Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah

Checking in for our weekly dose of Frank Rich, we discover that he's experiencing a spate of deja vu. The recent run of lies from the Bush administration has put him in mind of 2003. In fact, that's even the name he gives his column: "Lying Like It's 2003." Is it desperation causing them to replicate their former bravado? Or maybe they really just don't care.

Those who forget history may be doomed to repeat it, but who could imagine we'd already be in danger of replaying that rotten year 2003?

Scooter Libby, the mastermind behind the White House's bogus scenarios for ginning up the war in Iraq, is back at Washington's center stage, proudly defending the indefensible in a perjury trial. Ahmad Chalabi, the peddler of flawed prewar intelligence hyped by Mr. Libby, is back in clover in Baghdad, where he purports to lead the government's Shiite-Baathist reconciliation efforts in between visits to his pal Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.

Last but never least is Mr. Libby's former boss and Mr. Chalabi's former patron, Dick Cheney, who is back on Sunday-morning television floating fictions about Iraq and accusing administration critics of aiding Al Qaeda. When the vice president went on a tear like this in 2003, hawking Iraq's nonexistent W.M.D. and nonexistent connections to Mohamed Atta, he set the stage for a war that now kills Iraqi civilians in rising numbers (34,000-plus last year) that are heading into the genocidal realms of Saddam. Mr. Cheney's latest sales pitch is for a new plan for "victory" promising an even bigger bloodbath.

Mr. Cheney was honest, at least, when he said that the White House's Iraq policy would remain "full speed ahead!" no matter what happened on Nov. 7.

. . .

Mr. Cheney's performance last week on "Fox News Sunday" illustrates the problem; his lying is nowhere near its last throes. Asked by Chris Wallace about the White House's decision to overrule commanders who recommended against a troop escalation, the vice president said, "I don't think we've overruled the commanders." He claimed we've made "enormous progress" in Iraq. He said the administration is not "embattled." (Well, maybe that one is denial.)

This White House gang is so practiced in lying with a straight face that it never thinks twice about recycling its greatest hits. Hours after Mr. Cheney's Fox interview, President Bush was on "60 Minutes," claiming that before the war "everybody was wrong on weapons of mass destruction" and that "the minute we found out" the W.M.D. didn't exist he "was the first to say so." Everybody, of course, was not wrong on W.M.D., starting with the United Nations weapons inspection team in Iraq. Nor was Mr. Bush the first to come clean once the truth became apparent after the invasion. On May 29, 2003 - two days after a secret Defense Intelligence Agency-sponsored mission found no biological weapons in trailers captured by American forces - Mr. Bush declared: "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories."

The new lies aren't particularly any better. Rich shoots them down, so you can get the details from his column, but they're all in service to continuing the policy of refusing to admit mistakes or considering a change in military policy. Keep sending troops over to Iraq time and time again. Now we're trying to send a few more at a time, but that's highly unlikely to change the domestic situation in Iraq itself.

Once again, Rich is optimistic about opposition to the Prez.

Now it is our patriotic duty - politicians, the press and the public alike - to apply the brakes. Our failure to check the administration when it rushed into Iraq in 2003 will look even more shameful to history if we roll over again for a reboot in 2007. For all the belated Washington scrutiny of the war since the election, and for all the heralded (if so far symbolic) Congressional efforts to challenge it, too much lip service is still being paid to the deceptive P.R. strategies used by the administration to sell its reckless policies. This time we must do what too few did the first time: call the White House on its lies. Lies should not be confused with euphemisms like "incompetence" and "denial."

. . .

The next push on the "way forward" propaganda campaign arrives Tuesday night, with the State of the Union address. The good news is that the Democrats have chosen Jim Webb, the new Virginia senator, to give their official response. Mr. Webb, a Reagan administration Navy secretary and the father of a son serving in Iraq, has already provoked a testy exchange about the war with the president at a White House reception for freshmen in Congress. He's the kind of guy likely to keep a scorecard of the lies on Tuesday night. But whether he does or not, it's incumbent on all those talking heads who fell for "shock and awe" and "Mission Accomplished" in 2003 to not let history repeat itself in 2007. Facing the truth is the only way forward in Iraq.

I fear that he has more faith in those talking heads than I do. There might be a bit of a chance that they'll look at the truth, but my sense of it is that's only because they enjoy piling on to a lame duck president. This may be pointlessly idealistic, but we need to find a punditocracy interested in truth for its own sake.

(Truthout is responsible for our no-charge glimpse of Frank Rich this week.)


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