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Bush Sold The Iraq War Through Lies And Deception

"The democratic processes ... are subverted when intelligence is manipulated to affect decisions by elected officials and the public."

If anything, this principle has grown even more important since September 11, 2001. The Iraq war presented the United States with a new defense paradigm: preemptive war, waged in response to a prediction of a forthcoming attack against the United States or its allies. This kind of security policy requires the public to base its support or opposition on expert intelligence to which it has no direct access. It is up to the president and his administration--with a deep interest in a given policy outcome--nonetheless to portray the intelligence community's findings honestly. If an administration represents the intelligence unfairly, it effectively forecloses an informed choice about the most important question a nation faces: whether or not to go to war. That is exactly what the Bush administration did when it sought to convince the public and Congress that the United States should go to war with Iraq.

From late August 2002 to mid-March of this year, the Bush administration made its case for war by focusing on the threat posed to the United States by Saddam Hussein's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and by his purported links to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Officials conjured up images of Iraqi mushroom clouds over U.S. cities and of Saddam transferring to Osama bin Laden chemical and biological weapons that could be used to create new and more lethal September elevenths. In Nashville on August 26, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney warned of a Saddam "armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror" who could "directly threaten America's friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail." In Washington on September 26, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claimed he had "bulletproof" evidence of ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda. And, in Cincinnati on October 7, President George W. Bush warned, "The Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons." Citing Saddam's association with Al Qaeda, the president added that this "alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."

Yet there was no consensus within the American intelligence community that Saddam represented such a grave and imminent threat. Rather, interviews with current and former intelligence officials and other experts reveal that the Bush administration culled from U.S. intelligence those assessments that supported its position and omitted those that did not. The administration ignored, and even suppressed, disagreement within the intelligence agencies and pressured the CIA to reaffirm its preferred version of the Iraqi threat. Similarly, it stonewalled, and sought to discredit, international weapons inspectors when their findings threatened to undermine the case for war.

Three months after the invasion, the United States may yet discover the chemical and biological weapons that various governments and the United Nations have long believed Iraq possessed. But it is unlikely to find, as the Bush administration had repeatedly predicted, a reconstituted nuclear weapons program or evidence of joint exercises with Al Qaeda--the two most compelling security arguments for war. Whatever is found, what matters as far as American democracy is concerned is whether the administration gave Americans an honest and accurate account of what it knew. The evidence to date is that it did not, and the cost to U.S. democracy could be felt for years to come. --The New Republic, 06.19.03


Bush's Lies And His Apologists

When Bush and his administration are caught red-handed in a lie, we usually get Ari or an official flunky attempt to explain it away, then the talk shows move on to something more important to the nation, like which celebrity lied on her income tax return while having sex. But the Bush lies surrounding our reasons for going to war with Iraq will not go away, despite the spin being placed upon them by major players in the Bush administration, like Rice and Rumsfeld. Despite, even, the administration's attempt to blame their lies on our intelligence community. Even some credible mainstream pundits, such as John Dean, have uttered the "i" word..."impeachment." Why, things are serious enough that our Republican Congress has been forced to launch a closed hearing to obfuscate the truth in order to get Bush off the hook. This allows pressured Bush apologists in the media to focus on the workings of Congress, rather than the manipulations of the administration, and eventually the air goes out of the balloon. They hope.

Politics are local, and no more so than in D.C. One can only imagine the pressure from the White House upon the Washington Post on a daily basis. Little indications pop up from time to time. Some months ago, the Post ran an online editorial commenting upon the Bush administration's legislative posture on an ongoing fight in Congress, stressing the sins of the Repubs over those of the Dems. The editorial was pulled, and the next day is was reposted with a new title and an additional paragraph, blasting the Dems.

Did more of the same take place during the writing of David Wise's Washington Post story in Sunday's edition? The title of the story,If Bush Is Lying, He's Not The First, appears to be covering Bush lies about WMD in Iraq by declaring, Hey, all the presidents do it ! Wise provides an interesting chronology of the Bush administration's lies over the course of a year. On the other hand, while he notes that Bush "fuzzed up" (you mean, "lied," Mr. Wise?) reality in the Polish interview, he adds a bit of confusion on his own: "Bush was referring to two mobile units that the CIA had concluded were designed to manufacture biological substances." According to the State Department's summary of the CIA report in question, "a new Central Intelligence Agency report says the three mobile laboratory facilities uncovered by coalition forces in Iraq provide 'the strongest evidence to date' that Iraq had a biological warfare program." There's a difference between "biological substances," which might include, say, processed gardening dung, and agents of "biological warfare." There's also a difference between, say, incontrovertible evidence and "strongest evidence to date," a relative term. Finally, there's a difference between two trailers and three trailers, but let's keep our eye on the trailers Bush and Wise are talking about.

"An official British investigation into two trailers found in northern Iraq has concluded they are not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony Blair and President George Bush, but were for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqis have continued to insist." --Observer 06.15.03

"The report discounted the possibility the vehicles could have been used for hydrogen production on the grounds that they would have been “inefficient” compared to newer and more compact hydrogen generation systems. The fact that such equipment would have been denied Iraq by United Nations sanctions apparently escaped the agency’s notice. According to scientists who are familiar with the trailers, the vehicles, if used as biological labs, would have been even more inefficient—and indeed, deadly—to their operators.--WSWS 06.12.03

" The last third of the Wise story provides a modern-day history of presidential lies, from CIA lies during the Truman administration through Clinton's sexual lies, but skipping Bush the father and Bush the son, even though both have been tied to administration lies that have led to wars and the loss of American lives. Naturally, the Clinton lie is given a paragraph of its own, although the differences between what Clinton lied about and what the Bushes lied about is painfully obvious. It's doubtful that the credibility of U.S. presidents was damaged by the big Clinton lie. Most Europans don't take such things very seriously. Been there, done that. The Bush lies, however, have had serious effects on their lives, and such lies do weaken the credibility of the presidency abroad. Wise fails to make such an obvious distinction.

Another egregious failing in the Wise story is his inability to write about what he introduces as being important to the story of Bush lies:
"For President Bush, the problem centers on the furor over whether he misled the nation and the world by asserting that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network. Since the twin allegations were the primary premise for going to war against Saddam Hussein's regime, pressure has been building on the White House to prove its claims."
Given the Bush administration's lies about an al Qaeda-Saddam connection, and given Wise's assertion that these lies were just as crucial to Bush's decision to go to war as his WMD lies, it's puzzling that Wise fails to expand upon his assertion later in the story.

As it stands, the story looks heavily edited by Wise or someone out to provide a biased slant on important ongoing events of the day through confusion, chop-logic, and deletion. In this story, the credibility of the Post is almost as much in question as the credibility of Bush. This is neither Bush's shining hour nor the Washington Post's. --Jerry Politex, 06.16.03, Bush Watch


IDEOLOGY FIRST, FACTS IF WE CAN GET 'EM...

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RETIRED), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: ...All of us in the community who read intelligence believe that Saddam wanted these capabilities and he had some. We struck very hard in December of ’98, did everything we knew, all of his facilities. I think it was an effective set of strikes. Tony Zinni commanded that, called Operation Desert Fox, and I think that set them back a long ways. But we never believed that that was the end of the problem. I think there was a certain amount of hype in the intelligence, and I think the information that’s come out thus far does indicate that there was a sort of selective reading of the intelligence in the sense of sort of building a case.
TIM RUSSERT: Hyped by whom?
GEN. CLARK: Well, I...
MR. RUSSERT: The CIA, or the president or vice president? Secretary of Defense, who?
GEN. CLARK: I think it was an effort to convince the American people to do something, and I think there was an immediate determination right after 9/11 that Saddam Hussein was one of the keys to winning the war on terror. Whether it was the need just to strike out or whether he was a linchpin in this, there was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001 starting immediately after 9/11 to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.
MR. RUSSERT: By who? Who did that?
GEN. CLARK: Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, “You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.” I said, “But—I’m willing to say it but what’s your evidence?” And I never got any evidence. And these were people who had—Middle East think tanks* and people like this and it was a lot of pressure to connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally saw the evidence and didn’t talk to anybody who had the evidence to make that connection.
MR. RUSSERT: We now know that—and Condoleezza Rice on this program last week, acknowledged that the president said something in the State of the Union message which was untrue, about uranium being shipped from Africa to Iraq. Something like that found its way into the State of the Union message and delivered to the world by the president of the United States. Should there now be open hearings by the Senate Intelligence Committee into this matter?
GEN. CLARK: Well, I don’t know if the hearings ought to be open or not because you’re dealing with classified information. But I do think this. I do think there has to be an accounting for this. I think really it goes back to 9/11. We’ve got a set of hearings that need to be conducted to look at what happened that caused 9/11. That really hasn’t been done yet. You know, a basic principle of military operations is you conduct an after-action review. When the action’s over you bring people together. The commander, the subordinates, the staff members. You ask yourself what happened, why, and how do we fix it the next time? As far as I know, this has never been done about the essential failure at 9/11. Then moving beyond that, it needs to be looked at in terms of the whole intelligence effort and how it’s connected to the policy effort. And these are matters that probably cannot be aired fully in public but I think that the American people and their representatives have to be involved in this. This is essential in terms of the legitimacy and trust in our elected leadership and our way of government.
MR. RUSSERT: The president said that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat based on the intelligence data he had seen. Did the president mislead the country?
GEN. CLARK: Well, I think that’s to be determined. And there were many of us who said, “Where is the imminence of the threat?” We never saw the—I got people calling me up and they would say, “Well, now, look, don’t you think the president might know something you don’t know?” And I certainly hoped he did. But it was never revealed what the imminence of the threat was. And I think now that the operation’s over, it’s been successful, I think we do need to go back and look at this issue. But as I say, I’m not sure it can all be done in public. " --MEET THE PRESS

*The "Middle East think tank" that immediately comes to mind is The Middle East Forum, a pro-Israel D.C. think tank which is part of a network of pro-Israel groups connected to such Bush administration hawks as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. Recently, Bush proposed placing Middle East Forum spokesman Daniel Pipes into an important position within his administration. --Politex, 06.17.03

***

BUSH PROPAGANDA IN ACTION...A third of the American public believes U.S. forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to a recent poll, and 22 percent said Iraq actually used chemical or biological weapons. But no such weapons have been found, nor is there evidence they were used recently in Iraq. Before the war, half of those polled in a survey said Iraqis were among the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001. But most of them were from Saudi Arabia. None were Iraqis.... Pollsters and political analysts see several reasons for the gap between fact and belief: the public's short attention span on foreign news, fragmentary or conflicting media reports that lacked depth or skepticism, and Bush administration efforts to sell a war by oversimplifying the threat. --Knight Ridder

***

THE ROOTS OF BUSH PROPAGANDA..."The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible goverrnment which is the true ruling power of our country....Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses." --Edward Bernays, 1928, U.S.A.


Bush Watch is a daily political internet magazine based in Austin, Texas, a non-advocacy site paid for and edited by Politex, a non-affiliated U.S. citizen. Contents, including "Bush Watch" and "Politex," (c) 1998-2001 Politex. The views expressed herein and the views in stories that you are linked to are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Bush Watch. Permission of author required for reprinting original material, and only requests for reprinting a specific item are considered. The duration of the working links is not under our control. Bush Watch has not reviewed all of the sites linked to our site and is not responsible for the content of any off-site pages or any other sites linked to our site. Your linking to any other off-site pages or other sites from our site is at your own risk.
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