TOPICS: US: The politics of pushback

On Veterans’ Day, on November 11, US President George Bush told troops gathered at Pennsylvania’s Tobyhanna Army Depot that “it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war (in Iraq) began.” He said that “some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people,” even though they knew “a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community’s judgments related to Iraq’s weapons programmes.”

Bush stopped off at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska to again chat up his wars on Iraq and terror before another captive military audience. Bush said that “some Democrats who voted to authorise the use of force are now rewriting the past”, and are “sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy.” US soldiers “deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them,” Bush said.

Vice-president Cheney told a gathering that “the suggestion by some senators that the US president or any member of this administration purposely misled the Americans on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.” He said that American soldiers are out there every day in dangerous conditions and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie.

Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi returned to Washington and met Cheney, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and he partied with other prominent neoconservatives. At a gathering at the Washington home of lawyer Jeffrey Weiss and his lobbyist wife Juleanna Glover Weiss, two prominent Republicans, Chalabi accused those critics of “rewriting history” and “repeating lies to justify positions that are no longer tenable.”

Chalabi suggested that people should disregard the rumours about him. Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh reported that Chalabi’s speech “was greeted with loud applause and a cry of ‘next year in Baghdad’ from former CIA director James Woolsey.”

The Washington Post’s Terry M Neal called the administration’s response to its critics a “withering counterattack”. The Bush administration and its surrogates are availing themselves of every opportunity, not only to defend the war but also to attack critics of the war, accusing them of demoralising the troops and aiding the enemy.

Although the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank addressed the claim on November 12 — “Bush and his aides had access to more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material” — the White House’s first thrust achieved its goal. It is unlikely that the president will appear anywhere else at home aside from military-related events or Republican-organised gatherings in the near future. — IPS