It seems that liberals will go to any lengths in order to protect the sanctity of President Clinton’s legacy, and it is getting downright aggravating. Take Joshua Micah Marshall, the Ivy-league liberal who publishes Talking Points Memo, an enormously popular online political blog with a pwog-centrist tilt, ala Eric Alterman. As Marshall recently wrote:
"[T]he president’s defenders have fallen back on what has always been their argument of last resort — cherry-picked quotes from Clinton administration officials arranged to give the misleading impression that the Clintonites said and thought the same thing about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as the Bushies did."
Yeah, you’re not the only one, it makes my head spin too. I’m not exactly sure how one can cherry-pick President Clinton’s 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which gave the US government the green light to whack Saddam for the slightest annoyance, whether fabricated or not. In fact, it was the former Iraq dictator’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction that were part of the Act’s foundation.
As the Act provided:
"Since March 1996, Iraq has systematically sought to deny weapons inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) access to key facilities and documents, has on several occasions endangered the safe operation of UNSCOM helicopters transporting UNSCOM personnel in Iraq, and has persisted in a pattern of deception and concealment regarding the history of its weapons of mass destruction programs."
President Clinton was attempting to justify an attack on Iraq on the grounds that Saddam had a lethal arsenal of WMD. I am not sure how that is all that different from Bush’s rhetoric. But logic is meaningless when party loyalty is involved. Just ask Josh Marshall, who continues:
"But even arguing on this ground understates the full measure of administration mendacity in the lead up to the war since it ignores half the story. WMD was only half the administration equation for war. The other half was a Iraq’s alleged tie to Islamist terrorist groups like al Qaida and including al Qaida. On top of that, of course, was the big enchilada, the Cheney favorite, those frequent and intentionally ambiguous suggestions that Saddam Hussein played a role in the 9/11 attacks."
On my, what a stretch. I’d put WMD at about 75% of Bush’s justification for invading. And remind me again how the Democrats opposed Cheney’s favorite Iraq lie? Oh yeah, they didn’t. That aside, Marshall doesn’t acknowledge the bigger picture, as I describe in Left Out!;
"In 1993, Clinton himself bombed Iraqi intelligence centers for what he said was retaliation for the attempted assassination of George Bush Sr. “He said publicly that the U.S. strike on Iraqi intelligence headquarters was retaliation for Saddam’s attempt to kill [ex-president] George Bush,” Laurie Mylroie, who worked as Clinton’s Iraq specialist during his 1992 campaign, told WABC Radio’s Steve Malzberg. “[But] he also meant it for the Trade Center bombing … Clinton believed that the attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters would deter Saddam from all future strikes against the United States,” she claimed. “It was hopelessly naïve.”
Clinton didn’t try to tie Saddam Hussein to the crime, he just went ahead and bombed on his own accord. No matter that the CIA was pointing to bin Laden and not Saddam. So much for Dick Cheney being the only one pointing fingers in Saddam’s direction when it was undeserving.
How soon Marshall forgets that in 1996 the Clintonites bombed several civilian targets and military facilities — without the approval of the UN or any international alliance, for that matter. The Iraqi government and even the Pentagon reported dozens of deaths and millions of dollars worth of damages. The war on Iraq, despite popular belief, didn’t start with Bush Jr.
How can we forget President Clinton’s callousness toward Iraqi civilians? The United Nations estimated in 1995 that as many as 576,000 Iraqi youth died as a result of the sanctions that the US had imposed and supported since 1991. But we’re talking bombs here, not sanctions.
Soon after the Iraq Liberation Act was signed into law, Clinton, in what many criticized as an effort to deflect attention from his impeachment trial, tried his luck with Saddam one more time on December 16, 1998. Unlike previous attacks on Iraq, which paled in comparison, this attack was waged with primitive anger. As President Clinton asserted in a national televised address on the day of the first U.S. offensive.
“Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors … Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.”
“Six weeks ago,” he continued, “Saddam Hussein announced that he would no longer cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors called UNSCOM. They are highly professional experts from dozens of countries. Their job is to oversee the elimination of Iraq’s capability to retain, create, and use weapons of mass destruction, and to verify that Iraq does not attempt to rebuild that capability … The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.”
I’m not mincing words and I’m not sure how in the heck President Clinton’s word-for-word rationale for bombing Saddam could be considered "cherry-picked" as Josh Marshall puts it.
I just don’t think there is any question that Joshua Micah Marshall’s beloved Bill Clinton laid the groundwork for George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion. He most certainly did. As my granddad used to tell me, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating."
Chew on that for a while, Mr. Marshall.
Joshua Frank [send him mail] is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published by Common Courage Press. To learn more visit www.BrickBurner.org.