Just to Clear This One Up

Turns out when the 9/11 Commission said there was no credible connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, they meant it in the larger “look, people, it didn’t happen, ever” sense:

Bush aides have sought to blunt the Democratic offensive not by challenging the commission’s findings but by arguing that Kerry and the media have mischaracterized the findings. The White House issued a 1,000-word document titled “TALKING POINTS: 9-11 Commission Staff Report Confirms Administration’s Views of al-Qaeda/Iraq Ties.”

“The 9/11 commission came to the same conclusion as the administration regarding ties between Iraq and al Qaeda,” campaign communications director Nicolle Devenish said. She said this is Kerry’s “desperate attempt to put a negative spin on what was broad consensus between the administration and the commission.”

Similarly, Cheney, on CNBC, said the media had been irresponsible in reporting the commission’s findings. “What they [the commission] were addressing was whether or not they [Iraq] were involved in 9/11,” he said. “They did not address the broader question of a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda in other areas, in other ways.”

In fact, commission spokesman Al Felzenberg on Friday confirmed that the commission was addressing the broader relationship. “We found no evidence of joint operations or joint work or common operations between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s government, and that’s beyond 9/11,” he said. [Emphasis Mine]

What also chaps my ass about the Republican response to the 9/11 Commission is how so many of them complain about its partisanship. Note the comment here from Rep. Eric I. Cantor: “With the latest commission finding coming out that there were allegedly no ties between Hussein and al Qaeda, I think they are totally off their mission, and I think that’s indicative of the political partisanship.” But the Commission was designed as a bipartisan enterprise, so this seems to suggest that what these guys are saying is that the GOPers on the Commission have somehow been transformed into pinko liberals.

Alternate suggestion — and it’s a wacky one, here: The bipartisan panel isn’t populated by liberal zombies and the unfortunate Republican victims they’ve infected with their lie-spreading viruses, but is instead genuinely working to get at the truth of the 9/11 events, which as it happens doesn’t conform to the Bush administration world view. Cheney has also rather snarkily commented on TV that maybe he knows a little more about the Iraq ties to terrorism than the panel; but of course he can’t tell anyone about that. Apparently we need to trust him on that. God forbid he should actually say something about it. Because if something useful were actually to spill from Cheney’s lips, then the terrorists will have won.

Crap on that. Really, it’s been way past “put up or shut up” time for this administration for a long time now; it’s all I can do not to roll my eyes every time Cheney or Ashcroft pop up to talk about their super-secret knowledge that no one else knows about. I grudgingly entertain the notion that this administration does know something it’s not sharing, rather than simply flat-out lying because that’s just easier to do. But I don’t find its unwillingness to share this vital information with a commission charged with discovering the truth about the events surrounding 9/11 at all encouraging. However, given how wrong this administration has been on so many other things relating to Iraq, I think it’s rather more to the point that regarding the 9/11 Commission, they’re using the same line of argument that the cheating husband uses on his wife when she catches him in bed with another woman: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

Here’s the part in an entry like this where I trot out my support for going into Iraq as evidence that I’m not merely reflexively anti-Bush or anti-war or whatever. I still think that if the Bushies had actually thought about what it was doing and how to make it actually work, the administration of Iraq could have been handled as well as the actual invasion, and then, of course, no one would give a crap whether the WMDs were found or if al Qaeda was shacking up with Saddam or not, and Bush could spend his summer in Crawford as his re-election campaign cruised along. But this has always been the problem with this Bush administration: Too many people with big ideas (and the willingness to fudge in order to get those ideas going), not enough people focusing on the details, or thinking about how extract themselves from whatever tarbaby they’ve slugged into. It’s going to cost them.