Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume IV,  Number 9              March 28 - April 3, 2004            Quezon City, Philippines

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Iraq Charges Against Bush Acquiring Critical Mass

By Alan Elsner

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Criticism of President Bush's motives and decision-making in attacking Iraq last year may be acquiring critical mass with voters following criticism by former top counterterrorism official Richard Clarke.

Political consultants and analysts said Clarke's allegation that Bush ignored the al Qaeda threat before the Sept. 11 attacks and was obsessed by a desire to invade Iraq were especially damaging because they confirmed other previous revelations from policy insiders.

"Each of these revelations adds to the others so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and the message gets reinforced with voters," said Richard Rosecrance, a political scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Before Clarke, there was former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who asserted in a book published in January that Bush began laying the groundwork for an attack on Iraq from the moment he took office.

Then came the bombshell from former weapons inspector David Kay that the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that Bush launched the war to find and destroy probably did not exist.

Kay on Tuesday warned that U.S. credibility at home and abroad was in grave danger and urged the Bush administration to own up to its intelligence failures.

"We are in grave danger of having destroyed our credibility internationally and domestically with regard to warning about future events," he said. "The answer is to admit you were wrong, and what I find most disturbing around Washington ... is the belief ... you can never admit you're wrong."

Earlier this month, former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix added to the fire by accusing Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair of "exaggerating the risks they saw in order to get the political support (for the war) they would not otherwise have had."

The response from the White House, especially to Clarke, has been fierce and sometimes personal. It rejects any suggestion that Bush, running for re-election this year as a "war president," failed to take the al Qaeda threat seriously.

"The administration can huff and puff but if there are enough bricks in the structure, they can't blow the house down any more," said American University historian Allan Lichtman.

"Right now, you have quite a number of bricks. It's not just scaffolding any more," he said.


Clarke's bombshell came at an awkward time for Bush. His presidential re-election campaign was just picking up momentum after being on the defensive for most of this year. His attacks on his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, seemed to be finding the mark.

Now, he is back on the defensive again.

"Bush has chosen national security and his response to the terrorist attack as a cornerstone of his campaign and now comes this guy Clarke, their guy, who says that the administration was intentionally or unintentionally not paying enough attention to the terrorist threat," said Rick Davis, a Republican political consultant.

With the economy struggling, Bush's strongest asset is his claim to be a strong leader best equipped to protect the country in a "war on terrorism."

"If people start to doubt that claim and if the message from Clarke and O'Neill and others begins to stick, it would seriously weaken Bush on his strongest point," said Fordham University political scientist Tom DeLuca.

The administration response has usually been to try to destroy the reputations of its critics. It suggested O'Neill had illegally used classified documents and said he was motivated by sour grapes after having been forced to resign from the Cabinet. A Treasury probe has cleared him of misusing documents.

Similarly, White House aides said Clarke was bitter about having been denied a promotion and "out of the loop" in the administration. They also said he was a closet Democrat working as a proxy for Bush's presidential opponent, John Kerry.

"This administration has shown a tremendous ability to demonize its opponents. But at some point, people start to ask themselves, could all these people be pathological liars? At some point, they can't all be liars," said Democratic consultant Michael Goldman.


Kay Implores U.S. to Admit Mistakes in Iraq

By Missy Ryan
23 March 2004

CAMBRIDGE -- The former chief US weapons inspector in Iraq warned yesterday that the United States is in "grave danger" of destroying its credibility at home and abroad if it does not own up to its mistakes in Iraq.

"The cost of our mistakes . . . with regard to the explanation of why we went to war in Iraq are far greater than Iraq itself," David Kay said in a speech at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

"We are in grave danger of having destroyed our credibility internationally and domestically with regard to warning about future events," he said. "The answer is to admit you were wrong, and what I find most disturbing around Washington . . . is the belief . . . you can never admit you're wrong."

Kay's comments came as the White House sought to fend off accusations from its former antiterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, who said President Bush ignored the Al Qaeda threat before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and focused on Iraq, rather than on the Islamic militant group, afterward.

Last year, the White House cited Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as the main reason for going to war.

Kay resigned in January, saying that he believed no such weapons existed and that the failure to find them raised serious questions about the quality of prewar intelligence.

Kay, who had a role in United Nations weapons probes in Iraq in the early 1990s, said US intelligence there was poor in the decade before the war, relying entirely on international inspectors, Iraqi defectors, or intelligence from allies such as France and Britain.

He cautioned the intelligence community against jumping to conclusions, as it did in Iraq. "One of the most dangerous things abroad in the world of intelligence today actually came out of 9/11 . . . the insistence of `Why didn't you connect the dots?' The dots were all there," he said.

"When we finally do the sums on Iraq, what will turn out is that we simply didn't know what was going on, but we connected the dots -- the dots from 1991 behavior were connected with 2000 behavior and 2003 behavior, and it became an explanation and a picture of Iraq that simply didn't exist," Kay said.

March 21, 2004

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