The blue dress of Baghdad

As David Kay's admission makes clear, the president misled Congress into approving his preemptive war. So why is there no talk of impeachment?

Topics: Iraq war,

Now, can we talk of impeachment? The rueful admission by former chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction or the means to create them at the time of the U.S. invasion confirms the fact that the Bush administration is complicit in arguably the greatest scandal in U.S. history. It’s only because the Republicans control both houses of Congress that we hear no calls for a broad-ranging investigation of the type that led to the discovery of Monica Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress.

In no previous instance of presidential malfeasance was so much at stake, both in preserving constitutional safeguards and national security. This egregious deception in leading us to war on phony intelligence overshadows those scandals based on greed, such as Teapot Dome during the Harding administration, or those aimed at political opponents, such as Watergate. And the White House continues to dig itself deeper into a hole by denying reality even as its lieutenants one by one find the courage to speak the truth.

A year after using his 2003 State of the Union address to paint Iraq’s allegedly vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction as a grave threat to the U.S. and the world, Bush spent this month’s State of the Union defending the war because “had we failed to act, the dictator’s weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day.” Bush said officials were still “seeking all the facts” about Iraq’s weapons programs but noted that weapons searchers had already identified “dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.”

Vice President Dick Cheney in interviews with USA Today and the Los Angeles Times echoed this fudging — last year’s “weapons” are now called “programs” — declaring that “the jury’s still out” on whether Iraq had WMD and, “I am a long way at this stage from concluding that somehow there was some fundamental flaw in our intelligence.”

Yet three days after the State of the Union address, Kay quit and then began telling the world what the administration had denied since taking over the White House: that Hussein’s regime was but a weak shadow of the military force it had been at the time of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, that he believed it had no significant chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs or stockpiles in place, and that the United Nations inspections and allied bombing in the ’90s had been more effective at eroding the remnants of these programs than critics had thought.

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“I’m personally convinced that there were not large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction,” Kay told the New York Times. “We don’t find the people, the documents or the physical plants that you would expect to find if the production was going on. I think they gradually reduced stockpiles throughout the 1990s. Somewhere in the mid-1990s the large chemical overhang of existing stockpiles was eliminated … The Iraqis say they believed that [the U.N. inspection program] was more effective [than U.S. analysts believed], and they didn’t want to get caught.”

The maddening aspect of all this is that we haven’t needed Kay to set the record straight. The administration’s systematic abuse of the facts, including the fraudulent link of Hussein to 9/11, has been obvious for two years. That’s why 23 former U.S. intelligence experts — including several who quit in disgust — have been willing to speak out in Robert Greenwald’s shocking documentary “Uncovered.” The story they tell is one of an administration that went to war for reasons that smack of empire building, then constructed a false reality to sell it to the American people. Is that not an impeachable offense?

After all, the president misled Congress into approving his preemptive war on the grounds that our very survival as a nation was threatened by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. We were told that if we hesitated, allowing the U.N. inspectors who were in Iraq to keep working, a mushroom cloud over New York, to use Condoleezza Rice’s imagery, might well be our dark reward.

Now that Kay — who, it should be remembered, once defended the war and dismissed the work of the U.N. inspectors — has had $900 million and at least 1,200 weapons inspectors to discover what many in the CIA and elsewhere had been telling us all along, are there to be no real repercussions for such devastating official deceit?

Robert Scheer is a syndicated columnist.

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