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 wrote:
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
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
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 again."
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.