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Where's the Accountability? | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Where's the Accountability?

Remember the outrage over Bill Clinton's dissembling about Monica? But where's the outrage on the right over this Administration's manipulation of intelligence regarding Iraq's WMD? (Factoid: Did you know that the investigation of what went wrong in the run-up to 9-11 is currently funded at $15 million, less than one-fourth of what the Republican-led Congress authorized for the Monica Lewinsky investigation?)

New York Times columnist William Safire, who lived in a constant state of outrage during the Clinton years, argues that anger over the Bush Administration's manipulations is overblown. But the evidence that a cabal of neocons misled America into war just keeps on coming. (On Friday, a declassified September report from the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that there was "no reliable information" that Iraq was producing new chemical weapons.)

The White House faces a mounting credibility gap of staggering scale. Newspapers around the globe are accusing the Administration of lying to the world. Tony Blair is facing fierce pressure at home over the issue. Analogies to Watergate are rife. Indeed, the celebrated question of that scandal is as relevant today as it was then: What did the President (and his key people) know and when did they know it?

As Malcolm Savidge, a Labour Party member of the British Parliament, told MSNBC's Brian Williams the other night: If the WMD allegations are true, "it would be a graver charge [than Watergate] and it really would fit into the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors which we in Britain used to have as a basis for impeachment and which, of course, you still have as a basis for impeachment."

Rumblings of impeachment are also being heard on our side of the Atlantic. John Dean--a man who knows something about political scandal--wrote an astonishing column published on CNN's website this past weekend:

"In the three decades since Watergate, this is the first potential scandal I have seen that could make Watergate pale by comparison...To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

Or listen to what Robert Byrd said on the Senate floor last Friday: "Could it be that the intelligence was wrong, or could it be that the facts were manipulated? These are very serious and grave questions, and they require immediate answers. We cannot--and must not--brush such questions aside. We owe the people of this country an answer. Every member of this body ought to be demanding answers."

As almost every major institution in America--from the New York Times, baseball (see Sammy Sosa), domestic diva Martha Stewart, to the Catholic Church--is held to some standard of accountability, shouldn't the Bush Administration be held accountable on the gravest of all charges--deceiving its citizens in order to lead them into war?

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