Indpendent Inquiry Needed for Uranium-gate

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Mark Weisbrot
San-Diego Union Tribune, July 25, 2003
Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services - July 21, 2003
Daily Press
(Newport News, VA) - July 25, 2003
Wisconsin State Journal
(Madison, WI) - July 27, 2003
Idaho Sunday Statesman
(Boise, ID) - July 27, 2003
Sun Herald (Charlotte Harbor, FL) - July 27, 2003
Sunday Sun
(North Port, FL) - July 27, 2003
Honolulu Sunday Advertiser
- July 27, 2003
Wichita Eagle
-  July 29, 2003
Youngstown Vindicator
- July 29, 2003
Florida Times-Union
(Jacksonville, FL) - July 30, 2003
Kansas City Star
Birmingham News

Does it matter if a president and his administration lie and deceive the nation into waging a war on the other side of the world? A war in which American soldiers are still getting killed every week, nearly three months after victory was declared? We will soon find out.

The Republicans control both Houses of Congress, and therefore have the power to block hearings and an independent inquiry on these matters. The cynics in Washington say that is enough to make sure that any questions about how we got into this mess in Iraq will soon evaporate.

But Watergate was not built in a day, and the scandal that has erupted over those 16 words in President Bush's January State of the Union speech -- "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" -- is growing.

The evidence is overwhelming that the White House knew this allegation was not true. CIA director George Tenet personally intervened to keep Bush from saying the same thing in his October 7 speech in Cincinnati, nearly three months before the State of the Union message.

But those 16 words are just one brick in a wall of deception constructed before the invasion of Iraq. The White House claim last year that Iraq "could launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given" was also false. So, too, was President Bush's claim that Iraq was seeking aluminum tubes that would be "suitable for nuclear weapons production."

And despite President Bush's claim that "We found the weapons of mass destruction" upon the discovery of two trailers in Iraq in May, no such weapons have yet been found. The trailers appear to have been used for other purposes.

Another major justification for the war, Saddam Hussein's alleged links to Al-Qaeda, also appears now to be extremely doubtful.

This is not like President Clinton lying about having sex with a White House intern, for which he was impeached.

These lies and misrepresentations of fact are the foundation of the White House's argument that we had to wage war immediately against Iraq -- a country that not even its previously invaded neighbors, Iran and Kuwait, considered a serious threat. These falsehoods were deployed to intimidate Congress into authorizing the war, even when large majorities of a skeptical American public favored letting the UN inspections continue.

The cynics point out that this Administration has managed to dodge other potentially fatal scandals and blow-ups with relative ease. There was Enron and the slew of other corporate crimes that took place on their watch -- including malfeasance at Harken Energy Corporation and Halliburton, in which the President and the Vice-President were personally implicated.

But these scandals died for two reasons: first, because the Bush administration changed the channel (conveniently) to the war in Iraq, and second, because the Democrats let them drop. The President could certainly start another war, for example in North Korea. But there is currently no end in sight to the war in Iraq. Casualties are mounting, the costs are soaring, and the administration's credibility is withering daily. These conditions could make a "new product" difficult "from a marketing point of view," as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card described the selling of the Iraq war last year.

Republican cries of partisanship are beside the point. What is the purpose of a multi-party system, if not to have an opposition that can hold the party in power accountable when they lie and abuse their power on matters of life and death? If ever there was a time when the public needs to find out, "What did they know and when did they know it?", this is it.

Last week the Republican-controlled Senate voted 51-45 not to create an independent commission that would investigate some of the various justifications offered by the Bush administration for the war in Iraq.  When our Senators and members of Congress return home for recess next week, they need to hear many loud voices from their constituents. They need to know that they can't let this scandal get swept under the rug and still expect to be re-elected.


Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy