Paris, December 6, 2007 – At a stroke, the international credibility of the United States government has been restored. The Bush White House and its friends do not seem to understand what has happened.
There are few governments, even among the most sober, where the civil service agencies of government would deliver an analysis not merely unpleasing to the elected political authorities, but decisively undermining what currently has seemed the most important foreign policy project planned by those authorities before they leave power twelve months from now.
Publication of a National Intelligence Estimate of Iran that directly contradicts what the Bush government has relentlessly and heatedly maintained, during the better part of the past eight years, against all opposition, about the danger of Iran’s nuclear project and intentions, has delivered an international shock. It has demonstrated that the American system of government is recovering its ability to defend objective intellectual standards against powerful pressures to twist professional judgement to conform to partisan interests.
The Bush White House and its spokesmen and allies are fools to try, as they are doing, to twist the NIE verdict as somehow supporting them. The report indicates that the Iranians had a military program in the past, thus they could have one again in the future, therefore – so the claim goes – the report really validates the Bush administration’s case.
But anything might happen in the future. The Bush-Cheney argument has been that a current military program in Iran threatens the United States. It does so merely by existing. Therefore it must be destroyed. If the program continues, the United States will have to attack Iran. This is what hard-liners of the administration have been saying. This is the project France’ Nicolas Sarkozy has apparently accepted, that Gordon Brown in Britain has been pressed to support, and the other European leaders as well.
The official combined judgement of the American intelligence services is that there is no current Iranian nuclear military project. Four years ago those same services gave the Bush administration the answers it wanted to justify invading Iraq. As now is known, they integrated into their final analysis contrived evidence supplied by what amounted to a neo-conservative propaganda bureau specially created in the Pentagon, to promote Iraq’s invasion.
The result was the humiliation of Secretary of State Colin Powell at the UN Security council, and a war that by now may have uselessly killed hundreds of thousands, and possible more than a million, human beings, while inflicting terrible suffering on tens of thousands more.
Such was the result of neo-conservative ideology and political ignorance or indifference. Ideology, and lies told to support it, murder people. Lies also make leaders into fools. Yet it seems all but impossible for elected leaders to grasp that they are strengthened by candor and truth-telling.
The terrible disease of ‘spin,’ information manipulation, twisting the ‘story,’ may work for a while, usually more successfully with the media than the people. Reporters and editorial-writers hesitate to challenge authority because they depend on access to authority, and fear what can be done to them professionally if they make themselves dangerous to authority. The ordinary citizen is more likely to recognize, and say so, when he or she is being conned.
Take two minor foreign examples. Soon after the new British prime minister, Gordon Brown, took the place of Tony Blair – who was notorious for his manipulation of the media -- Brown encouraged the press to think that he was likely to call an early election. He started out very high in the opinion polls and thought it would be smart to take advantage of it.
Shortly thereafter, mostly for reason of mishaps having little to do with Brown himself, the popularity of the new prime minister and of his Labour Party suffered a sharp drop. Suddenly an election looked dangerous.
Brown might have said, “I have been thinking about an early election but because of political and economic developments I have decided that the voters need to know more about me, and about how my government is going to handle these problems, before I call an election.” Everyone would have accepted that.
Instead he denied to the press, including to reporters he had earlier confided in, that he had ever contemplated an early election. There was not a politically aware person in Britain who believed him. There was a storm of derision, severely weakening Brown.
Following the recent strikes in France, in part over buying power and wages, Nicolas Sarkozy, the other new leader on the European scene, promised to give the French his solutions. He went on television and was expected to announce that he would boost buying power by special tax provisions and other government measures to put money into the public’s pockets.
Instead, he said that the French can only earn more by working more. He announced change in the famous French 35-hour working week, so as to make overtime work easier and more profitable. He said he would ease employer social charges on that extra work, and also allow workers to exchange accumulated time off (due to the short work week) for income. The speech was unexpected, but there was general approval. The people recognized that what he said was true.
Copyright 2007 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights Reserved.