6 January 2004

A great country is being propelled by the wrong forces

SALON: There are two ways that those critical of the war have described the motivations behind it. One interpretation is completely mercenary: It's just about oil. But some of these people -- however much we may disagree with them -- are also motivated by ideals that are, as you put it, often religious in nature. That's what's confusing about it. The left is used to thinking that it has idealism on its side. These people have these ideals that may seem crackpot to us, but they believe they're going to change the world for the better.

LE CARRE: They do. That's what's really terrifying. In order to carry out their campaigns, they have to reduce the world to black and white. They have to arrogate to themselves the right to determine what is a bad state and what is a good state. They also arrogate to themselves not just the right to take preemptive action, but to take preventative action. There's a difference in international law. The effect is that the superpower can say, 'We don't like the look of that country. It has bad intentions, and we will attack it.' It doesn't have to say that the country is threatening us.

The attack on Iraq was planned, we now know, about three or four years before it took place. It was 9/11 that legitimized it. Through an extraordinary trick of public persuasion in which they were greatly assisted by the corporate media, the neoconservative ideologues persuaded the U.S. to a great extent -- one's told seven out of 10 people -- that somehow Saddam was mixed up in the destruction of the twin towers and the attack on the Pentagon. He wasn't. They admit they have no evidence of this. Anyone who's taken even one bus ride through the Middle East would surely know that between the secular Baathists of Iraq and the infuriated fundamentalists that follow Osama bin Laden there is no conceivable bond possible. The religious extremists loathed Saddam because Saddam and the Baath Party were secular and anti-clerical.

I've got a serious weakness for spy novels, and really I expected a review of Le Carr�'s new novel. Instead I got a review of a different kind of fiction. On 24 December the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board is reported to have found:

After reviewing the matter for several months, the intelligence board -- chaired by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft -- has determined that there was "no deliberate effort to fabricate" a story, the source said.

Instead, the source said, the board believes the White House was so eager "to grab onto something affirmative" about Hussein's nuclear ambitions that it disregarded warnings from the intelligence community that the claim was questionable.

The source said that at the time of the State of the Union speech, there was no organized system at the White House to vet intelligence, and the informal system that was followed did not work in the case of that speech. The White House has since established procedures for handling intelligence in presidential speeches by including a CIA officer in the speechwriting process.

The PFIAB finding was leaked on 24 December.

Lies can be defined in two ways. The world is not flat. If I say the world is flat, that statement is untrue. On one view my subjective belief is all that matters and my statement is not a lie. On another view my subjective belief is not sufficient to ground a defence against lying, and I'd need to establish that I arrived at my statement by some valid process.

When a president tells congress about Nigerien uranium, as part of a case for war, there is a clear duty to arrive at any conclusions about Nigerien uranium by some valid process. That did not happen.

John Dean has written:

To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

The Scowcroft defence might work for a private citizen. George Bush is not a private citizen.

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