The Process Did It

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The real purpose of a government report is to place the blame where it does the least damage to the political party in office.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s "Report on the US Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" carefully follows this time-honored rule. At the July 9 press conference heralding the release of the committee’s report, Senator Pat Roberts (R,Kan) blamed the misinformation used to start a war on a "flawed process" that would be fixed with "reforms."

The Republicans hope to shift the media’s focus away from those responsible for launching a war to a debate over how a "flawed intelligence process" should be reformed. Fox "News" and other Republican propaganda organs will fall in with the program.

One journalist at the press conference failed to lip-synch to the tune. He asked Senator Pat Roberts why, with an election coming up, the Select Committee failed to issue a report on the Bush administration’s responsibility for the misinformation — or disinformation — that has resulted in deaths and injury to thousands of Americans. The senator promised a report after the election.

We don’t need an Intelligence Committee’s report to answer the question. By now everyone interested in the truth about the Iraq debacle knows that Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith, with the permission of Secretary Don Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, created an unofficial "Iraqi intelligence cell" within the Pentagon to produce propaganda to justify an invasion of Iraq.

Undersecretary Feith created "evidence" that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization was linked to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. An appendix to the Select Committee’s report describes the creation in black and white. The CIA disputed the false evidence, as did every informed person on the globe, but President Bush solidified the connection in the public’s mind by referring to bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the same breath in numerous speeches.

The other big piece of the neoconservatives’ propaganda campaign against Iraq was the equally erroneous assertion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration convinced the public and our elected officials that America’s future held a Saddam Hussein mushroom cloud unless the US immediately and preemptively invaded Iraq.

Vice President Cheney and his assistant "Scooter" Libby were responsible for creating the disinformation that Saddam Hussein had WMD. Vice President Cheney succeeded in squelching or ignoring the many experts who knew better. The Select Committee’s report states that the claim "that Iraq u2018is reconstituting its nuclear program’ was not supported by the intelligence provided to the Committee" and that "the major key judgments" used to justify the invasion "either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting."

With total control over the Bush administration, the neoconservatives came into power fully intent on invading and occupying Iraq. High-ranking Bush administration officials, including Bush’s first Treasury Secretary, have testified to that fact. The neoconservatives used the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington to link "the war on terror" to their scheme to invade Iraq.

The only open question is whether President Bush was an active participant in the disinformation or was deceived like the American public. If he knowingly participated in the deception, he must be impeached. If he was deceived by his own appointees, why hasn’t he fired them? Bush’s reelection would signify that the American people lack the competence or character for self-rule.

The report from the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence proves once again that government lacks the moral integrity to conduct an investigation. The senators did not bring responsibility to any individuals for a gratuitous invasion that has generated hatred of, and insecurity for, Americans for decades to come. Instead, the senators’ report held accountable that which cannot be held accountable: "the process."

November will tell us whether there is any moral integrity left in the electorate or whether nothing remains but partisan politics — my party right or wrong.

Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

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