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Sunday | July 13, 2003

Why lies matter

By Steve Gilliard

Maureen Dowd cuts through the crap and nails Bush hard

The president and Condi Rice can shuffle the shells and blame George Tenet, but it smells of mendacity.

Mr. Clinton indulged in casuistry to hide personal weakness. The Bush team indulges in casuistry to perpetuate its image of political steel

Dissembling over peccadillos is pathetic. Dissembling over pre-emptive strikes is pathological, given over 200 Americans dead and 1,000 wounded in Iraq, and untold numbers of dead Iraqis. Our troops are in "a shooting gallery," as Teddy Kennedy put it, and our spy agencies warn that we are on the cusp of a new round of attacks by Saddam snipers.

This is what it comes down to. It is not just lies, but lies which have gotten people killed and injured. Bush can dissemble all he wants. He can [ass the buck all he wants. But Condi Rice and George Tenet do not have the power to wage war. Congress relies on the President to provide an honest and accurate assement of national security issues. It is a basic and fundamental duty of the office.

And it gets better.

Straw's letter reveals:

That evidence given to the CIA by the former US ambassador to Gabon, Joseph Wilson - that Niger officials had denied any link - was never shared with the British.

That Foreign Office officials were left to read reports of Wilson's findings in the press only days before they were raised as part of the committee's inquiry into the war.

That when the CIA, having seen a draft of the September dossier on Iraq's WMD, demanded that the Niger claim be removed, it was ignored because the agency did not back it up with 'any explanation'.

Although publicly the two governments are trying to maintain a united front, the admission two days ago by the head of the CIA, George Tenet, that President Bush should never have made the claim about the Niger connection to Iraq, has left British officials exposed.

Last night, Downing Street and Foreign Office sources said that 'they would not blink' over the Niger claims. One Downing Street figure said that they were based on intelligence from a third country that was reliable. 'We are not backing down,' he said.

Another official said that the claim was based on the 'intelligence assessment' made at the time, leaving the door open to a climbdown if the intelligence is found to be wrong.

The fingerpointing is going on at full speed and now Hans Blix jumps in the mix for fun:

Tony Blair made "a fundamental mistake" in claiming that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, says Hans Blix, former head of the United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq.

Asked whether he thought the Prime Minister was wrong about the "45-minute" claim, made in the Government's WMD dossier last September and repeated by the Prime Minister when he presented the document in the House of Commons, Dr Blix told The Independent on Sunday: "I think that was a fundamental mistake. I don't know exactly how they calculated this figure of 45 minutes in the dossier of September last year. That seems pretty far off the mark to me."

Why does this matter?

'The Prime Minister lied to our country and made the wrong decision, and it cost lives'

Private Andrew Kelly, 18. 3rd Batallion Parachute Regiment.

Died from gunshot wounds from the accidental discharge of a weapon in barracks near Basra on 6 May

"I am only an ordinary person but I think there is something seriously wrong with the people who lead our country," said Rob Kelly, a veteran of the Falklands conflict who has been left with a dead son and a lot of angry questions. He believes Mr Blair should be held accountable and made to resign.

"Losing my son has brought it home to me. Andrew is no longer with me and the man responsible for putting him in the firing line was the Prime Minister. It wasn't the Army."

Andrew was sent to Iraq aged 18 years and one day - the youngest age a British soldier can fight abroad. Less than eight weeks later the paratrooper became the youngest Briton to die in Iraq.

Posted July 13, 2003 12:53 AM





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