Updated: Feb. 20, 2013
Grady Carter·Feb 18, 2013
As seen on MSNBC, Hosted by Rachel Maddow, based on the book Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, by David Corn and Michael Isikoff.
We must not allow the perpetrators of the Iraq War to rewrite history. Their actions and the consequences of their actions must be remembered in infamy. We must not forget the sacrifice of our soldiers, and the lives of over one hundred thousand innocent civilians.
The same insidious corporatist forces in the private sector, and within the Congress and the Senate, now have found the nerve to blame our current President for the 3 Trillion in war profiteering they kept off the books when they were in charge. They defend the Pentagon’s budget with the Flag and the Bible, and insist that Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Food Stamps, and other social programs for the poor must be cut. They say if the Pentagon’s budget must be cut it will have to be from our soldiers’ benefits. […]
Hubris Isn’t the Half of It
As our government was making a fraudulent case to attack Iraq in 2002-2003, the MSNBC television network was doing everything it could to help, including booting Phil Donahue and Jeff Cohen off the air. The Donahue Show was deemed likely to be insufficiently war-boosting and was thus removed 10 years ago next week, and 10 days after the largest antiwar (or anything else) demonstrations in the history of the world, as a preemptive strike against the voices of honest peaceful people.
From there, MSNBC proceeded to support the war with mild critiques around the edges, and to white-out the idea of impeachment or accountability.
But now MSNBC has seen its way clear to airing a documentary about the fraudulent case it assisted in, a documentary titled Hubris. This short film (which aired between 9 and 10 p.m. ET Monday night, but with roughly half of those minutes occupied by commercials) pointed out the role of the New York Times in defrauding the public, but not MSNBC’s role.
Yet, my primary response to that is joy rather than disgust. It is now cool to acknowledge war lies. Truth-tellers, including truth-tellers rarely presented with a corporate microphone, made that happen.
MSNBC host and Obama promoter Rachel Maddow even introduced Hubris by pointing to another war lie — the Gulf of Tonkin incident that wasn’t — and a war lie by a Democrat in that case. Similar lies can be found surrounding every war that has ever been, which is why I wrote War Is A Lie. We have to stop imagining that “bad wars” are a subset of wars.
But, of course, using Maddow as the presenter and narrator of a film about Republican war lies during a period of unacknowledged Democratic war lies unavoidably gives the thing a partisan slant. Watching Hubris, I was reminded of something that Michael Moore tweeted last Friday: “Senate Repubs: U started 2 illegal wars that broke the treasury & sacrificed the lives of thousands of our troops & countless civilians.”
Of course, the Senate that gave us the two wars in question was in reality controlled by Democrats, and the war lies were pushed hard by Senators Kerry, Clinton, and their comrades. Hubris touches on this reality but not with sufficient clarity for most viewers — I suspect — to pick up on it.
The film presents a great deal of good evidence that the war on Iraq was based on lies. Unavoidably, endless terrific bits of such evidence were not included. Less excusably, also left out was an analysis of the evidence that only dishonesty — not incompetence — explains the propaganda that was produced.
Hubris is the wrong word for what took the United States into war with Iraq. The forces at work were greed, lust for power, and sadistic vengeance. The word “hubris” suggests the tragic downfall of the guilty party. But the war on Iraq did not destroy the United States; it destroyed Iraq. It damaged the United States, to be sure, but in a manner hardly worthy of mention in comparison to the sociocide committed against Iraq.
Hubris, the film, provides a reprehensibly ludicrous underestimation of Iraqi deaths, and only after listing U.S. casualties.
It was not pride but a disregard for human life that generated mass murder. Congressman Walter Jones, who voted for the war, is shown in Hubris saying that he would have voted No if he had bothered to read the National Intelligence Estimate that very few of his colleagues bothered to read.
Another talking head in the film is Lawrence Wilkerson. He is, of course, the former chief of staff of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is shown explaining that the reason not to attack Iraq was that doing so would take a focus away from attacking Afghanistan. Clearly this was not a reason that led to Wilkerson or Powell taking any kind of stand.
Wilkerson says in this film that he and Powell knew the war was based on lies, that the claims were junk, that no WMDs were likely to be found, etc. Yet, when confronted last week by Norman Solomon on Democracy Now! with the question of why he hadn’t resigned in protest, Wilkerson claimed that at the time he’d had no idea whatsoever that there were good arguments against the war. In fact, he blamed opponents of the war for not having contacted him to educate him on the matter.
The Hubris version of Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations is misleadingly undertold. Powell was not a victim. He “knowingly lied.”
The same goes for Bush, Cheney, and gang. According to Hubris it may have just been incompetence or hubris. It wasn’t. Not only does overwhelming evidence show us that Bush knew his claims about WMDs to be false, but the former president has shown us that he considers the question of truth or falsehood to be laughably irrelevant. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush why he had claimed with such certainty that there were so many weapons in Iraq, he replied: “What’s the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger.”
What’s the difference? In a society based on the rule of law, the difference would be a criminal prosecution. MSNBC and Hubris steer us away from any ideas of accountability. And no connection is drawn to current war lies about Iran or other nations.
But the production of programs like this one that prolong Americans’ awareness of the lies that destroyed Iraq are the best hope Iran has right now. MSNBC should be contacted and applauded for airing this and urged to follow up on it.
Lawrence Wilkerson and David Swanson Debate Colin Powell’s Lies at the United Nations
When I wrote about MSNBC’s documentary on Iraq war lies this week, I linked to an earlier blog post of mine that drew heavily on a House Judiciary Committee report on the same topic, as well as to Lawrence Wilkerson’s recent debate with Norman Solomon on Democracy Now!
When Brad Friedman reposted my Hubris review, he suggested I ask Wilkerson for a response. I did and here it is:
Several misleading and even spurious bullets and headlines that make strong claims that are not supported in the surrounding narrative. For example, no one ever DID warn Powell about Curveball, in fact quite the opposite. This particular source–billed as an Iraqi engineer who had defected–was George Tenet’s–the DCI’s–strongest weapon. And incidentally, the title “Curveball” was never heard until well after the 5 Feb presentation.
Your use of INR’s assessment of “weak” repeatedly, is weak itself. INR was at the time one of 15 intelligence entities in the US intelligence architecture at the federal level. (Add Israel France, the UK, Jordan, Germany, et al, and of course you get even more). INR’s assessments were often viewed–indeed still are–as maverick within that group (and were particularly so viewed by George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin. Indeed, INR’s insistence on putting a footnote in the October 2002 NIE with regard to its doubts about Saddam’s having an active nuclear weapons program was only grudgingly acknowledged and allowed by Tenet. And in truth, INR itself concurred in the overall NIE’s finding that chems and bios existed (and the NIE was the root document of Powell’s 5 Feb presentation).
I have admitted what a hoax we perpetrated. But it actually spoils or desecrates a fair condemnation of what is already a bad enough set of misstatements, very poor intelligence analysis, and–I am increasingly convinced, outright lies–to take the matter to absurdity with one man, in this case Powell.
To see my point dramatically, one must realize that whether Powell had given his presentation or not, the President would have gone to war with Iraq. That doesn’t relieve Powell or me or any of us who participated in preparing Powell of responsibility; it simply places the bulk of that responsibility squarely where it should rest.
You, Ray McGovern, and I will never reach accord on this I’m certain; but I must say that just as I may have biases from my long association with Powell, I believe both of you should examine your biases with regard to the man. Just as it was very difficult for me to face the fact I had participated in a hoax, it probably is just as difficult that you two admit you may be too aggressively critical of Powell. Both our conditions are recognizably human and yours more forgiveable than mine to be sure. lw
Here’s my reply:
Thanks for this response.
I’m CCing Brad Blog which posted my commentary and might want to post your reply.
Here’s my reply to your reply (also available to publish) :-)Whether or not anyone told Powell of Curveball’s reputation, Powell’s own staff, the INR, told him the claims were weak, the claims that came from Curveball and from numerous other sources. The INR told him the claims were weak and questionable and even implausible.
Powell used fabricated dialogue. He used evidence from a source who had admitted all the weapons had been destroyed years ago, but failed to mention that bit. Again, here is the catalog of bogus claims: http://www.consortiumnews.com/2011/021811a.html
You yourself in Hubris state that claims you’d rejected were put back in. That is a moment to resign in protest, not to move forward and dismiss the INR, the State Department’s own experts, as “maverick.”
When the Pentagon and the White House build a transparently fraudulent case for war, rejected by countless experts, many nations, and much of the public, the State Department’s job is to support fact-based analysis regardless of whether it is “maverick.”
You recently accused Norman Solomon on DemocracyNow! and all other truth tellers of that time of having failed to warn you — as if we weren’t shouting into every available microphone. If word had slipped through to you, it seems you would have rejected it as “maverick.”
This is highly discouraging. If analysis within our government consciously engages in groupthink, where will we find the whistleblowers necessary to prevent the next war?
Please do not imagine that any of us suppose the President wasn’t intent on going to war at all costs. It was the transparency of that intention that created the largest public protest in world history. But to suggest that Powell and you did no harm by supporting a war that might have gone ahead even if you’d resisted is a complete breakdown in morality.
I don’t believe blame works that way. Blaming Bush more doesn’t blame Powell or you less. It just blames Bush more. Blame is not a finite quantity born of a drive for vengeance and distributable to a limited number of people. Blame is what we each deserve when we fail to take the best actions available, as explained here.
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