Wednesday, August 06, 2008 • 12:00 AM Comments ()

A Dear Joe letter

posted by James Heflin

It's not often wise to feed vitriolic feedback, but one receives vitriol, therefore one is.

So what the heck. Here's Joe, commenting on the Ten Gallon Liberal yesterday:

Few things here:

1. It appears that you believe ANYTHING you read as long as it appears to match your ideology. That's the only reason I can think of to blog about assertions (even though you got them wrong) as if they are facts. Your "reality" is that the words of a disgruntled operative = gospel.

2. Suskind says Bush ordered a forged document linking Sadam to Al Queda ... not a forged document proving he has WMD. At least get the accusation right.

3. "WMD" was one of a laundry list of items that warranted the US confronting Iraq by military means. Libs love to focus on "WMD" even though evidence suggests they were moved prior to the invasion as well as the fact that we found plenty of evidence for biological weapons. But why look at the whole beach when you can painfully stare at one grain of sand, right?

It's just dissapointing that today's blog was so short and contained one point, yet you got it wrong. Luckily most of your audience probably also believes everything they read so don't sweat the details.

Posted by Joe on 8.5.08 at 12.27

The accusations here are certainly many, not to mention both specific and general. So let's see how we can do for Joe, who, one hopes, will return to continue the conversation.

Joe, in the age of the Internet, I maintain that multiple trusted sources are required before a thing can even reasonably be assessed. I did not report assertions as fact, but as assertions. Ron Suskind said there was a forged document. He really did say that. It may or may not be true, but he certainly put his reputation on the line by saying it.

I do say, independently of Suskind, that Bush lied and that he asked others to die based on forgeries. I assume that's where you say I report assertion as fact. Regardless of Suskind, I still say Bush did both these things--remember those faked Niger uranium documents, and all the CYA actions that followed? Josh Marshall did extensive, on-the-ground reporting about those documents, and their provenance is at best questionable. Whoever did it, Bush asked people to die because of such "evidence."

Conservatives have regularly trotted out the term "disgruntled" for anyone who calls BS on Bush, from Richard Clarke to Scott McLellan. The assumed state of mind of a reporter doesn't actually affect whether his or her assertions are true. Killing the messenger doesn't alter the truth of the message.

As for point two--The WMD issue was indeed part of this. Yes, the document addressed the Hussein-Al Qaeda link. But that was not the only subject. Suskind, writing at The Huffington Post, said this: "In the fall of 2003, after the world learned there were no WMD -- as Habbush had foretold -- the White House ordered the CIA to carry out a deception. The mission: create a handwritten letter, dated July, 2001, from Habbush to Saddam saying that Atta trained in Iraq before the attacks and the Saddam was buying yellow cake for Niger with help from a 'small team from the al Qaeda organization.'"

We're both right. Seems like a happy outcome to me.

We "libs" didn't choose to focus on a grain of sand--Bush did. Over and over (and over), we were told we had to stop Iraq because the smoking gun was going to be a mushroom cloud. All the other justifications for invading Iraq were retrofits trotted out once it was clear WMDs were not present. I would love to see convincing evidence that all those non-existent weapons were moved. Any old weaponry that might have remained in Iraq by the time the war began was also almost certainly chemically inert--the stuff doesn't remain potent forever.

But on another level, you're also right--chasing such matters is focusing on the small at the expense of the large. The Bush administration laid out its plans long ago, and people like you who are willing to support invading Iraq while the apparent instigator of 9/11 is in Afghanistan, where we've now got a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda still at large, would do well to not be so credulous where these people are concerned.

Just have a nice read of "Rebuilding America's Defenses" published by the Project for the New American Century, whose signatories include very many Bush administration officials. Many primary actors in the Bush administration made clear long ago, before 9/11, that they wished to form a new American empire with a lasting presence in the Middle East. This isn't about WMD, Hussein, or any one of the other, as you say, laundry list of reasons for the invasion. Those are justifications for the kind of goal that people wouldn't accept at face value, as the PNAC document also explicitly says.

Long ago, I very nearly joined the Air Force. I chose not to because I wasn't comfortable with someone like Ronald Reagan deciding when and for what reason I would have to take a human life. With Bush in office, I'm especially glad I didn't expose myself to being a tool of people with such careless hubris. Dying to defend this country from real threats is one thing, but dying for Bush's ever-evolving list of reasons to retroactively justify invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 is tragic and unnecessary. If you're willing to go to Iraq for his reasons, go right ahead. But personally, I think we ought to be fighting the real War Against Terrorists, not this absurdly misdirected War on "Terror." Blowing up innocent Muslims in the Middle East is going to hurt the cause, not help. We need to be smarter than that if we are to succeed in combating terrorism. But, it appears, we're not smarter than that.



I very recently updated this, after re-reading Suskind. We were both right.

I will indeed elaborate on the statement "Many primary actors in the Bush administration made clear long ago [now revised with the addition right here of "before 9/11"] that they wished to form a new American empire with a lasting presence in the Middle East."

I was referring to The Project for the New American Century. Their "Rebuilding America's Defenses," written in September 2000, before Bush's election, says some very interesting things. Unfortunately, their website is now gone. It can still be accessed via, however, and I saved a PDF file of it long ago for further reference.

Among the project participants for that document, you'll find Paul Wolfowitz and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Among the members of the group, you'll find Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Eliot Abrams, John Bolton and Richard Perle.

The document, in broad terms, calls for a Pax Americana based on an international military presence, including permanent bases in the Middle East. The group's transformative vision of a worldwide "constabulary" role for American troops was considered, by them, too much to expect of American politics as it then was. The whole document was based on Dick Cheney's assertions as Defense Secretary under George H. W. Bush in 1992, which that Bush rejected as too extreme.

About the extremity of their goals, they said this:

"Further, the process of transformation,
even if it brings revolutionary change, is
likely to be a long one, absent some
catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a
new Pearl Harbor."

When that Pearl Harbor arrived, they saw a grand opportunity to realize their goals.

I understand your assertions about blogs, however, as a member of the media who also blogs, I fail to find a major problem with the medium. It is, granted, much easier to make a mistake on a quick blog entry than it is for a multiply checked piece in print (and believe me, every time I publish a political piece, I check and re-check my assertions until I think they are bulletproof).

I fail to find any rationalization of the Iraq War compelling. Far more occurred than the "16 words" (a phrase clearly cooked up to minimize the import of those words). From the Iraq Group set up to cherrypick intelligence to the ignoring of intelligence that didn't agree with the Bush administration goals, this administration clearly wanted to go to war and found whatever excuse would do. Just ask Paul Wolfowitz, who said the WMD issue was the main thrust because it was "the one reason everyone could agree on."

Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. But he posed no immediate threat to the U.S., and he didn't have anything to do with 9/11. Preemptive war is un-American. I would prefer to fight those who attacked us.

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