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WHAT WE THINK
White House slipping and sliding on Iraq's supposed weapons
Have Bush's lies caught up with him?

February 13, 2004 | Page 3

THE SCANDAL over Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction isn't going away fast enough for the Bush administration. So after days of careful preparation, the White House put their boy George on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday to be "grilled" by host Tim Russert. What a joke!

The interview was one long rehash of Bush's slipping and sliding about how Iraq was supposedly an "imminent" threat--and who was responsible for the claim that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. Bush couldn't come up with a good reason for why his new commission investigating "intelligence failures" won't bother to report its findings until 2005--conveniently after the presidential election--or why he's picked a bunch of hacks, like Reagan-era Republican insider Laurence Silberman, to run the inquiry.

The Bush team would prefer to bluster their way through all objections. "Knowing what I knew then, and knowing what I know now, America did the right thing in Iraq," Bush told a crowd in South Carolina.

But they face increasing obstacles. Last week, CIA Director George Tenet publicly struck back at the White House cover story that claims about Iraq's non-existent weapons were the result of an "intelligence failure."

According to Tenet, CIA officials "never said there was an imminent threat. Rather, they painted an objective assessment for our policymakers of a brutal dictator who was continuing his efforts to deceive and build programs that might constantly surprise us and threaten our interests."

Secretary of State Colin Powell has all but admitted that the case for war based on Iraq's supposed arsenal has fallen apart. Asked last week if he would have recommended an invasion knowing that Iraq had no prohibited weapons, Powell replied: "I don't know, because it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger, and a threat to the region and to the world."

The "absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus," he said, "it changes the answer you get." But whatever the "calculus," the more important point is that Powell said he believes that the war ultimately "was the right thing to do."

"Saddam Hussein and his regime clearly had the intent--they never lost it--an intent that manifested itself many years ago when they actually used such horrible weapons against their enemies in Iran and against their own people," Powell added. Powell didn't mention that the U.S. government backed Saddam Hussein when he "actually used such horrible weapons."

What this shows is that while there may be differences of opinion in the Bush administration about how to wiggle out of the weapons of mass destruction controversy, there is no real disagreement on the war--or the occupation. Likewise, the recent decision by Bush to approach the United Nations (UN) for help with the occupation and upcoming elections in Iraq is simply "plan B"--a tactical shift in order to maintain the conquest of Iraq with a new international legitimacy.

Whether or not the UN provides public relations cover, the U.S. will remain in charge in Iraq--operating openly at the head of an "internationalized" occupation force, or behind an Iraqi government of U.S.-backed stooges. Washington plans to rule the roost in Iraq--until they are forced out.

Many people who opposed Bush's war on Iraq hope that putting a Democrat in the White House would produce a real change. They should take a closer look at the frontrunner for the nomination, John Kerry--who not only voted in favor of congressional authorization for the war, but says that he wants to continue the occupation, though through the "international community."

According to his campaign's Web site, Kerry will "work to expand participation and share responsibility with other countries in the military operations in Iraq"--and "increase the size of the U.S. Army in order to meet the needs of a new century and the new global war on terror."

With "opposition" like this, it's no wonder that the Bush administration feels confident that it can weather the controversy over Iraq's weapons--and eventually push ahead with its imperial plans to remake the Middle East in whatever shape it wants. Real opposition won't come from inside the Washington establishment or from the leaders of other governments, but in the streets--in the form of an antiwar movement that can build protests against the U.S. occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Washington's support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The worldwide call for antiwar demonstrations on March 20 can be the crucial next step to rebuilding opposition to Washington's military machine. We need to start right away to build the biggest possible turnout on March 20--and send a message that the war makers can't ignore.

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