The White House has begun firing back at critics. Vice President Dick Cheney’s attempt last week to divert attention from his own deception by labeling his critics as liars was a desperate move in that direction. His statement that the opponents of the war in Iraq are the ones trying to “rewrite history” is asinine, but it’s not surprising the administration is trying this route, as it has gotten away with much worse in the past.
Cheney has been instrumental in laying the political groundwork for the war in Iraq since the beginning. He did so, for example, by tying Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq to the attacks of Sept. 11, a connection that simply isn’t there.
Whenever Iraq was mentioned, images of the burning Twin Towers were also invoked. The administration was so successful at tying the two together that a Washington Post poll conducted in September 2003 showed 69 percent of the American public believed there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks. This was a direct result of the administration doing everything it could to exploit a national tragedy to further its own policy.
Then the 9/11 Commission categorically stated there was no connection between the attacks of Sept. 11 and Iraq. Cheney responded, “I never said that” and accused the press of putting words in his mouth. How’s that for rewriting history?
Key administration officials also misconstrued further facts to rally support for war. Cheney said on Aug. 26, 2002, in a speech for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”
There was more than “doubt.” Some of the ones who were suddenly the most adamant about the fact that Iraq had WMDs and that military action needed to take out the “imminent threat” previously had as vocally professed otherwise.
In 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction (and) is determined to make more.” But only two years prior, Powell had adamantly professed there was no need for a war with Iraq and said Saddam had “not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq.”
What changed in the two years that passed between Powell’s two contradictory statements was not intelligence, it was policy. The administration was suddenly hell-bent on taking out Saddam and was not prepared to let something as small as the truth stand its way.
Talk of “mushroom clouds” on national TV and making connections between Sept. 11 and Saddam worked as a scare tactic to raise support for the war in Iraq. But merely because it was politically convenient to do so doesn’t mean it was the ethical thing to do, let alone made such statements true.
While the administration is now claiming that senators “voted for war,” the president was adamant at the time that war was “only a last resort.” It is simply not true to claim a vote in favor of such powers was a vote for a war that would occur with 100-percent certainty. (And it certainly isn’t a blanket statement by senators approving everything that went wrong in Iraq since then.)
The president was making statements like “I have no war plans on my desk.” While documents such as the infamous Downing Street memo have proven since then that the whole bit of pursuing “a diplomatic route” was little more than a charade, the president was giving the nation his word he would only go to war if there was no other option. Is the administration seriously blaming the senators for not questioning the president’s honesty? If so, that’s certainly a twisted way of looking at it.
It’s not even as if senators had a fair chance in the vote in the first place. While it is a much invoked talking point that senators “saw the same evidence” as everyone else, it’s not what happened. One outcome of the ongoing investigation on who leaked Valerie Plame’s identity to the press has been the proof that the evidence had been severely screened to portray a solid case for war by carefully excluding points that could shed doubt on whether Iraq had WMD. (By the way: It didn’t have any.)
Cheney said last week he did not intend to “sit by and let them rewrite history.” Well, neither do I, nor does a growing part of the population.
Thankfully, there is a paper trail that proves a nation was tricked into a war it otherwise would never have supported. There is no need to “rewrite history.” It’s what happened in the first place.
Sebastian Meyer is a senior majoring in political geography and a former Oracle Opinion Editor.