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06/25/2003 Entry: "Wesley Clark on WMDs"

"'We struck [Iraq] very hard in December of '98,' Clark said. everything we knew, all of his [Saddam's] facilities. I think it was an effective set of strikes. Tony Zinni commanded that, called Operation Desert Fox, and I think that set them back a long ways. But we never believed that that was the end of the problem.'"
Back to Basics, by Gene Lyons, June 25, 2003

Hm, I forgot I knew this, but now I remember it. This might be why I never thought there were any WMDs or chem weapons in Iraq, but didn't have any proof. Why didn't anyone remind us of this earlier?

And why isn't Lyons' column online? Sheesh.


Gene Lyons
June 25, 2003

Back to Basics

According to what Gen. Wesley Clark told "Meet the Press" on June 15, President Junior may eventually have to resort to the ultimate GOP excuse to explain away Iraq's missing Weapons of Mass Destruction. No need to blame looters as Bush did recently, a preposterous alibi which raised more alarming questions than it pretended to answer. (Only days before, he'd claimed they HAD been found.) Instead, he can blame Bill Clinton, the man whose own extravagant folly helped make it possible for this epic liar to be appointed president.

Host Tim Russert asked Clark about his April 9 column in The Times of London. "This is the real intelligence battle and the stakes could not be higher," Clark wrote "for failure to find the weapons could prove to be a crushing blow to the proponents of the war [in Iraq], supercharge Arab anger and set back many efforts to end the remarkable diplomatic isolation of the United States and Britain."

How you can tell Clark's a Democrat, incidentally, is that he thinks alienating the known world is a bad idea. After acknowledging that banned weapons may yet materialize in Iraq, although nothing resembling the "imminent threat that many feared," Clark reminded Russert of something the pundit-fixated like everybody in Washington on Bill Clinton's zipper at the time-had probably forgotten.

"We struck [Iraq] very hard in December of '98," Clark said. "Did everything we knew, all of his [Saddam's] facilities. I think it was an effective set of strikes. Tony Zinni commanded that, called Operation Desert Fox, and I think that set them back a long ways. But we never believed that that was the end of the problem."

Back then, Republicans charged that Clinton bombed suspected Iraqi WMD sites to distract the public from his Oval Office sex antics, as if THAT were possible. But it's beginning to look as if economic sanctions, UNSCOM inspectors and cruise missiles may have done the job. (Actually, some defectors, including Saddam's son-in-law, whom he had murdered, claimed the Iraqi dictator had the forbidden weapons destroyed after the Gulf War, which admittedly begs the question of why he refused to prove it.)

Anyway, after Gen. Clark observed that there had been "a certain amount of hype in the intelligence," leading up to Junior's 2003 invasion of Iraq Russert pounced.

"Hyped by whom?"

"I think it was an effort to convince the American people to do something," Clark began carefully. "There was a concerted effort during the Fall of 2001 starting immediately after 9/11," he added "to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein."

"By who?" Russert insisted. "Who did that?"

"Well, it came from the White House," Clark said. "It came from people around the White House...I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, 'You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.' I said, 'But-I'm willing to say it but what's your evidence?' And I never got any evidence...It was a lot of pressure to connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally saw the evidence and didn't talk to anybody who had the evidence to make that connection."

Now in a rational world, the media watchdogs at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting pointed out, this would be newsworthy. The former NATO Supreme Commander says the Bush White House pressured him to blame 9/11 on Iraq even as the World Trade Center Towers were still smoking. Perhaps because Clark's own political ambitions remain unclear, however, little has been made of the allegation.

Outraged by 9/11, many Americans have been content to let Junior pick the targets. A fawning press corps has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect Bush from the consequences of his dishonesty. The New York Times led its "Week in Review" section with an astonishing piece of equivocation by David E. Rosenbaum arguing, among other absurdities, that if Bush didn't actually KNOW he was peddling phony "intelligence" about Iraqi nuclear weapons, its nonexistent links to al Qaeda, or even who benefited from his tax cut schemes, then it's unfair to say he lied.

Elsewhere, however, many in the national press have awakened to their responsibility. New York Times columnists Nicholas Kristoff and Paul Krugman have taken on Bush's habitual mendacity over matters of war and peace and economic justice. "Misrepresentation and deception," Krugman writes "are standard operating procedure for this administration." Most persuasive, however, is a brilliantly dispassionate analysis by John Judis and Spencer Ackerman in The New Republic depicting in compelling detail how Bush administration zealots manipulated the evidence to justify their obsession with Iraq and why "the cost to U.S. democracy could be felt for years to come."

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