The two brothers who scaled the face of Big Ben in London with a banner reading Time for Truth sent the right message on the anniversary of the beginning of the US-led war on Iraq and just days before the start of hearings in Washington by an independent commission looking into the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

At a moment when there are no easy answers as to how to end the US occupation of Iraq without compounding existing instability, the one thing citizens need most is straight talk: about who knew what about Al Qaeda before 9/11 and about why the Iraq war was fought, among other questions. But truth still seems in short supply, as evidenced by the furious Administration response to a new memoir by former White House national security official Richard Clarke, who describes a President obsessed with Iraq on the day after the Al Qaeda attacks even after being reminded that no links had been found between the two. At the hearings, Clarke accused the Administration of failing to treat terrorism as an urgent matter before the attacks and said he believes that “by invading Iraq the President of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism” (see David Corn, page 4).

The White House should keep in mind what happened in Spain, where a government already unpopular because of its support of Bush’s war was voted out after trying to pin the blame for railway bombings on domestic rather than Islamic terrorists. “The vote was a punishment for the years of lies,” said Iris Bernal, a participant in a March 20 antiwar demonstration in Madrid. But the White House response to the Spanish election results was to cry “appeasement” and to disparage the Spaniards for exercising their democratic right to throw out dishonest leaders.

The globe’s citizens know better than to accept Bush’s skewed worldview; they see the Iraq war as a dangerous diversion, not an effective response to Al Qaeda-style violence. According to a survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, “Majorities in Germany, Turkey and France–and half of the British and Russians–believe the conflict in Iraq undermined the war on terrorism.” And, the survey reveals, “at least half the respondents in the eight other countries view the U.S. as less trustworthy as a consequence of the war.” These sentiments were widely held among the million or more people who took to the streets on March 20 in more than 275 cities around the world–from Australia to Italy, from Bangladesh to Brazil–to protest US policy in Iraq. In London, thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square for a demonstration whose slogan was No More Lies. In New York, protesters’ placards ran to variations on Bush Lied, They Died. In an interview with Britain’s Independent on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, former President Carter described the war as “based on lies and misinterpretations from London and from Washington.”

Doubts–and demands for accountability–are growing. A full-page ad in the New York Times sponsored by Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities notes that the cost of deceptions over Iraq “dwarfs the damage done by the worst corporate scandals” and calls on Bush to “step forward and take personal responsibility.” A Without War petition that has already garnered more than half a million signatures demands that Congress censure Bush for betraying the country’s trust. As the business leaders’ ad notes, it’s “past time for finger pointing.” It’s time for citizens, and voters, to make Bush pay.