Joe Lieberman's dishonesty: The Iraq tragedy in a nutshell

The complete lack of judgment and integrity driving Joe Lieberman explains much about our current national predicament.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published February 26, 2007 12:46PM (EST)

When historians endeavor to understand how America embarked on this dark and disastrous period in our history -- how we not only collectively made our worst strategic mistake by invading Iraq on multiple false pretenses, but also proceeded to re-elect the President who did that and long embraced the obvious delusion that the chaotic occupation was going well -- they can begin with this Op-Ed in this morning's Wall St. Journal by Joe Lieberman. The Op-Ed is an act of dishonesty and corruption as audacious and disgraceful as one can find.

Lieberman has stood up today to assure us that we now have a great, brand new strategy in Iraq, that the fundamental problems with our prior tactics have been fixed, and that it is therefore our duty as Americans (still) to keep our mouths shut and be led to Victory:

And a new strategy is being put into action, with thousands of additional American soldiers streaming into the Iraqi capital. . . .

If we stopped the legislative maneuvering and looked to Baghdad, we would see what the new security strategy actually entails and how dramatically it differs from previous efforts. For the first time in the Iraqi capital, the focus of the U.S. military is not just training indigenous forces or chasing down insurgents, but ensuring basic security--meaning an end, at last, to the large-scale sectarian slaughter and ethnic cleansing that has paralyzed Iraq for the past year.

The new strategy at last begins to tackle these problems. Where previously there weren't enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias, now more U.S. and Iraqi forces are either in place or on the way. Where previously American forces were based on the outskirts of Baghdad, unable to help secure the city, now they are living and working side-by-side with their Iraqi counterparts on small bases being set up throughout the capital. . . .

But the fact is that we are in a different place in Iraq today from even just a month ago--with a new strategy, a new commander, and more troops on the ground. . . .

I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to step back and think carefully about what to do next. Instead of undermining Gen. Petraeus before he has been in Iraq for even a month, let us give him and his troops the time and support they need to succeed.

This is rank deceit of the lowest order. Lieberman wrote almost exactly the same Op-Ed, on the same Wall St. Journal page, more than a year ago. Whereas today he is pretending that the problem has been one of insufficient troop strength and a lack of a coherent military strategy, he said exactly the opposite in his November, 2005 Op-Ed. Back then, he assured Americans that we did have an effective strategy for preserving order and also had a sufficient military force, and not only that, he insisted that we were succeeding in our mission to bring security to Baghdad and that conditions in Iraq were rapidly improving:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the last 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn. . . .

The leaders of America's military and diplomatic forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey and Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, have a clear vision of our mission there. It is to create the environment in which Iraqi democracy, security, and prosperity can take hold and the Iraqis themselves can defend their political progress against those ten thousand terrorists who would take it from them.

Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. . . Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground in Iraq. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold, and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

Today, Lieberman said that the U.S. is focused on preserving security "[f]or the first time in the Iraqi capital" and that "previously there weren't enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias." But in 2005, Lieberman assured Americans that he had just returned from Iraq and that "the administration's recent use of the banner 'clear, hold, and build' accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week."

So whereas Lieberman is claiming now that everything is different today because we had no real strategy before for ensuring security, it was Lieberman himself who promised Americans in 2005 that we did have exactly such a strategy and that it was working so well that "we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007."

Just compare these two statements:

Joe Lieberman, today: "previously there weren't enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias."

Joe Lieberman, 2005: "The administration's recent use of the banner 'clear, hold, and build' accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week."

How can Joe Lieberman claim today that we previously lacked sufficient troop strength to hold neighborhoods after they were cleared, when he insisted a year ago that we were holding neighborhoods -- he saw it himself -- and that we were therefore on the verge of success?

On what conceivable basis is Joe Lieberman accorded even the most minimal respect or credibility? He is obviously a person who will say anything at any time in order to defend this war, and, now that everything he said in the past is revealed to be completely false, he does not have even an iota of integrity or honesty to admit any of that. Instead, he stands up and pretends that he never said any of those things -- he actually pretends that he knew all along that our military strategy was wrong -- and simply makes the same promises and commitments as he has been making all along with a sense of entitlement that he has credibility on these matters and should be listened to.

Many Americans believed before that we did have an effective strategy designed to preserve security in Iraq and that this strategy was working because people like Joe Lieberman assured them that this was true. Yet now he is claiming that everything has changed in Iraq because, for the first time, we have a strategy for preserving security. The logical conclusion from assembling his own statements is that the assurances he gave in the past were simple lies.

It's one thing for people like Joe Lieberman to have spent almost a full year prior to the invasion spewing one falsehood after the next about the state of Iraq's military capabilities, its relationship to Al-Qaeda, and the likely effects of our invasion. But the absolute deceit of the American people by the Joe Liebermans in this country extends -- in both duration and substance -- far beyond merely those pre-war claims.

George Bush was re-elected, and Americans tolerated the occupation of Iraq long after it was clear that things had gone terribly awry, because the Joe Liebermans in our country continuously lied about what was taking place there, falsely assuring Americans that things were going well, that we were on the precipice of success, that the press accounts of the violence and chaos there were fiction and were merely the by-product of a politically biased media seeking to embarrass the President by concealing the great progress we were making -- progress which Lieberman insisted he witnessed himself during his visit.

Worse still, people like Joe Lieberman attempted -- and are still attempting -- to bully and stigmatize those who were trying to alert Americans of the reality of what was going on in Iraq by depicting anyone who challenges the rosy-eyed deceit of the President and Lieberman as the ones who actually bear responsibility for the failures in Iraq, even as subversive and traitorous.

Most despicably, and most destructively, Bush followers like Lieberman and Bill Kristol have actually been insisting that Americans have a duty to allow them to spew their lies about Iraq without challenge. That's what Lieberman means when he demands that Congress "put the brakes on" criticisms of the war and that "instead of undermining Gen. Petraeus before he has been in Iraq for even a month, let us give him and his troops the time and support they need to succeed." It is what he has always meant when he preached to Americans that "in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." It's the same thing Bill Kristol means when he instructs Americans to remain "quiet for six or nine months," and it is what Dick Cheney has always meant when he continuously claims that criticisms of the war undermine America and help the Enemy.

The demands that Americans refrain from criticism of the war and the Leader have nothing to do with trying to create unity so that troop morale remains high. What they really want is the ability to continue to lie to Americans about Iraq without being challenged.

The reason our mission in Iraq has proven to be so disastrous and corrupt is very simple -- the advocates and architects of that war are completely corrupt, inept, and deceitful. Recognizing this fact and ceasing to accord people like this respect and credibility is infinitely more important than any specific debates over particular policy or strategic questions. Everywhere Joe Lieberman goes, he should be asked by journalists why anyone should listen to anything he says, or believe anything he says, in light of his history of deceitful statements and tragically wrong assertions, beginning with his 2005 Op-Ed which today he completely repudiates while pretending he never said any of it.

These are people who are completely bereft of judgment and integrity, and their behavior has wreaked incalculable and arguably unprecedented damage on our country. Holding them accountable, and recognizing them for what they are, is critical not only for cleansing our deeply poisoned political system, but also for averting identical, or worse, tragedies in the very near future.

Glenn Greenwald

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