Joe Biden's recent efforts to deny his record of support for invading Iraq are marvels of evasion, with falsehoods that have been refuted by one well-documented appraisal after another after another. This month, Biden claimed that his vote for war on the Senate floor was somehow not a vote for war. Ironically, while he was spinning anew to deny the undeniable, theaters nationwide began screening a movie that exposes the deceptive approach to the Iraq war that Biden exemplifies.
Historically factual, "Official Secrets" is concerned with truth -- and the human consequences of evading or telling it. Katharine Gun, portrayed by actress Keira Knightley, was a worker at the British intelligence agency GCHQ. Risking years in prison, she did everything she could to prevent the Iraq war, and took responsibility for doing so.
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Biden did everything he could to enable the Iraq war, and -- still -- takes no responsibility for doing so.
More than 16 years ago, Biden and Gun were at cross purposes as the Iraq invasion neared. Subterfuge vs. candor. Misinformation vs. information. War vs. peace. Today, their public voices contrast just as sharply.
Gun recalls that both President George W. Bush and especially British Prime Minister Tony Blair were "desperate to get U.N. cover" for the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003. On the last day of January of that year, Gun saw a memo from the U.S. National Security Agency that showed the two governments were working together to wiretap and otherwise surveil diplomats from countries on the U.N. Security Council -- for purposes such as blackmail -- to win a vote to authorize an invasion.
Gun became a whistleblower by providing the memo to the Observer newspaper in London. As she said in a recent interview with Salon, "My intention was to prevent the war. . . . I felt there was this information that was absolutely crucial, it had the potential to derail the rush to war, and I felt people had the right to know."
Biden -- who played a pivotal role in the rush to war as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- proceeded as though people had no right to know. He excluded critical voices and key information from the committee's high-profile hearings in mid-summer 2002, deceptively serving as the most important lawmaker ushering the war resolution to the Senate floor, where he voted for it in mid-October. The war began five months later. It has never ended.
But now, on the campaign trail, Biden is eager to scramble and rewrite history. He's displaying the kind of disregard for facts that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq in the first place.
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