the influencer

Posted on Saturday 31 July 2010

In the United States, we are not ever going to see anything like the Chilcot Inquiry attended by the principals: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, David Addington, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Harriet Miers, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, John Bolton, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Karl Rove, Stephen Hadley, George Tenet. Only the three in red are talking at all, and then only on their own terms. None would ever agree to Sir John’s preamble:
    "I say this on each occasion. We recognise that witnesses give evidence based on their recollection of events and we, of course, check what we hear against the papers to which we have access and which we are still receiving. I remind the witness he will later be asked to sign a transcript of the evidence given to the effect that the evidence he has given is truthful, fair and accurate."
It’s an interesting hypothetical to ask if they would attend such a hearing, even if they were given complete immunity from any prosecution. I would sincerely doubt it. I don’t think they see it as our right to know what they were up to for their eight years in the White House. I can only recall two of them that ever testified in public, and I don’t recall either as exactly forthcoming [Addington and Gonzales]. Others testified privately [not under oath] or under Grand Jury subpoena. A couple wrote books.

We all know that Vice President Dick Cheney was the epicenter for this stance. Lord Prescott was Dick Cheney’s counterpart, and had this to say about him:
    BARONESS PRASHAR: What about Dick Cheney?
    LORD PRESCOTT: Hardliner.
    BARONESS PRASHAR: You said you were in America and you talked to him. I know he was a hardliner. Did the Prime Minister ask you to do work with the Vice President? Because there is no sort of equivalent counterpart here. You were the Deputy Prime Minister.
    LORD PRESCOTT: Yes. I saw him when he came over in the kind, when he is over here he is obviously going to be seeing the Prime Minister, but that was the same when Al Gore came over, that I would see them as the Vice President –
    BARONESS PRASHAR: How many times did you see him during the course of 2002?
    THE LORD PRESCOTT: Vice President Cheney?
    LORD PRESCOTT: I think it was about two or three times. It was not flying over to see him directly. I was doing other business in America. It was like, "Oh, we can have those chats and discussions". I would talk to Tony about that, because we know he was a big player in the developing of the policy in the American administration.
    BARONESS PRASHAR: You were aware, you said he was a hardliner. Did you try to influence him in terms of looking at alternatives?
    LORD PRESCOTT: We would put the views, and he would just look at you and you had not convinced him of anything.
    BARONESS PRASHAR: You just came to that conclusion it was difficult to influence him?
    LORD PRESCOTT: You can talk to him, you know, and it is a polite conversation but he had pretty strong views. He certainly wasn’t for the UN role. He felt that, you know, the UN kind of pussyfoots along these situations. This was unfinished business. We needed to sort it out. We are going in. Let’s play around with the UN where we are. He didn’t quite put it to me like that but that was the conclusion I got from the discussions with him.
    BARONESS PRASHAR: Do you think we could have done more to balance those views? There we were, having –
    LORD PRESCOTT: With Vice President Cheney?
    BARONESS PRASHAR: To balance the views he was putting forward?
    LORD PRESCOTT: Your evidence I think from various people who have come here have said they met Cheney and tried to argue constantly with him and also Dr Rice at the same time. All these people were approached by all the various advisers, Mr. Manning particularly talking to them all. I don’t think it changed any of the positions. The only man who changed, frankly, was the President, who decided to agree with Tony Blair to go through the UN. He was the man who was making the decisions. He might be a big influence on Cheney, but frankly Bush was making his own decisions in this case, in my view.
Whether Bush "changed" or not is debatable, but maybe. Lord Prescott was there, I wasn’t. If Bush changed, he sure back-slid at the end. But that’s not his main point. Lord Goldsmith was laughing off the Baroness’s notion that Cheney listened to anyone. Of course he didn’t. He wasn’t in the business of being influenced. He was "the influencer."

We don’t need a Chilcot Inquiry to answer questions about Iraq on this side of the Atlantic. We know the answer. In the wounded State of the Union after 9/11, we put our fate in the hands of  people who took advantage of their power, consciously lied to us, and plunged us into an ill-fated invasion of Iraq for their own reasons – reasons we weren’t privy to. It was the largest failing of a Democracy in history, and the aftershocks are still reverberating. Their propaganda media is still operating full steam ahead.

If we were to have a Chilcot-like Commission, it should focus on how we allowed our government to be taken over by such people – on why we didn’t even know what was happening until the war was underway – or why these people were re-elected. How were they able to use religious beliefs, prejudices of all sorts, tax cuts, creative financing, irresponsible media, dirty tricks, etc. to control the political climate and keep us in the dark about what our government was actually doing? And most of all, why did we tolerate an Administration that refused to answer to the people? How do they still exert so much influence, even after behaving in such an arrogant and corrupt manner? What were the "lessons learned?"…

For some nostalgia, here’s a video from 1994. I would call it, “Cheney, the early years.” I just didn’t see the Dick Cheney I see now back in those days. It snuck up on me just like it snuck up on the rest of the country. I’m going to have to think more about that interview. Was he lying? Did he change his mind? Did 9/11 drive him crazy?

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