Shocked, Simply Shocked
Not since Marcy Wheeler uttered the word blowjob on their show have I seen David Shuster and Tamron Hall more flustered over the comments of a guest than they were today when Congressman Maurice Hinchey suggested that the Bush administration purposefully allowed bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora because of the need to justify the Iraq invasion. (You would have thought he said that Dick Cheney was an evil torturer. Oh wait ...)
Anyway, here are Hall and Shuster reflexively calling for the smelling salts:
Shuster: You think they deliberately let al Qaeda get away right after the 9/11 attacks? You really believe that?
Hinchey: yes I do. There's really no question about that because the leader of our military operation in the United States called back our military. Called them back from going after the head of al Qaeda because there was a sense...
Shuster: Congressman, you can accuse them of malfeasance, you can accuse them of dropping the ball, of having an awful plan. I think that would be justified. But to suggest that they deliberately let Osama bin Laden get away so that they could justify the war in Iraq, that will strike a lot of people as crazy.
Hinchey: I don't think it will strike a lot of people as crazy. I think it will strike a lot of people as being very accurate. And all you have to do is look at the facts of that set of circumstances and you can see that's exactly what happened. When we went in there, when our military went in there, we could have captured them. We could have captured most of the al Qaeda, but we didn't. And we didn't because of the need felt by the previous administration and the need of the previous head of the military, that need to attack Iraq which was completely unjustified...
Hall: Congressman, we are out of time congressman and certainly we would love to have you on to explore this more. As you can imagine, there will be a lot of people talking about the remarks you've just made.Thank you...
Shuster: You know Tamron, you could make a lot of arguments that in fact the net effect of letting Osama bin Laden go, was maybe it did justify the Iraq. But the idea that that was somehow deliberate I think really diminishes whatever argument that Democrats or progressives may have about the conduct of of the Afghan war and the Iraq war.
One simply doesn't accuse such important people of bad motives. That would be very rude and nobody would ever take you seriously again.
Actually, it's not all that far-fetched. If you read the Tora Bora report that was released last week (pdf), it's clear that everyone important in the administration all the way up to Bush was informed that bin Laden was there and that they would need more troops to catch him. And it's also clear that they were held back and at the same time everyone was urging that they put all their attention on Iraq. That much is on the record.
There's no smoking gun that has Bush and Cheney twirling their mustaches saying "I think we should let bin Laden go so we can make Iraq an easier sell," but considering all the strange decisions that were made for reasons that are incomprehensible, it's not beyond the pale to speculate that it was the reason. In fact, it's pretty hard to see why they did what they did otherwise: this is one of history's great villains, they knew where he was and they decided not to do everything they could to capture and kill him despite ample political cover, plenty of warning and unlimited resources. What other motive makes better sense? The absurd notion that they didn't want Karzai to have a country in turmoil as they lamely claimed? Please.
Shuster and Hall show how narrowly the acceptable beltway dialog is defined and give a good clue about how a rightwing hissyfit is generated. Indeed, the right doesn't even have to do anything --- the media are Pavlovian in their response to any suggestion that these people were anything but patriotic, decent public servants, in spite of ample evidence that they most certainly were not. After all, the Bush administration started an illegal war based on lies and endorsed torture, among many other outrageous acts during their eight years in office. Is it really beyond the imagination that that Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld might have consciously made the decision to let bin Laden go for reasons of their own? Why?
I personally don't know if it's true, but considering their track record it certainly isn't completely crazy to think it might be.