What makes George W. Bush and Dick Cheney such extraordinary threats to the future of American democracy is their readiness to tell half-truths and outright lies consistently without any apparent fear of accountability.
While other politicians might spin some facts in a policy debate or a tell a fib about a personal indiscretion, President Bush and Vice President Cheney act as if they have the power and the right to manufacture reality itself, often on matters of grave significance that bear on war and peace or the future of the nation.
Even in the face of growing public skepticism, Bush and Cheney continue to invent new lies and retell old ones, seemingly with the goal of at least keeping their gullible right-wing “base” behind the faux reality depicted on Fox News, the Rush Limbaugh radio show and other right-wing media outlets.
So, on April 5, Cheney showed no hesitancy in telling Limbaugh’s listeners both an old canard about how Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was in league with al-Qaeda terrorists and a new one about how a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq would “play right into the hands of al-Qaeda.”
Cheney surely knows that U.S. intelligence analysts have reached the opposite conclusions on both points – that there was no operational relationship between Hussein’s regime and al-Qaeda; that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was based in a section of northern Iraq outside Hussein’s control; and that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been a boon to al-Qaeda that the terrorist group wants to extend, not end.
As one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants, known as “Atiyah,” wrote two years ago, “prolonging the war is in our interest.” The letter, dated Dec. 11, 2005, and obtained by U.S. intelligence after Zarqawi’s death in June 2006, urged that Zarqawi’s jihadists in Iraq show patience and restraint in deepening their ties to Iraqi Sunni insurgents.
[To read the “prolonging the war” passage from the Atiyah letter at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, click here and then scroll down to the bottom of page 16 and the top of page 17.]
Other intelligence information has revealed that in 2004-05, al-Qaeda’s situation both in Iraq and along the Pakistani-Afghan border was precarious, with their hopes tied to a continuation of Bush’s blunderbuss strategies in order to deepen alienation between the Muslim world and the West. Al-Qaeda leaders feared that a rapid U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would cause many young recruits to put down their guns and go home. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Al-Qaeda’s Fragile Foothold.”]
In late October 2004, U.S. intelligence analysts concluded that bin Laden released a pre-election video with the intent of helping Bush gain a second term so his policies would continue. Bin Laden devoted most of his harangue to denouncing Bush in what looked like a Brer Rabbit ploy of “Don’t throw me in the briar patch” – when that was exactly where he wanted to go.
After bin Laden’s video dominated the news on the Friday before Election 2004, a meeting of senior CIA analysts began with deputy CIA director John McLaughlin observing that “bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President,” according to Ron Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine, which relies heavily on CIA insiders.
“Certainly,” CIA deputy associate director for intelligence Jami Miscik said, “he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years,” according to Suskind’s account of the meeting.
As their internal assessment sank in, the CIA analysts drifted into silence, troubled by the implications of their own conclusions. “An ocean of hard truths before them – such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected – remained untouched,” Suskind wrote.
If helping Bush was bin Laden’s intent, the strategy appeared to work. According to two last-minute polls, Bush moved from a virtual dead heat with Sen. John Kerry to about a five percentage point lead and hung on to win by an official margin of less than three points. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush Agrees Bin Laden Helped in ‘04”]
In April 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate, representing the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community, formalized some of the analysis about the benefit of the Iraq War to Islamic terrorism. The Iraq War had become a “cause celebre” that was “cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement,” the NIE said.
So, Cheney seems to have the intelligence upside down. The ones playing into al-Qaeda’s hands are those who favor an open-ended conflict in Iraq, not those who want to bring the war to a prompt conclusion.