Vol. 11, No. 2,586W - The American Reporter - February 20, 2005

On Native Ground

by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
Dummerston, Vt.

DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If there is anyone out there who still believes any of the Bush administration's rationales for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, they are either hopelessly stupid or working for President Bush.

Or both.

In the last few days, we heard the following revelations:

* A report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated that the Bush administration "systematically misrepresented" the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It also found that there was no solid evidence of cooperation between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, nor any evidence that Iraq was planning to give WMDs to al-Qaeda.

  • As the Carnegie report came out, Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted the same thing - saying that there was no "smoking gun, concrete evidence about the (Iraq/al-Qaeda) connection." At the same time, Powell maintained that when it came to WMDs, "in terms of intention, (Saddam) always had it," and defended the invasion.
  • Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that a 400-member military team had been quietly withdrawn from the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), a 1,400-member force that had been scouring Iraq for WMDs since the fall of Baghdad last April. The ISG had spent almost $1 billion on this search and, according to ISG head David Kay, no sign of any WMDs had been found and none were likely to be found.
  • The Washington Post reported that Iraq had effectively abandoned its WMD programs after the 1991 Gulf War, confirming the contention of many that the combination of the 1991 war and the 1991-98 UN weapons inspection program had effectively disarmed Iraq.

And, on top of all this, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill offered up the biggest bombshell - the Bush administration began drafting plans for an Iraq invasion within days of taking office in January 2001.

"It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this,'" O'Neill said in "The Price of Loyalty," an upcoming book by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind on the inner workings of the Bush administration.

In the first weeks of the administration, O'Neill said plans were prepared for postwar peacekeeping, war crimes tribunals and who would get what share of Iraq's oil wealth. There was little if any discussion about why Iraq should be invaded.

All this came long before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a huge leap," said O'Neill, who as Treasury Secretary, was a permanent member of the National Security Council and sat in on its meetings.

O'Neill, forced out of the Bush administration in December 2002 because he opposed additional tax cuts, is no wild-eyed liberal. He's a traditional conservative who served as an economic advisor to the Nixon and Ford administrations and is a former chairman of Alcoa. O'Neill went to work for President Bush because he believed the campaign rhetoric and thought the President would govern from the sensible center. He was shocked when he found himself in the middle of the most ideologically driven administration the nation has ever seen.

O'Neill provided Suskind with 19,000 documents showing the internal workings of the decision making process of the Bush White House, including transcripts of some National Security Council meetings. It is a very, very scary picture he paints.

The quote that will be long remembered from this book - O'Neill's belief that Bush was so disengaged in Cabinet meetings that he "was like a blind man in a room full of deaf people" - only begins to scratch the surface of what a train wreck the Bush administration has been.

O'Neill and others who spoke to Suskind confirm what many of us had believed all along about the Bush team - that ideology and electoral politics drive the policy-making process and that folks like chief political advisor Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney don't want the facts to interfere with their assumptions.

That is clearly seen with the invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration took office determined to topple Saddam Hussein and proceeded to massage the truth to make it fit the outcome it desired. One can easily argue that their single-minded focus on Iraq distracted them from dealing with what the outgoing Clinton administration had warned would be the single biggest foreign policy problem the Bush team would face - Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

O'Neill was the only current or former member of the Bush Cabinet who spoke on the record for Suskind. Such is the fear that those working for President Bush harbor. "These people are nasty and have a long memory," O'Neill told Time magazine.

But O'Neill isn't afraid of retribution by the Bush administration. He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he hopes the inside info he provided for Suskind's book "will cause people to stop and think about the current state of our political process and raise our expectations for what is possible."

The current state of the political process gave us an unneeded, unnecessary war in Iraq - a war that was built on lies by an administration that will do whatever it takes to stay in power.

As the election season heats up, it's imperative to remember this and do the hard work it will take to get these people out of the White House.

Randolph T. Holhut was a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

Copyright 2005 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.