Act V

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C-SPAN: PRESIDENT BUSH’S SPEECH AT U.N., September 12, 2002)

PRESIDENT BUSH: It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUBRIS: On September 7th, 2002 — five days before that U.N. speech, while at Camp David with Tony Blair, Bush declared that an I.A.E.A. report had concluded that in 1998 — when U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq — Saddam’s regime had been six months from producing a nuclear weapon. He also said a new I.A.E.A. report showed that Iraq had recently been rebuilding its nuclear sites. An I.A.E.A. spokesperson immediately said that no such 1998 report existed; to the contrary — the I.A.E.A. in 1998 reported it had demolished Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. The I.A.E.A. also said it had issued no new report warning of any worrisome construction at nuclear weapons sites.

WASHINGTON POST (August 10th, 2003): A White House spokesman later acknowledged that Bush “was imprecise” on his source but stood by the crux of his charge. The spokesman said U.S. intelligence — not the I.A.E.A, had given Bush his information. That, too, was garbled at best. U.S. intelligence reports had only one scenario for an Iraqi bomb in six months to a year — premised on Iraq’s immediate acquisition of enough plutonium or enriched uranium from a foreign source. “That is just about the same thing as saying that if Iraq gets a bomb, it will have a bomb,” said a U.S. intelligence analyst who covers the subject. “We had no evidence for it.”

RWM: “Imprecise”? A lot of that goin’ around — just a day later they would launch the marketing campaign on the Sunday morning talk shows — and the hollowness of their assertions would match the emptiness of their findings. On July 28th 2003, Chief Weapons Inspector David Kay gave a W.M.D. briefing in the Oval Office.

HUBRIS: He couldn’t avoid the bottom line: He had found NOTHING. Kay discerned no disappointment coming from Bush. The White House had just been rocked by the controversy over the State of the Union claims and the Wilson op-ed. But the president seemed disengaged. “I’m not sure I’ve spoken to anyone at that level who seemed less inquisitive.” After leaving the meeting, Kay was perplexed and perturbed. “I cannot stress too much,” he subsequently remarked, “that the president was the one in the room who was the least unhappy and the least disappointed about the lack of W.M.Ds.”

NEW YORK TIMES (October 3rd, 2004): The absence of unconventional weapons in Iraq is now widely seen as evidence of a profound intelligence failure, of an intelligence community blinded by ”group think,” false assumptions and unreliable human sources. Yet the tale of the tubes — pieced together through records and interviews with senior intelligence officers, nuclear experts, administration officials and Congressional investigators — reveals a different failure. Far from ”group think,” American nuclear and intelligence experts argued bitterly over the tubes. A ”holy war” is how one Congressional investigator described it. But if the opinions of the nuclear experts were seemingly disregarded at every turn — an overwhelming momentum gathered behind the C.I.A. assessment. It was a momentum built on a pattern of haste, secrecy, ambiguity, bureaucratic maneuver and a persistent failure in the Bush administration and among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to ask hard questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPINNING THE TUBES

GREG THIELMANN: This administration made very clear what it wanted from its intelligence community. It wanted a case to be built and not so much it wanted the American people to become more sophisticated and knowledgeable about what was going on this issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUBRIS: In mid-August 2002, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott had become concerned about the way the public debate was going. Bush had “made clear his intentions to wage war on Iraq in several of our private meetings,” Lott later wrote in Herding Cats: A Life in Politics. But he feared popular opinion was not yet with the president. So he phoned the most ardent hawk of all — the vice president — and said that he didn’t believe the “predicate” for war had been established. “Don’t worry,” Cheney replied. “We’re about to fix all that. Just hold on.”

C.I.A. DIRECTOR GEORGE TENET: At The Center of the Storm: The United States did not go to war in Iraq solely because of W.M.D. In my view, I doubt it was even the principal cause. Yet it was the public face that was put on it. The leaders of a country decide to go to war because of core beliefs, larger geostrategic calculations, ideology, and, in the case of Iraq, because of the administration’s largely unarticulated view that the democratic transformation of the Middle East through regime change in Iraq would be worth the price. W.M.D. was — as Paul Wolfowitz put it: “Something that we settled on because it was the one issue that everyone could agree on.”

RWM: The president of the United States cannot do whatever he wants simply out of good intentions — and orchestrated deception is corrupt no matter how you slice it. You’d think we would have learned by now that unintended consequences are invariably on the other side of such cavalier adventures. Apologists epitomize those who want to have their cake and eat it too. There is no measure for how far they will move the goal posts to validate their views. We were told with absolute certainty that W.M.D. was the rationale for war — and when none were found, it became  “W.M.D-related program activities.” And yet those most loyal to Bush are the most ardent advocates of “personal responsibility.”

HUBRIS: When Bush had campaigned for governor in the early 1990s, he had flown about on a plane called Accountability One. When he ran for president in 2000, Bush claimed accountability as one of his campaign themes, and his aides dubbed his campaign jet Responsibility One. But there has been no accountability for those who were wrong about Iraq — about the threat or about what would come after the invasion. Bush fired no one. Nobody resigned in disgrace. There were no consequences.

RWM: That’s a pretty casual attitude toward people who supposedly provided him with “bad intel.” When I told a friend that no one had been fired — instead of pondering the point, he asked me if I had a letter from the White House to prove it. Does anyone really believe that it would have mattered if I did? It never ceases to amaze me how intelligent people can show such disdain for correction. It is astounding how the mind can pull off psychological gymnastics that allow us to believe what we say without any sense of accounting for it.

RADIO HOST NEAL BOORTZ  (May 26th, 2004): U.S. forces in Iraq have now confirmed that the shell found in a roadside bomb in Iraq did indeed contain sarin gas. There you are — an actual weapon of mass destruction used against American troops in Iraq. It didn’t kill a lot of American soldiers because it was improperly used. In fact, it was an artillery shell — the existence of which had not been previously revealed to the United Nations by Saddam’s government. This is quite a problem for the “Bush lied” crowd.  Here we have not only a chemical weapon, but it’s one that Saddam never even told us he had!

RWM: I heard Neal touting this revelation on the radio. He and his disciples were congratulating themselves in full-bore folly. These are people who never exerted the slightest effort in educating themselves on the subject matter — and yet they are consumed by certitude in the most narrow of contexts. All the sarin gas shells in the world would have no bearing on the aluminum tubes and other intel, but loyalists to logical fallacies are not burdened by the inconvenience OF FACT. They will nitpick over pebbles while refusing to even glance at the mountain of evidence that crushes their convictions. In The Insider, Al Pacino masterfully portrays the unconscionable absurdity that an apologist will peddle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THE INSIDER

And now, even now, when every word of what Wigand has said on our show is printed, the entire deposition of his testimony in a court of law in the State of Mississippi, the cat — TOTALLY OUT OF THE BAG, you’re still standing here debating! Don, what the hell else do you need?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RWM: We have become a society of spin doctors who manipulate language anytime it suits our needs. Nowadays you can “agree to disagree” about subject matter that you know absolutely nothing about. Being smoothly smug is now considered civil — never mind the notion of genuine courtesy that comes with the willingness to be wrong. We begin and end our conversations believing that we’re right– shunning the discipline it takes to be correct. I think the following sheds light on how we created a culture that thrives on eradicating reason anytime we perceive a threat to our interests.

PHILOSOPHER HARRY GORDON FRANKFURT: Bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity — are irrelevant.

RWM: Another classic characteristic of apologists is that they will ignore any amount of incongruity by those they believe in — but the slightest appearance of impropriety by the opposition is seen as intolerable. That Joe Wilson’s wife was involved in any way with his trip to Africa provided endless fodder for the talking points parade to cry foul. A mountain of mayhem was raised to the tune of nepotism — and once again the central issues were drowned out. In the spirit of transparency, Wilson did embellish his case a bit by muddling some facts. Naturally, the scoffers seized on his slip-ups — and in so doing summarily rejected his well-founded conclusions on the yellowcake claim. It is disingenuous in the extreme to pounce on the messenger’s relatively minor mistakes — while flagrantly ignoring the epic deceit engineered at the highest levels of government.

As for Valerie Plame — it’s the pinnacle of hypocrisy that those who think they have a monopoly on patriotism would happily ridicule someone who spent her career in clandestine service to the nation. The bottomless pit of disregard for her dedication is appalling. That the Wilsons became a household name is emblematic of our nation’s insatiable appetite for all-things oversimplified.

RWM: Retired Navy SEAL, Lt. Cmdr. Rorke, wrote a March 19th, 2013 article called “10 years after Iraq War began we are better warriors.” In it he wrote the following: “Wherever you stand on Iraq and Afghanistan, this much is undeniable: All that intense and prolonged combat experience has made us far better warriors than we’ve ever been before. A decade after American troops stormed into Baghdad, the U.S. military is a battle-tested, forward-thinking, phenomenally sharp fighting force, truly ready for whatever threats come our way next.” . . . The same cannot be said about a nation of citizens with a highly-selective demand for the truth. We are run by institutions that invest in our ignorance — and we eagerly comply in the perpetual pursuit of our values — integrity be damned. John Adams saw the writing on the wall over 200 years ago: “I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls.”

RWM: Relative to what others endured throughout America’s history, our way of life has been handed to us on a silver platter. We have easy access to an unlimited flow of information, and our only task is discerning fact from fiction. And yet we honor our freedom by wallowing in bondage to the debauchery of platform politicking.

RWM: The best way to honor our soldiers is to refrain from sloppily and unnecessarily putting them in harm’s way. But in the event they must go off to war, I prefer President Reagan’s philosophy on going into Granada: “Figure out how many troops you’re going to need — and then double that number. There’ll be less casualties on both sides.” Rumsfeld’s ill-timed quest to transform the military had disaster written all over it. Remodeling the military was a worthy goal, but I am far from alone in thinking that conventional warfare was called for in the invasion of Iraq. Some highly-regarded military commanders felt the same way, but the culture at the Pentagon was not interested in such “negativity.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PBS FRONTLINE: BUSH’S WAR

DONALD RUMSFELD: What is, I think, reasonably certain is the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far from the mark.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, 2001-2005 (February 27, 2003): It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.

THOMAS WHITE (SECRETARY OF THE ARMY, 2001-2003): All of us in the Army felt just the opposite.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), Michigan (February 25, 2003): General Shinseki, could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army’s force requirement for an occupation of Iraq, following a successful completion of the war?

GENERAL ERIC SHINSEKI: Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We’re talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground force presence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH AT WAR by BOB WOODWARD: One four-star [general] who worked with him said Rumsfeld was “an egomaniac cleverly disguised . . . a hip shooter who gives the impression he is not.” Another said if anyone disagreed with Rumsfeld it was risky because the result might be an “ass chewing from him.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABC “THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS” (November 5, 2006 Sunday)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But you’ve had a lot of Republican defections on Iraq as well. Just today, just a few minutes ago, Vanity Fair magazine reported that Richard Perle and Ken Adelman, two of the strongest early supporters of the war, say that now they would not have supported the invasion if they knew how incompetent the administration would be in handling it. Listen to Ken Adelman. He called your administration among the most incompetent administrations in the postwar era, individually each team member had serious flaws, together they were deadly dysfunctional.

DICK CHENEY: Well, I haven’t seen the piece. I’m not going to comment on it, George.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RWM: Ken Adelman was one of Rumsfeld’s best friends, and their brother-like bond dates back to 1970 when Adelman worked for Rumsfeld  in the Nixon Administration. They even took family vacations together. Incidentally, Dick Cheney was an assistant of Rumsfeld’s in those days — and lo and behold, in 1981 it was Adelman who introduced them both to Paul Wolfowitz. Who knew that 30 years later these guys would be part of a tightknit crew that would catastrophically hijack foreign policy. But I tip my hat to Adelman for at least having the courage to confront Rumsfeld in 2006 — illustrated in a superbly-crafted scene in Bob Woodward’s THE WAR WITHIN:

(BEGIN DRAMATIZATION)

DRAMATIZATION BASED ON BOB WOODWARD’S ACCOUNT IN THE WAR WITHIN

ADELMAN: To tell you the truth, you are right on the negative thing. I’m extremely negative on two things, Don.

RUMSFELD: What’s that?

ADELMAN: Your total lack of accountability and the abysmal quality of your decisions.

RUMSFELD: What do you mean by accountability? I’m accountable for everything!

ADELMAN: You blame every problem or screw-up on others — the State Department, the commanders, the Iraqis. I don’t see you taking any responsibility in any of this.

(END DRAMATIZATION)

RWM: Incredibly, when Adelman called him out on his infamous “stuff happens” in response to the looting, Rumsfeld retorted, “I don’t remember saying that.” Numerous times Rumsfeld has understated or flat-out denied events that only a senile person could possibly forget. He is a monument to micromanagement — and yet doesn’t want his fingerprints on anything —  and Adelman nails him on it:

(BEGIN DRAMATIZATION)

DRAMATIZATION BASED ON BOB WOODWARD’S ACCOUNT IN THE WAR WITHIN:

ADELMAN: The 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq hadn’t done jack shit about the constant looting. Why hadn’t anyone ordered them to put a stop to it?

RUMSFELD: They had been ordered to stop it

ADELMAN: Oh, did you give the order?

RUMSFELD: I didn’t give the order! Somebody around here gave the order.”

ADELMAN: Oh — well who gave the order, Don?

RUMSFELD:  I don’t know who gave the order.

ADELMAN: You didn’t give the order and you don’t know who gave the order. How do you know the order was given?”

RUMSFELD:  Because I know an order was given.

ADELMAN: If the order was given, tell me why 140,000 troops didn’t obey it.

(END DRAMATIZATION )

RWM: Adelman wasn’t done dressing down his old buddy. He had some words for Rumsfeld on the abomination at Abu Ghraib — and the incomprehensible interrogation language that led to it. Adelman scolded him for finding out about it in January and doing nothing until May. Rumsfeld had heard enough — and two weeks later Adelman received a letter saying that the Defense Policy Board was “reorganizing” — and that he would be replaced.

When Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense for Bush, I had no idea that it was his second time around. He became Defense Secretary for Ford in 1975 at 43 years old. Unsatisfied with his first stint, 25 years later he would have another shot. It’s telling that Bush 43 selected Rumsfeld despite the fact that W’s father was far from a fan. Bush 41 and Rumsfeld go way back, and according to Bob Woodward’s 3rd book on Bush, STATE OF DENIAL: “Senior thought Rumsfeld was arrogant, self-important, too sure of himself and Machiavellian.” . . . Hiring someone of such questionable character against the advice of the most reputable source you could get — is a pretty dubious decision. Then again, funny how birds of a feather flock together.

I do not subscribe to the lesser-of-two-evils doctrine — so I will never be party to any politician’s base. I’ve always had something else in mind.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT (KANSAS CITY STAR, May 7th, 1918): The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.

RWM: Scooter Libby was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and one of the two counts of making false statements.

THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON (October 31st, 2005): It’s understandable forgetting a conversation or two or three — but SEVEN? Scooter Libby — this guy with this famously steel trap mind? I don’t buy it for a second.

RWM: Tucker Carlson’s astute observation was unfortunately not the norm — as his party wanted Scooter to get off scot-free. On top of ignoring the massively manipulated intelligence and crying foul for Scooter, Republicans rejected the notion of accountability on the fundamentals of simply doing a good job. But put a Democrat in office, and suddenly conservatives do a 180 — much like Obama apologists when their pseudo-savior arrived. Benghazi is yet another example of America’s tradition of institutionalized lying, and it deserves the utmost scrutiny. But that scandal pales in comparison to the all-things Iraq. The rollout for heathcare.gov was a fiasco of indefensible folly, but it’s child’s play compared to the arrogance, intellectual cowardice, and  colossal stupidity around Iraq. The surge may have helped save the day — but pettiness, posturing, and endless duplicity created the calamitous conditions in the first place. One of the characters most responsible for that mess was another egomaniac named L. Paul Bremer — who ran the Coalition Provisional Authority in the aftermath. If only his decision-making skills matched his sky-high I.Q. And yet instead of being fired for being a monument to ineptitude, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

WASHINGTON POST (December 15th, 2004): “Every benchmark was achieved on time or ahead of schedule, including the transfer of sovereignty that ended his tenure,” the president said. Paul Rieckhoff, a former Army lieutenant who served in Iraq said the awards are “a slap in the face to the troops” from “an administration that loves the big P.R. move. It validates how out of touch Washington is with the reality of what is on the ground in Iraq.”

RWM: Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s work of art, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone tells a very different story than Bush would have you believe about Bremer. Same goes for Thomas Ricks’ phenomenal book FIASCO — exemplified by the following: “By the time the C.P.A. was done away with a year later, the U.S. effort in Iraq had suffered a severe and perhaps crippling setback. Presiding over this mess was Bremer, by all accounts a smart and diligent man, but not the right person for the job — that is, someone who could provide strategic leadership to inspire a diverse collection of people suddenly brought together to handle an ill-defined, difficult, and expanding mission.  “It was like going in half-assed,” said another Marine general. They hadn’t thought about the consequences. It was the same as the way they went to war — and the same way that Bremer operated.”

So Bush loyalists live in their fantasy that he was simply given bad intelligence. How do they reconcile that belief with the fact that George Tenet — the very person who delivered that abysmal intel with “slam dunk” authority — was honored right next to Bremer that day? It was Tenet’s reward for providing the president with the ammunition he needed. And the aluminum tubes argument was the nucleus of it all — as everything collected around the illusion of a mushroom cloud. And now the tale of the tubes is “ancient history.” . . . I noticed it wasn’t of any interest to Bush’s army of apologists when it was hot off the press either. Funny how your fervor for investigation seems to come and go in cycles. All that jazz about accountability was lost on those laughing along with Bush as he jokingly looked for the missing W.M.Ds in his office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BUSH AT RADIO AND TELEVISION CORRESPONDENTS DINNER, March 24, 2004 Wednesday:

Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere! (Laughter.)

Nope, no weapons over there.

(Laughter, applause.)

Maybe under here. (Laughter.)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RWM: Pull-itzer Prize-winning historian Barbara Tuchman would not have been amused had she lived to see that. As Russ Hoyle explains in the following excerpt — her 1984 book The March of Folly offers a blueprint for Bush’s behavior.

GOING TO WAR: True folly, Tuchman found, is generally recognized as counterproductive in its own time, and not merely in hindsight. In Tuchman’s template, true folly only ensues when a clear alternative path of action was available and ruled out. Tuchman also stipulated that real folly was most often the product of a group within an organized government. Tuchman alighted on a root cause of folly that she called “wooden-headedness” — defined in part as “assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting contrary information.” She also saw wooden-headedness as a certain proclivity for “acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by facts.” Wooden-headedness, said Tuchman, was finally — “the refusal to benefit from experience.”

RWM: Tuchman could have just as easily been describing America as a whole. As a nation — we don’t solve problems, we perpetuate them. And after all the Democrats’ disdain for Bush’s folly, so many in that same crowd treat Obama with kid gloves. The roles will be reversed once again when a Republican is at the helm . . . and around and around we go. There’s a classic scene in Seinfeld that delightfully illustrates the divide between declarations of virtue and delivering on them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEINFELD

“Agent:  I’m sorry, we have no mid-size available at the moment.

Jerry:  I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?

Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.

Jerry:  But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.

Agent:  I know why we have reservations.

Jerry:  I don’t think you do.  If you did, I’d have a car.  See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation… and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding.

Anybody can just take them.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RWM: Being true to your word is more involved than simply telling the truth. More so than ever, people feel free to believe whatever they want and still see themselves as honest. As Mr. Blust essentially put it with pride: “It’s not a lie if I believe it’s true.” All the more reason why intellectual honesty is far more demanding than honesty itself. The former requires the curiosity to question, a willingness to reflect, the welcoming of criticism, the acceptance of correction, and an objective interest in the truth — whereas with the latter you can be satisfied in your perception alone. Undeniably, the exponential increase in self-righteous certitude is tied to technology. Instead of becoming more worldly with our exceptional tools — our conveniences are eroding our ability to think things through. In our brave new world, we seem to thrive on being dismissive, distracted, distant, and shortsighted. After all — who has time to be thoughtful anymore?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNCOVERED: THE WAR ON IRAQ (CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL, June 9, 2003 Monday)

QUESTION: Is U.S. credibility on the line over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Uh, I’m not exactly sure what that means.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

This concludes ACT V

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAG ANIMATION TO THE BALLAD OF THE GREEN BERETS

Put silver wings on my son’s chest
Make him one of America’s best
He’ll be a man they’ll test one day
Have him win the Green Beret

The Green Berets - Record Cover

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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