In Iraq, there is a crime of breathtaking proportions taking place. Breathtaking, but not necessarily surprising. We know from the historical record that governments will lie and deceive, and we've rarely seen one as immoral and venal as the Bush administration.
What has turned this crime into an astonishing demonstration of the depth of American democracy's decay is the complicity of the media establishment in hiding the original crime, and in thus doing so, ripping a gaping hole in the fabric of our political system.
Did you know that there now exists in the public domain a 'smoking gun' memo, which proves that everything the Bush administration said about the Iraq invasion was a lie? If you live in Britain you probably do, but if you live in the United States, chances are minuscule that you would be aware of this.
Think about that for a second. Apart from 9/11, has there been a more important story in the last decade than that the president lied to the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq, and then proceeded to plunge the country into an illegal war which has alienated the rest of the world, lit a fire under the war's victims and the Islamic world generally, turning them into enemy combatants, locked up virtually all American land forces in a war without end in sight, cost $300 billion and counting, taken over 1600 American lives on top of more than 15,000 gravely wounded, and killed perhaps 100,000 Iraqis?
Could there be a bigger story? "How Do Japanese Dump Trash?", perhaps, which ran on page one of today's (May 12) Times?
Of course not. But then how is it that this is not being reported in the American mainstream media? How is it that the two organs most responsible for coverage of political developments in this country - the New York Times and the Washington Post - have failed to splash this across their front pages in bold headlines, despite the fact that they clearly know of the story? How, especially, could these two papers sit on a story like this after both recently issued mea culpas for their respective failures to critically cover administration claims of bogus Iraqi threats during the period leading up to the war, thereby contributing to the war themselves?
From the Bush administration and the current generation of Republicans, I expect nothing but the most debased and vile politics. And, of course, ditto for Fox News and the rest of the overtly right-wing media. But I have been naive enough, until now, to believe that at least some of the American mainstream media has not climbed completely into bed with those destroyers of all that is decent about American democracy. Apparently I've been a fool.
Here is the story we are not being told.
Several days before their election last week (May 5), a patriot within the highest circle of British government leaked to the Times of London a memo, which proves the degree of deceit to which both the Americans and British publics have been subjected on the subject of the Iraq war. You were never supposed to see this document (jimesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1593607,00.html). It is headlined in bold with this warning: "This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents."
The memo provides minutes from a meeting of Tony Blair's most exclusive war cabinet, held in July of 2002. In the meeting, two of Blair's top officials report on discussions they had just held in Washington with officials at the top levels of the Bush administration.
Before describing the contents of the memo, it is important to note that nobody in the British government has denied to even the slightest degree the authenticity of this document. A highly placed American source has verified, off the record, that it is completely accurate in its recounting of the events described. And Tony Blair's only comment has been that there is 'nothing new' contained in the memo. This could not be more false. The memo proves beyond doubt the following:
* The Bush administration had decided by July 2002, at the latest, to invade Iraq. The memo says that "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action..." Later in the memo it notes that "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action". This means the claims that the president did not have a war plan on his desk at that time are now proven lies. It means that the whole kabuki dance of going to Congress, going to the UN, sending over weapons inspectors, pulling them out before they could finish their work, requiring Iraq to report to the Security Council on its weapons of mass destruction, then immediately rejecting their report as incomplete and deceitful - all of this - was a completely counterfeit exercise conducted for public relations purposes only. It also means that when former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former terrorism czar Richard Clarke reported that Bush had planned to attack Iraq from the beginning, they - rather than the administration which was personally savaging them as loonies - were telling the truth.
* The Bush and Blair administrations knew that the argument for war against Iraq was weak. As Foreign Secretary Jack Straw notes in the meeting, "But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran". This is proof that Iraq was never anything like the serious threat it was portrayed to be before the war, and that both administrations knew that it was no threat, but knowingly and completely oversold the necessity for the war with their massive phalanx of lies and distortions.
* Because the case was thin, the war would have to be "...justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD". This proves that former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz wasn't kidding when he let slip that the weapons of mass destruction argument was decided on by the administration for "bureaucratic reasons", meaning a rationale that all the leading actors within the administration could agree on as the most effective public relations device for marketing the war.
* Both the Bush and Blair administrations manipulated intelligence to get what they wanted in order to justify the war, and knew that they were doing precisely that. As the memo states, "...the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". This is the most remarkable statement of all, as it makes clear that the decision to invade had nothing to do with facts or any sort of real threat. Rather, it was simply a preference of the Bush administration (and probably just a personal one for Bush), which then became its policy, for which they then twisted and fabricated information and disinformation in order to sell the war to a rightly skeptical public.
* The war was illegal. Kofi Annan and the international community clearly believed that the war was a violation of international law. But we now also know that the British Attorney-General, who has to rule on this point (the question of the legality of launching a war is far less significant, unfortunately, in the American political tradition), "said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defense, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorization [which was never ultimately obtained from the Security Council]. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might change of course." Yes, of course. Then, again, if it didn't, one could always just lie about it.
* Knowing that the war was neither legal nor morally justifiable, the American and British governments therefore sought to find a way to make the war politically acceptable by baiting Saddam. As the memo notes, "We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force". And, "The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors". And, "If the political context were right, people would support regime change".
* Well before the war was 'justified', even in the bogus sense of Washington's and London's inspections and UN resolutions game, it had already begun. The memo states that the "US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime".
* Finally, it is worth noting that, even putting legal and moral questions aside, the memo also substantiates the sheer strategic incompetence of the administration, a failure which has, of course, produced excessive loss of life. It states that "There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action".
Let's review the bidding here.
We now have definitive, verified and undenied evidence documenting a panoply of lies told to the American and world publics about the invasion of Iraq, a bloody war which was neither legally nor morally justified, despite overt attempts to make it so by those who wished to launch it.
On top of that crime, we can now also add that of America's fourth estate, which has completely abdicated its role and responsibility to present this crucial bombshell of information to the public.
It gets worse, however. Eighty-nine members of Congress have taken note of the items described above, as well as a separate secret briefing for Blair's meeting, in which it was agreed that "Britain and America had to 'create' conditions to justify a war", and have sent a letter to the president (http://www.house.gov/judiciary_democrats/letters/bushsecretmemoltr5505.pdf), demanding a response.
And, yet, still there is no coverage from our press. It appears that demanding that the government respect the will of the people is no longer enough in American democracy. We must now also carry the burden of demanding that the media do its job and cover developments which are unfavorable to the national kleptocracy of which these giant media corporations have become a part.
That noise you hear? It's the sound of America's Founders spinning in their graves. And well they should, for this scenario is precisely the massive concentration of power they most feared. All branches of the government are now in the hands of the same party (meaning, effectively, there virtually are no branches any longer).
The so-called opposition party facilitates Republican rule through the flattery of imitation, when it hasn't gone into hiding instead. The public is frightened and ill-informed. And now this. To this hall of shame list must be added a mainstream press which a week ago seemed only biased and intimidated, but now appears entirely complicit. We are now living precisely the nightmare of Washington, Jefferson, Madison and the rest. It must stop. We cannot have a prayer of an informed public curbing the worst excesses of American government if, in fact, that public is not informed. Sad as it is, if we ever hope to reclaim American democracy, it appears we must now fight for outrageous news to be aired, if we ever expect that news to outrage.
Notwithstanding our worst horrors and fears these last four years, American democracy is in deeper trouble than we knew. Now is the time for patriots to act.
We must begin by demanding coverage of this explosive evidence by the leading organs of American journalism. If the American people remain too jaded or frightened to demand the heads of those who deceived them so thoroughly, they're entitled to inherit the consequences of their own failures. However, they cannot make that choice until they know the facts.
Please therefore, for the sake of innocent Iraqis, for the sake of American soldiers, and for the sake of American democracy, do two things 'write now':
* First, send a message to the New York Times and the Washington Post, demanding that they cover this most significant of stories. Top brass at the New York Times can be emailed at the following addresses: Executive Editor Bill Keller at email@example.com, and Managing Editor Jill Abramson at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the Washington Post, try National Editor Michael Abramowitz at email@example.com, and Associate Editor Robert Kaiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Next, forward this article on to everybody you know, and ask them to write the Times and the Post as well, and then to forward this article in turn to everyone they know. With some luck, perhaps we can achieve a critical mass which can no longer be ignored by these papers, with the electronic media then to follow.
In any case, we are evidently going have to take this country back ourselves, without even the benefit of a competent media to report the news.
Fortunately, we possess the greatest weapon of all, the truth.