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A Case for Accountability


(White House photo by David Bohrer, under the header "President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld Discuss Progress in Iraq," from August 2003.)

That was then:

Q Mr. President, what’s your response to the Democrats, including Al Gore yesterday, and some of the Democratic presidential candidates, who say that the American people were misled in advance of the war about the reasons for going to war — that you said, disarming Iraq was the main purpose, but since then, no weapons of mass destruction have been found?…

THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s just pure politics. We’ve got a lot of people running for President and it’s pure politics. The American people know that we laid out the facts, we based the decision on sound intelligence and they also know we’ve only been there for a hundred days. And we’re making progress.  A free Iraq is necessary for a — is an integral part of the war on terror. And as far as all this political noise, it’s going to get worse as time goes on, and I fully understand that. And that’s just the nature of democracy. Sometimes pure politics enters into the rhetoric.  (emphasis mine)

This is now:

BUSH: The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and their dreams, which is a democratic society. That’s the strategy. The tactics — now, either you say, yes, it’s important that we stay there and get it done; or we leave. We’re not leaving so long as I’m the president. That would be a huge mistake….

[BUSH:] I agree with General Abizaid. We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here.

And so we have changed tactics. Our commanders have got the flexibility necessary to change tactics on the ground, starting with Plan Baghdad, and that’s when we moved troops from Mosul into Baghdad and replaced with the Stryker Brigade. So in essence we increased troops during this time of instability….

[BUSH:] Now look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was — the main reason we went into Iraq, at the time, was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn’t, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction….

[BUSH:] You know, I’ve heard this theory about, you know, everything was just fine until we arrived and — you know, the stir-up-the-hornet’s- nest theory. It just doesn’t hold water, as far as I’m concerned.

The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. They were …

QUESTION: What did Iraqi have to do with that?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attacks upon the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. Except for it’s part of — and nobody’s ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September the 11th is: Take threats before they fully materialize, Ken.

Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill, to achieve an objective. I have made that case.

And one way to defeat that — you know, defeat resentment — is with hope. And the best way to do hope is through a form of government….  (emphasis mine)

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a President who has had to face no accountability from the Republican-controlled Congress for his piss poor decisions — because the Rubber Stamp Republican Congress is more interested in adding more pork to the budget and funnelling more no-bid contracts to cronies and then looking the other way at Administration mistakes.

Shorter Bush:  "We’re not leaving Iraq while I’m President, because that would mean that I would have to admit it was my mistake."

What George Bush has yet to admit out loud — or perhaps even to himself at all — is that you cannot impose a form of government on a nation from the outside.  It has to come from inside the nation itself.  That this is a truism that has been voiced repeatedly in political theory for…well, forever, is apparently lost on W.  (Watch the video at C&L, and see if he doesn’t look befuddled and lost.)

Alexis de Tocqueville’s influential tome, "Democracy in America," for example, was a means of exporting the ideas inherent in our nation’s early, exhuberant democracy to France and other older European monarchies, allowing these concepts to percolate and take root among the masses, which then took various nations (including France) through convoluted periods of reform — none of which were imposed from the outside by another government. 

What the neocons fail to comprehend, and this is basic political theory to be honest, is that it is the ideas that must be fully absorbed by the populace, and not just absorbed but truly ingrained to a degree that they are willing to fight to obtain that idea for themselves, at many levels of the society at one time.  You cannot force someone to believe in an idea in their heart via the barrel of a gun.  Many of the Iraqis (and Afghans for that matter) want some form of representative government — but the form of that government is theirs to decide — not ours.  And we may not like the result.  (President Perpetually on Vacation also fails to acknowledge this, as though the American public will not notice that the Iraqi governmental trend is more fundamentalist Islamic than secular, much to the detriment of women all over that nation.)

You see the difference between a self-determined governmental structure and what we are trying to impose in a top down, militarily-enforced structure in Iraq, right?  Well, that puts you way ahead of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

And what the Republican-controlled Congress has yet to admit to themselves is that they are just as responsible for these failures as the President of the United States.  Just as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and all the other sycophantic enabling minions are culpable and complicit in these failures as well. 

Think back to where we were immediately after 9/11.  The leading French newspaper proclaimed that "We Are All Americans."  Many nations which had never before cooperated with our intelligence agencies stood up and offered to help us track down Bin Laden and the other masterminds behind the fall of the Twin Towers and the hijacking of our aircraft.  Nations that had held us in the highest contempt for decades saw their populace holding state-sanctioned candlelight vigils and other commemorative ceremonies in honor of those killed in the terrorist attacks. 

I’m not saying it was all flowers and candy and a huge love-fest (because, frankly, only an imbecile would think you got that from a formerly hostile group of…oh…wait), but the momentum was in our favor at that point and we had a much more open door to information that we critically needed to ensure our safety — not just abroad, but here in this nation day in and day out for the long-term — because there was a sense of shared responsibility among a majority of nations for the prevention of such a terror event from ever happening again on anyone’s watch. 

When we entered Afghanistan to clear out the viper’s nest of al Qaeda and their surrogate government via the Taliban, we had the world’s support in doing so. 

And what did we do?  We squandered all of that good will, threw caution to the wind, and doubled down on a bet that no one but a sucker would take — and invaded Iraq.  Without laying the groundwork diplomatically, and dismissively shoving aside valid concerns and real questions concerning the veracity of the Chalabi-dumped intel on which we were relying for justification of our actions.  Concerns that turned out to be accurate, in the end, and our pig-headed insistence on going to war on spotty information has done real damage to our credibility, and to our ability to be perceived as any sort of honest broker.  We are now the nation who cried wolf. 

The Bush Administration invaded Iraq with no real plan for the aftermath of the quick invasion.  With no means to guard any of the important buildings to prevent looting.  Leaving arms depots open for insurgent factions to steal from at will, and then turn around and use the same ammo on our troops — for the last three years.  And with no real plan for dealing with a protracted insurgency while at the same time attempting to rebuild the decayed infrastructure — no plan whatsoever. 

It is long past time that there was some accountability and some answers for every one of the piss poor decisions that led us down this long, wrong road. 

This past weekend, I grabbed a little time to re-read the Jane Mayer article on David Addington in the 7/3/06 issue of The New Yorker.  (It’s still not online that I could find, but I want to show a specific point here, so I’m going to quote a short passage.)

…The Iran-Contra scandal substantially weakened Reagan’s popularity and, eventually, seven people were convicted of seventeen felonies. Cheney, who was then a Republican congressman from Wyoming, worried that the scandal would further undercut Presidential authority. In late 1986, he became the ranking Republican on a House select committee that was investigating the scandal, and he commissioned a report on Reagan’s support of the Contras. Addington, who had become an expert in intelligence law, contributed legal research….The report also defended the legality of ignoring congressional intelligence oversight, arguing that "the President has the Constitutional and statutory authority to withhold notifying Congress of covert actions under rare conditions." And it condemned "legislative hostage-taking," noting that "Congress must realize…that the power of the purse does not make it supreme" in matters of war….

Prior to working as Cheney’s counsel in the research of this report, Addington had been counsel to the CIA chief who cooked up the scheme to fund the Contras behind Congress’ back in the first place. Is there any wonder why we are where we are at this moment in the Administration’s history?  Is it any wonder that Doug Feith got to set up his merry band of intel cronies to cook the books for an invasion of Iraq at Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld’s behest — and without any real oversight by Congress whatsoever?

The bottom line is this:  whether it was bad legal advice, bad advisors or bad ideas, the ultimate responsibility for all of the failure rests on George Bush’s desk.  He hired this entire Administration full of zealots and power-driven cronies, and he hasn’t fired a one of them no matter how bad the consequences to our nation’s reputation, to our treasury, to any degree have been.

And the current Republican-controlled Rubber Stamp Congress isn’t rushing to scrutinize any of this to ensure that the President does not take one moronic step forward without someone making certain it isn’t going to make things even worse.  Does that make you feel any safer? 

Think about it for a moment.  There were substantial promises about reforms in the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA after the mess that was Katrina — and there were a LOT of promises made to the residents of the Gulf Coast, New Orleans and Texas in the aftermath of last year’s record-breaking hurricane season.  Are you willing to bet your life on how well all these reforms have been implemented?  Because the Congressional oversight on that has been thin, at best.

And then contemplate what that means in the event of another catastrophic terror attack on this nation.  Or an epidemic.  Or any other major natural disaster that could conceivably require actual coordination.  Hell, it’s five years later after 9/11 and our nation’s first responders still don’t have proper communications equipment.  And that was the first thing promised in the wake of the deaths of all those brave firefighters and police offices and port authority officers in New York.  Unconscionable and an absolute failure of leadership.

Then think about how few containers are being inspected — even today — at our nation’s ports.  Every single day.  As if that weren’t bad enough, how’s that lack of any real, working computer inter-link between all the various intelligence agencies and the INS going?  Oh yeah, I could really use some accountability on that front.

The list just keeps going and going.  And for every wingnut who whines that the Democrats have blocked things, I call bullshit — the Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House.  And they have not completed the practical, hands on, necessary reforms that ought to have been done.  Period.

It is high time for someone to be held responsible for the failures of the Bush Administration and the GOP.  In November, the American public will have an opportunity to do just that — but for them to be motivated to do so, the Democratic party has to step up to the plate and discuss exactly how the Bush Administration will be held accountable.

Digby has a great start from Henry Waxman.  The fine folks at MyDD lay the rationale for accountability being important to Democratic candidates right out there in their Campaign Memo — and it ought to be a must read for every Congressional office this week.

Say it with me:  accountability.  And let’s just keep on saying it until we throw the bums out in November.

PS — Could someone at the DSCC and the DCCC please start reading Digby more often?  And to Digby, I say, damn straight!

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com