We know about the web they weave, and how it came to be, but can it be unwoven?
Now that the honorable Joe Wilson has been thoroughly debunked by the 911 Commission, it possible to repair the damage he did to this nation? The famous sixteen words created such a furor, can we ever recover the proper emotional impact they were intended to convey?
I've said it before, about truth and its conveyance:
- It ain't necessarily so.
- Say it long enough and loud enough, and people will tend to believe.
Then all hell broke loose.
The Left made this statement the centerpiece of their objection to the war in Iraq, although the Bush administration had much more justification beyond the uranium issue — in fact, the assertion was only that Iraq had "sought" uranium, not that such a deal was ever concluded. And the Left's objection was that the CIA had reservations about the story. Not that the CIA knew the story to be false, only that they were skeptical. So, President Bush quoted the British government, who were more confident of their sources.
Why would the CIA and British Intelligence disagree? Well, for one, the United States had systematically gutted its human intelligence capabilities over a couple of decades. Stemming from the infamous Church Committee back in the post-Vietnam seventies, our government developed an irrational aversion to the nasty but necessary business of gathering reliable intelligence. More recently, we significantly cut CIA funding. Worse, we put restrictions on the sort of spies the CIA might recruit, thereby devastating our human intelligence capabilities.
The United Kingdom made no such foolish, self-flagellating moves. Their intelligence capabilities were undamaged by the idiotic self-loathing guilt of people like Senator Carl Levin and his ilk. So, we decided to use their intelligence rather than our own. Smart move by President Bush, but the sixteen words provided just the window the anti-war movement was looking for. It gave them another opportunity to claim, however falsely, "Bush lied!"
And Joe Wilson led the charge. He did his best to discredit President Bush in the most partisan, vile manner thinkable. And in the process he himself lied, more than once.
And the press followed him all the way, fanning the flames of anti-war and anti-American sentiment, whose effects echoed around the world and did untold damage to our efforts. How many lives were lost because of the anti-American rhetoric spewed by the likes of Joe Wilson, Carl Levin, Joe Biden, Terry McAuliffe, Jay Rockefeller, John Kerry, Michael Moore, Al Gore, and so many others?
I'll skip the details of Joe Wilson's campaign of dissembly, all covered elsewhere in immaculate detail.
The bottom line of the 911 Commission's finding is this: "We conclude also that the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that 'The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa' was well-founded."
Well-founded. All sixteen words, count 'em.
The Left put those sixteen words at the center of their case against the war. They asserted this statement was emotionally charged and designed to sway the American people to favour the war. Ignore the fact that justifications were manifold for a moment, just think of the anti-Americans' assertion here. The basis of this war was a lie. Had that lie been true, the war would be justified. After all, without actual stockpiles of WMD, we still had cause to take out Saddam Hussein because he was actively pursuing WMD. Uranium from west Africa, not black-eyed peas. So, the hate-America crowd did their level best to make these sixteen words seem a lie.
But the sixteen-word statement was not a lie. Saddam Hussein indeed attempted to obtain uranium from Niger, just as British Intelligence — even French Intelligence — had told us.
Now, turn the clock back to March 2003 and move forward in time. We have been told we are going to war because Saddam had weapons and was seeking more. We took three weeks and wiped out his army and his government. Then the anti-war forces spend the next year or so struggling to derail our efforts. How many of our troops, and Iraqi civilians died because we couldn't get more assistance, more support? Because the insurgents were encouraged by Americans who hate America?
John Kerry and John Edwards both voted against the $87 billion in war funding because 'we knew the policy had to be changed'. Because "Bush lied". Only President Bush didn't lie. And Kerry was wrong. Carl Levin was wrong. Ted Kennedy was wrong. Biden, McAuliffe, the New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, BBC — all wrong. Chirac was wrong. Europe was wrong. The Spanish electorate was wrong. Now the Philippines are wrong.
Can we ever undo the damage done by such malicious deceit? Will the press admit its mistake and tell the real story, on page one? Can we get a "do over"? A mulligan?
Will the American people wake up and realize they were indeed lied to — by the Democrats and their own home-town newspapers, not by President Bush?
We'll find out in November.