As a glutton for punishment, I occasionally turn on C-SPAN radio. House Republicans on the Oversight Committee put on a heck of a show a week ago today.
The problems start right in the title of the hearing: “White House Narratives on the Iran Nuclear Deal.” So the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform is now holding hearings on the “narratives” used by other politicians? Have they run out of actual policies to oversee and reform, and now they’re down to narratives?
But if you jump the link there, you’ll see that it was really a hearing about the profile of Ben Rhodes in the New York Times a few weeks ago. Republicans on the Committee wanted to accuse Rhodes of producing and disseminating ridiculous analysis to sell the Iran deal, but he wouldn’t show. Inexplicably, then, the Republican members invited three Republicans to the hearing with track records of selling their own misinformation–to sell not a nuclear deal and peace, but an easily avoidable war.
John Hannah, a scholar at the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, was an aide to Dick Cheney who was integral to the intelligence debacle leading to Iraq. He at least had the good grace to look sheepish at times. Hannah was joined by Michael Doran, a scholar at the neoconservative Hudson Institute, who in a previous life was a Princeton Middle East professor who produced insights like this howler from late 2002:
defeating Saddam would offer the United States a golden opportunity to show the Arab and Muslim worlds that Arab aspirations are best achieved by working in cooperation with Washington.
The third witness was Michael Rubin, a scholar at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute who worked for Doug Feith at the Pentagon in the run-up to Iraq. Rubin specializes in making the case against any sort of realistic diplomacy with Iran and complaining about people who disagree with him. True to form, Rubin darkly warned that the Ploughshares Fund was funding people that disagreed with him.
If the editors of the Nation had picked a panel to appear before a committee about misrepresenting intelligence and American foreign policy, it wouldn’t have looked much different than this. For their part, Democrats on the Committee were quite happy to turn the hearing into the one they should have held in 2002 about the intelligence used to justify the Iraq War, teeing off on Hannah in particular.
But perhaps the coup de grâce was left to a Representative from Oklahoma, Steve Russell. Russell, an Iraq veteran, opened his remarks to “take exception to the twisted narrative that our entry into Iraq was based on bad faith and false pretense.” He then went on to explain Saddam Hussein had the “technical capacity to build a bomb” and that he learned subsequent to his service in Iraq that Hussein had stashed his nuclear and chemical materials in Syria, which is what Israel bombed there in 2007. Other members of the panel, and the witnesses, treated his speech as if he had passed gas in a crowded elevator, politely pushing outward and looking the other way.
It’s going to go on like this, forever. To Republicans, the Iraq War will always be prudent, brave, and based on the best reading of the facts. It’s somewhat ironic that the party still calling itself conservative has taken a fully postmodern view of truth.