Columns » Ernest Dumas

Needed: Deep Throat

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Did you detect the discomfort of the White House over the sudden revelation that Deep Throat was a high law enforcement officer, the deputy FBI director, who had secretly ratted out President Nixon and the crooks around him? While the Republican right was condemning W. Mark Felt as a traitor for not abiding with the cover-up in the Nixon administration, President Bush confessed — nervously, I thought — that he just didn’t know what he thought about the whole matter. The timing of Felt’s confession could not have been worse for the president. Moviegoers were already abuzz about the latest Star Wars sequel, the film series that had stirred the loins of generations of conservatives. The new head of the Evil Empire is none other than a thinly disguised George W. Bush, put there by the exigencies of a manufactured war, misleading propaganda and official dissembling. The naive and misguided knight who morphs into Darth Vader even regurgitates Bush’s lines. Simultaneously, the administration, including its military branch, has been caught in more lies about the war in Iraq and the abuse of prisoners and “detainees.” Amnesty International has called the U.S. prison for Muslims at Guantanamo “the gulag of our time.” Now, the elders among us are reminded of and a fresh generation is educated about how one honorable official helped newspaper reporters unravel the lying and cover-ups that co-opted much of Nixon’s government, from the president down. What if troubled administration officials now begin confessing what they know? What if reporters start digging? What if senators stop worrying about being accused of being unpatriotic and asked tough questions like they finally did in 1973 and 1974? Oh, but the Iraq war and its progeny of scandals do not compare to Watergate. No, the consequences for the country are far greater. Watergate meant a loss of trust in democratic government, never to this day regained, but Iraq has meant not only wasted treasure and the blood and limbs of thousands of idealistic Americans and the destruction of an already tormented country but the sacrifice of the United States’ uniquely privileged place in the world. Almost overnight, America sank from paragon to pariah among most of the people on earth. We cannot know all the misfortune that awaits us from the loss of the world’s trust. What vanished so suddenly may be recovered, if ever, little by little, one good deed at a time. It is now settled beyond any rational question that the United States was misled to war by untruths, deceptions and tortured propaganda. But they do not call them lies because the president says that he actually believed the doctored intelligence that his administration and, he thought, the British government gave him about Iraq’s weapons programs. The commissions that looked into the Sept. 11 attacks, the intelligence gathering and the buildup to war in Iraq say they found no convincing evidence that the Bush administration intentionally lied or that political pressure shaped the prewar reports that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and an advanced nuclear weapons program, the central pretext for the invasion. But they didn’t bother to look for the evidence. The prima facie case was there all along. The chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq said the weapons and programs were gone. United Nations inspectors found none. Many administration assertions about the weapons programs, including Bush’s own, were known lies when they were uttered. More evidence has spilled out almost monthly. Last month, the British press turned up a memo from the head of British foreign intelligence to Prime Minister Tony Blair seven months before the invasion. Reporting on visits with Bush administration officials on July 23, 2002, he said the invasion was seen by Bush as inevitable. “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction],” the report said. “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” The notes of a security aide at meetings in Washington said the case for WMD was “thin” and that Saddam was not threatening neighbors and his weapons capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. In Nixon’s day, that would have been a smoking gun. Investigations would be under way. In Washington today: silence. Last week, the Associated Press reported that in the buildup toward war, John Bolton, the Bush official who is now nominated for ambassador to the UN, engineered the unlawful firing of a UN diplomat who was trying to send UN chemical weapons inspectors to Iran. The Bush administration worried that the inspectors might defuse the crisis that it had created over Iraq’s weapons. The weapons inspectors did eventually return to Iraq briefly and were ushered out when Bush said they were out of time and ordered the invasion. On the same day that Mark Felt outed himself as Deep Throat, President Bush almost learned a new word, dissemble, a kind word for a dishonorable trait (from Bush, it came out "disassemble"). He may want to learn to pronounce it correctly for it could become the signature of his government.

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