It was a Republican US senator, Hiram Johnson of California, who is credited with coining the phrase: "The first casualty when war comes is truth."
Johnson, a reluctant backer of World War I who quickly grew to be horrified by the war profiteering, assaults of civil liberties and official deceits that characterized that indefensible conflict, would before the fighting was done argue that "the war warps us, distorts our judgment, and destroys our sense of justice, and our ideals."
The experience of World War I led Johnson—and fellow Republican senators such as Wisconsin’s Robert M. La Follette and Nebraska’s George Norris—to believe that wars were, invariably, founded on falsehoods, deceptions and lies.
Were he serving in the Senate now, Hiram Johnson would go to the floor of the Senate, hold up a copy of David Swanson’s essential new book and demand that the chamber and the whole of the American people recognize the reality of its title:
Swanson, arguably America’s most determined antiwar campaigner, was the driving force behind the After Downing Street movement. That movement spread the word in the United States about revelations that first appeared in the British media—regarding a classified British government document that came to be known as the "Downing Street Memo"—that confirmed the deliberate deceptions in which former President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their inner circle engaged in to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The smoking gun line in the Downing Street memo was a quote from the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who said after traveling to Washington that "[George W.] Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
The notion that US intelligence was "fixed" to create the fantasy that Iraq posed a threat was confirmed in the memo by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who said Bush had "made up his mind" to go to war—even if no legitimate grounds for doing so could be found.
The document led members of Congress, millions of citizens and honest players in the media to reach a conclusion that was perhaps best expressed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in a Memorial Day 2005 editorial that read: