Water Man Spouts

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Shanksville Redemption

"Did you tell her I don't like motherfuckers who gas their own people?" the president snapped. "Did you tell her I don't like assholes who lie to the world? Did you tell her I'm going to kick his sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast?"
-- President George W. Bush asking Press Secretary Ari Fleischer about a conversation with reporter Helen Thomas; from page 3 of "Hubris," by David Corn and Michael Isikoff

Our democracy has been hijacked. This is not news to those on the progressive left, including participants on forums such as the Democratic Underground. When we read the angry outburst above, directed at an elderly lady who simply asked a question that challenged the president's lies, we are not surprised. We recognized that this fellow who fronted for the group of thugs who forced their way into the cockpit of the nation was a hostile, unstable man from Day One.
But not all of the other passengers of these United States saw him the same way. Many were fooled into believing that he was a strong leader, who had mastered aviation in his days serving in the National Guard. They saw a gentle side, when he sat and read "My Pet Goat" to little school children. And they believed the charade on the USS Abraham Lincoln, when Bush gloated under a banner that said, "Mission Accomplished." He promised the American public that major combat operations were completed, and that we had prevailed. Bush said we would begin to investigate "hundreds of sites" with WMD components.
Those systems that were supposed to alert the American public to the dangers posed by the gang of hijackers, commonly known the "neoconservatives," failed us. In large part, it wasn't that they made a noble attempt; rather, they were too cowardly to even speak up. Only a very few even tried, and that made it easier for the hijackers to carry out their criminal activities. The neocons savagely attacked those few individuals who attempted to challange them.
The example that sticks out the most is, of course, what has become known as the Plame scandal. Almost immediately, the progressive left recognized that something that went absolutely in the face of democracy had taken place. The neocons were unsettled by author David Corn's pointing out that the administration may have violated federal. And they were surprised when progressive democrats and others on the left took an interest in a case involving the CIA.
The neocons engaged in attempts to bury the investigation. In early December of 2003, a "senior White House official" told a Financial Times reporter, "We have rolled the earthmovers in over this one." Then, at the end of December, the neocons were shocked to learn that Patrick Fitzgerald had been appointed to head the investigation.
This month, a new book has been published that does a remarkable job of uncovering that which the White House earthmovers had thought they buried. The book is "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War," by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Early reviews of the book focused almost entirely upon the authors identifying Richard Armitage as the first "source" for Robert Novak, the scum who publicly exposed Valerie Plame. The neocons almost immediately began pushing this as "proof" that the operation to damage Joseph Wilson had not been conducted by the Office of the Vice President.
"Hubris," however, does quite the opposite: the book documents the Plame scandal as belonging to Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and others connected to the White House Iraq Group. To the extent that Corn and Isikoff have pointed this out on various news shows, the WHIG has brought Novak out of the moth balls, and again had him play point for their team.
DUers are not fooled by these tactics. We've studied the role of the secretive Rendon Group, for example. We know all about their tricks of the trade, which they call "perception management." But the truth is that most Americans don't. And so it is a good thing when a "mainstream" author like Michael Isikoff has a book that contains some information about the Rendon Group. Indeed, if most of us told others about what we've learned about the Rendon Group from the Democratic Underground, they are going to be less likely to accept it as true, than if we are able to introduce them to Rendon through a Newsweek writer. We have to be able to communicate to others by using the language they understand, and are comfortable with.
Now this, of course, makes the neocons uncomfortable. They try to silence any "mainstream" voice that can communicate the truth to a larger, unaware audience. A good example is found in Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC's Hardball. Most people who follow the Plame scandal are aware that I. Liar Libby claimed that Tim Russert told him about Valerie Plame. Libby is charged with telling that lie to FBI investigators, and to Mr. Fitzgerald's grand jury. Libby's supporters used to say that it was just a case of one man's word against another's. But they have stopped that weak stuff, and the reason why is fully described in "Hubris." On pages 266-7, Corn and Isikoff detail how Libby called Russert to complain about Matthews' coverage of the Iraq war and the Plame scandal. Libby accused Matthews of anti-Semitism, because Chris focused on the roles of Libby, Perle, and Wolfowitz. Russert suggested Libby call NBC president Neal Shapiro. Russert himself called Shapiro, and made a record of the Libby conversation. Russert described Libby's call as "an implicit warning" from the Vice President's office. Shapiro actually did contact Matthews' exexcutive producer, and made clear that Chris had to "throttle back a bit" because "this guy is still the vice president."
If you told your co-workers that "H2O Man" from the Democratic Underground said the OVP had attempted to keep Chris Matthews from reporting the truth, they might think that you've lost your mind. In fact, a lot of DUers have thought I had lost mine when I've said that Matthews has tried to be honest, but that his job restricts his ability to tell us what he knows about this case. Well, now we have Corn and Isikoff reporting this very thing.
At the same time, we find that Ahmed Chalabi was able to spread his lies not only to the fools in the VP's intelligence outfit, known as the "Office of Special Plans," but also through the corporate media. His #1 cheerleader and concubine was Judith Miller, and so his misinformation made the New York Times' front page frequently. More, the authors show that Chalabi's INC could access The Sunday Times of London; Vanity Fair; Time; The Atlantic Monthly; NPR; CNN; The New Yorker; Newsweek; Fox News (shocking!); 60 Minutes; The National Review; The Weekly Standard; the Associated Press; The Washington Times; and the Washington Post. (page 53)
On the Democratic Underground, we have discussed the fact that the OVP runs a "shadow government." On pages 5-6, the authors note that Libby oversaw a "shadow" National Security Council, and that he "had a reputation of being a prick" and "was nasty and obnoxious" in his dealings with the real intelligence community.
The administration has long scoffed at reports that Bush is simply a tool being used by Dick Cheney & Co., who really run the country. Yet, the authors reveal things such as the fact that neither George Bush or Condi Rice read the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was used to support administration claims that Saddam's Iraq posed a threat with WMD. We know, of course, that Team Libby has claimed the NIE is essential to establishing Scooter's defense in his upcoming trial. Scooter, his lawyers note, was focused almost entirely on the NIE information. Cheney gave Libby the green light to share parts of the NIE with reporters such as Miller. Pretrial documents show that Bush okayed this; it is important to note Bush had never even read the classified document that Cheney asked his permission to leak to reporters.
Very few US Senators had read the NIE, either. It is sadly obvious that members of both parties, in both the House and Senate, betrayed this country by cowering from the neocon hijacking gang. The book shows that of those who knew the administration was absolutely lying about the intelligence, a couple republicans were braver than the majority of democrats. When Joseph Biden and two republicans (Lugar and Hagel) were "pushing an alternative that would narrow the president's authority," they were undercut by a House democratic leader, Dick Gephardt. (page 127)
Likewise, when individuals in the intelligence community were willing to challenge the distortions of the White House, they were betrayed by George Tenet. Instead, our country relied on clowns like Douglas Feith, who helped lead the charge on such issues as the cave that might hold WMDs (which turned out to be a pond for cattle); the uranium being stored in a warehouse before being sent to Iraq (oops! it was bales of cotton, not uranium); and the containers of ricin (okay, they were actually barrels of curdled milk).
The book is not perfect. It does not include much information on the OVP/WHIG efforts to do a "workup" on Joseph Wilson from March to June in 2003. It doesn't discuss the neocon/AIPAC espionage scandal, either. However, it does provide some insight on a character involved in both the Plame and neocon/AIPAC espionage operations: David Wurmser. They twice note Wurmser called Chalabi his "mentor." And the authors provide some interesting information on Chalabi's top aide, Aras Habib, who the CIA had identified as being an agent of Iranian intelligence in the mid-1990s. It also has enough inside information on Judith Miller to support the often made claim on DU that her reporter status was merely a cover for her true position.
Most important, however, is that Corn and Isikoff document what Valerie Plame Wilson's position was at the CIA. She was working on WMD issues involving both Iraq and Iran. Her group recognized that there was no substance to the information on Iraq's WMD programs that the neocons were endorsing as fact. More, they recognized that much of the misinformation was able to be traced back to Chalabi's INC.
Of course, people on DU have read information similar to this many times before. But it helps to have mainstream authors documenting it. And Corn and Isikoff add a good bit of new information, and raise many, many interesting and thought-provoking points. The book is worth buying and reading. It is worth our placing it on our bookshelves next to Amassador Wilson's "The Politics of Truth." More than that, it is a valuable tool for us to use to educate the general public about "the inside story of spin, scandal, and the selling of the Iraq war" between now and election day.


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