This article was adapted from the new book, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers).
George W. Bush is a liar. He has lied large and small, directly and by omission. His Iraq lies have loomed largest. In the run-up to the invasion, Bush based his case for war on a variety of unfounded claims that extended far beyond his controversial uranium-from-Niger assertion. He maintained that Saddam Hussein possessed “a massive stockpile” of unconventional weapons and was directly “dealing” with Al Qaeda–two suppositions unsupported then (or now) by the available evidence. He said the International Atomic Energy Agency had produced a report in 1998 noting that Iraq was six months from developing a nuclear weapon; no such report existed (and the IAEA had actually reported then that there was no indication Iraq had the ability to produce weapons-grade material). Bush asserted that Iraq was “harboring a terrorist network, headed by a senior Al Qaeda terrorist planner”; US intelligence officials told reporters this terrorist was operating ouside of Al Qaeda control. And two days before launching the war, Bush said, “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” Yet former deputy CIA director Richard Kerr, who is conducting a review of the prewar intelligence, has said that intelligence was full of qualifiers and caveats, and based on circumstantial and inferential evidence. That is, it was not no-doubt stuff. And after the major fighting was done, Bush declared, “We found the weapons of mass destruction.” But he could only point to two tractor-trailers that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency had concluded were mobile bioweapons labs. Other experts–including the DIA’s own engineering experts–disagreed with this finding.
But Bush’s truth-defying crusade for war did not mark a shift for him. Throughout his campaign for the presidency and his years in the White House, Bush has mugged the truth in many other areas to advance his agenda. Lying has been one of the essential tools of his presidency. To call the forty-third President of the United States a prevaricator is not an exercise of opinion, not an inflammatory talk-radio device. Rather, it is backed up by an all-too-extensive record of self-serving falsifications. While politicians are often derided as liars, this charge should be particularly stinging for Bush. During the campaign of 2000, he pitched himself as a candidate who could “restore” honor and integrity to an Oval Office stained by the misdeeds and falsehoods of his predecessor. To brand Bush a liar is to negate what he and his supporters declared was his most basic and most important qualification for the job.