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Bush White House scrambles to contain damage
Secrets and lies

April 2, 2004 | Page 1

THEY EXPLOITED the tragedy of September 11, they lied to get their war on Iraq and they tried to intimidate all opposition into silence. But now the Bush White House is rattled. After using September 11 as the justification for everything from launching wars around the world to attacking union workers at home, the Bush team stood exposed last week as hypocrites and liars.

The damage was done by one of their own: Richard Clarke, the former chief White House adviser on counter-terrorism and a conservative fixture in Washington's military-security apparatus under Republicans and Democrats alike. According to Clarke, in the months leading up to the hijackings, the Bush White House ignored warnings that an attack by al-Qaeda was likely--in order to keep the focus on other administration priorities, such as the Star Wars missile defense fraud.

And after September 11, Clarke said, the top priority--from Bush on down--was to find a way to blame Iraq, regardless of the evidence. The White House responded in the only way it knows how--attack, attack, attack. Clarke was denounced as a know-nothing bureaucrat who was jealous about being "kept out of the loop"--and who was making up sensationalized stories to sell his tell-all book.

But every attack only built up Clarke further. Instead, Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice--considered one of the most respected figures in the administration--took the heat. Even Republicans complained about Rice refusing to testify publicly before the September 11 commission--while showing no hesitation at all in getting in front of the cameras on TV news shows.

Suddenly, the high-flying Bush administration is reeling. And George Bush himself made matters worse with his "joke" about the chief lie that justified the murderous invasion and occupation of Iraq--Saddam's Hussein's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

In a slide show that was shown at a party for Washington journalists last week, Bush was pictured looking under a piece of furniture in the Oval Office. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere," he said in his narration.

"I'm appalled," said Larry Syverson, a member of Military Families Speak Out who has a son serving with the Army in Iraq and another who recently returned. "I think he owes an apology to those families who have lost loved ones there and those of us that are going through the dread every day having a son or daughter in Iraq."

As for Clarke, his allegations aren't new. Socialist Worker and other independent media have reported on the substance of many of them before. But his inside story of the Bush administration before and after 9/11 has confirmed every suspicion about the White House's cynicism--and reinforced the growing opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

It's a pleasure to watch the Bush administration's right wingers squirm. But the scandal about the "war on terror" reaches deeper.

It is an indictment of the whole political power structure in Washington--including its Democratic Party wing--that let the Bush administration get away with murder. Democrats in the Senate gave Bush nearly unanimous support for the USA PATRIOT Act to shred civil liberties--and more than enough votes to win congressional authorization for the invasion of Iraq.

Clarke's allegations join a growing list of insider accounts of the Bush administration that reveal what the antiwar movement argued all along--that September 11 provided the Texas oil boys in the White House with a convenient excuse for carrying out the war on Iraq that they wanted from the beginning. In fact, Clarke's book describes an impromptu meeting with Bush on the day after the September 11 attacks in which the president asked Clarke to look for evidence of Iraqi involvement--the equivalent of a presidential order in the wink-wink, say-no-more world of professional politics.

But the scandal about the "war on terror" raises deeper questions that no one in Washington wants to answer. The U.S. government is, as Martin Luther King once put it, the "world's greatest purveyor of violence." No "war on terror" can stop violence in a world where the most powerful country uses violence every day--carried out directly with its soldiers, or indirectly by allies and puppets--to maintain its interests.

The Bush administration has gotten away with its "war on terror" by claiming that the American people will be safer. But far from being a safer place, the world is more dangerous today--specifically because of the more aggressive use of U.S. military and political power around the globe since September 11. This is why the Bush administration is so frightened about the 9/11 scandal today.

Its main plan for keeping the White House for another four years is to portray Bush as a "war president" who is dedicated, above all else, to fighting terrorism. So is Bush finished? It's too early to tell, of course.

But it's not to early to see that the Democrats have done their best to fumble another opportunity to challenge the White House war makers. Instead of opposing Bush's wars and occupations around the globe, John Kerry's strategy has been to quibble over tactics--and claim to be more qualified to fight "terrorism."

"Let's not forget," Kerry simpered in a recent campaign speech, "it was the Democratic Party's leadership that helped build the military that performed so brilliantly in Afghanistan and Iraq." The Republicans and Democrats may disagree over certain details, but they have exactly the same goal of promoting U.S. military and economic power around the world.

The real opposition to Bush won't come from inside the Washington establishment. "The amazing thing about 2004 is not that a radical, reckless president has the chance to be re-elected," wrote left-wing writer Steve Perry in the Minneapolis newspaper City Pages. "[T]he amazing thing is that, in the face of a political establishment and a news media that rarely said boo to George W. Bush, millions and millions of people have his number anyway."

Those millions will only grow with further revelations of the Bush administration's pre-September 11 blunders--and its post-9/11 exploitation of tragedy to promote its right-wing agenda at home and abroad. The antiwar movement has to seize this opportunity to fully expose Bush's secrets and lies--and build a struggle that can stop the Washington war machine.

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