The Pits of Cherry Picking
Bush and Blair Must Resign

by Kim Petersen

February 9, 2004

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In this worst of times for Iraqis and US soldiery, an unrelenting third world resistance battles the world’s only superpower in the bombed-out vistas of Mesopotamia. What magnifies the empire’s abjectness is that it has called on other willing nations to assist its occupation against an insurgency that is led by remnants of Ba’athist forces with some foreigners. The coalition fighters are themselves, however, uninvited foreign interlopers. President Bush evinces a shamelessness and desperation in his current pleading with the UN -- oft an object of his scorn -- to rescue his buns from the political fire. Roller-coaster polling results are now indicating a downward trend in Bush’s political fortunes. Bush who rode meteoric highs in the polls like his father before him is poised to become a one-term president like his father. Bush Sr. extracted US troops from the initial onslaught against Iraq but the economy slid on his watch and his running-mate Dan Quayle was seen as a liability. Increasingly Vice President Dick Cheney, who finds himself a subject in a judicial inquiry in France, is now looking like the proverbial albatross for Bush’s re-election chances. While his father was hard-pressed on two of the three fronts, Bush Jr. looks to be in trouble on all three fronts.

Any claim to a morality of occupation has collapsed under the crushing weight of wanton killings, torture, and the breaking in, looting, and bulldozing of Iraqi homes. Despite warped reporting by the corporate media, the horrific reality of Iraq does sometimes reach the citizens of empire and their displeasure can in turn pressure the Machiavellian leaders.


The major lapdog of the US was UK Prime Minister Tony Blair who backed the invasion against the opposition of most Britons. Following the suspicious death of chemical weapons expert Dr. David Kelly, who was flushed out by the government as the source for a critical story by the BBC, Blair was forced to call an inquiry into the alleged “sexing up” of an intelligence dossier to justify British participation. The inquiry led by Lord Hutton ostensibly exonerated Blair and the rest of his government while pummeling the BBC that dared to stray ever-so-slightly from the pro-war agenda.


The search for Hussein’s deadly arsenal in Iraq, led by head inspector David Kay, had to admit that the WMD didn’t exist. The casus belli was based on a myth. Kay placed the blame squarely on faulty intelligence.


There were climb-downs all around. US Secretary of State Colin Powell mused that if he had known otherwise earlier that he might have opposed the war although he waffled on this later.


Forlorn CIA director George Tenet walked a fine line but denied Iraq was ever an “imminent threat.”


Bush has backed down from his overly exuberant but false earlier declaration that the WMD had been found. Nevertheless he maintains that the invasion was justified.


Tony Blair has pleaded ignorance. His War Minister Geoffrey Hoon contradicts his leader. The Blarites gloated after the Hutton whitewash but apparently most Britons weren’t fooled and they call for Blair to resign.


Australian Prime Minister John Howard has placed the blame on the US and UK since Australia relied on their intelligence. Paradoxically, Howard had earlier seized on the Hutton findings as justifying Australian trust in their allies’ intelligence. It is cherry picking the results of investigations. Howard should face trouble with his credibility since a former intelligence analyst from Australia’s Office of National Assessments, Andrew Wilkie, had argued prior to the invasion of Iraq that Howard’s government was exaggerating the case for Iraq’s weapons program and connections to terrorism.


It is interesting to compare how Kay and Hutton were similar and different in their take on their government-created fact-finding expeditions. Kay went beyond his mandate and exculpated the Bush administration for the phantom WMD. Hutton insisted in staying within the parochial confines of his mandate. If he had interpreted the testimonies beyond the remit it seems clear that it would be concluded that the government had deliberately cooked the books. The cautious wording in original drafts had been altered to present a firmer case at the behest of Number 10 Downing Street.


Cries of whitewash have drowned out the seized-upon vindication by the Blairites following the Hutton inquiry. 


Hutton’s background casts aspersions on his partiality. It is, however, a little late to bring up Hutton’s past role as a lackey of the establishment.


What does one expect from government-appointed overseers? The inquiry heads were chosen by the governments. They certainly weren’t about to bite the hand that feeds them. Neither were the careerists in the intelligence agencies, some of who must have been aware of the dismal evidence for WMD in Iraq. UNSCOM lead inspector Scott Ritter, who all along denied the existence of threatening WMD, and Wilkie deserve praise for their courage and conviction, virtues demonstrated to be rare in the spy community.


Blair and Bush were the final arbiters of what action to take according to the intelligence that they accepted or refused to accept. The regimes had an agenda and the events point to a cherry picking of information corroborative of that agenda. To then shift the responsibility for their decision-making to the intelligence services is morally reprehensible and exposes Blair, Bush, and Howard for the ethical cowards that they are.


Inquiries are popping out of the woodwork. Bush and Blair are forced to hold two more inquiries. Bush has appointed a Democrat this time to lead an inquiry into the intelligence but importantly this one won’t wind up until after the election. Blair keeps a firm hand on the reins of the UK inquiry. The opposing Liberal Democrats decided not to partake in what could amount to another whitewash.


Meanwhile the burning fuse of Valerie Plame inquiry continues. The neocons lost control when prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald replaced Attorney General John Ashcroft as head of the inquiry. Ashcroft was compelled to recuse himself because of a conflict of interest. Obviously the neocons thought they could cow Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson. Instead they are fighting back against the regime’s treachery.


Ritter and ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern both deplore the politicization of the intelligence services. The intelligence reporting has been tailored to a specific agenda rather than a credibly-based presentation of information. This corruption has rendered the analysis of intelligence highly suspect.


The fallout of post-Iraq has undermined any claim Bush and Blair have to carry on as leaders. That the administrations of the invaders throw blame elsewhere for their having promulgated fallacious intelligence is indicative of their unworthiness to govern. The governments are responsible for both demanding and choosing intelligence that conforms to their agenda. Those intelligence workers who succumbed to the demands of a government-driven agenda have belittled themselves. But the ultimate responsibility lies with the agenda makers. Bush and Blair have proven themselves unable to distinguish between specious intelligence and authentic intelligence regarding defense and they therefore merit replacement by more capable leaders.


The neocons inveigh against Syria, Iran, and North Korea. But it now amounts to nothing more than bluster. The neocons’ agenda has been derailed. Since the Bushites have discovered the intelligence to be woefully flawed they are effectively shackled from launching another attack. This has serious ramifications for national security.


What Bush, Blair, Howard, and all those other leaders like Aznar, Berlusconi, and Fogh Rasmussen that supported the aggression against Iraq must realize is that a decision to invade another country that kills 10,000 people and hundreds of their own soldiers and unleashes an array of terrors upon those surviving based on what they claim is a mistake (something that is farfetched given that the invasion was planned before 9-11) is unforgivable. Mistakes that kill tens-of-thousands are not acceptable in any society that deems itself to be civilized and a political price must be paid for such mistakes. Forced resignation is not enough though. Bush and Blair should be in the docket of the International Criminal Court with their arch nemesis Saddam Hussein; they have after all just as much blood on their hands.


Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: kimpetersen@gyxi.dk.


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