In a previous post we explored the spectacle of George W. Bush bungling through an attempt at an expression of remorse — this time over the state of the economy — as only he can. It’s what you’d expect from a guy who believed he was on a mission from God, and has watched it go horribly wrong.
He still has to “Keep the faith,” and convince himself that all is pretty much as it should be, close enough, or well on its way there.
But the rest of us don’t.
So, in one of the many interviews we’ll be treated to as we (and W.) wait out the clock, the president’s thoughts (such as they are) turn to national security the war in Iraq.
In one interview with Charlie Gibson, in which Bush said he wanted to be remembered as a president who “helped achieve peace,” he also said he regrets the WMD intelligence “had been better.” (This, from a man who was “very pleased” with the Iraq war outcome just before Thanksgiving.)
“A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein,” Bush said. “It wasn’t just people in my administration. A lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington, D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence.”
“I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess,” Bush said.
When pressed by Gibson, Bush declined to “speculate” on whether he would still have gone to war if he knew Saddam didn’t have weapons of mass destruction.
“That is a do-over that I can’t do,” Bush said.
(Join the club, Dub’. We all kinda wish there had been better intelligence — heck, any intelligence — during your administration.)
Well, except that it’s been pretty well documented that the intelligence wasn’t so much the problem as the cherry-pinking of intelligence. In some cases, the Bush administration just told lie upon lie.
Nine hundred thirty-five to be exact.
President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.
On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration’s case for war.
It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose “Duelfer Report” established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.
In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.
You can search the database for yourself. My favorite is Colin Powell exclaiming, “I’m not reading this. This is bullshit,” during the four days and three nights of preparation — during which 38 pages allegations against Iraq was reduced to six — for his nonetheless preposterous performance at the U.N.
February 5, 2003
Colin Powell addresses the UN in an attempt to sway world opinion in favor of war in Iraq. Powell makes a series of inaccurate statements that will badly tarnish his reputation.
Powell says, “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to al-Qaida.” This is al-Libi, who provided information under torture and will recant everything. Powell highlights Curveball’s “eyewitness” account when he warns that Iraq’s mobile labs can brew enough weapons-grade microbes “in a single month to kill thousands upon thousands of people.” Curveball has been doubted for some time by intelligence agencies at home and abroad. In fact, the senior German intelligence officer who supervised Curveball’s case later tells the Los Angeles Times that when his colleagues hear Powell cite Curveball, “We were shocked. Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven.”
Powell also says that Saddam’s son Qusay has ordered WMD removed from palace complexes; that key WMD files are being driven around Iraq by intelligence agents; that bioweapons warheads have been distributed to the Iraqi military; that a water truck at an Iraqi military installation is a “decontamination vehicle” for chemical weapons; that Iraq has drones it can use for bioweapons attacks; and that WMD experts have been corralled into one of Saddam’s guest houses. Every one of those claims has been flagged by an congressional intelligence assessment of the speech as “WEAK.”
And, of course, days later Curveball lived up to his name.
February 8, 2003
The Los Angeles Times reports in 2005: “Three days after Powell’s speech, the U.N.’s Team Bravo conducted the first search of Curveball’s former work site. The raid by the American-led biological weapons experts lasted 3 1/2 hours. It was long enough to prove Curveball had lied.”
But even a quick look at the top ten lies shows that the president and members of his administration went about making statements that had been discredited before they were even spoken; from Bush’s October 7, 2007 statement that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program (of which an intelligence agent who was part of the investigation said at the time, “That’s just a lie.”) to Bush’s June, 5 2003 statement that “we found a biological laboratory in Iraq” (which was later declared untrue).
In 2005 Powell correctly called the U.N. fiasco a “blot” on his record.
Even former Bush strategist Karl Rove got in on the
In what was a remarkable admission that contradicted — to a large extent — the past statements from his onetime boss, former Bush strategist Karl Rove said on Tuesday evening that had the President known Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction, the United States would not have gone to war.
“In the aftermath of 9/11 the concern was about a tyrant accused of enormous human rights abuses,” but who also possessed weapons of mass destruction, said Rove. “Absent that, I suspect that the administration’s course of action would have been to work to find more creative ways to constrain him like in the 90s.”
The remarks, delivered at a debate in New York on Bush’s legacy, came amidst a vigorous defense by Rove on behalf of the war’s purpose and outcome. Later he argued that Saddam Hussein was supporting terrorism, poised a grave threat to the region, and had systematically duped the international community into assuming he was armed.
…And yet, his remarks stand in contrast to those offered by the president himself, both recently and in the past. In an interview that aired last night with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Bush declared that the greatest regret of his presidency was “the intelligence failure in Iraq.” But he claimed it was “hard… to speculate” as to whether or not he would make the same decision to invade with the correct information.
Back in December 2005, however, Bush did just that, declaring the WMD issue effectively irrelevant when he said that, “knowing what I know today, I would have still made that decision.”
“So, if you had had this — if the weapons had been out of the equation because the intelligence did not conclude that he had them, it was still the right call?” Fox News’ Brit Hume asked.
“Absolutely,” replied Bush.
This kind of dissembling is to be expected from a president and an administrating with years of practice hiding from the truth, whether it’s the lack of WMDs or the lack of a Saddam/al Qaeda connection.
Maybe delusion should be classified as a weapon of mass destruction, based on our collective observations since March 2003.