The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, July 27, 2003  

“The Most Egregious Example of a Clear Pattern”

The editors of the New Republic recently had some wise things to say about those “16 Words,” the purported throw-away phrase that has caused such a ruckus, the phrase that many in and out of government desperately wish would just go away, while others inexplicably refuse to see the evidence right before their eyes.

(Apologies for this not exactly up-to-the-minute blogging -- the editorial was published on the web on July 17 -- but this is a critically important matter, one that should die on the vine -- John Dean correctly characterized it as “bigger than Watergate” -- so I’m going to keep talking about it.)

TNR’s editorial is masterful, meticulous, and impossible to refute. It’s replete with evidence of an unconscionable, cynical, remorseless, and Nixonian trail of lies, deception, and prevarication by nearly everyone involved, including, but by no means limited to, President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, her deputies Stephen Hadley and Robert Joseph, and former White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Mincing no words, the editors use such phrases as “abundant evidence,” “this is not true,” “the White House . . . strains credulity,” “the idea . . . is implausible,” “was not accurate,” “there are no grounds for believing this broader statement,” “this is simply not the case,” “the claim . . . has since been debunked,” and “dismissed by weapons inspectors on the ground.”

In conclusion, the editors write:

The Niger allegation, then, was the most compelling evidence in the administration’s most compelling national security case for war with Iraq. But its significance goes still deeper. Those 16 words were merely the most egregious example of a clear pattern: Convinced of the rightness of its Iraq policy, the Bush administration repeatedly -- and deliberately -- misrepresented intelligence to paint Saddam as a greater threat to the United States than he actually was. That is the reality the administration is trying to conceal with its welter of contradictory explanations.

And they’re getting away with it.

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