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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Iraq War Deception Still Costing Dearly

As I was watching yet another Bush-era official ‘fess up about the phony case made for the Iraq war on TV last night, I couldn’t help but wonder -- like maybe millions of other Americans -- where these guys were when it counted.

In an MSNBC special, retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, CENTCOM commander during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, described how he reacted when he heard Vice President Cheney, speaking at an Aug. 2002 VFW convention, claim that “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”

“It was a shock, it was a total shock–I couldn’t believe the vice president was saying this,” Zinni recalled on the show, an update of the David Corn-Mike Isikoff book, “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.”

“In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD [weapons of mass destruction], through all the briefings I heard at Langley,” Zinni continued, “I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program.”

Likewise, former FBI agent Mark Rossini, then assigned to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, described how he felt when he heard Cheney endorsing a discredited report about ties between the leader of the 9/11 hijackers and Saddam’s intelligence service.

“I remember looking at the TV screen and saying, ‘What did I just hear?’ And I–first time in my life, I actually threw something at the television because I couldn’t believe what I just heard,” Rossini recalled.

All this, and much more, is the best argument one could make for national security whistle-blower protection legislation. All they could do is leak.  But of course there's so much more.

Putting aside the neocon nest of fabricators at the Pentagon and White House, the biggest whoppers, of course, came from Colin Powell and George Tenet.

In the MSNBC special, Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff at the time, recalled the secretary of state’s reaction to the congressional resolution authorizing Bush to attack Iraq:

“Powell walked into my office and without so much as a fare-thee-well, he walked over to the window and he said, ‘I wonder what'll happen when we put 500,000 troops into Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and find nothing?’ And he turned around and walked back in his office. And I—I wrote that down on my calendar—as close for—to verbatim as I could, because I thought that was a profound statement coming from the secretary of state, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.”

Profound, but forgotten, when Powell famously made the case for war in a riveting U.N. presentation, with Tenet and John Negroponte sitting behind him, that turned out as genuine as cheese food.

Wilkerson claimed that his boss had no idea about the veracity of the intelligence he cited during that UN speech, yet goes on to say: "Though neither Powell nor anyone else from the State Department team intentionally lied, we did participate in a hoax."

Oh, boy, that’s some parsing: “Nobody lied but we did participate in a hoax.”

I wonder how that fits in with the West Point honor code.

Imagine if one or two of these big shots had joined Joe Wilson, the ambassador who blew in the whistle on the phony Niger yellow cake documents, and stepped forward to publicly unmask the Bush conspiracy?

Powell alone, perhaps, could have put out the war bonfire with a one-word press conference: “Lies.” Especially if he had George Tenet standing beside him.

But no.

All these what-ifs come too late for the 35,000 American dead and wounded and their families, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dead and displaced Iraqis and their broken state, who we should mourn en masse on the invasion's 10th-year anniversary, March 19.

If just one good thing had come of the war, I suppose someone could make a half-assed argument for it.

But today’s news from Iraq in The Washington Post put yet another punctuation mark on the fatal folly:  the Iranians are ever more ensconced in Iraq.

Nice going, guys. Isn't it time for a truth commission on the whole shoddy affair?