Blood and lies

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

The progression of the obvious truth — about the war in Iraq in particular and the Bush administration in general — has been agonizingly slow to watch, but glory be, the truth started surging last week and by now seems to have reached much of the general public.

Suddenly reporters are prowling the heartland, chronicling the ambiguity in Red America: “I don’t even know why we’re over there now,” a carpenter in St. Louis told a Chicago Tribune reporter, “and I don’t think anyone has an answer.”

With the Downing Street Memo leaking into the general awareness, informing us that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” back in 2002, the war’s beginning has been rendered, in the words of Mark Danner, writing in the New York Review of Books, “as murky and indistinct as its ending.” The truth is that the occupation of Iraq is floating on a river of blood and lies.

“Please hold someone accountable.”

This was the plaintive cry of Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed just over a year ago in Sadr City. Her testimony was one of the highlights of a hearing convened on Thursday, June 16, by U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to look into the implications of the infamous memo.

The hearing had to be held in a closet-sized room in the Capitol basement because House Republicans, in an act of raw partisanship, denied Conyers, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, use of any of the larger and more appropriate rooms that were available. Guess this was meant to humiliate the speakers, including the grieving Sheehan, and shut them up. It didn’t work. The truth is finding its way out.

The memo, said Sheehan, “confirms what I already suspected. The leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry-picked intelligence.”

Even the edifice of Republican support for the war is beginning to crumble. On the same day as the Conyers hearing, Walter Jones, the conservative Republican from North Carolina — the very same Walter Jones who two years ago demanded that the House cafeteria begin selling “freedom fries,” as a snub to the antiwar French — joined liberal Democrats at a press conference to announce a bipartisan resolution calling on Bush to set a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

The nation is losing its heart to fight a war that is making no one safer and, as it turns out, was badly planned except in terms of the campaign of deceit aimed at the American public. That campaign was conducted ruthlessly. Now only the media continue to buy it.

As though in defense of their own bad reporting all along, Big Media have played the role of schoolyard bullies to anyone daring to raise obvious questions about the war. Thus the only coverage the Washington Post bothered to give the Conyers hearing was Dana Milbank’s smug hatchet job: “They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room . . . .”

The fact that public support for the war in Iraq has plummeted to 37 percent as the Bush agenda continues to get kid-glove treatment in the media is remarkable, and a testament to the power of the truth — and to the mainstream media’s increasing irrelevance. The public is hearing people like Conyers and Sheehan in spite of the media.

As more and more Americans — and Iraqis — continue to die, as the war increasingly looms as criminal folly, the Bush administration will eventually lose its mandate with the Fourth Estate. Then maybe we’ll start hearing about the true cost of this debacle and, even more importantly, witness the questioning of the vision that launched it: that is, the vision of American empire.

Long before there was the Downing Street Memo, there was the Project for a New American Century, the neocon think tank (now the heart of the Bush administration) that began stumping for the invasion of Iraq in the late ’90s, as part of its vision of U.S. domination of the world. Theirs was a vision that flaunted the principles of international cooperation and would turn the United States into the largest and most heavily armed rogue state the world has ever known.

The report in which all this is laid out, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century,” released in September 2000, a year before 9/11, contains the shocking acknowledgement that none of its agenda is likely to come to pass “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.”

They got their wish and made the worst of it. Please hold someone accountable.