It’s been 10 years since President George W. Bush used the State of the Union address to lie this nation into war with the claim that Iraq had been stockpiling materials and enriched uranium to manufacture Weapons of Mass Destruction for use against America and our allies. Tonight, Rachel Maddow narrates a documentary on the Selling of the Iraq War entitled Hubris.
Here’s more on the program.
The war that began March 19, 2003, was justified to the country by alarming claims that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and connections to al-Qaida terrorists—almost all of which turned out to be false. Some of the most senior officials in the U.S. government, including President Bush himself, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, asserted these claims in public with absolute confidence, even while privately, ranking U.S. military officers and intelligence professionals were voicing their doubts. Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War, a documentary special hosted by Rachel Maddow that will air Monday night on MSNBC at 9 p.m. (and based on a book I co-authored with David Corn), provides new evidence that the dissent within the administration and military was even more profound and widespread than anybody has known until now.
“It was a shock, it was a total shock–I couldn’t believe the vice president was saying this,” Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, told me in an interview for the documentary. Zinni, who had access to the most sensitive U.S. intelligence on Iraq, was on a stage in Nashville, Tennessee, receiving an award from the Veteran of Foreign Wars on August 26, 2002, when he heard the vice president launch the opening salvo in the Bush administration’s campaign to generate public support for an invasion. “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney said. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.” Zinni, sitting right next to Cheney’s lectern, says he “literally bolted” when he heard the vice president’s comments. “In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD [weapons of mass destruction], through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program.” He recounts going to one of those CIA briefings and being struck by how thin the agency’s actual knowledge of Iraqi weapons programs was. “What I was hearing [from Bush administration officials] and what I knew did not jive,” Zinni says.
In the documentary, many of those who were sources for the book “Hubris” appear on camera for the first time. One of them, Mark Rossini, was then an FBI counter-terrorism agent detailed to the CIA. He was assigned the task of evaluating a Czech intelligence report that Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before the attack on the World Trade Towers. Cheney repeatedly invoked the report as evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11. “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April,” Cheney said on Meet the Press on Dec. 9, 2001. But the evidence used to support the claim–a supposed photograph of Atta in Prague the day of the alleged meeting—had already been debunked by Rossini. He analyzed the photo and immediately saw it was bogus: the picture of the Czech “Atta” looked nothing like the real terrorist. It was a conclusion he relayed up the chain, assuming he had put the matter to rest. Then he heard Cheney endorsing the discredited report on national television. “I remember looking at the TV screen and saying, ‘What did I just hear?’ And I–first time in my life, I actually threw something at the television because I couldn’t believe what I just heard,” Rossini says.
What I remember most from Republicans in the post-9/11 world that if you disagreed with anything Bush and Company pushed out there from national security to ramping up the war machine to tax cuts while planning to go to war, you were “unpatriotic.” Going to war was designed to be part of Bush’s 2004 re-election strategy. Americans are reluctant to change commander-in-chief in the middle of an armed conflict. And even though Senator John Kerry had significantly more military experience than Bush or Cheney did combined, the term “swift-boating” is now a part of our national political lexicon.