MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, whom I generally admire--and who, to her endless credit, has pushed a lot of social issue envelopes on her show--recently occasioned and narrated a documentary called Hubris (you can watch all six parts here). Hubris was advanced as reporting on "how the Bush administration viewed the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as an opportunity to remove Saddam Hussein from power", and promoted as a thorough analysis of: the utterly false casus belli (the metal tubes, the mushroom cloud threat, etc.) for the American invasion of Iraq in 2003; the evidence presented to Congress (that would eventually be completely discredited); the use and abuse of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell by pushing him to make an under-informed and flawed case for war; and finally, the horrifically poor management of Iraq subsequent to the removal from power and execution of Saddam Hussein.
The same Saddam Hussein who, it must be noted (if not discussed too often, if ever, on MSNBC), was on the C.I.A. payroll since 1957 and to whose Ba`ath party the U.S. provided monetary and intelligence assistance--first in the coup of 1963, and again in that of 1968, about which David Morgan of Reuters wrote:
In 1968, Morris says, the CIA encouraged a palace revolt among Baath party elements led by long-time Saddam mentor Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, who would turn over the reins of power to his ambitious protégé in 1979. “It’s a regime that was unquestionably midwived by the United States, and the (CIA’s) involvement there was really primary,” Morris says.Thus would Hussein, in 1979 and with the blessing and backing of the United States, occupy Iraq's highest office. Come the 1990's, however, he was regarded as less and less useful for "America's national interests" (read: those of Big Oil).
All that said, you might conclude--correctly--that my opinion of Hubris is not a uniformly positive one. I felt a few extremely important concerns--the most important ones, in fact--were either skipped over during the writing process itself or, more likely, edited out of the narrative on the orders of higher-ups (but who can say?).
Anyway, in order to better express--and to augment--my own complaints, I'm going to share with you, dear readers, some luminous observations and criticisms of Hubris by two writers I deeply respect.
First: the following is a letter to Rachel Maddow and MSNBC by my friend Geoff Wheeler, a fellow Briton by birth as well as a retired merchant seaman. Geoff lives in Florida. (Published here with his permission.)
Subject: Letter to Rachel Maddow, MSNBC
Ms. Maddow: I was looking forward to your program ‘Hubris,’ which aired on MSNBC on Monday night, based on the book of the same name written by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, which I bought soon after it was published in 2006. I could ask why you waited so long, but I prefer to ask why you blew your chance to nail the Bush Gang in the very first minute by saying that Saddam kicked the U.N. weapons inspectors out of Iraq, which he never did. Your program was intended to indict Bush, yet right at the beginning you falsely indicted Saddam. In 1998 Richard Butler, head of the U.N. weapons inspectors, accused the Iraqis of obstructing their work, so Clinton said he would use air strikes, and out of concern for their safety Butler withdrew his team. I repeat: they withdrew voluntarily - Saddam did not kick them out.
So you blew that, and then compounded your error by not mentioning that it was Bush who ordered Hans Blix and his team out of Iraq just before he invaded in 2003. As the reporter you think you are, how could you miss that? I saw and heard the bum on TV say that the reason he invaded was because Saddam would not let Blix and his team in, when they had been in the country for more than two months and had found nothing! Which of course was not what Bush and Cheney wanted, which was a reason to invade Iraq, so it was they who kicked the inspectors out, killed 60-80,000 Iraqi civilians a few days later with ‘Shock & Awe,’ which grew to untold thousands of Iraqi dead in the ensuing eight years, not to mention a trillion American dollars down the drain and our reputation mud around the world. Bush stated exactly the opposite of what actually happened, and you let him get away with it!
You had a chance, Ms. Maddow, to educate the millions of viewers on Monday night who tuned in to your show, particularly those who lost loved ones in Iraq and continue to delude themselves that they died for this country and not for Iraq’s oil and the lying bastard (make that plural to include Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice and the rest of the gang) who sent them there. You will probably never get the chance again, leaving Bush-lovers to wallow in their selective ignorance of the facts, and for that you should be ashamed.
R. G. Wheeler
Second: Some notes on the documentary Hubris by Driftglass (he of the acuminous political lens that is his eponymously-titled blog), wittily live-tweeted for our edification (where witty = tear-evoking gallows humor):
Remember writing, thinking, speaking, marching, screaming against the coordinated, deafening roar of the Conservative hate machine and Beltway press?Well, for what it's worth, Driftglass, I do.
I remember landing and disembarking in Vancouver that winter evening in early 2003, only to see a number of customs personnel thereabouts openly weeping; concerned--horrified, actually--I asked them what was going on, and they replied that that the U.S. had just started bombing Iraq, something they had hoped against hope would not happen. (Oh, those idealistic peace-loving Canadians!) I remember coming home later that week and writing what would be the first of innumerable letters to Florida's representatives in Congress, as well as the White House itself, exhorting them to put a stop to this war built on obvious lies. I remember screaming and crying, too.
I remember aging a lot in the years thereafter. I remember the hiding of flag-draped coffins at Dover; the smearing of bereaved mothers who dared to speak out against Bush and Cheney; the disgusting and widespread incidences of torture that came to light, like Abu Ghraib; and the horror stories about innocent young men of middle-Eastern descent being swept up from the streets and, along with actual terrorism suspects, being shipped to the shameful prison in Guantánamo, Cuba, where they would all languish, uncharged and untried, choking on the putrid fumes of some evil, gray-area incarnation of the law, for years to come (indeed, a great many are still there, as yet uncharged and untried.)
Hubris? More like Malefaction, the magnitude of which, in terms of treasure squandered and American and Iraqi blood spilled, is unprecedented in modern history.
[* Like Driftglass, I highly recommend reading the incredibly prescient writing of the late, great Steve Gilliard; here's an especially good post from August 2003.]