Saturday, October 15, 2005

What Fifty Percent of Americans Might Like to Know 

Another 44% of Americans will not care in the least, but they are, of course, beyond our power to educate. For the new edition of his book Lawless World, author Philippe Sands has reconstructed, from notes taken by Tony Blair's private secretary, a conversation between PM and President two months prior to their joint invasion of Iraq; the NYT found the conversation newsworthy because Mr. Bush reportedly expressed a surprising, hitherto-unrevealed desire "to go beyond Iraq in dealing with WMD proliferation, mentioning in particular Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan" -- a group that includes two mortal enemies and two boon chums (although the criteria for inclusion on either list remain shrouded in mystery). In light, however, of the poll referenced above, we were rather more intrigued by the following exchange:
The document is revealing in other ways not described in the book. It records a conversation between the leaders a day before they met in Washington, and shows that they discussed whether to seek a second United Nations resolution imposing an ultimatum on Iraq before beginning any military action.

Mr. Bush was reported to have agreed with Mr. Blair that "it made sense to try for a second resolution, which he would love to have." But Mr. Bush was also said to be "worried about Saddam playing tricks" and the possibility that Hans Blix, the top United Nations weapons inspector, would report "that Saddam was beginning to cooperate."

"His biggest concern was looking weak," the British document says, describing Mr. Bush.
Saddam, you will recall, played the dirtiest trick of all by opening Iraq to U.N. inspection teams, who in their haplessness proved unable to find the weapons he didn't have. Our indefatigable colleague Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla directs us to the great Robert Parry, who reminds us that Mr. Bush was more than prepared for this act of perfidy, being a downright tricksy fellow himself:
Blix indeed did judge that Iraq was cooperating with the inspectors, who weren’t finding any WMD even at sites pinpointed by U.S. intelligence.

With the U.N. inspectors coming up empty and other U.S. claims about Iraq’s WMD falling apart, Bush ditched the idea of seeking a second U.N. resolution authorizing use of military force. Instead, Bush began to pressure the U.N. inspectors to leave Iraq and Blix’s team prepared to withdraw.

“Although the inspection organization was now operating at full strength and Iraq seemed determined to give it prompt access everywhere, the United States appeared as determined to replace our inspection force with an invasion army,” Blix wrote in his memoir, Disarming Iraq . . . .

But as Iraq slid into chaos and insurgents began to kill American soldiers, Bush moved to shore up his justifications for war by reconstructing the pre-war history.

On July 14, 2003, less than four months after the invasion, Bush said about Hussein, “we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power.”

In the following months, Bush repeated this claim in slightly varied forms. On Jan. 27, 2004, Bush said, “We went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution – 1441 – unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.”

Though American journalists had witnessed the U.N.’s search of Iraq’s WMD, no one in the national press corps challenged Bush’s historical revisionism. Meanwhile, some of Bush’s defenders argued that the absence of WMD didn’t mean that Bush was a liar, only that he was misled by faulty intelligence.
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