Is there some deadline approaching, after which Bush administration officials have to engage in honest debate? It seems as if there has been a rash of misleading, deceptive, and disingenuous remarks coming from on high in recent days. The gang at “Capital Games” has been working overtime to keep up with the truth-bending of the president, the vice president, the defense secretary, and the deputy defense secretary. (After all, we do have a book coming out in two weeks called The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception.) Here is–we fear–a partial report.
Let’s start with Dick Cheney. He appeared on Meet The Press and was asked by host Tim Russert if there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. He replied, “Of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack. But we’ve never been able to develop any more of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.” This was a deceptive answer. Shortly after 9/11, Czech intelligence officials did say they had a report from a source–a single source–that Atta had met with this Iraqi intelligence official in April 2001. Subsequent media reports in the United States noted that the source was an Arab student who was not considered particularly reliable. The FBI investigated and found nothing to substantiate the report of the meeting. In fact, the FBI concluded that Atta was most likely in Florida at the time of the supposed meeting, and the CIA questioned the existence of this meeting. (Even if there had been a meeting, one could not tell what it meant unless it was known what was said–and no one, not even Cheney, has claimed to know what might have transpired.)
Moreover, on October 21, 2002, The New York Times reported that Czech President Vaclav Havel “quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports” of the meeting. And it seemed that Atta had gone to Prague in June 2000, not April 2001. “Now,” the paper noted, “some Czech and German officials say that their best explanation of why Mr. Atta came to Prague was to get a cheap airfare to the United States.”
For some reason, Cheney did not share with the Meet the Press audience the information about Havel’s denial. Nor did he note that U.S. forces had nabbed this Iraqi intelligence official in July and that there has been no word–no leaks–about him confirming the supposed meeting. All in all, the case for the meeting is rather flimsy. But Cheney, as he did a year ago on the same show, pointed to this alleged meeting as a reason to suspect Hussein was in on the 9/11 attacks–which, if true, would justify the U.S. strike against Iraq. Waving the Atta-in-Prague story was an act of mendacious information manipulation, and Russert did not challenge Cheney on it.