According to some commentators, Chris Matthews got former deputy director and former acting director of the CIA to admit that Cheney and Bush lied to the American people in order to go to war in Iraq. I am not sure Matthews deserves that much credit for the moment; after all Michael Morell was on the show trying to sell a book. Could he not have been prepared to make the disclosure; what exactly did he think Matthews was going to ask him about?
But let’s go ahead and give Matthews the credit. Is there more that might have been done? When Morell suggested it was not his job to watch TV and determine what lies the president was telling supposedly based on information he(Morell) was providing in his briefings, it would have been important to know when and how he learned that lies were in fact being told. It would have been important to know what concerns about those lies were expressed to whom in the CIA and the rest of government. It would have been important to learn what action or inaction took place within Morell’s knowledge. How big a deal was the inaction, to the extent it existed? If there were lies told, there can only have been one purpose and that was to create the necessary political conditions preparatory to an invasion, or other military action against Iraq.
Apparently, Bush and Cheney falsely said that Saddam Hussein was building a bomb when Morrell told them he was not. And apparently, they falsely said there was some connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, when Morell had told them there was none. It is therefore clear that there was no adequate legal or moral reason to make war against Iraq. That means that the taking of military action under the circumstances amounted to the war crime of aggression, the most heinous of them all.
It would have been helpful to know if Morell ever considered that what he was countenancing with his silence was a war crime. For those of us concerned with the character of our governance, Matthews had an opportunity to shed an important bit of light on what sort of people govern us and how they do it, even if it is many years too late for the people of the Middle East. The same people who gave us the disaster that is still killing people in Iraq are apparently Jeb Bush’s current advisers. Perhaps a little less hardball and a little more preparation and concern for the question of moral purpose would have served us better..