"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Different targets, same tactics

Bush's slash and smear campaign is trying to bring all disparate elements under US control

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday December 16, 2004
The Guardian

Though it is early days since Bush's re-election, the way in which he will handle the difficulties of imperial management which so vex him is already apparent.

No sooner was the election over than the administration began the finger-pointing at the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, who had called the invasion of Iraq "illegal". News was leaked that his son had been a consultant to a company involved with the UN oil-for-food programme, though Annan said he knew nothing about it. The outgoing US ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, was sent out to declare that Annan's resignation was a live issue.

The relevant facts about the oil for food programme were pushed to one side. James Dobbins, the former US ambassador to Afghanistan, wrote in the Washington Post: "First, no American funds were stolen. Second, no UN funds were stolen. Third, the oil-for-food programme achieved its two objectives: providing food to the Iraqi people and preventing Saddam Hussein from rebuilding his military threat to the region."

Then the Post published a story that the US was wire-tapping Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, in an operation to discover that he was secretly aiding Iran in hiding its nuclear weapons programme. In fact, ElBaradei was working with the Europeans in negotiating a resolution with the Iranians. It was this diplomacy that neoconservatives were seeking to discredit. Compliance with internationally monitored nuclear development of Iran isn't the objective of the neocons; they want regime change, Iraqredux.

The techniques of the permanent campaign, especially negative attacks, recently applied in the re-election contest, are being transferred seamlessly and shamelessly to international relations.

In part, the slash-and-smear campaign against Annan and ElBaradei is the Bush administration's effort to subjugate international civil servants and organisations to its central command. But this episode also reflects the rolling coup of the neocons as they struggle for power, position and policy in a second Bush term.

In the wake of catastrophe in Iraq, they are trying to foster a new conflict with Iran. Even Karl Rove, Bush's political strategist, plays in this arena, with his very own Iran adviser - Michael Ledeen, a sleazy operator on the fringes who was involved in the Iran-contra scandal in which even Oliver North suspected him of skimming money.

At the least, the attacks on the UN serve as a political distraction from Iraq, where 178 US soldiers have been killed since the election. But frontline troops have not been distracted from the reality of carnage. On December 8, they asked secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld about the failure to provide sufficient armour.

Rumsfeld said: "You go to war with the army you have. They're not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." He said the soldiers, who were rigging their armour, might be killed anyway. "It's interesting... you can have all the armour in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up."

Never before has a defence secretary been rebuked by the troops; never has a defence secretary insulted them. Two Republican mavericks, senators John McCain and Chuck Hagel, called for his resignation, but they were whistling in the dark. Rumsfeld's disasters are Bush's. They are of such monumental dimensions that to lose him is to admit failure: he cannot be thrown overboard.

On Wednesday Bush gave honours for failure, with his bestowal of the presidential medal of freedom on Tommy Franks, the former CentCom commander, who allowed Osama bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora; on George Tenet, former CIA director, who jumped on the bandwagon for the Iraq war, informing Bush that the WMD claims were "a slam dunk"; and on L Paul Bremer, former chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority, who disbanded the Iraqi army, among other blunders. Failure will be celebrated as success in the second term.

The farcical unravelling of the nomination of former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik as secretary of homeland security further illuminated the administration's methods. The fact that Kerik neglected to pay taxes on a nanny who was an illegal immigrant was a convenient alibi. Beyond his extramarital affairs, secret marriage and love nests, he appears also to be married to the mob - on the take from the Gambino crime family. Yet Bush had been attracted to Kerik's Rambo-like aggression; the White House vetting process seems to be as credulous as the Mickey Mouse Club; and the impulse to cover up instant.

The fall guy is former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Kerik's patron. Inadvertently, Giuliani's tainting eliminates him as a moderate Republican pretender to the throne. If only Kerik's foibles had passed beneath the radar, he might have been honoured for any calamity. Thus the risks and rewards in Bush's imperial capital.

Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is Washington bureau chief of,3604,1374671,00.html

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Milton Frihetsson, 07:33


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