The lie of the land

January 15, 2007 by barbara

Stunning! Just like that, the world is transformed. Well, southern Minnesota, anyway. We woke up this morning to more than half a foot of pristine, fluffy snow on treetops, roofs and roads. It covers up a winter's worth of drab and dreary brownness. From the cozy comfort of my office, it's simply beautiful. But as I read about slick highways, multiple accidents, snapped trees and power outages related to this big Midwestern storm, it occurs to me this is an apt metaphor for the Bush administration's way of dealing with almost everything. You say there is no snow in Alabama? You're just not paying attention.

Where to begin? Smirking Chimp has an excellent post by David Swanson, who on Friday was attending the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis. He opened by saying, "I'd like to request that nobody shout during this event, and I'll tell you why. I watched Bush's speech with some people who thought it would be a good idea to take a sip of liquor every time he told a lie. Three days later my head is aching."

What follows is a portion of Swanson's piece. He outlines what he wished he'd heard on radio and TV after Bush's and Dick Durbin's speeches:

Earlier this evening we aired a speech by President George W. Bush that may have left you with some false impressions. We need to correct these matters of fact.

The President's speech did not mention WMDs or Saddam Hussein or attempt to explain why we are occupying the nation of Iraq or what it would mean for that occupation to "win" or "lose." This may have left you with the impression that no justification is required by law to forcibly occupy someone else's country and kill a significant portion of their population. That is not the case.

The President made no reference to the permanent military bases he is illegally constructing in Iraq. This may have left you with the impression that he plans to leave Iraq some day. (')

Bush began his speech by connecting Iraq to 9-11. In fact, Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. We apologize to the millions who have lost loved ones because of this lie. When Bush said that al Qaeda was "still" active in Iraq, he failed to add that it had only become active in Iraq as a result of his invasion and occupation of that nation.

Bush said that he would see that the people of Iraq profit from its oil. This statement bears no relationship to actual U.S. policy, and Bush has no legal right to decide what happens to another nation's resources.

Bush suggested that most Iraqis want the occupation to continue. This is false.

Bush suggested that occupying Iraq was making Americans safer. His own intelligence analysts disagree.

Bush implied that he can escalate wars at his own discretion. In fact, Congress can prevent him from doing so if it chooses to. (...)

What was new in the speech was a threat to Iran and Syria. (')

Bush said not one word about all of the Iraqi blood he has spilled. Approximately 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the United States' invasion and occupation of Iraq, thus far. And the death rate is increasing, not diminishing. Here is video showing many of the people killed and injured in this war and their family members'.

This morning, LeftyMN sent a piece from the McClatchy Washington Bureau. Yes, the same McClatchy that flushed our Star Tribune down the loo, but that's a different story for another time. The story begins this way:

"President Bush and his aides, explaining their reasons for sending more American troops to Iraq, are offering an incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events there that raises new questions about the accuracy of the administration's statements about Iraq."

(In his speech on Wednesday, Bush said that in 2006) "the violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad - overwhelmed the political gains Iraqis had made. Al-Qaida terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's election posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis.

"They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra - in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate," Bush said. "Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today."

That version of events helps to justify Bush's "new way forward" in Iraq, in which U.S. forces will largely target Sunni insurgents and leave it to Iraq's U.S.-backed Shiite government to - perhaps - disarm its allies in Shiite militias and death squads.

But the president's account understates by at least 15 months when Shiite death squads began targeting Sunni politicians and clerics. It also ignores the role that Iranian-backed Shiite groups had in death squad activities prior to the Samarra bombing.
Blaming the start of sectarian violence in Iraq on the Golden Dome bombing risks policy errors because it underestimates the depth of sectarian hatred in Iraq and overlooks the conflict's root causes. The Bush account also fails to acknowledge that Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite groups stoked the conflict. (...)

U.S. diplomats, reporters and military and intelligence officers began reporting that Shiite death squads were targeting Sunni clerics and former officials of Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime at least 15 months before the Samarra bombing.

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell urged a U.S. offensive against radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in 2004. But he was overruled by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, then-defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. They argued against fighting a two-front war against Sunni insurgents and Shiite militants.

The McClatchy story picks up on Condoleeza Rice's spin, perpetuating the Samarra and al-Qaeda mythology:

"The president has talked repeatedly now about the changed circumstances that we faced after the Samarra bombing of February "06, because that bombing did in fact change the character of the conflict in Iraq," Rice said. "Before that, we were fighting al-Qaida; before that, we were fighting some insurgents, some Saddamists."

She cited the version again in an appearance later that day before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "This is a direct result of al-Qaida activity," she said, asking House members not to consider Iraq's sectarian violence as evidence that Iraqis cannot live together.

Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley used the same version of events in an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Much like the administration's pre-war claims about Saddam's alleged ties to al-Qaida and purported nuclear weapons program, the claims about the bombing of the Shiite mosque in Samarra ignore inconvenient facts and highlight questionable but politically useful assumptions.

I am reminded of the bumper sticker that reads: "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

It's gorgeous here today. Of course, at some point, the snow will melt, revealing the true landscape. Metaphorically, we're up to our eyeballs and beyond in the faux blanket of snow-job piled on by this administration.

Sometimes you can't see the snowflakes for the blizzard.

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gtnbfghn (not verified) | June 6, 2007 - 6:44am

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