As we mark the first anniversary of the beginning of Bush’s war with Iraq, the five pillars of argument upon which the President based his Iraq adventure are crumbling into dust in a rather dramatic fashion. Yet the Bush Administration continues to brazenly invent new rationales for its foreign policy, shamelessly twisting the facts to support it. Let’s review the five big lies Bush used as justification for his actions.
Lie #1–They Attacked Us: Iraq Supported Al Qaeda.
Astonishingly, President Bush, in a rare moment of candor, finally admitted half a year after the invasion that there was no evidence Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had any links to the 9/11 attacks, undermining eighteen months of implying the exact opposite. Yet in both of his recent big speeches–a brief and rather reserved statement after Saddam’s capture and his macho 2004 State of the Union address–Bush again dished out the fundamental lie that the war and occupation of Iraq can reasonably be linked to the “war on terror,” even as a new book by ex-Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill described the Bush foreign policy team’s consistent obsession with Iraq from the first days of the Administration.
Lies #2 and #3–Imminent Threats: Iraq’s Bio-Chem and Nuclear Weapons Programs.
A year after using his 2003 State of the Union address to paint Iraq’s allegedly vast arsenal of WMD as a grave threat to the United States and the world, Bush wisely avoided mentioning anything about uranium there–though he did spend a great deal of his latest SOTU defending the war on the grounds that “had we failed to act, the dictator’s weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day.” Dick Cheney, in interviews with USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, echoed this fudging–last year “weapons,” this year “programs”–declaring that “the jury’s still out” on whether Iraq had WMD and that “I am a long way at this stage from concluding that somehow there was some fundamental flaw in our intelligence.”
Only days later, chief US weapons inspector David Kay quit and began telling the world what the Bush Administration had been denying since taking office: that Saddam Hussein’s regime was but a weak shadow of the semi-fearsome military force it had been at the time of the first Gulf War thirteen years ago; that it had no significant chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs or stockpiles still in place; and that the UN inspections and allied bombing runs in the 1990s had been much more effective than their critics had believed at eroding these programs.
Lie #4–It Will Be Easy: Iraq as a “Cakewalk.”
“The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq,” Bush admitted, putting the lie to the idiotic and arrogant statements by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others that policing Iraq would be a simple matter that could be quickly delegated to Iraqis as soon as they stopped celebrating the US military’s arrival and cleaned up all those flowers they were going to throw.
Reality has continued to diverge from the White House’s neat depictions of inexorable progress. In the weeks after Saddam’s capture, the number of US soldiers killed actually increased, several helicopters were downed by enemy fire, and on Christmas Day alone there were eighteen attacks, including nine nearly simultaneous rocket grenade launches on embassies, apartments and the “green zone,” which houses the Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters. American KIAs have passed 500, while uncounted Iraqis continue to die in undocumented skirmishes.
Lie #5–The Moral Justification: Iraq as a Democratic Model.
As the other lies upon which this war were based have been crumbling, this one has moved to the forefront. For war apologists such as the New York Times‘s Thomas Friedman, if we can “bring democracy to Iraq,” all those immoral means will justify this noble end. Here, too, we find grave problems continuing to frustrate the fantasies of neocons and neoliberals alike: The Kurds want to retain the large de facto autonomy they’ve achieved in the north; the Sunni areas continue to be extremely hostile to the occupation; and the long-oppressed majority Shiites are protesting in the streets in the tens of thousands, demanding one-man, one-vote elections. The CIA now considers civil war in Iraq a serious possibility.
Just as it didn’t solve the stunning array of problems facing Iraq, the capture of Saddam did nothing to heal the rifts in our own country, where the lies of this Administration have so polarized the populace that this election year promises to be extremely nasty. We Americans now have but three options: We can deny that the Administration lied and continues to lie about Saddam’s ties to terror and the threat he allegedly posed to the United States; we can be aware of the lies, but cling to a faith that good things will come from them, that the ends justify the means; or we can get angry about the lies and how truth has become a casualty of 9/11.
The lies of this Administration concerning Iraq rise to the level of the greatest scandals in American history. Now it is time to clean up the mess and reinvigorate our democracy.