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When Did Bush Decide to Escalate The War?

 sad sack race

When the President finally announces this week his predictable and repeatedly leaked plan to escalate the war in Iraq, it will mark the culmination of another massive fraud on the American people. It will signal yet another betrayal of the nation’s armed services men and women and their families. Just as the President and his men lied us into the war, misled us about the conduct of the war, and misled us about the horrible conditions created by his failed policies, the Bush Administration concealed from the public before the 2006 elections their intentions to escalate the war after the elections.

Commenting on the continuing Michele Malkin fiasco and the right wing's despicable witch hunt against the AP’s reporting on the horrors of Iraq’s sectarian murders, digby wrote:

But as we've seen so frequently these past few years, the right has developed a capability of creating an alternate reality as it happens which means that today, the first draft of history is being written in two dimensions. They don't have to airbrush history, they are editing in the camera.

This particular incident is just one of many and it's what allowed so much of what's happened over the last few years to happen. The right's professional noise machine is creating a disorienting inability on the part of many journalists and citizens to be able to distinguish reality from fantasy — and it's making it possible for someone like the president to be completely unresponsive to the people.

We keep expecting that reality is going to change things. For instance, we logically thought that the president would have to begin to withdraw in Iraq once his popularity tanked to unprecedented lows and his party lost the election. Instead, he just carries on, no matter what happens out here in the real world, because in the world the right wing has created, this last election shows that he has a mandate to escalate the war.

I think digby is right about the right, but I suspect that it’s even worse than that. To the current White House occupants, the mid-term elections were not a democratic means to validate or reject candidates and by implication, the policies they advocate or oppose. Instead, the elections were an obstacle in time, a temporary restraint on the President’s ability to tell the truth and reveal what his intentions were all along.

The day after the election, the President himself explained, without the slightest embarrassment, that he deliberately lied about his pre-election plans to replace Defense Secretary Rumsfield to avoid making this an issue — translation: further damage to Republicans on election day. And news reports/analysis since then reveal that the President’s team secretly began as early as September, two months before the election, not mid November as they first claimed, the Iraq strategy review that would inevitably lead to escalation, but they deliberately withheld that information from the public. And we know any review by this crowd would lead to escalation because the only kinds of people this President listens to are those who tell him that he cannot conceive of losing but can still win by escalating the war. Given this President’s lack of candor, we thus have every reason to believe that the same unapologetic lying was involved for at least the entire year before the elections.

This deception was designed to minimize Republican losses in the upcoming midterms, and thereby to undermine the potential for investigations, oversight and possible impeachment. To do that, the White House needed to convince the American people that they had a plan to win the war, that the plan was working, and that within a reasonable time, possibly before the elections, we could begin to remove US troops from Iraq. Any message that might suggest an escalation was dismissed by the WH, because the President listened to his Generals and the Generals had not asked for more troops. "Stay the course," now appears to have been a cover for the real intent to expand the war once the elections were over. And even when realities forced the WH to declare that phrase inoperative, there was no suggestion before the elections that "escalation" would take it's place.

The deception included the twin claims that (1) as we trained the Iraqis to stand up, we would stand down and (2) that this plan was working. The first element cynically used General Casey and General Abizaid to make plans for gradual withdrawal of US troops and to reveal those plans to the media. From an archived (possibly Times Select) article, April 11, 2005:

Two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the American-led military campaign in Iraq is making enough progress in fighting insurgents and training Iraqi security forces to allow the Pentagon to plan for significant troop reductions by early next year, senior commanders and Pentagon officials say.

General Casey would then keep mentioning these hopes, right up to the elections, even as the WH itself would dismiss Democrat's calls for withdrawal and remain coy about when, if ever, Casey's plans would actually take effect. The second element meant that reports of deteriorating security conditions and increasing sectarian killing sponsored by elements of the Iraq government needed to be portrayed by the WH and rightwing media as the result of misleading/biased reports by the “liberal” (meaning, anti-Bush) media to ignore the good news and portray conditions far worse than they were. Tony Snow, Fox News, Laura Ingraham, Michele Malkin and their ilk certainly played their witting and unwitting parts in this deception, with Malkin’s efforts to smear the AP only one recent example.

It was necessary for the President and his men to conceal the reality before the elections to help the President and his war supporters – think Joe Lieberman — to get beyond the elections. The Republicans lost their Congressional majorities, by the slimmest margin in the Senate, but without the lying they might well have lost by a greater margin. More important, the message to the winners, including surviving Republicans, would have been to take an even stronger stand against the President’s policies than we see now. After all, impeaching a President and Vice President requires a simple majority in the House, but removing them from office requires a significant number of Senate votes from the President’s party.

The election is over, but it’s results almost don’t matter now. Just as the message before the election was designed to convey the notion that the policy was in support of eventually withdrawing US troops, so the consistent message since the election has been about the need and options for increasing troops and escalating the war. Yet nothing that occurred on the day of, the day before, or the day after the elections changed a single reality in Iraq itself. The election was not a signal that their policy had failed, any more than it was a mandate to withdraw; to this Administration, it was a release from further political constraints. And a plan that could not even be hinted at before is now about to be implemented.

I watched Bob Schieffer ask Speaker Pelosi on Face the Nation what options the Congress has to stop the President’s plans for more war. She hinted that funding for an escalation might be separated from funding for the troops currently there, but I don't see how one can separate normal rotations from a "surge." (See C&L segment here.) Overall, her answers were as constrained as the questions, because Schieffer and those he represents are not yet ready to ask the only questions that matter. Short of removal from office, how do you force a willful and deceitful President to stop making war and endangering thousands of people?

The Democratic leadership is still wondering what they can possibly do to induce this President to respect the rule of law and the will of the electorate. They must know a letter won’t do it, even though it may be a necessary step. Cutting off funds for troops still in harms way is understandably deemed to be irresponsible. Their notion that public exposure of past and continuing crimes will be enough to stop them remains a hope, but an unproven hope. So “oversight hearings” remain the words of the day. But what more do we need to learn to understand the essence of what is happening?

The conclusion staring the country in the face is that each of these examples of knowing and willful lying to the American people on the most serious of matters – taking a country to war, putting and keeping Americans and others in harms way — is not merely a betrayal of trust. They constitute a disregard for our principles of democratic government, a disdain for the Constitution.

When a President and his closest advisers cause tens/hundreds of thousands of casualties through repeated and systematic lying, and continue to lie as they plan to do more of the same, these actions are high crimes and misdemeanors, if those terms have any meaning at all. The country is waiting (h/t Atrios) for the nation's elite to acknowledge that there is a remedy for “our long national nightmare,” and get on with what must be done.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley