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An Open Letter to Fred Hiatt and the Washington Post
Published on Monday, June 20, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
by John Atcheson
Dear Mr. Hiatt:
Last year, you engaged Senator Kennedy in a debate about the administration’s Iraq Policy. A great deal has happened since, and it is time to revisit the discussion.
On January 26th, 2004, in response to a charge by Ted Kennedy that the Iraq invasion was prompted by politics, you wrote, "If Karl Rove – that is, politics... drove Iraq policy, then President Bush would merit not only defeat, but impeachment."
It’s too late for defeat, but with the release of the Downing Street Memo and other internal British documents made available to the Post as reported on Sunday June 12, 2005, the evidence that the war was politically motivated and that the administration used deceptions, distortions and outright lies to justify it, is now overwhelming.
By your own assessment, it is time for impeachment proceedings to begin.
Here’s the proof.
First, we have Karl Rove’s infamous – but largely ignored – PowerPoint presentation delivered on June 14th, 2002. According to Rove, point number one for the Republican mid-term election campaign strategy was "Focus on War and the Economy", in that order.
Second, we have White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card’s word for it. Explaining why the Bush war machine cranked up in September of 2002, he said, "From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August." So, it was clear to the White House Chief of Staff that the war was a political "product" to be marketed in a timely manner even if you, Mr. Hiatt, and the rest of the mainstream media refused to acknowledge it.
And now we have the Downing Street Memos. Much has been made of the fact that Richard Dearlove, the head of British Intelligence, reported that the Bush administration was fixing intelligence around the policy of invading Iraq and that "the evidence was thin." But just as damning is the revelation that "...the most likely timing for US action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections." (Emphasis added).
Finally, we watched Messrs Bush and Cheney use verbal sleights of hand and legerdemain to resurrect the WMD threats and al Qaeda links in their 2004 Presidential campaign, even as the Duelfer Report was driving the final nail in their coffin of lies.
Thus, we know that:
the White House had "made up its mind to invade" by July, 2002;
the White House (Karl Rove) saw this as a political opportunity;
they saw it as a "product" to be launched;
they were intentionally timing it to be a factor in the elections;
"the case [for invasion] was thin;"
long before he consulted with Congress, the International Community, or the American people, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD;"
"... the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy;"
the administration twice ramped up their rhetoric of fear around national elections.
Mr Hiatt, you maintained that Senator Kennedy undercut his own argument that the war and its timing was politically motivated, when he noted that many within the Bush Administration had been pushing to get rid of Hussein for years.
But the fact that they harbored an irrational objective for years does not in any way discount the fact that they exercised political motivations in choosing when to act upon it, nor does it obviate the fact that they acted illegally and immorally in executing this obsession.
And the Downing Street Papers settles once and for all the question of whether the administration was a victim of bad intelligence or the progenitor of it.
Men and women of good faith cannot any longer deny that the preponderance of evidence points to one conclusion, and one conclusion only: The President of the United States and much of his cabinet are guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors against the US Congress and against its citizens, and those crimes were motivated by a deadly brew of political opportunism, and an arrogant and destructive neoconservative foreign policy.
Mr. Hiatt, you made one other assertion that has proven to be patently false. You said that Bush "...inherited a failing strategy with regard to Iraq."
Here again, the facts point to a different conclusion. One of the most important implications of the Kay Report, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, the 911 Commission’s Report, and the Duelfer Report is the clear evidence that Clinton’s policy – which was begun by Bush’s father -- was, in many ways, a stunning success. Hussein had been completely deterred from developing WMD and totally contained.
Which, of course, brings us to your last point – that "What Kennedy has laid out for the Democrats is a powerful critique; it is not yet a policy." Call it what you will, Mr. Hiatt – we now know that the strategy of containment and deterrence worked, just as it had in defeating the far more dangerous Soviet Union. On the other hand, Mr. Bush’s policy of preemption has, in fact, weakened the US in all the ways Mr. Kennedy outlined – a set of issues you wisely choose not to rebut.
And neither purple-fingered ex-post facto justifications about democratization nor any of the other 22 separate retroactive rationalizations ginned up by a White House desperate to justify breaking the law and lying to Congress and the American people undermines the case for impeachment.
It’s time, Washington Post. We all make mistakes. And it’s very hard to admit them. Particularly when papers in the Knight-Ridder chain and the Guardian got it right all along, while you and your editorial page clung to increasingly transparent lies.
But your current editorial position wouldn’t hold up against a highschool debater. Quit embarrassing yourself and insulting your reader’s intelligence.
By your own logic, the Post’s next editorial on the administration’s Iraq policy should be calling for impeachment proceedings to begin.
John Atcheson's writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, as well as in several wonk journals.