Their lies sold the war
Deep divisions in the U.S. ruling class, the political establishment and the military over the Iraq war and occupation are pulsating beneath the surface of the grand jury investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Much speculation has been generated about whether special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is going to issue major indictments to Bush administration officials, find a formula to ease the blow, or engage in a full-scale coverup.
Little of political significance has emer ged so far from the prosecutor. But there have been important indirect revelations in the capitalist media about the way the conspiracy to go to war was executed.
These revelations concern the operation of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), which was created to sell the war, and the extent to which the New York Times, the authoritative organ of the moderate wing of the imperialist ruling class, became the dupe of its political enemies: the right-wing war party in the White House and the Pentagon.
The Wall Street Journal of Oct. 12 had this to say about WHIG: “Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. [Karl] Rove and [I. Lewis] Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group would likely have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson’s claims.”
Joseph Wilson, a career State Department official, was opposed to the unilateral invasion of Iraq. He went on a CIA mission to Niger and came back with a report rebutting the Bush administration’s false claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium ore from Africa. Valerie Plame, a CIA agent working undercover on WMD, is Wilson’s wife. Her exposure was retaliation for Wilson’s exposure of the nuclear lies of the Bush-Cheney group.
In fact, the Washington Post, in a 5,500-word article on Aug. 10, 2003, published a report compiled by three reporters and three staff researchers modestly entitled “Depiction of Threat Outgrew Evidence.” This article contains all the elements necessary for a major investigation of the administration’s criminal conspiracy to go to war. The Washington Post had been cheerleaders for the war during the entire period leading up to it. But this report was published later, as the Iraqi resistance was gaining momentum and a sense of disillusionment with the occupation was taking hold in the ruling class.
The article contains clear evidence that the war was based on lies, pointing to a criminal conspiracy to sell the war to the public. “Systematic coordination” to sell the war “began in August,” wrote the Post, “when Chief of Staff Andrew Card Jr. formed the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, to set strategy for each stage of confrontation with Baghdad ….”
The Post continued: “In an interview with the New York Times published Sept. 6, Card did not mention the WHIG but hinted at its mission. ‘From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce a new product in August,’ he said.” He was cynically explaining why the group had waited until September to launch its propaganda campaign.
“The group met weekly in the Situation Room. Among regular participants were Karl Rove, the president’s senior political adviser; communications strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio; and policy and staff advisers led by [Condoleezza] Rice and her deputy Stephen J. Hadley, along with I. Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff. ...
“The day after Card’s marketing remark, Bush and nearly all his top advisers began to talk about the dangers of an Iraqi nuclear bomb.”
Propaganda blitz begins
On Sept. 8, the propaganda about “mush room clouds” and “aluminum tubes” began. It was printed in the New York Times, spouted on CNN’s Late Edition by Condoleezza Rice, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” by Dick Cheney, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” by Rumsfeld, and soon after by Gen. Tommy Franks, chief of the U.S. Central Command.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair did his part when he and Bush at Camp David on Sept. 7 each described “alarming new evidence” about the so-called nuclear threat.
Bush pushed the nuclear threat in three different speeches, including his State of the Union address. According to the Wash ington Post, the WHIG group wanted “gripping images”—hence the emphasis on “mushroom clouds,” the “destruction of cities” and so on.
The Post report contains a great deal more material outlining the conspiracy. But what is important about the challenge to the Bush administration is that it came five months after the war started and a year after the lying propaganda campaign initiated by the Bush-Cheney group.
All the challenging information had been available before the war. Every lie was refutable. Experts within and outside the government were contesting the WHIG scare tactics. The International Atomic Energy Agency disagreed. CIA experts disagreed. Energy Department experts disagreed—even before the war.
But the imperialist press, the Wash ing ton Post and the New York Times included, were backing the war and were taken in by the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz scenario predicting the U.S. would be able to march in and conquer Iraq easily.
The multilateralist faction of the ruling class may have disagreed with the Bush administration’s not trying to build alliances with the European imperialists. They might have disagreed with not getting UN Security Council approval. But they backed the war anyway because of the vision they shared with the neo-cons of conquering a country with the second-largest oil reserves in the world and seizing a strategic position from which to increase Washington’s military domination of the Persian Gulf region.
A monolithic voice for war
Another important aspect recalled by the Washington Post is the role of the capitalist media as a tool of the government and a purveyor of its lies. CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News—all owned by different billionaire factions of the ruling class, by Disney, General Electric, Rupert Mur doch, Time Warner, etc.—are all transnational exploiters with an interest in expanding their corporate empires abroad.
They were all blended into a monolithic voice for war. No one in the capitalist media asked about the formation of WHIG or about the coincidence that the sudden nuclear scare campaign fit in so neatly with the known desire of the Bush-Cheney-Wolfowitz preoccupation with “regime change” and “preventive war.”
This is important to remember in light of the current grand jury investigation of the Plame leak. The Judith Miller affair and the role of the New York Times requires a great deal more explanation. The fact is that the Times played a key role in promoting all the lies put forward by the Bush administration, even while it is politically opposed to Bush.
Perhaps this flowed from pure profit-hungry greed at having inside Pentagon sources and consequently news scoops. Perhaps it flowed from the Zionist-imperialist orientation of the Sulzberger family, publishers and owners of the Times. Perhaps it was because, as imperialists, their desire for conquest overrode their opposition to Bush.
Whatever the reason, there has been an extraordinary focus on Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury. Miller was questioned about her conversations with Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis ” Libby, and whether he mentioned Valerie Plame.
But what she should be put on trial for, along with her employers at the New York Times, is all the articles she wrote about so-called weapons of mass destruction, articles that fit into the strategy of WHIG.
Miller provided the ammo
Eventually the New York Times had to publicly repudiate six of those articles, admitting they were false. But the Times owners and editors knew full well that Miller was getting her information from Ahmad Chalabi. They also knew that Chalabi was a favorite of the Pentagon. They also knew that Chalabi was a favorite of the Office of Special Planning, a separate intelligence unit set up by neo-con Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense, to massage intelligence and feed it into the propaganda campaign. This was fully known about and widely published in the New Yorker, the Washington Post and other publications.
The “respectable” upper class publishing aristocrats in the board room of the New York Times also knew that Chalabi was an unsavory, discredited former CIA operative who had led a failed coup against Saddam. And they knew he was under indictment for embezzlement in Jordan. He was a despised Iraqi exile whose family fled the 1958 revolution and were looking to the Pentagon to bring them back, by any means necessary, including giving fake intelligence. During the war, by the way, the Pentagon flew Chalabi into Iraq with 700 of his own private militia.
Chalabi was the pre-war connection between the Pentagon and the New York Times, and Judith Miller was the conduit.
Her mode of operation was well known to the Times. Howard Kurtz, in the Oct. 17 Washington Post, quotes a memo sent in December 2000 to the Times by Craig Pyes, a two-time Pulitzer prize winner who had worked with Miller on a series on al-Qaeda.
“I’m not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller. … I do not trust her work, her judgment or her conduct. She is an advocate …. She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies.”
In spite of all this, after the war started she was “embedded” with the Pentagon-CIA forces looking for WMD in Iraq, known as MET Alpha. “According to one Times editor,” wrote Frank Foer in New York Magazine in the summer of 2004, “Rumsfeld himself signed off on it.”
Miller used her Pentagon and New York Times connections to order even officers around. She was close to Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, who is now in charge of training Iraqi puppet forces, and used his influence to get her way.
Miller is now being pilloried. She merits the charges of being in the pocket of the war-makers, of arrogance, of lying and self-serving. But she was the agent; the masters were the publishers of the Times, who are now trying to recover from the scandal they created by becoming tools of the Bush war machine.
Credibility to do what?
It is said that this affair has ruined the “credibility of the Times,” that venerable media institution that carries “All the news that’s fit to print.” It should be made clear what “credibility” means in this struggle.
The capitalist media, including the Times, should have absolutely no “credibility” as far as the vital interests of the working class and the oppressed are concerned. The Times has been regarded as the grand adviser of the imperialist ruling class; it informs them on things it thinks are important and in their interest.
If the Times tells the truth about the workers or the oppressed, it is either because it cannot be avoided, or because it wants to advise the ruling class that if they don’t fix a particular situation, they face a threat down the road.
The capitalist media comprise the fourth arm of the capitalist state. They encompass a gigantic machine of capitalist propaganda that operates 24 hours, seven days a week. They function as an ideological and political means of compulsion and are a supplement to the executive, the courts and the Congress. They help to cover up police brutality, the degradation and exploitation of the workers, war conspiracies, imperialist plunder and all other crimes of the class that they represent.
The capitalist media are supposed to be independent of the government. They are supposed to be neutral. And at times, when the ruling class is opposed to the direction of the government, either generally or in a specific instance—as in the Hurricane Katrina disaster or the Iraq quagmire—the big business media can open an attack on the government, as they are doing now.
But it is not because someone lied.
The New York Times and the entire capitalist media, for example, knew in advance that the Kennedy administration was training Cuban counter-revolutionaries in Miami and Guatemala in 1960-61, preparing for an illegal act of aggression aimed at overthrowing Cuba’s popular revolutionary government. They did not utter a word about it.
Once the Bay of Pigs invasion was ignominiously defeated, however, just as now with Iraq, the accusations began flying and there were exposures of Washington’s role. The conspiracy came out. But not until they started fighting among themselves over who blew it.
Lies and the Vietnam War
No thinking person beyond the age of kindergarten could have truly believed that small Vietnamese boats in the Gulf of Tonkin had somehow threatened the U.S. Seventh Fleet and the security of the United States. Yet the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” was the basis for the escalation of the Vietnam War and the commitment of 500,000 U.S. troops in a bloody war of conquest. The capitalist media fell in line and repeated the lies of the Johnson administration and the Pentagon. Millions of Vietnamese and 58,000 U.S. troops died.
Once it was known that the war could not be won, then the truth about the Gulf of Tonkin was revealed—in the very newspapers that had knowingly carried the lies in the first place because they wanted Washington to win the war and stop communism in Southeast Asia. The Pentagon Papers were published and many of the lies about Vietnam came out.
The entire capitalist media have always maintained a wall of silence about the U.S.-CIA engineered massacre of 1 million people in the Indonesian counter-revolution of 1965-66. The Indonesian generals slaughtered communists, workers’ and peasants’ organizations, women’s organizations and all progressive and nationalist forces in the country. The rivers of Indonesia literally ran red with blood.
But that was a victorious counter-revolution and a triumph for the oil companies, the U.S. military and the transnational corporations, which profited for years after. There was no outcry in the lying big business press.
Special prosecutor Fitzgerald probably has enough information about the conspiracy to justify a war with Iraq to publish a vast exposé. If he does not have it all, he knows where the bodies lie and how to get it. Only the struggle within the ruling class will determine whether there is a coverup or not.
But this inquiry is not about who outed Valerie Plame. In the words of Lt. Gen. William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency under Reagan, it is really about what he and many imperialist advisers and military leaders consider to be “the greatest strategic disaster in United States history.” (Sept. 28 Washington, D.C., news conference)
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