There is a common saying, so common that it is broadly accepted as a valid reason for burying the past and, in the process, excusing past leaders and decision-makers responsible for actions that not only “haunt” us today, but continue to have a very real bearing on our national security: “old news is no news”.  President Barack Obama is no less guilty in this respect than is the general public or the Foreign Service community, active and retired, having clearly adopted the strategy of looking forward, not back, of focusing on the future and letting the past recede into dim memory.  If he cannot be said to have explicitly endorsed such a strategy, his apparent willingness since taking office to let his predecessor’s crimes fade into oblivion is clear enough. Those crimes, labeled as such with no exaggeration and some restraint, include the deliberate lying to the American public and the world at large about the responsibility for the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 and using the lies as justification for going to war against an innocent party.

Two media events, a film to be aired on television this very evening (March 15) all over America and an interview appearing recently in a French journal, may serve to revive both national and international interest in those crimes.  The first, previewed in today’s New York Times, is “The World According to Dick Cheney,” best characterized in the following excerpt:  “The film asserts that Mr. Cheney masterminded the march to war, building the case, since debunked, that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and links to Qaeda terrorists. It goes into some detail about how Mr. Cheney snookered Representative Dick Armey, the House Republican majority leader and an ally, who nonetheless did not believe that Hussein presented an imminent threat to the United States…. Mr. Cheney privately misled his friend, telling Mr. Armey that the top-secret evidence was actually worse than he had said publicly and that Iraq was close to developing a suitcase nuke that could be used by Qaeda terrorists. Mr. Armey changed his position and voted for war.”  There is much more and even worse, and the NYT preview offers hope that the film will be widely and repeatedly viewed all over the world.

The related media event noted above is an interview of Colin Powell, George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, published in the French journal, Le Nouvel Observateur of February 28-March 6, 2013, apparently inspired by Powell’s 2012 memoir, It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership, but concentrating on his assigned presentation to the United Nations of the justification for the Bush decision to invade Iraq.  Powell admits that he was traduced by Bush, Cheney and CIA Director George Tenet, and that his success in convincing Tenet to appear beside him at the UN for the sake of credibility turned out to be meaningless: Tenet has never acknowledged what he knew then or knows now to be the case, i.e., that the most extreme claims about Saddam Hussein’s plans and capabilities were totally false.  Most painful for Powell, it seems, is that the “evidence” he was given was produced not by intelligence services but by one of Cheney’s own underlings.

To repeat, American national security interests can only benefit by renewed attention to the crimes committed in the past, no matter how long ago.  We can only hope that the Cheney film and Powell’s interview gain traction.

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