It seems that liberals will go to any lengths in order to protect the
sanctity of President Clinton's legacy, and it is getting downright
aggravating. Take Joshua Micah Marshall, the Ivy-league liberal who publishes
Talking Points Memo, an enormously
popular online political blog with a prog-centrist tilt, à la Eric Alterman.
As Marshall recently
"[T]he president's defenders have fallen back on what has always been
their argument of last resort – cherry-picked quotes from Clinton administration
officials arranged to give the misleading impression that the Clintonites
said and thought the same thing about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as
the Bushies did."
Yeah, you're not the only one – it makes my head spin, too. I'm
not exactly sure how one can cherry-pick President Clinton's 1998 Iraq
Liberation Act, which gave the U.S. government the green light to
whack Saddam for the slightest annoyance, whether fabricated or not. In fact,
it was the former Iraq dictator's alleged weapons of mass destruction that were
part of the Act's foundation.
As the Act provided:
"Since March 1996, Iraq has systematically sought to deny weapons inspectors
from the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) access to key
facilities and documents, has on several occasions endangered the safe operation
of UNSCOM helicopters transporting UNSCOM personnel in Iraq, and has persisted
in a pattern of deception and concealment regarding the history of its weapons
of mass destruction programs."
President Clinton was attempting to justify an attack on Iraq on the
grounds that Saddam had a lethal arsenal of WMD. I am not sure how that is all
that different from Bush's rhetoric. But logic is meaningless when party loyalty
is involved. Just ask Josh Marshall, who continues:
"But even arguing on this ground understates the full measure of administration
mendacity in the lead up to the war since it ignores half the story. WMD was
only half the administration equation for war. The other half was a Iraq's
alleged tie to Islamist terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and including
a-Qaeda. On top of that, of course, was the big enchilada, the Cheney favorite,
those frequent and intentionally ambiguous suggestions that Saddam Hussein
played a role in the 9/11 attacks."
Oh my, what a stretch. I'd put WMD at about 75 percent of Bush's justification
for invading. And remind me again how the Democrats opposed Cheney's favorite
Iraq lie? Oh yeah, they didn't. That aside, Marshall doesn't acknowledge the
bigger picture, as I describe in Left
"In 1993, Clinton himself bombed Iraqi intelligence centers for what
he said was retaliation for the attempted assassination of George Bush Sr.
'He said publicly that the U.S. strike on Iraqi intelligence headquarters
was retaliation for Saddam's attempt to kill [ex-president] George Bush,'
Laurie Mylroie, who worked as Clinton's Iraq specialist during his 1992 campaign,
told WABC radio's Steve Malzberg. '[But] he also meant it for the Trade Center
bombing. … Clinton believed that the attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters
would deter Saddam from all future strikes against the United States,' she
claimed. 'It was hopelessly naïve.'"
Clinton didn't try to tie Saddam Hussein to the crime; he just went
ahead and bombed on his own accord. No matter that the CIA was pointing to bin
Laden and not Saddam. So much for Dick Cheney being the only one pointing fingers
in Saddam's direction when it was undeserving.
How soon Marshall forgets that in 1996 the Clintonites bombed several civilian
targets and military facilities – without the approval of the UN or any
international alliance, for that matter. The Iraqi government and even the Pentagon
reported dozens of deaths and millions of dollars worth of damages. The war
on Iraq, despite popular belief, didn't start with Bush Jr.
How can we forget President Clinton's callousness toward Iraqi civilians?
The United Nations estimated in 1995 that as many as 576,000 Iraqi youths died
as a result of the sanctions that the U.S. had imposed and supported since 1991.
But we're talking bombs here, not sanctions.
Soon after the Iraq Liberation Act was signed into law, Clinton, in what many
criticized as an effort to deflect attention from his impeachment trial, tried
his luck with Saddam one more time on Dec. 16, 1998. Unlike previous attacks
on Iraq, which paled in comparison, this attack was waged with primitive anger.
As President Clinton asserted in a national televised address on the day of
the first U.S. offensive"
"Earlier today, I ordered America's armed forces to strike military
and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission
is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and
its military capacity to threaten its neighbors. … Their purpose is
to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests
of people throughout the Middle East and around the world."
"Six weeks ago, Saddam Hussein announced that he would no longer cooperate
with the United Nations weapons inspectors, called UNSCOM. They are highly
professional experts from dozens of countries. Their job is to oversee the
elimination of Iraq's capability to retain, create, and use weapons of mass
destruction, and to verify that Iraq does not attempt to rebuild that capability.
… The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt
today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons
I'm not mincing words, and I'm not sure how in the heck President Clinton's
word-for-word rationale for bombing Saddam could be considered "cherry-picked,"
as Josh Marshall puts it.
I just don't think there is any question that Joshua Micah Marshall's
beloved Bill Clinton laid the groundwork for George W. Bush's Iraq invasion.
He most certainly did. As my granddad used to tell me, "The proof
of the pudding is in the eating."
Chew on that for a while, Mr. Marshall