I just watched Chris Matthews’ interview with Mike Morrell, the reluctant blower of a long-delayed whistle. The interview reminds me of some of my reasons for writing Carla Rising.
As the CIA’s chief liaison to the Bush-Cheney White House, Mike Morrell painfully confirms that US President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney fabricated the amazing lie they told Americans and the world: That Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear and biological weapons, capable of hitting targets in the United States. During the interview, Chris Matthews grows increasingly angry and tells Morrell why….
Matthews angrily wants to know why President Bush and his administration lied in connecting Saddam not only to weapons of mass destruction but to the radical islamacists’ attacks of September 11, 2001 – a lie that, remarkably, persists in the minds of many Americans today.
Further, as Morrell confirms, Cheney and his convicted aide “Scooter” Libby smeared the work and reputations of others, including CIA operatives, who tried to set the record straight. Bush and Cheney clearly lied to the American people to inflate the threat from Saddam in Iraq and used their offices and power to isolate rational opposition in the United States and abroad.
Matthews presses Bush’s CIA briefer: “Why?”
Morrell refuses cross that line. “I don’t know,” he says. “You will have to ask them.”
But Matthews gets it right anyway: The Bush Administration was determined to go to war against Iraq — likely even before 9/11/2001 — and they needed to turn any possible opposition into a US “enemy.” Matthews describes “very objective people” in the newsroom who “finally” were cowed into backing the war, exactly because of the Bush-Cheney lies, based on CIA “intelligence” that did not exist.
Matthews is clearly angry because of the way that Bush and Cheney lied to convince Americans that Iraq — and, by extension, the Middle East — was a much more dangerous place than it actually was in 2002. The lies about nuclear weapons and WMDs had the effect of removing any middle ground. Anyone who openly questioned the lie became a target for official, very public criticism — and, sometimes, professional ruin — in the newly polarized atmosphere that was created by these very same, very big lies.
“If you’re not with us, you are against us,” Bush announced — in a line I borrowed for a pro-war speaker in Carla Rising.
Like the hyping of threats from long-ago civil-rights and labor protesters, Bush’s fiction of a threatened attack from Saddam’s Iraq had the effect of shutting down even newsroom conversation about it, contributing to the American media’s own rush to war, and the self-fulfilling prophecy of spreading violence in the region.
“Intelligence gets politicized all the time in this town,” Morrell says. “On both sides.”
This is a weak reiteration of the “both sides are guilty” argument. The side he served, however, was clearly determined to drive America into an awful, deadly war — killing more than 100,000 innocent people — “on false pretenses,” as Matthews says.
Part of the plan was to polarize the political environment in the United States — even to the detriment of the Republican Party. Bush/Cheney’s early most high-profile victim of the lie from their own ranks was Colin Powell, once representing hope for a new, more rational GOP.
It’s good to see Mike Morrell doing something to set the record straight, however late and “safe” it is. It’s troubling, however, that Bush and Cheney and their loyalists are still “at large” in Washington, some of them in public office, getting away with the fabulously weak “Mistakes were made” position in order to maintain their choke-hold over US public opinion.