On Veterans' Day, Nov. 11, President
Bush told troops gathered at Pennsylvania's Tobyhanna Army Depot that, "It
is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war [in Iraq] began."
He said that, "Some Democrats and antiwar critics are now claiming we
manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people," even though
they knew "a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political
pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's
A few days later, on the way to a week-long trip to Asia, Bush stopped off
at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska to again chat up his wars on Iraq and
terror before another captive military audience.
told the crowd that "some Democrats who voted to authorize the use
of force are now rewriting the past," and are "sending mixed signals
to our troops and the enemy." U.S. soldiers "deserve to know that
their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind
them," Bush said.
Back in the continental 48 states, on Wednesday, Vice President Cheney came
out of his bunker long enough to address a no-press-allowed Frontiers of Freedom
Institute 2005 Ronald Reagan Gala at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
In partisan form, Cheney
told the crowd that "the suggestion that's been made by some US senators
that the president of the United States or any member of this administration
purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence is one of the most
dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
Cheney pointedly said that, "The saddest part is that our people in uniform
have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day
"American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions
and desert temperaturesand back home a few opportunists are suggesting they
were sent into battle for a lie," Cheney said.
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi also got in on the action. He returned
to Washington and met with Cheney, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (the Pentagon allowed no television cameras during
that sit-down) and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and he partied
with other prominent neoconservatives.
The man who was convicted in absentia in Jordan of embezzling millions of dollars,
is suspected of passing US secrets to Iran, and is one of the chief purveyors
of the myth passed on to an eager Judith Miller of the New York Times
that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, defended himself from
critics in a speech Tuesday.
At a gathering of longtime friends and supporters at the Washington home of
lawyer Jeffrey Weiss and his lobbyist wife Juleanna Glover Weiss, two prominent
Republicans, Chalabi accused those critics of "rewriting history"
and "repeating lies to justify positions that are no longer tenable."
Referring to the false intelligence his Iraqi National Congress provided the
administration, Chalabi suggested that people should disregard "the rumors
and innuendo" spread about him.
Michael Hirsh reported that Chalabi's speech "was greeted with loud
applause and a cry of 'next year in Baghdad' from former CIA director James
Woolsey, one of the Iraqi's leading supporters."
Former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, Danielle Pletka of the
American Enterprise Institute, a prominent Washington-based think tank, and
author Christopher Hitchens, a well-known leftist who has supported the war
in Iraq, were also in attendance.
The Washington Post's Terry M. Neal called
the administration's response to its critics a "withering counterattack."
Judy Keen termed it "fighting back," and Roll Call's Morton Kondrake
dubbed it "pushback."
Nicolle Wallace, the White House communications director, said that challenging
Democrats was essential. "Our strategy has to include hitting back... and
calling them out for what are actually lies," she told USA Today.
Regardless of what it is called, the Bush administration and its surrogates
are availing themselves of every opportunity, not only to defend the war in
Iraq and their war on terror, but also to attack critics of the war, accusing
them of demoralizing the troops and aiding the enemy.
As it was designed to by Bush's aides, the charge that Democrats had access
to the same intelligence as the administration was picked up by a gaggle of
conservative media figures. Within a short time Human Events editor Terry
Jeffrey, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, syndicated columnist
Charles Krauthammer, National Journal editor Rich Lowry, Weekly Standard
editor Fred Barnes, and Fox News hosts Neil Cavuto and Chris Wallace, repeated
them in one form or another.
Although the Washington
Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank addressed the claim on Nov. 12 "Bush
and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than
did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material"
the White House's first thrust achieved its goal.
These days, the president's poll numbers are in a free fall. A recent America
Online poll revealed that more than 70 percent of the 500,000-plus people participating
believed that President Clinton was both a more trustworthy, and a better president
than George W. Bush.
It is going to take a Roveian-like pushback campaign to reverse those numbers.
In the meantime, it is highly unlikely that the president will appear anywhere
else at home aside from military-related events or Republican-organized gatherings
in the near future.