The right wing spin on O’Neill is still developing; the apologists and b-listers are still trying to decide which storyline works best. One of the contenders I’m seeing is a variation on the failed “Everyone knew Valerie Plame was a spy” effort of months past. In this case, “Everyone knew Bush wanted to invade Iraq from the start!”
Or to put it in terms Winston Smith would understand, “We have always been at war with Iraq.”
Though I have little chance of stemming the constant tide of right wing bullshit, I always feel compelled to try. So, two quick quotes from President Bush himself. First, Candidate Bush’s public position on nation building from an Oct. 3, 2000 debate with Al Gore, in which he was critical of the Clinton Administration for being, yes, too interventionist:
“If we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road. I’m going to prevent that.”
The second quote is from a joint press conference with Tony Blair on January 31, 2003. Bush was asked if it were true, as Bob Woodward had recently claimed, that he started making plans to invade Iraq in the immediate aftermath of September 11.
“Actually, prior to September 11, we were discussing smart sanctions. We were trying to fashion a sanction regime that would make it more likely to be able to contain somebody like Saddam Hussein. After September 11, the doctrine of containment just doesn’t hold any water… the strategic vision of our country shifted dramatically… because we now recognize that oceans no longer protect us, that we’re vulnerable to attack. And the worst form of attack could come from somebody acquiring weapons of mass destruction and using them on the American people… I now realize the stakes. I realize the world has changed. My most important obligation is to protect the American people from further harm, and I will do that.”
Just so we’re clear on this: O’Neill’s revelation that Bush intended to go to war with Iraq from the very start of his administration and only used 9/11 as an excuse is news. Many on the left may have suspected this to be the case, but “everybody” most assuredly did not “already know it”. (An aside: it is astonishing to watch yesterday’s left-wing conspiracy theories morph into today’s right-wing conventional wisdom. Chocolate rations are up!)
We’re subject to so much input every day that the timeline of events, even recent events, quickly becomes a little hazy, and I think this is what the propagandists rely on. No, they say, don’t you remember? George Bush announced his plans to invade Iraq during the 2000 campaign! And that doesn’t sound quite right, but they drive it home relentlessly, repeat it at every opportunity, and at a certain point the Big Lie kicks in and becomes conventional wisdom.
But make no mistake: it is bullshit.
(…if you buy the book through this link, I’ll get a small kickback.)