American politics experienced a kind of harmonic convergence of bullshit at the end of the second week of November, as we were treated, during a twenty-four-hour period, to the following:
§ George W. Bush, speaking to a military audience on Veterans Day, announced that those who suggest the Administration “manipulated the intelligence” are “fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community’s judgments.”
§ Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the crowd: “There is no communal strife in Iraq”; “95 percent of the corruption in the [oil] contracts…has been eliminated”; and “the Iraqi people…have achieved freedom.”
§ On Larry King Live former New York Times reporter Judy Miller termed Chalabi “very straightforward” in the information he gave her and added, “My conscience is clear, and I guess I wouldn’t change much.”
§ Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told Charlie Rose that “morale is just great” at his paper and called the Miller affair “a rather small-bore issue in the big scheme of things.”
OK, so it’s not exactly a surprise that our President is an almost comically brazen liar. He would know, if he cared to, that the commission to which he refers was specifically enjoined from examining the question of whether he, Cheney and his advisers manipulated the intelligence they passed on to Congress and the American people. (As commission co-chair Laurence Silberman explained, “Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policy-makers, and all of us were agreed that was not part of our inquiry.”) And he may also be aware that Dick Cheney and (Irv) Scooter Libby, as Murray Waas reported in National Journal, specifically refused to provide information to Congress about how they used prewar intelligence. Indeed, it’s hardly controversial to say “Bush” and “liar” together anywhere but in the mainstream media. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 57 percent of respondents said Bush deliberately misled the country into war, and barely a third said they consider him “honest and straightforward.”
Chalabi, too, is known to be a distant stranger to the truth. A convicted embezzler in Jordan and accused spy for Iran, he helped mastermind the campaign of deception necessary to fool America into this disastrous war with the help of Bush’s neocon advisers as well as then-Times reporter Judith Miller. (According to an angry e-mail Miller sent to her more conscientious colleague, Baghdad bureau chief John Burns, Chalabi had “provided most of the front page exclusives on WMD to our paper.”)
Miller does appear to have changed her mind ever so slightly. Not long after the Times issued its famously incomplete WMD Editor’s Note, she gave an interview in which she remained, in author James Moore’s words, “righteously indignant,” telling him: “I was proved fucking right” in her WMD reporting. Today she admits those stories might have been the teensiest bit incorrect, but she cannot see why anyone would blame her or how any reporter could possibly have avoided it.