OH, FOR GOD'S SAKE
You know, I can kinda handle the fact that a government is not always in a position to provide every last bit of evidence that it has about security matters, that some information is sensitive and that it needs to be used with discretion. Of course, most governments these days work on the basis that something is considered secret until someone wants to see it, placing the presumption on secrecy rather than openness. This is especially true of the Bush Administration which is as committed to transparent government as I am to wallpapering my bedroom with Rush Limbaugh centrefolds.
I'm even willing to allow that governments will sometimes act on the basis of information not generally available, as long as they can make a compelling case afterwards. For this to work, however--for a citizen to cut a government slack in these regards--the government in question has to have some sort of credibility, to have established its bone fides with a general record of good-faith dealings with whatever information it can
make available and in its general dealings with the public.
What really gets up my nose, though, is the fact that what generally happens is that there is no good faith, we are spoken to as if we were idiots or children, and that we are strung along on partial and unsubstantiated information that changes as the needs of the government in question changes. In other words, we are routinely lied to and the business of government is not about doing the right thing for the country or the world (as is always piously claimed) but in managing information for maximum political advantage.
Take the much-mentioned case of al Qaeda links to Iraq.
In the wake of 911, the hint was consistently made that there was
a link. Rumsfeld even had plans
for an invasion of Iraq drawn up within hours of the WTC coming down.
Once pushed on the question of this link, however, the Administration was unable to provide anything like, well, proof.
They tried for a few months to assert
that there was a link, but then we were told that there actually was no link, though there still might be. The Administration then went off and made its case for an attack of Iraq based on other grounds (just because
being the main argument, pardon my sarcasm).
Strangely, this hasn't been all that compelling to the rest of the world (you know, the ones who will also finance and do the fighting, even if the bulk of the burden falls to the US). So once again they, Bush and par'dners, have had to come up with yet other reasons to justify the attack that they are already gearing up for despite saying they weren't.
So up pops Tony Blair with a "secret dossier" on Iraq's WMD capabilities. Surprise! As other's have pointed out, there was nothing new in the Blair document. It was the timing of its release that has given it centrality in the debate, which was the whole idea. A similar summary of Saddam's weapon stockpile can be found in an earlier report released by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (not online but a pretty comprehensive summary is available
But even that didn't win over too many converts, especially with Blair's own party.
So now we are told once again that there IS a link between al Qaeda and Iraq, that they have the proof though, of course, they can't release it, and we are left to conclude that, doggawn it gosh, we just haveta go get that guy. In the last couple of days, Donald Rumsfeld, Condaleeza Rice and Bush himself have been telling us the gig is up, the fix is in and Saddam has been wet-nursing al Qaeda terrorists. As I say, I can handle that the "proof" is not available publicly. But consider the hopeless bullshit and outright contradictions that accompany this latest announcement and see if you can't tell why I don't think they've established the necessary credibility to be trusted on this latest "revelation".
First up there is the juvenile, infantilising way in which GW couches
President Bush asserted a link yesterday between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda terrorist network, saying he fears they will join forces and are already virtually indistinguishable.
"The danger is, is that they work in concert," Bush said. "The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world."
Forget the childish tone (if you can) and consider the content. Saddam and al Qaeda "virtually indistinguishable?" Well I guess all those towel-heads do tend to look the same. The fact that the religious fanatics of AQ have always been hatefully and unabashedly unimpressed with the rather less religiously inclined Mr Hussein doesn't come into it apparently. No: one baddy is as bad another.
Then there is the nature of the charge. Note Bush's words: "The danger is..." used twice followed by scary scenarios of one baddy morphing into another and coming to git us in our beds. Boo! Or at least they might
do that, which is what "the danger is" really means.
Also note the contradictory nature of the claim: he is telling us that "Saddam's madness", morphing into AQ, has some sort of capacity to "extend weapons of mass destruction around the world". But this is a lie. How do we know? Because the Blair dossier
, and other assessments, say he doesn't have that capacity. His ability to deliver any WMD he has is limited, as IISS reported
In the wake of the Gulf War, much of Iraq’s missile infrastructure lay in ruins. (The US and UK, during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, attacked a number of missile related facilities). During the inspections period Iraq continued to conduct small scale covert research and development on proscribed missiles. In addition, Iraq continued missile related procurement efforts. Despite international sanctions, Iraq covertly negotiated transactions with more than 500 companies. Its interests included liquid propellant engine parts, solid propulsion technology, guidance and control equipment, and many other items. In one case complete gyroscopes recovered from Russian long range ballistic missiles were even smuggled into Iraq and later recovered by UNSCOM in December 1995.
....Our net assessment of the current situation is that:
+Iraq has probably retained a small force of about a dozen 650km range al-Hussein missiles. These could strike Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Kuwait. Could be armed with CBW warheads.
+Iraq does not possess facilities to produce long range missiles and it would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to construct such facilities.
+Iraq may, in addition, have a small number of al Samoud missiles with ranges of up to 200km able to strike Kuwait but only if deployed within the southern no fly zone
+It is capable of manufacturing rudimentary CBW warheads; its development of more advanced designs is unknown
+Iraq can convert civilian vehicles to provide mobile launchers for its ballistic missiles
This statement by Bush is so ridiculous that even his partners in disinformation
couldn't take it seriously:
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tried to play down the specificity of Bush's charge, saying the president was talking about what he feared could occur.
Just like I said.
But of course, this didn't stop Fleischer from then immediately endorsing what he had just sought to play down:
Fleischer repeated the administration position that it would be a mistake to wait for a smoking gun. "Clearly, al Qaeda is operating inside Iraq," he said. "In the shadowy world of terrorism, sometimes there is no precise way to have definitive information until it is too late."
So what is it? Are we denying it or endorsing it? And is it clear that they are operating within Iraq or is there "no precise way" to know?
Then there was this drivel:
Bush was in the Oval Office with President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia when he was asked whether Hussein was a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda. "That is an interesting question," Bush began. "I'm trying to think of something humorous to say."
And then he thought better of it apparently:
"But I can't when I think about al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," the president continued. "They're both risks. They're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government."
(Lucky this wasn't meant to be funny, because if it was, somebody should tell him the difference between humour and a complete fucking joke.)
Remember, what we are looking at here is an Administration that has consciously decided, via three of its most senior personnel, including the Prez, to reintroduce the notion of a link between AQ and Iraq. And look at how they are doing it. Apart from the Bush stuff just quoted we have this from Rumsfeld:
A few hours before Bush's remarks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was asked by reporters traveling with him in Warsaw if there are linkages between al Qaeda and Iraq. "I have no desire to go beyond saying the answer is yes," he replied.
The only thing he has "no desire" for is to be caught out in a complete bare-faced lie, so instead he is dropping hints that have a high degree of deniability, as they say in the movies. We are being lied to systematically here.
As the Finacial Times reports
, the evidence Rumsfeld and CIA deputy head provided to NATO members received a mixed reception:
Mr Rumsfeld said dossiers presented to Nato ministers - one on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities, drawn up by Britain's intelligence services, the other from the CIA on the alleged links between al-Qaeda and Iraq - showed the nature of the threats.
John McLaughlin, deputy head of the CIA, presented a 20-minute slideshow. For some ministers, it provided sufficient evidence of a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. For others, there was little new in the slideshow, indicating the emerging splits in the 19-member strong military over how to respond to any US attack on Iraq....
...However, European defence ministers who were shown the evidence were divided over whether it proved a link.
Even Rumsfeld wasn't all that impressed really: "For Mr Rumsfeld the dossiers spoke for themselves," the FT reports.
But then it quotes him as speaking on behalf of the dossiers he said spoke for themselves: "Everyone is on notice. Everyone has a clear understanding of the threats that are posed [by Iraq]. Our job is not to connect the dots after something has happened but to come to the conclusion to protect wives, innocent men and children."
So what was it? Do the documents speak for themselves--that is, join the dots--or was it simply not necessary to join the dots? The key sentence seems to be "Everyone is on notice." Go that?
Please don't forget that it was only a few weeks ago
(Sept 10) that the Administration let it be known that the CIA had been unable to find a link between AQ and Iraq:
Although administration officials say they are still trying to develop a strong case tying Hussein to global terrorism, the CIA has yet to find convincing evidence despite having combed its files and redoubled its efforts to collect and analyze information related to Iraq, according to senior intelligence officials and outside experts with knowledge of discussions within the U.S. government.
What waits in breathless anticipation for what the next fortnight will bring.
It gets worse. Two days ago, Miss Information herself, Condaleezza Rice, said this, as is reported here
In an interview with PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. government clearly knows senior members of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government have met and co-operated with al Qaeda operatives "for quite a long time."
"We know, too, that several of the detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development," Rice said.
"So, yes, there are contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. We know that Saddam Hussein has a long history with terrorism in general. And there are some al Qaeda personnel who found refuge in Baghdad," she said, noting that the alleged contacts are documented.
Hang on....didn't she say they've known of a link for a long time? But didn't the other information they released on Sept 10 say that the CIA had found no links? Yes she did. Yes it did. Can't have it both ways, I'm afraid. Again, more fudging and hinting, and once again the bare-faced lie.
So they lie, they bluff, they fudge, they shift and they shuffle. Anybody who thinks they know what is going on based on this stuff is either clairvoyant, stupid, or an ideologue.
What it all boils down to, and why such analysis as I've offered here doesn't make a blind bit of difference, is best left to the President to explain:
"The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," he said. "They're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive."
Goodies and baddies. That's all the justification they need. So they'll go off half-cocked, there will be a terrorist response, all the righties will whine "why do they hate us," and then they'll turn on anyone who dares to offer an answer. And we'll start all over again.