The report borrows from hundreds of open sources that have become a matter of public record—newspaper accounts, television broadcasts (Frontline, Meet the Press, Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, etc.), magazine articles (in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New York Review of Books), sworn testimony in both the Senate and House of Representatives, books written by, among others, Bob Woodward, George Packer, Richard A. Clarke, James Mann, Mark Danner, Seymour Hersh, David Com, James Bamford, Hans Blix, James Risen, Ron Suskind, Joseph Wilson. As the congressman had said, “Everything in plain sight; it isn’t as if we don’t know.”
In January of 1998 the neoconservative Washington think tank The Project for the New American Century (which counts among its founding members Dick Cheney) sent a letter to Bill Clinton demanding “the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power” with a strong-minded “willingness to undertake military action.” Together with Rumsfeld, six of the other seventeen signatories became members of the Bush’s first administration—Elliott Abrams (now George W. Bush’s deputy national security advisor), Richard Armitage (deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005), John Bolton (now U.S. ambassador to the U.N.), Richard Perle (chairman of the Defense Policy Board from 2001 to 2003), Paul Wolfowitz (deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005), Robert Zoellick (now deputy secretary of state). President Clinton responded to the request by signing the Iraq Liberation Act, for which Congress appropriated $97 million for various clandestine operations inside the borders of Iraq. Two years later, in September 2000, The Project for the New American Century issued a document noting that the “unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the presence of the substantial American force in the Persian Gulf.
In a subsequent interview on 60 Minutes, Paul O’Neill, present in the meeting as the newly appointed secretary of the treasury, remembered being surprised by the degree of certainty: “From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go…. It was all about finding a way to do it.”
As early as September 20, Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, drafted a memo suggesting that in retaliation for the September 11 attacks the United States should consider hitting terrorists outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, or perhaps deliberately selecting a non-Al Qaeda target like Iraq.
Abstracts of the notes and memoranda, known collectively as “The Downing Street Minutes,” were published in the Sunday Times (London) in May 2005; their authenticity was undisputed by the British government.
The work didn’t go unnoticed by people in the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department accustomed to making distinctions between a well-dressed rumor and a naked lie. In the spring of 2004, talking to a reporter from Vanity Fair, Greg Thielmann, the State Department officer responsible for assessing the threats of nuclear proliferation, said, “The American public was seriously misled. The Administration twisted, distorted and simplified intelligence in a way that led Americans to seriously misunderstand the nature of the Iraq threat. I’m not sure I can think of a worse act against the people in a democracy than a President distorting critical classified information.”
The Group counted among its copywriters Karl Rove, senior political strategist, Andrew Card, White House chief of staff, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.
Card later told the New York Times that “from a marketing point of view .thinsp]. . you don’t introduce new products in August.”
Bush confirms Blair’s statement, saying, “I don’t know what more evidence we need.” In Vienna, the day before, the IAEA issued a statement saying that there was no such report.
Collaborating in what was a team effort between March 2002 and March 2004, various high-ranking administration officials made 237 false or misleading statements (55 of them from President Bush himself) connecting Saddam to Al Qaeda, exaggerating Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons capabilities, misrepresenting Iraq’s nuclear activities.
Powell occasionally complained about the falsehoods the administration obliged him to tell; a few days before delivering the U.N. speech he mentioned his unhappiness to Cheney, who told him, “Your poll numbers are in the seventies, you can afford to lose a few points.”
The legal precedent for finding a conspiracy to commit fraud against the United States rests on the Supreme Court ruling Hammerschmidt v. United States, which upholds the charge against individuals who obstruct lawful government functions “by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest. It is not necessary that the government shall be subjected to property or pecuniary loss by the fraud, but only that its legitimate official action and purpose shall be defeated by misrepresentation, chicane or the over-reaching of those charged with carrying out the government intention.”
As of January 17, 2006, the rap sheet listed 2,229 American military dead in Iraq together with an unknown number of Iraqi civilians; what looks to be the sum of $1 trillion, by some estimates $2 trillion, already committed to The Project for the New American Century’s real estate development in the Mesopotamian desert. Better reasons to impeach a president than the one pressed into service against Bill Clinton, whose penis was known to be aimless and shown to be harmless.
By the second week in January a Zogby poll showed a majority of Americans (52-43 percent) favoring impeachment of the President if he were to be found entangled in the coils of illegal surveillance; a resolution to that effect had been carried with rousing applause by the city council in Areata, California; seven other members of the House of Representatives had come forward to co-sponsor Conyers’s Resolution 635—Lois Capps (D., Calif.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D., Tex.), Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.), Donald Payne (D., N.J.), Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), and Lynn Woolsey (D., Calif.).
Together with Specter, two prominent Republican senators called for congressional hearings on the matter of the NSA’s spying program, Chuck Hagel (Nebr.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine); seven others expressed serious misgivings—Richard Lugar (Ind.), Susan Collins (Maine), Sam Brownback (Kans.), John Sununu (N.H.), Larry Craig (Idaho), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.).