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Karl Rove's Perversions of History, And His Media Enablers

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In his new memoir, Karl Rove does what he does best. To explain away one lie, he comes up with another. He claims that Bush probably would not have invaded Iraq had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction there. Bush knew perfectly well that our WMD intelligence had been fully discredited. So did everyone else. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. It's a lie that Bush and his apologists have been repeating for almost seven years.

For the umpteenth time, on March 7, 2003 the U.N. inspectors reported that there was zero evidence that Iraq had ever made any attempt to develop a nuclear weapon after the Persian Gulf War. Those findings were later affirmed by Bush's own Iraq Survey Group, which said "Iraq did not possess a nuclear device, nor had it tried to reconstitute a capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991."

As for other types of WMD, Hans Blix also found zero evidence of weapons of mass destruction, aside from a small number of empty chemical munitions, which should have been declared and destroyed. Blix also explained why the evidence previously presented by Colin Powell was bogus. On March 7, 2003, Blix said his team needed a few more weeks to complete their work. Germany, France and others went on the record, stating, "While suspicions remain, no evidence has been given that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction or capabilities in this field."

To mask the dishonesty surrounding the invasion, Rove and others have invoked a standard right-wing ploy, which I'll call "distract-and-conflate." Distract the public with some irrelevant bit of trivia, and then conflate that trivia into the broader narrative designed to confuse the public about who bears the blame. The distraction is usually planted by a friendly media source, and then amplified by others, who seem to be analytically challenged.

A classic case was the quote, "It's a slam dunk," by CIA Director George Tenet, who was never interviewed by Bob Woodward for his book, The Path to War. Whatever Tenet meant at that December 21, 2002 meeting, his point was completely irrelevant by March 2003, when the latest comprehensive on-the-ground intelligence, from a multinational inspection force, had proved Tenet wrong. Neither Bush nor his people ever attempted to reconcile the findings of the U.N. inspectors with their own. Nor did they ever identify any flaws in the inspectors' work product. Nor were they open to allowing the U.N. inspectors to continue to complete their efforts to achieve a definitive report. Nor were they willing to give other members of the U.N. Security Council time to evaluate both sides.

To conflate George Tenet's four-word sound bite, or the more generalized "we-relied-on-faulty-intelligence" excuse, with Bush's decision to invade Iraq, one must engage in a kind of time warp. One must to perpetuate the fiction the U.N. inspectors did not put everyone one notice. This conflation is a shameful perversion of history. Anyone who tacitly or explicitly promotes the lie that Bush invaded in good faith is himself being dishonest.

Rove's other distract-and-conflate ploy relates to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. On July 7, 2003, Ambassador Joe Wilson wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times saying that, because of his work for the CIA, the government had known for a long time that the "uranium from Africa" intelligence, at least as it pertained to Niger, was ridiculously flimsy. Of course, everyone knew that the evidence had been thoroughly debunked by the U.N. inspectors on March 7, 2003. And from March 7, 2003 onward, everyone knew that the case for war based on WMD was entirely spurious. Wilson's revelation never changed what we already knew; it simply amplified our preexisting understanding.

The White House never rebutted Wilson's charges. Quite the opposite. Soon thereafter, his allegations were confirmed by Ari Fleischer, the White House National Security Council and George Tenet. So from that point onward, Wilson's motivations, or veracity, were irrelevant. The circumstances of his work for the CIA, and his wife's employment, were equally irrelevant. Those irrelevancies were used to distract attention away from the Bush Administration's dishonesty, and to conflate Wilson's motivations, whatever they were, with the damning evidence that was always hiding in plain sight. No one, certainly not Karl Rove who told Andrea Mitchell and Chris Matthews that, "Joe Wilsons's wife is fair game," can ever argue that the Wilson's circumstances would further inform us about the case for WMD in Iraq. This distract-and-conflate ploy was the politics of personal destruction at its most vicious.

Rove lied when testifying before a grand jury investigating the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson. He escaped a perjury indictment for one reason, and one reason only. A Time reporter, Viveca Novak, obstructed justice. She gave Rove's lawyer confidential information that enabled Rove to change his testimony, based on "faulty memory." Novak, who went to law school, claims that she made an innocent mistake, which happened to be an egregious ethical lapse, a professional betrayal, and something she deliberately concealed from her colleagues and employer. Shortly thereafter, Bush appointed her husband to a plum job at the FCC.

Let's be clear. Any interviewer who does not directly challenge Rove's claims that the invasion of Iraq, or the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson, was done in good faith is helping promote two shameful lies.

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