The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1380 Monday, 7 July 2003
Date: Friday, 4 Jul 2003 03:27:36 -0400
Subject: Pop Culture and High Crimes
From the Baltimore Sun:
Was it a high crime?
By Daniel Meltzer
Originally published June 29, 2003
"That a man may smile and be a villain." - William Shakespeare, Hamlet,
1600 "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" - Sen.
Howard Baker, 1973
NEW YORK - The British Parliament is investigating charges that Prime
Minister Tony Blair misled his nation by either deliberately or
recklessly exaggerating alleged evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction in the run-up to "Operation Iraqi Freedom" - specifically,
by stating unequivocally that Saddam Hussein's biological, chemical and
nuclear weapons could be launched on as little as 45 minutes notice.
President Bush, speaking gravely from the Oval Office, ominously when on
the road, and at least once smiling confidently on a golf course, told
us he had no doubt that Mr. Hussein had mustard gas, anthrax and nuclear
weapons and intended to use them against Americans, that he was in
cahoots with al-Qaida and that invasion and regime change in Baghdad
were our only recourse.
Independent journalists and most foreign governments, including two of
our closest allies, disputed these claims. One lone Democratic senator,
Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, inveighed tirelessly and eloquently
against the rush to battle.
The question that must now be asked, as it needed to be asked back when
it had become apparent that President Richard Nixon was implicated in
the illegal cover-up of a burglary committed on his own behalf, is: What
did the president know, and when did he know it?
Did Mr. Bush know there was at least a reasonable doubt about the
presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq? Did he knowingly
lie to the American people when he said there wasn't? Law professor and
former Nixon White House counsel John W. Dean III has written that such
a deliberate deception would, under the Constitution, constitute a "high
crime" and, as such, an impeachable offense.
Journalism is nothing if not a quest for the truth. Timidity has no
place here. The Fourth Estate has played stenographer to the White House
and the Pentagon long enough. Reporting is not just telling the public
what the government tells you.
Shakespeare's Claudius may have been a strong king and committed to the
defense of his country. But he had murdered his predecessor and then
lied about it. There truly was "something rotten in the state of
If President Bush launched a lethal war, one whose ultimate domestic and
global consequences still cannot be foreseen, on the basis of evidence
he either knew was false or about which he should have been judiciously
skeptical, then in the words of Mr. Bush's own father, former President
George H. W. Bush, "this cannot stand," and he should resign or be
Daniel Meltzer teaches journalism at New York University.
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