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Beating an Old Horse Named Tragedy: How the Sale of Tragedy led to Iraq

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Calling the findings of a new Pentagon Inspector General report on Pre Iraqi invasion intelligence a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities, Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, charged what many war opponents have held as truth-- intelligence used to justify an invasion of Iraq, was manipulated.

In response to the dramatic language Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia countered, saying he was "still trying to figure out why we're here" arguing that "we're beating this horse one more time" said Chambliss.

This coming from a man who whipped the same horse for his own political gain, back when he blasted decency from the Georgia Senate race in 2002. As you may recall, Chambliss ran television attack ads filled with suggestive simultaneous images of Saddam, Osama and his Democratic opponent, Max Cleland, a US war vet who lost limbs in Vietnam, but as a Senator, happened to be critical of Bush Administration policy.

Regardless, Chambliss' question is legitimate. What purpose does it serve for the Senate to beat this sore old horse one more time and study and air the findings of Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble?

The answer is simple.

The American people deserve to know if their trust was violated. What could be wrong with finding out whether arrogance and reckless cherry picking of key intelligence was used to sell fear, subsequent foreign policy and military action. Beating this horse once again might lead all Americans to some conclusive, probably painful, but necessary answers about how we arrived at our latest tragedy, Iraq.

The dots continue to be confirmed and connected.

Think back to a 2002 "CBS News" report by correspondent David Martin that reported just hours after the planes of 9/11 had struck New York and the Pentagon Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's began instructing aides to find links between Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

According to the cited notes taken by Don Rumsfeld's aides, the Defense Secretary said he wanted the "best information fast" that would "judge whether good enough to hit Saddam Hussein".

"Go massive" and "Sweep it all up. Things related and not" said Rumsfeld in the notes according to the CBS.

The new Gimble report shows how those instructions might have shot down the chain of command to then Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz. According to the report, Wolfowitz then instructed Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith to access links between Al Queda and Iraq.

The group went to work, digging for links.

According to the "Washington Post", in July 2002, the Feith led group then put together a position paper that was later transformed into a briefing.

But red flags were raised about the report/briefing's contents, accuracy and verifiability.

The CIA was warning that portions of the briefing were flawed, the most high profile nugget of information being the highly publicized story that there had been contacts between 9/11 hijacker-terrorist Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence agents.

Gimble said, when the Feith report was complete, the CIA called the 'Atta' part of the report "contradictory at best".

In fact, according to the "Los Angeles Times", Gimble's Inspection says analysts from the CIA and other agencies actually disagreed with "more than 50% of 26 findings the Feith Pentagon team laid out in its eventual position paper"

But the team forged ahead turning the requested information over to high-level members of the Bush Administration.

Armed with what now appears to have been flawed evidence, the stage was set for one of the most deceptive, misleading, spook based sales campaigns ever offered to a 9/11 tragedy soaked, traumatized and confused nation.

The Administration led a PR offensive intent on implying links between 9/11 and Iraq, a campaign that manifest itself in speeches, television appearances and press conferences.

From the 2001 "Meet the Press" Cheney quote where he said it was "pretty well confirmed" that Atta met with a senior Iraqi agent to his later assertion that "the Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with al Queda stretching back through most of the of the 90's" the Vice President was in sell mode.

And the President was close behind.

During a March 2003 prime time news conference President Bush himself mentioned September 11th eight times as he appeared to 'justify' Iraqi war plans with the American people. The President mentioned Saddam Hussein several more times than that, often in the same sentence that he spoke of September 11th. And, then there is a certain passage within the State of the Union speech, now flagged as flawed.

In what could be seen as one of the more exploitive moments in American history, the Republicans decided to co-opt tragedy for political gain and use the city where much of the events of 9/11 took place, as a vivid backdrop of tragedy, a shameless launching pad for what now appears as justification for why more tragedy was on the way.

Unfortunately, much of the press and doubtful politicians were neutered or intimidated, and in the end, the selling of tragedy was a smashing success, as much of a bruised nation bought flawed, un-tested merchandise. This is a sale that eventually led to the violent quandary that has now cost thousands of American lives, thousands more innocent Iraqis, taxed our defense forces, cost billions of dollars and divided our own people.

So, as Americans hear and read subtle suggestion of justification for future conflict, how critical should we be of rhetoric coming from tragedy and fear salespeople, politicians like the Senator from Georgia who now complains of beating horses?

Keep in mind, that in November 2001, Georgia's Saxby Chambliss once told emergency responders in Valdosta Georgia that the sheriff "should arrest every Muslim that crosses the state line."
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Cody Lyon is an Alabama native who is a freelance writer in New York City.
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