Two weeks ago Laurence Silberman wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "The Dangerous Lie That 'Bush Lied'" to say how "shocking" he found former Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier's having twice asserted on Fox News that President George W. Bush “lied us into war in Iraq”.
Silberman is a senior federal judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals and served as co-chair of the commission assigned in 2004-05 to evaluate the "intelligence community’s determination that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD". He warrants that it was intelligence that Bush relied on as his "primary casus belli" and reliance on what proved to be "dead wrong" does not make Bush a liar.
There are weaknesses in his certitude. He cites the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and its "90% level of confidence" that "Saddam had weapons of mass destruction" as the leading determinant in Bush's decision. But that's not what the NIE said. "Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons" was the conclusion of the sixteen intelligence services, which then said only that "We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs". Silberman doesn't make that clear. His "Saddam had weapons of mass destruction" leaves the reader to assume nuclear weapons, especially use of the word "destruction", which one doesn't commonly associate with chemical and biological weapons.
So that led us to wonder how close to accurate were Judge Silberman's other assertions to absolve the 43rd president.
He reminds us that "Saddam had also attempted to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush" in Kuwait in 1993, "But President George W. Bush based his decision to go to war on information about Saddam’s WMD". Implicit is that the younger Bush was not motivated by revenge. But the judge doesn't get to erase what Bush had said. In a September 2002 campaign speech six months before the invasion, Bush cited a number of reasons why Saddam was so dangerous to the U.S., among them, "After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad". He would refer to the assassination attempt again that month in an address at the United Nations General Assembly, urging adoption of a resolution demanding that Saddam surrender his WMD. We could also cite Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, whose perspective on the cause of war as the first proconsul in Iraq before Paul Bremer's disastrous reign was more immediate than than that of Judge Silberman sitting in D.C. a year or two later. Garner said of George W. Bush that "he had a burr in his saddle on Iraq because they made an assassination attempt on his father".
Silberman wants us to believe that Bush based the decision to attack Iraq in 2003 solely on the intelligence handed to him. But longer memories recall Richard Clarke saying that, on the night after 9/11 two years earlier, Bush had demanded "Iraq, Saddam, find out if there is a connection”. The origin of the 9/11 attacks was al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but there was an eagerness to go after Iraq from the start and the intelligence that Silberman says Bush relied on came later and was made to order raw intelligence free of analysis "cherry-picked" and "stove-piped" straight to the top were the terms of choice at the time.
In leaked minutes of a meeting at 10 Downing Street, Richard Deerlove "MI6", Britain's chief of intelligence fresh from a trip to Washington where he learned of U.S. manipulation of intelligence first hand, reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that “The intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy”.
As another proof that lies took us to war, the AP reporter could have cited Bush's use of United Nations resolution 1441 as justification for going to war. The following article from 2007 by guest writer Al Robdell makes clear that the conditions of 1441 had already been met by Saddam Hussein, yet Bush went on to create his own reality for our consumption in his search for exculpation:
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Not just a lie, a "Big Lie"
See the President of the United States of America rewrite history in front of your very eyes when he was asked this Wednesday whether there was any choice other than going to war with Iraq:
It's important to document the actual history of those days, when there was a choice to be made, since this version, repeated often enough without a single objection soon becomes the new reality.
Here are the President's words, which he has spoken numerous times before almost verbatim, from the White House Transcript:
Q: So there was no choice -- so there was no choice between the course we took and leaving Saddam Hussein in power? Nothing else that might have worked?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we tried other things. As you might remember back then, we tried the diplomatic route: 1441 was a unanimous vote in the Security Council that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. So the choice was his to make. And he made -- he made a choice that has subsequently left subsequently caused him to lose his life under a system that he wouldn't have given his own citizens. We tried diplomacy. As a matter of fact, not only did I try diplomacy; other Presidents tried diplomacy.
Let me paraphrase his statement:
The United Nations, the nations of the world, speaking in unity, gave Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to disclose his Weapons of Mass Destruction and to disarm (destroy his illegal weapons, (specifically defined as WMD along with certain long range missiles.) He then adds that this was encompassed in Resolution 1441 which stated that if he refused, he would face "serious consequences" which is diplomatic language for war.
This statement is so clear and reasonable, if only it were true. This was not an off the cuff answer. This is the story that is being repeated to the public. It could be taken from this description of Joseph Goebbels' "Big Lie," that if you you repeat something consistently over a long enough period, even though false, it becomes a new reality.
Now comes the easy part, dissecting this sham for what it is: Yes, Saddam did refuse to disclose his WMD. But in this case his excuse is pretty compelling: he didn't possess any to disclose. My source? How about President Bush from the same news conference, spoken about one minute before he said Saddam was attacked for not disclosing WMD:
I obviously thought he had weapons, he didn't have weapons; the world thought he had weapons. It was a surprise to me that he didn't have the weapons of mass destruction everybody thought he had...
O.K. He couldn't "disclose" what he didn't possess; now what about the "destroy" part of the ultimatum?
It turns out that there was only one type of weapon that Iraq possessed that was marginally illegal based on the outside limit of its range. Weeks before the invasion these missiles were being destroyed as fast as possible as indicated in this reportfrom the New York Times of March 8, 2003, twelve days before we attacked:
The assessment from the weapons inspectors took account of Iraq's cooperation since Nov. 27, when inspections in Iraq resumed for the first time since 1998, after the Security Council passed a unanimous resolution. In addition to casting severe doubt on the reported Iraqi attempt to buy uranium in Niger, Dr. ElBaradei said that ''there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment'' of uranium into weapons-grade material. For months, American officials have cited Iraq's importation of these tubes as evidence that Mr. Hussein's scientists have been seeking to develop a nuclear capability.
Mr. Blix reiterated that the destruction of 34 Al Samoud 2 missiles in the past week "constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament indeed, the first since the middle of the 1990's. We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks."
Disarm?: far from refusing, Iraq was acceding to the demand, as reported by the U.N. Chief Inspector.
So what else is wrong with President Bush's summarization of why we attacked Iraq? I'm talking about proximate causes here, not underlying motivations which is another more complex subject. He mentions U.N Resolution 1441 as containing the ultimatum and threat of war. Here's how one newspaper saw it:
It should be remembered that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted in November 2002 regarding Iraq, was also unanimous but not definitive. The consensus was an additional resolution would be needed to authorize action against the Baghdad regime. But when Washington tried to get such a resolution, it failed to even muster a majority of the Security Council, with three veto-yielding members (China, Russia and France) opposed.
This wasn't from the New York Times or the Washington Post. It was from the July 26, 2006 edition of The Washington Times, considered the Fox News of the print media.
There's more, so much more that refutes the content and implications of the President's statement, such as the acknowledgment by his Press Secretary as the war was approaching that even acceding to the 1441 demands would no longer be sufficient,
Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said today that President Bush was hopeful that war could be averted, but that to escape military action, Iraq must disarm and Mr. Hussein must be deposed.
That combination of events, he said, looked highly unlikely.
Pressed on the point, Mr. Fleischer said both would be necessary conditions because disarmament was the United Nations' goal and changing Iraq's government was the president's.
The statement puts the United States on a different track from the United Nations, whose resolutions have been concerned with the immediate and unconditional disarmament, not with a change of government in Baghdad. that Saddam must give up power.
the above report from a New York Times article concluded with, "All pretense of Iraq being attacked based on the will of the international community was abandoned."
There are those who are convinced that everything that President Bush has said about this war is a lie, most importantly his underlying motivation for it in the first place. While some may refute this, and many do, how does one justify his blatant rewriting of the events leading up to this war.
We could not have possibly attacked Iraq because Saddam refused to "Disclose and Disarm." He was disarming and he had nothing to disclose. This is irrefutable fact-- from the President's own words, that of his press secretary, and the most extreme right wing newspaper in the country.
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A few days ago there was a highly recommended sketch by a noted humorist that showed a video of a fictional White House reporter challenging the President at a news conference. While most of us were enjoying the satire, I almost believed it was real. And I was somewhat peeved that I was tricked into buying into it.
Perhaps I was made numb by the routine bizarre fiction coming from the highest office in the land. What I find more incredible than the satiric video is that among the assembly of White House correspondents who listened to President Bush say these words, not a single one stood up and challenged him.
Not a single one of these "respected" journalists was willing to state the facts that refute his statement, to incur the wrath of this one man, who willfully and purposefully perpetrated an illegal act of war; and now has the effrontery to attempt to rewrite history, by erasing his crime with this "big lie."
Al Rodbell writes on a wide range of topics
on his personal website, AlRodbell.com