Is Bush Team Suppressing Evidence? by Jack D. Forbes

It seems clearer each day that the Bush administration was so anxious to go to war that they fabricated intelligence. Now they argue: "We should have gone to wary anyway, because Saddam was such a bad man, killing thousands of Iraqis." One problem looms up, however, and that is that for most of the years in which Saddam was murdering Kurds and Shiites, the USA was his supporter, supplying weapons, poisons, and other gear. He was, in short, "our" butcher of the troublesome Shiites (linked with the "terrible" Iranians) and the dangerous Kurds (to our military allies, the Turks).

But what is really revealing is that after the first Gulf War, when George Bush I encouraged the Shiites and Kurds to rebel against Saddam, the USA pulled the plug, not on Saddam, but on its erstwhile allies! So when newspapers report about the hundreds of thousands of bodies buried in unmarked graves, we have to remember that these persons were slaughtered not by Saddam alone, but by Saddam with the apparent acquiescence of George I.

Could this be the reason that his son, George II, has illegally prevented the release of papers from the Reagan and Bush I administrations? Or is it to hide his father's complicity in the illegal Iran-Contra affair, as well as in the terrorist war waged against Nicaragua and Native Americans in Central America? Of course, George II has also appointed many persons to high office who were involved in the illegal wars of the Reagan-Bush years.

George II has also been strongly opposed to the creation of the International Criminal Court, a judicial body which is designed to reduce some of the brutality in the world. Could it be that his opposition stems in part from fear that his own father might be brought before the court on charges of complicity in Saddam's slaying of Shiites and Kurds? Could it also be that one of the motives for the invasion of Iraq has been the desire of Bush II and others to be able to seize the secret archives of Saddam and thus to be able to control and destroy any incriminating documents there? What if, for example, messages from Rumsfeld or Bush I were house in the Iraqi archives which might implicate them in crimes against humanity?

News reports seem to make it clear that George I did encourage the Kurds and Shiites to rebel, giving Saddam a clear opportunity to crush them when the USA stood by and did nothing. Do we not have right to know all that went on? Why hide the Reagan and Bush records from the people unless there is indeed something to hide?

Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times wrote recently that many mass graves have already been located in Iraq including one which may contain 10,000 persons. As many as 300,000 persons may reportedly be "missing" in Iraq. Friedman writes that "the Pentagon has done almost nothing to help the Iraqis properly exhume these graves, prepare evidence for a war crimes tribunal or expose this mass murder."

But we might well ask: Could it be that Rumsfeld and other holdovers from the Reagan-Bush years have no interest in uncovering evidence which could link them to Saddam's slaughters? After all, former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevich is on trial now for his possible connections with slaughters allegedly carried out by Serbs in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

It seems to this historian that it is time for Congress to demand that Bush II open up all of the Reagan-Bush and Bush-Quayle documents to scholarly scrutiny. But in addition Congress must guarantee that Iraq's archives are preserved, protected, and placed under United Nations (neutral) control with access to scholars and journalists as soon as they are in a secure setting.

But even beyond that, our democracy is endangered by government secrecy and by the selective release of partial government documents after heavy political editing. A democracy cannot long survive if our powerful office-holders can keep secrets from us, using the convenient excuse of "national security."

"National security" is usually a smokescreen for "we screwed up folks, but we don't want to admit it" or "we did something stinking awful!" Now "national security" is even being used as an excuse for denying prisoners access to evidence or access to persons (also prisoners) who might aid their defense.

We need transparency, not secrecy. We do not need special protection from prosecution for George Bush I or any of his colleagues. If they encouraged or abetted the slaughter of Mayas or Iraqis, Kurds or Shiites, Iranians, or Nicaraguans, let them face the music like Milosevich.

© 2003 Professor Jack D. Forbes, Powhatan-Delaware, is a historian, social critic, and poet, covering issues of international and inter-ethnic relations for 45 years. He is the author of Red Blood, Africans and Native Americans, Apache, Navaho and Spaniard and other books. He is professor emeritus of Native American Studies, University of California, Davis. He can be contacted at his web site.

This article was originally published in News From Indian Country September 8, 2003.