The Insiders Are Coming Out
Tuesday 08 July 2003
For many, many months now, we have endured what is known in the common political lexicon as an 'Imperial Presidency.' The term denotes an administration that keeps its secrets, says nothing to the press worth reporting, lies with impunity beneath the veil of those secrets, and threatens retaliation against anyone who might stand in the way. When done properly, an Imperial Presidency becomes a powerful, unstoppable force. When an Imperial Presidency is guarded in Congress by political allies who hold the majority, it becomes almost completely unassailable.
Think about it. When was the last time we got a straight answer out of the Bush administration? When was the last time anyone with real power demanded answers from the folks in the White House? In the vacuum, we wind up getting answers like the one Don Rumsfeld delivered on February 12, 2002 when faced with pointed press questions about terrorism:
"As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know."
These boys could give lessons to Orwell. Without anyone in Congress slinging subpoenas, and with a press cowed by the threat of removal from the White House beat, there is no way to take an Imperial Presidency to task for its actions when deliberate gibberish is the rule of the news day.
There is no way.unless the White House insiders come out and start talking. Suddenly, that is exactly what is happening.
On June 26, I conducted an interview with 27-year CIA veteran Ray McGovern. McGovern served every President from Kennedy to Bush Sr., and delivered a wide spectrum of insight and data regarding both the September 11 attack and the second Iraq war. One key question McGovern answered dealt with the rapidly expanding scandal surrounding Bush administration tampering with evidence of Iraqi weapons.
The story has been taking a slow boil for months now, ever since the end of the war. The justification for attacking Iraq, as presented by the administration, was that Saddam Hussein had thousands of tons of deadly weapons practically falling out of his ears. Day after day came the dire reports from Bush, from Cheney, from Rumsfeld, from Rice, from Powell before the UN, from dozens of hired administration guns who saturated the airwaves with stories of looming doom in the shadow of September 11.
The weapons never showed up. Stories began to swirl about Vice President Cheney taking unprecedented trips to CIA headquarters for the purpose of leaning on the intelligence analysts so he would get the damning Iraq weapons reports the administration needed to justify combat. Stories began to swirl about obviously forged evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program that was deliberately used by Bush to justify war, despite the fact that everyone in the White House knew the evidence had been crudely faked. To counteract these stories, the Imperial Presidency laid blame for all of this on the CIA.
When I questioned McGovern on the impact these developments were having on the American intelligence community, McGovern made a prescient prediction:
"To the degree that esprit de corps exists, and I know it does among the folks we talk to, there is great, great turmoil there. In the coming weeks, we're going to be seeing folks coming out and coming forth with what they know, and it is going to be very embarrassing for the Bush administration."
A New York Times article from Sunday July 6 quoted former US ambassador Joseph Wilson as saying, "Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." Wilson was the man sent to Niger in February of 2002 to assess the validity of documentary evidence that claimed to describe an attempt by Iraq to procure materials for the development of a nuclear weapons platform. "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place," said Wilson in the Times.
Wilson certainly reported his findings to the White House, because he was asked to make the Niger trip by none other than Dick Cheney. Despite this fact, the faked Niger evidence was used dramatically by George W. Bush in a speech that directly connected September 11 to the alleged Iraqi weapons:
"We have experienced the horror of September 11. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing -- in fact they would be eager -- to use a biological, or chemical, or a nuclear weapon. Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
The "mushroom cloud" comment was appalling to another administration insider. Greg Thielmann, Director of the Office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Issues in the State Department, told Newsweek at the beginning of June 2003 that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research had concluded the documents were "garbage."
"When I saw that, it really blew me away," Thielmann told Newsweek. When Thielmann found out that Bush had used the faked Niger evidence to justify war to the American people, he said, "Not that stupid piece of garbage. My thought was, how did that get into the speech?"
Another White House insider has come out in spectacular fashion. Rand Beers served the Bush administration on the National Security Council at the White House as a special assistant to the President for combating terrorism. Mr. Beers served in government for more than 30 years working in international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, intelligence, and counter-terrorism. He worked for the National Security Council under presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton. Beer's service to his country began with two tours in Vietnam with the Marine Corps.
In a June 25 2003 interview with Ted Koppel on Nightline, Beers reported that the administration was failing dramatically to defend the United States against terrorism. According to Beers, al Qaeda presented a far greater threat to America than Hussein and Iraq, and that the Iraq war was a terrible and unnecessary distraction from what was truly needed to keep the nation safe.
In his Nightline interview, Beers said, "Well, I think, firstly, there is an inadequate amount of funding. There was a report about the House passing the fiscal year 2004 budget, yesterday. And the main point of the article is that most everybody, expect for the Administration, believes that there was an inadequate funding level in that budget. People voted for it because the alternative was not acceptable, to have no budget. That has been, to my knowledge, a continuous perspective that the Administration has had. They've been unable or unwilling to ask for sufficient funds to actually do the job. And then, they haven't followed through with the programs that actually would turn that money into activities in as rapid and forceful a fashion as I think that it should. One of the phrases that is used often within Washington is 'business as usual.' And I'm really concerned that this Administration, despite its rhetoric, has given the homeland security function a 'business as usual' mantra."
Beers' position as special assistant to the President for combating terrorism meant he saw everything and knew everything. He was on Nightline for one reason: He quit his job, walked out the door, and joined the John Kerry for President campaign as National Security Advisor.
Today, everything Beers knows about the manner in which the administration acted towards Iraq, towards Afghanistan, towards September 11, is also known by a Senator from Massachusetts who is running for President on a very large and public stage.
Ray McGovern was right. The insiders are coming out, and the trickle has become a flood.
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