The History of Rewriting History

The president unquestionably rushed the nation into war on the premise that a delay might result in mushroom clouds

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: November 14, 2005

The History of Rewriting History

Bishop Diego de Landa - the 16th century book burner at Mani in Yucatan, Mexico would be proud of President Bush. The president told veterans last week that while dissent is allowable, that it is ?deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the Iraq war began.?

Mind-boggling for this president to speak of rewriting history. More than a debate over the rewriting of history, it once again appears to be a debate over the meaning of words. Yet, regardless of how the words are parsed, the president unquestionably rushed the nation into war on the premise that a delay might result in mushroom clouds.

In his own defense [of total incompetence], the president is making the claim that the Democrats were also complicit in the war and that they also had access to the same [faulty] intelligence as he. He also is claiming that virtually the whole world's intelligence services also had drawn the same conclusions [that Iraq had WMDs] as the CIA. And finally, he continues to insist that Iraq posed a threat to the United States and that the UN gave lawful approval for the invasion.

The president is right on the first point. The Democratic leadership for the most part has been complicit in the war, but it is not they who created the intelligence or initiated the war. The president, on the other hand, claims that his administration has been exonerated of manipulating the intelligence. His counterterrorism official at the time, Richard Clarke, says that the president wanted to fix blame on Iraq immediately after 911 - even when it was clear that it was the work of Osama Bin Laden. Additionally, the Downing Street memos are clear that the intelligence would be fixed around the president's desire for war.

It is clear that the misstatements continue. The president has not been exonerated. Phase two of the Senate investigation, which is charged with investigating whether the administration manipulated the pre-war intelligence, has not even commenced. However, it is true that in the 1990s, many intelligence agencies around the world purportedly believed that Iraq might be reconstituting its WMD programs. However, in 2001, Colin Powell [U.S. State Department] had already concluded that Iraq no longer had that capability. Beyond that, UN inspectors - providing the most up-to-date intelligence - had not found any evidence of WMDs immediately before the U.S. invasion. To be certain, they asked for more time, yet the president flatly refused.

The notion that the war was sanctioned by the UN is at best, creative fiction. An argument can be made that the U.S. Senate [on the basis of false intelligence] gave the president the authority to wage war. However, the same cannot be said of the UN.

The UN was overwhelmingly in opposition to the invasion. What the president's allies allude to is the debate within the 15-member UN Security Council. Yet even this body did not give the United States that authority. What the administration has done (then and now) is resort to the selective use of prior presidential findings, prior Congressional and prior UN resolutions, plus discredited intelligence and old and irrelevant sins of Hussein - to claim that the president had the lawful authority to wage war against Iraq. The president can make that [convoluted] argument. But neither he, nor his administration [Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice or Wolfowitz] can claim that after Powell presented at the UN, that the UN took a vote and expressly gave the United States the authority to invade Iraq. (Incidentally, Powell now regrets giving that presentation).

In all this, it's true that Senate Democrats either cowered or were snookered by the administration. But this does not mean that the president wins the battle over truth.

In his recent Veteran's Day presentation, the president delineated the parameters of what constitutes legitimate debate: You must agree with the administration's version of its rationale for war? otherwise, you are lending aid & comfort to the enemy. Subsequently, his minions have been busy repeating this mantra: Dissent is permissible, as long as you stay within the bounds of legitimate debate: agree with the president, or you commit treason.

Incidentally, truth doesn't always win. Bishop Landa is even more famous for another reason. To this day, Western scholars consider him the foremost authority on the Maya because after burning the Maya books, he subsequently wrote a book on the Maya. Perhaps the president will also have a future rewriting U.S. and Iraqi history books.

? Column of the Americas 2005

About Roberto Rodriguez:
We can be reached at: 608-238-3161 or or Column of the Americas, PO BOX 5093 Madison WI 53705. Our bilingual columns are posted at:

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