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When lies are propaganda

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Of all the regrettable outcomes in the election of 2004, the fact that Congress has become ever more protective of the bumbling moves of the Bush administration will turn out to be one of the gravest errors in the Bush era. With deliberate intent, Congress — rather than pursuing the facts important to the formulation of policy — continues to allow the administration to classify documents and to deny worthy investigations that might contradict this administration’s claims, assumptions and purported facts. Without good information, however, the nation continues a downward slide with serious consequences.

Certainly the administration’s misinformation campaign in waging the war on Iraq has been scandalous, and Congress’s reluctance to get to the bottom of such lies — so Americans understand the treachery and are better able to reject similar ploys in the future — is a dereliction of duty. But Congress’ culpability in the nation’s decline goes even further. The Republican majority also has stymied calls for white papers or investigations on the true impact of the Bush tax cuts, global warming, the formulation of this nation’s energy policy, the impact on our national parks of cuts in funding and the more intensive commercial use of wilderness areas, the education law signed by Bush, the relaxation of pollution standards on automobiles and industry, the growing deficit and federal cuts to government functions — most of which benefit the poor.

In each case, there is ample evidence that contradicts the assumptions that many within the Bush administration hold as truth, yet Congress allows Bush to squelch reports, classify information that keeps it from the public view, and propagate misinformation that encourages Congress to perpetuate poor policy for political gains. What’s shocking is to realize this Congress is intent on protecting the president’s agenda not because it’s in the best interest of the nation, but because to take issue with Bush’s policies — to uncover facts that might expose the enormous misjudgments this presidency has pursued — would doom the GOP in the next election.

While several instances would prove the point, look at just one recent instance of a cover-up exposed.

On May 29, 2003, just 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush declared the military had “found the weapons of mass destruction� in Iraq. The evidence featured two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops, which were thought to be mobile “biological labs.�

The trailers, we find out years later, were used for the production of hydrogen for weather satellites, and were not remotely connected to biological warfare.

Mistakes happen, right?

Not as haphazardly as one might think.

The Washington Post in its April 12 issue revealed that a secret fact-finding mission to Iraq, which was just made public, had already concluded that the trailers had “nothing to do with biological weapons before Bush made his announcement.� Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission, The Post reported, had “transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president’s statement.�

The three-page report generated by the Pentagon’s special mission, along with a more complete 122-page final report filed three weeks later, were stamped “secret� and were shelved, not to resurface for almost three years. More insidiously, The Post reported that “for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.�

What’s news about the administration’s handling of this incident, and the shelved report, is that it shows how ready and willing the administration has been to deceive the public even though concrete evidence — including the Pentagon’s own study — demonstrated otherwise. For those who have forgotten, the “mobile weapons trailers� and some innocuous aluminum tubes supposed to be used for nuclear production — were two primary pieces of evidence the White House used to justify the belief that Iraq harbored WMDs and thus the reason for waging war.

Furthermore, intelligence officials and the White House, as The Post wrote, “have repeatedly denied allegations that intelligence was hyped or manipulated� in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion. Even months after, Sec. of State Colin Powell continued the mistaken belief, and Vice-President Dick Cheney was routinely spreading the myth that the trailers could have been used to produce anthrax or smallpox. It was a deliberate case of fear-mongering when White House leaders knew that the opposite was true.

It wasn’t until late fall that doubt began to cloud the administration’s misinformation campaign, and gradually leaders such as the CIA’s George Tenet began to soften their claims by noting that the mobile-labs theory was “plausible.�

As for the team that conducted the initial report, it was comprised of nine U.S. and British civilian experts, The Post reports, who were scientists and engineers in all of the technical fields involved in making bio-weapons. Immediately after they filed their initial report, members told The Post, they had been questioned by the administration’s team and pressed to revise the final report to make the conclusions softer — “to leave open the possibility that the trailers might have been intended for weapons.� But the final report “remained unequivocal in declaring the trailer unsuitable for weapons production.� In a Post interview with one of the members of the team, who remained anonymous, the person stated their surprise at the result: “I went home and fully expected that our findings would be publicly stated. It never happened. And I just had to live with it.�

Will Congress authorize an investigation into the matter? Hardly. Just as this Republican-dominated lot has rejected other studies that might shed light on misbegotten policy initiatives or shelved prior studies that contradict this president’s actions, so too will this incident be covered up by the fear of implication and political suicide. Better to hide the facts than take responsibility for being so very wrong — or at least that seems to be the Republican mantra of today’s Congress and those in the White House.

While trying to avoid such shame is understandable, the consequences of not owning up to the truth will be ever more devastating the longer the nation pursues policies that are based on politically motivated manipulations of the known facts. This administration has taken “spin� to a whole new level — unfortunately, it’s dangerously close to propaganda in every sense of that word.

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