Thursday, July 10, 2003

Lessons in lying

(CBS) Senior administration officials tell CBS News the President’s mistaken claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was included in his State of the Union address -- despite objections from the CIA.

Before the speech was delivered, the portions dealing with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were checked with the CIA for accuracy, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

CIA officials warned members of the President’s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.

The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: “Iraq has ... sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that’s how it was delivered.

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” Mr. Bush said.

The statement was technically correct, since it accurately reflected the British paper. But the bottom line is the White House knowingly included in a presidential address information its own CIA had explicitly warned might not be true.

If I were a Republican I suppose I might refer to such behavior as Clintonesque, provided it was engaged in by a Democrat. Since it was engaged in by a Republican, I guess I would call it irrelevant.

Ever see a Republican react to this argument: When Clinton was asked, “Is there a relationship with Monica Lewinsky and he said, ‘No, there is (present tense) no relationship,’ he wasn’t technically lying.” Most right-wingers have a seizure.

There are outright lies and intentional deceptions. When Clinton said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…” it was not an outright lie (look up the definition of “sexual relations”) Nonetheless, any reasonable person will likely agree that it was an intentional deception. If one takes a principled position one has to determine when such deceptions that may walk a tightrope with the actual truth are wrong. If it is wrong in regard to a private and consensual sexual encounter, is it not at least as wrong when it is part of a concerted effort to win support for a war in which brave Americans who believe in their President will die?

Impeachment? If Bush had any self-respect (as opposed to pathological hubris) he would resign.

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