October 30, 2005

Presidential Lemon Law

"We went into Iraq under false pretenses. There was deceptive advertising; you'd be taking [President Bush] to the Better Business Bureau if you bought a washing machine the way we went into the war in Iraq. We're taking casualties. We haven't made America safer by this. We've made America more engaged, more vulnerable, more committed, less able to respond. We've lost a tremendous amount of goodwill around the world by our actions and our continuing refusal to bring in international institutions."
--General Wesley Clark, CNN Late Edition, Aug 17, 2003

Instead of a washing machine, imagine you are shopping for a new car. You go to a dealership, and the salesman spends an hour touting a particular car's attributes. He primarily talks about what great gas mileage the car gets. He repeats "Great Gas Mileage" over and over. He even uses an acronym "GGM." Then he calls over his GGM Specialist, who proceeds to give you a detailed presentation, with slides, drawings and recordings, explaining the Great Gas Mileage that the car gets. You buy the car because you are so impressed by its GGM, and, lo and behold, the car's gas mileage is not so great. In fact, it's terrible. It runs out of gas after a short distance. You contact the owner of the dealershop to complain, and he says, "well, the gas mileage may not be good, but hey, isn't that ride smooth? I mean, you drive over those potholes, and you don't feel a thing. It's a real smooth-riding car."

How would you feel about the car and the dealer? What would you do? Probably a lot. Maybe you would contact the Better Business Bureau. You might also tell your family, friends and everyone else you know about this sleazy car dealer, and recommend that they not give him any of their business. Maybe you would contact your state or local officials and find out if you have any recourse. You might find out that, if the car is defective and cannot be repaired after several attempts, you get to return it for a new one under the state's Lemon Law. Or you may find that the salesman committed fraud, inducing you to buy the car under false pretenses.

Fine, you say, but I'm not currently car shopping, so what does this have to do with me? It has a lot to do with all of us, because a current favorite White House and Republican rationale for why we're fighting in Iraq is so that we can bring democracy to that country, and then expand it throughout the Middle East. That is an interesting (if incredibly naive) notion, and one that should be openly debated. The problem is, that was not the rationale President Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice and other administration officials presented to the American people for invading Iraq, and it was never publicly debated. The principal rationale, as the CIA leak investigation saga reminds us, was Weapons of Mass Destruction, or WMD. The reason why White House officials such as Scooter Libby and Karl Rove went after former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Joe Wilson so violently, including outing his wife Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, was that Wilson had gone to Niger and had come back with a conclusion -- that there was no evidence of an attempt by Saddam Hussein to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger -- that disagreed with the "mushroom cloud" WMD narrative being pushed by the Administration regarding Saddam. That narrative was forcefully presented by Colin Powell before the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003. As the linked transcript indicates, with CIA Director George Tenet sitting behind him, Powell gave a multimedia presentation, playing telephone recordings and showing drawings of mobile biological weapons trucks, chemical weapons sites, and aluminum tubes to enrich uranium for producing nuclear weapons to create that mushroom cloud. On April 2, 2004, 14 months after giving his U.N. presentation and 13 months after the U.S. invaded Iraq, Powell admitted that the evidence he presented regarding mobile biological weapons labs "appears not to be ... that solid." 17 months later, on September 8, 2005, Powell backtracked all the way, stating that many of the intelligence reports that had formed the basis of his U.N. presentation had turned out to be false. According to Powell, the presentation was "a blot" on his record. "I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and (it) will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now."

What can the American taxpayer, the American consumer, do about this? Do we get our money back for the war? Do we get our soldiers' lives and limbs back, or those of thousands of innocent Iraqis? Do we get back the goodwill that we have squandered around the world? Can we return George W. Bush to Crawford, Texas under a Lemon Law? Does Bush and do his underlings get penalized if they committed fraud in selling a war to a country? Shouldn't there be investigations about this? Shouldn't there be hearings? Shouldn't someone be looking into whether Bush committed offenses that give rise to impeachment? Shouldn't we, at minimum, think about this on Election Day 2006, when Republicans who control the Congress and who decide whether to investigate and hold hearings about possible wrongdoing by members of the Executive branch, and who have failed miserably to do so, stand for re-election?

This is a bit more important than lying about having an affair, which resulted in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. And it's more important than buying a car and being sold a lemon.


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