He’s still misleading. Speaking at the United Nations on September 23, George W. Bush defended his invasion of Iraq by noting that Saddam Hussein’s regime had “cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction” and that Iraq had “used those weapons.” Slippery statements. Bush pushed the country to war by claiming that Saddam had unconventional weapons and could hand them at any moment to Al Qaeda, with whom he was “dealing.” Now Bush offers a more generalized description of the threat Saddam posed to the United States. As for his “use” of WMDs, that horrendous act occurred in the 1980s, and it never prevented Reagan and Bush I from cozying up to him. Bush also claimed he invaded Iraq “to defend…the credibility of the United Nations,” falsely suggesting that the UN at that time did not plan to deal with Iraq’s violation of its resolutions. And Bush praised Iraq’s new leaders for “showing the openness and tolerance that democracy requires”–without mentioning that the Iraqi Governing Council (handpicked by the United States) was in the process of banning Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya from council news conferences and government ministries on the grounds that the two satellite networks had engaged in “irresponsible activities.”
Stuck in Iraq, Bush and his crew are holding tight to the untruths that greased their way to war and are concocting new ones–even as they contradict one another. Appearing on Meet the Press, Vice President Cheney was asked about any connection between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks. “Of course,” he replied, “we’ve had the story…[that] the Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official.” Czech President Vaclav Havel notified Washington a year ago that there was no evidence to confirm that. Days later, Bush undermined his Veep, telling reporters, “We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th.” But Bush insisted Cheney was right to state that Saddam had been involved with Al Qaeda, and he pointed to the presence in Iraq (at some point) of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, calling him “an Al Qaeda operative,” despite the fact that US intelligence analysts have said Zarqawi operates outside Al Qaeda control.
At a recent luncheon Donald Rumsfeld said that before the war UN inspectors had “concluded that the inspection process really wasn’t working because of lack of cooperation on the part of Saddam Hussein’s regime.” Not at all. The inspectors had issued mixed progress reports but wanted to continue the process. On Nightline, Condoleezza Rice said that before the war “we were talking about large stockpiles of unaccounted-for [unconventional] weapons. Large stockpiles cited by the United Nations.” But the UN had not cited stockpiles. Its inspectors had maintained that they had destroyed much of Iraq’s WMDs but had found discrepancies in the accounting of weapons and WMD material. The inspectors did not conclude that this meant there were large weapons stockpiles.
Bush and his crew are looking desperate as the Iraq occupation becomes more of a problem than the Cheney/Wolfowitz we-will-be-welcomed prewar claims had suggested. Even Republicans on Capitol Hill are restless over his $87 billion budget request for Iraq. Polls show that people are questioning Bush’s credibility on Iraq. They should. In this issue, Washington editor David Corn, drawing from his new book, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception, demonstrates that lying has been “one of the essential tools” of the Bush presidency, and it has not been limited to Iraq. Tax cuts, the environment, Social Security, stem-cell research, homeland security–on almost every issue confronting us, Bush has been a prevaricator.
In mid-September, Rumsfeld was asked about his March 30 claim that he knew where Iraq’s WMDs could be found. “Sometimes I overstate for emphasis,” he said. Quite an understatement. This Administration has embraced “overstatement”–and fabrication, exaggeration and misrepresentation. It has waged war not only abroad but also at home–a war on honest discourse. And it shows no sign of retreating.
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Just how destructive Bush’s lies, and his policies, have been to America’s standing in the world community was reflected in the blunt criticisms made by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and others on the opening day of the General Assembly. Annan said the logic of pre-emption and unilateralism “represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last fifty-eight years.”