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Review of "Hubris"

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Showed on 9:00pm on Monday 18 February. Rachel Maddow previewed it a few days beforehand. Real Clear Politics presents all of the ten-minute segments of it. I agree with David Swanson, the show has some flaws, but I'm very happy that it was shown. As I've related to many people, I had read appeals before President George W. Bush's UN speech (Made just after the first anniversary of 9-11) to give Bush a chance to make his case for war against Iraq and to not dismiss his case out of hand, so I got the NY Times the day after and read his case from beginning to end. I immediately concluded that Bush was lying and that he had already made up his mind to go to war. I made it to what I believe was the first demonstration opposing the Iraq War. 

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At the demonstration, it was clear that everyone had reached the same conclusion that I had, that there was no point in even trying to persuade Bush to not go to war. Our protest was instead aimed squarely at the general public. One item that Hubris mentioned, that I remember well, was that President Bill Clinton had, in 1998, decided to bomb Iraq to make a point and to force compliance with American edicts. Not wanting American weapons inspectors to get hurt, he ordered the inspectors to be withdrawn. The annoyance and aggravation came on the American side when the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, had refused to let the inspectors back into Iraq after the bombing.

In August of 2002, Bush declared that Hussein had kicked out the inspectors. I knew immediately that this wasn't true as I had been following the story in 1998, but also because back then, Clinton was undergoing all sorts of trouble from Republicans with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and for Hussein to have treated Americans with such contempt would have driven Clinton to declare war right off the bat. Sure enough, Fair.org published a piece in October showing the media headlines in 1998 and how the same publications discussed the same event in 2002 with very different headlines. So yes, when Bush made his speech at the UN to gin up enthusiasm for a war with Iraq, the press treatment of Bush's inspectors claim really sealed the deal to convince me that the traditional media was hopelessly in Bush's pocket.

Maddow does a good job in allowing the Colin Powell spokesperson Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson and Douglas Feith to get plenty of screen time to make their cases, but the Powell case is fatally undermined by the demonstration earlier in the show that all of Powell's major points were debunked many months before he made his speech at the UN. He made his speech shortly before the February 15th march. It was the largest protest in history and was especially important as it was scattered all over the world. I didn't watch Powell's speech myself, but asked my brother-in-law about it later. He said "Yeah, it was convincing to people who didn't know anything about the issue beforehand. As someone who was pretty informed on the issue, it wasn't convincing to me at all."

It was clear to me, though I admit things may look different from inside the Washington DC bubble than it does to ordinary citizens out in the country, that Bush's evidence for the need to go to war with Iraq was all quite vague and very heavily dependent on taking the word of government officials for it all. We common citizens were asked to simply trust that what those government officials were saying was true. Valerie Plame Wilson was shown in Hubris, speaking about how she and another CIA person were reacting to Colin Powell's "revelations" that had been obtained from the highly unreliable "Curveball." A scene in Fair Game, a movie based in part on Wilson's book "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House," made it clear that there were quite a few people in the CIA who felt that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were very eager to go to war and quite willing to say whatever it took to convince Americans to support that effort. 

Update: Colonel Wilkerson takes exception to David Swanson's accusation of knowingly lying. Swanson explains his conclusion and adds that the honorable thing for Wilkerson to have done was to have resigned rather than to participate in a lie.