For months now I have been contemplating a grand project: chronicling every misleading statement George W. Bush and his crew uttered before the war about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the supposed operational connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. I covered much of this in my book The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception. But there was only so much room I could devote to the task; I had to reserve space for Bush’s untruthful remarks about tax cuts, global warming, missile defense, homeland security, the energy bill, Enron and many other topics. Sadly, I was forced to highlight only the most illustrative examples of Bush’s pre- and postwar dis- and misinformation. In the months since my book was published, I have often come across various Bush administration assertions about Iraq that have made me exclaim, “Shoot, I wish I had this one earlier.”
Several Democratic members of Congress, including Senators Carl Levin and Ted Kennedy, have recently assembled decent compilations. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace put out a report in January that presented a good sampling of the best–or worst–of the administration’s false remarks about Iraq’s WMD and the al Qaeda-Iraq relationship. But the prize goes to Representative Henry Waxman.
He just released a report that identifies 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in 125 separate public appearances. There’s even an on-line database. (Click on the link above to reach the website.) Want to peruse the whoppers about Iraq’s supposed biological weapons? Plug “biological weapons” into the search feature, and up pops 91 examples of Bush officials claiming there were bioweapons in Iraq. The evidence to date, of course, indicates they were wrong. And there is indisputable evidence that Bush and his underlings were mistaken not because the intelligence was off but because they exaggerated or ignored the available intelligence. One example: in an October 2002 speech, Bush said Iraq had a “massive stockpile” of biological weapons. But according to the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, the intelligence community had not reached such a conclusion, and CIA director George Tenet said a few weeks ago that the intelligence analysts had possessed “no specific information” on bioweapons stockpiles.
What’s your favorite prewar untruth from the Bush gang? When Cheney in August 2002 said there was “no doubt” that Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction “to use…against us”? When Bush in May 2003 said “we found the weapons of mass destruction”? (Bush was referring to two tractor-trailers discovered in northern Iraq. From the start, analysts questioned the administration’s claim that these were mobile biological weapons factories. And Tenet has noted the jury is still out on the tractor-trailers. It seems more probable they were designed to produce hydrogen for weather balloons.) These unforgettable lines–at least they ought to be unforgettable–are among the Waxman’s Top 237.
Is the Waxman list complete? Not entirely. Comments made by Ari Fleischer, Paul Wolfowitz and other significant administration figures are not included in the database. (Are there bandwidth limitations?) And I could not find one of my favorites: Rumsfeld on September 13, 2002, exclaiming, “There’s no debate in the world as to whether they have those weapons….We all know that. A trained ape knows that.” (I guess it depends on whether that trained ape was trained to misread and hype intelligence reports.) But Waxman and his staff deserve credit for rounding up and archiving many of the false and disingenuous assertions Bush and his gang used to grease the way to war.
If the commission Bush begrudgingly appointed to study the prewar intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs is going to investigate whether Bush abused the intelligence, this website would be of tremendous value to it. As of now, though, it seems that the commissioners–all chosen by Bush–will duck that mission and that Waxman’s site will not be on their computer browser’s list of favorites. But Waxman’s report practically makes it unnecessary for the commissioners to worry if Bush falsely characterized the prewar intelligence. After all, why bother bother investigating a question with such an obvious answer?