, “What have you got in terms of Iraq? What is the status of the war plans? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.” On Dec. 12, 2001, Rumsfield demands plans for war with Iraq from General Franks.

On May 21, 2002, General Franks was asked by a reporter if he has a plan to attack Iraq. His answer: “That’s a good question – my boss has not yet asked me to put together a plan to do that.”

In July 2002, General Franks secretly requested $700 million for war preparations. Bush approved without Congressional knowledge. Money was taken from the appropriations for war in Afghanistan. (An impeachable offense.)

On Aug. 7, 2002, Bush gives war plans to General Franks followed by this claim: “We may or may not attack. I have no idea yet.” Then Rumsfield supports that statement by telling reporters, “The President hasn’t made a decision to do anything with respect to Iraq.”

On Oct. 16, 2002, Bush goes public with this claim: “I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary.” The following month (Nov. 7, 2002) Bush declares, “War is not my first choice. It is my last choice.”

On Dec. 3, 2002, Bush replied to a press corps question, “You said we are headed to war with Iraq. I don’t know why you ask that. I’m the person who gets to decide, not you.” (Notice the bullying and arrogance.)

On Jan. 11, 2002, Bush tells Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar he plans to go to war with Iraq two days before he tells Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Notes of Nov. 21, 2003, meeting between Bush and Tony Blair made clear Bush intended to invade Iraq even in United Nations inspectors find no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. He told Blair that he had considered flying V-2 reconnaissance planes over Iraq painted with U.N. colors to tempt Iraqi forces to fire on them, which would be a breach of U.N. resolutions. (Do you sense the presence of Karl Rove?)

On March 8, 2003, 12 days before the war begins, Bush claims: “We are doing everything we can to avoid war with Iraq.”

So, we have a chronicle of war foretold. Truth was a casualty long before Bush ordered the troops across the borders of Iraq. But who must shoulder the blame for this fiasco of fiascoes? Of course, gullible George but even more so Dick Cheney, who as chairman of the committee to screen for a Bush running mate selected himself, making certain the Cabinet would be staffed by neo-cons with Baghdad on their minds.

Still, there are others outside the White House who stand complicit: the 94 U.S. Senators who could not bother to take the time to read the full 92 pages of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Had they bothered, they would have discovered far more dissenting intelligence than had ever been made public in the national debate before voting to send American troops to war.

And, we the people are not without blame. In our fear and rage over 9/11, we allowed ourselves to be suckered into the most audacious bait and switch of all time. Half a trillion dollars later, Saddam has gone to meet Allah, Osama is still at large, the Taliban is again resurgent, and thousands of Americans and Iraqis are dead with thousands more suffering from life-limiting wounds both physical and psychological.

Yet, the blame does not stop there. We must not overlook members of the media who were willing to be taken hostage by the White House rather than stand up and march to a different drummer.

With the exception of the news magazines and now and then The New York Times and Washington Post, what coverage there was for the most part, was relegated deep inside. It seems that the honest, open-window, fresh-air reporting was found in the foreign press which saw clearly what was wrapped in secrecy and fortified by denial.
JOE DRENNAN
Moultrie, Ga.



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