Posted on Tuesday 30 March 2010

David Corn is a Washington columnist formerly with The Nation, then Mother Jones and Politics Daily among others. I first heard of him as the person who figured out that outing Valerie Plame might have been a crime. Later he coauthored Hubris with Michael Isikoff – a gold mine of information when it was published about the deceit in the Bush Administration. He has the credentials to say that Bush and Cheney deliberately lied to get us to invade Iraq. If you’re reading this blog, it’s unlikely that you doubt that they lied. I reproduce Corn’s articles, not to convince the skeptic, but to ask the question yet again, What will it take to convince all Americans that they were duped – on purpose? Will there ever be a formal action by the government that spells out what happened?

Can the ‘Bush Lied’ Deniers Handle the Truth?

Politics Daily
by David Corn

Conservative apologists for the George W. Bush crew are swinging hard these days to defend their man – and themselves – from the charge that W. and his gang misled the nation into war. They must worry that they are going to end up on the wrong side of history. After all, a 2008 Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans believed that the Bush administration "deliberately misled the American public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." [This was a big change from a poll taken two months after the 2003 invasion that noted that 67 percent believed that Bush had played it straight.]

Still, my PoliticsDaily.com colleague, Peter Wehner, who worked in the W. White House, wants to mix it up over this. In a recent column, he took issue with a piece I had written decrying Iraq war triumphalism. Wehner disagreed on several fronts, but he zeroed in on what he derisively called the " ‘Bush lied’ mantra"– meaning the assertion that his former boss bamboozled the public about Iraq’s WMD capabilities. He scornfully wrote, "I fully understand that this remains an article of religious faith among many of those on the left. But there is no real evidence for it." And Karl Rove, who claims in his new book that Bush did not "lie us" into war, cheered on Wehner, tweeting on Tuesday, "Fantastic piece by fmr WH colleague Pete Wehner responding to @DavidCornDC on Iraq." Moreover, in a column this week, New York Times op-edder Ross Douthat, while assailing Matt Damon’s "Green Zone," scoffed at "the comforts of a ‘Bush lied, people died’ reductionism." Accusing Bush of misrepresenting the case for war, Douthat huffs, is "glib" and "lame" scapegoating; the real explanation for what went wrong in Iraq, he asserts, is, well, more Shakespearean…
Goaded by his colleagues’ and Roves recent denials, he reviews the evidence [in the full article] and concludes:
So let’s review. Bush and Cheney again and again made statements that were not true and that were not supported by the available intelligence. Moreover, once U.N. inspectors entered Iraq in late 2002 and eventually began reporting that there was no evidence of significant WMD programs, Bush and Co. ignored these experts and continued to claim that Saddam was up to his neck in WMD. They insisted Saddam had been shopping for uranium in Africa, even though the intelligence on this point was dubious. All together, they waged a willful campaign of misrepresentation and hyperbole. And to such an extent, it can be branded a lie…

Much of the American public has come to understand this. But if Wehner, Rove and Douthat insist on defending Bush, let them explain the pattern detailed above. I dare any of them to attempt a line-by-line response. The evidence is clear: Bush, Cheney and other administration aides engaged in reckless disregard of the truth to sell a war. That is not an article of faith or a Hollywood fantasy — it’s what happened.

Having laid down his dare, only Peter Wehner responded. Today, Corn reviews that response [I’ve only copied Corn’s side because I’m interested in his listing – not the silly apologist argument]:
Did Bush Knowingly Mislead the U.S. Into War With Iraq?
Politics Daily

by David Corn

… It wasn’t merely a matter of Bush, Dick Cheney, and the others repeating in good faith intelligence that later proved to be wrong. They incessantly made provocative [and false] assertions overstating the lousy intelligence, and, on other occasions, they simply made stuff up. I offered a sampling of eight false statements that characterized this endeavor. [The Center for Public integrity has put together a list of 532 false Bush administration statements about Iraq’s WMD capability.] And I dared Wehner, who worked in the W. White House, Karl Rove, Bush’s uber-strategist, and Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist – each of whom had recently dismissed the notion that Bush had misguided the nation – to provide a line-by-line response. Wehner was the sole member of this Bush-backing trio willing to give it a shot. But he has only managed to put up half a fight…

In his reply, Wehner addresses merely five of those eight statements. Should we assume he’s conceding on the others? …

So Wehner has nothing to say about (1) Cheney hurling an intelligence-free claim that Saddam was developing WMDs so he could attack the United States; (2) Bush and Cheney hyping the connection between Saddam and the mass murderers of 9/11; or (3) Bush resorting to scare-’em rhetoric about a nuclear Iraq that had no foundation in the available intelligence. On these fronts, Bush, Cheney, and their aides exhibited a reckless disregard of the facts as they tried to whip up public support for their war. But none of that is on Wehner’s radar screen. Which calls into question his entire attempt to beat back the proposition that Bush bamboozled the public.

But let’s turn to the five areas where Wehner does mount an argument.

1. The Case of the "Massive Stockpile of Biological Weapons." … No matter how I characterized it, Bush overstated the U.N. findings. The inspectors had not concluded that this "massive stockpile" had been "likely produced." They had only said that because of the accounting discrepancies it was possible that a large amount of biological weapons might have been produced. They did not assert it was "likely" that this had happened. Bush ignored this critical distinction – to make it seem as if these stockpiles were real. And elsewhere in the speech, Bush stated flat-out – using the present tense – that Iraq "possesses and produces" biological weapons. There was no use of the "likely" qualifier. He also claimed that on "any given day," Saddam could reach into his stockpile and hand a biological weapon to a "terrorist group," allowing "the Iraqi regime to attack America." Bush did not, as Wehner claims, convey the "element of uncertainty" in the U.N. inspectors’ findings; he mischaracterized them and falsely cited them as the basis for unambiguous declarations.

2. The Case of the Nonexistent Report. I noted that at a Sept. 7, 2002, press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said that when the U.N. nuclear weapons inspectors "first went into Iraq and were denied — finally denied access, a report came out of the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need." Right after that press conference, though, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that there had been no such report issued in 1998, when its inspectors had been forced out of Iraq. Moreover, the IAEA in 1998 reported that it had successfully dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons program by that point… The agency had said Saddam’s nuclear program was dead; Bush was citing the agency to contend Iraq was near to possessing nuclear weapons…

3. The Case of the DIA Report. Throughout the run-up to the war, Bush and his aides repeatedly asserted that Iraq was loaded with chemical weapons. And indeed the flawed National Intelligence Estimate — a summary of available intelligence produced in a rush by the intelligence community at the insistence of the congressional Democrats, not the Bush White House — did say that Iraq possessed chemical weapons. But other intelligence indicated that the United States intelligence community had no good idea of what Saddam did possess. And I pointed to a September 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency report that declared, "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has — or will — establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities." This suggested that the intelligence Bush and the others were relying upon was iffy. Yet at no time did Bush and his subordinates indicate they were issuing statements predicated on uncertain intelligence…

4. The Case of the Aluminum Tubes. Michael Isikoff and I detailed this caper in our book, "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War." In my March 17 column, I noted that in September 2002, Cheney had cited Iraq’s acquisition of aluminum tubes as "very clear evidence" that Saddam was trying to develop nuclear weapons. As national security adviser Condoleezza Rice had put it at the time, the tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." Yet the nation’s top experts on nuclear weapons, scientists at the Department of Energy, had long disputed this, contending that the tubes were not destined for a nuclear weapons program. Their conclusions were noted in the flawed National Intelligence Estimate. But there was one CIA analyst, who was not a nuclear weapons expert, who had kept insisting that the tubes were part of an uranium enrichment program. And that was the analysis embraced by the White House in an act of brazen cherry-picking.

5. The Case of No Doubt. Wehner takes issue with my assessment that Bush overstated the case when he said, right before launching the Iraq war, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." There was at the time doubt within the intelligence community about key aspects of Bush’s case for the war: the aluminum tubes, the allegation that Saddam had sought uranium in Niger, the whereabouts of any of Iraq’s supposed chemical weapons, those "massive stockpiles" of biological weapons that Bush cited. But Bush erased — or ignored — all that doubt. But I’ll grant Wehner that doubt can be in the eye of the beholder, and that Bush was not much interested in doubt…

The bottom line is undeniable: Bush and Cheney repeatedly issued false statements to guide the nation to war, and they made no concerted efforts to guarantee that they were providing the public with the most realistic depiction of the threat. They were not interested in an honest debate; they wanted war.
Hubris means extreme haughtiness or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of touch with reality and overestimating one’s own competence or capabilities, especially for people in positions of power.

When we invaded Iraq, I was in a very busy time of my life [retiring]. I was opposed to it, and I thought it was strange – like "Hey, that’s the wrong country!" I was ashamed of Powell’s U.N. speech, but I hadn’t caught on yet. When there were no WMD’s, my opinion was that we’d done something really stupid – I guess I thought invading Iraq was "inept." I was vaguely aware of the Plame outing when it happened, but it wasn’t until Ron Suskind’s book in early 2004 [The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill] that it really dawned on me that it wasn’t ineptness that took us to war, it was pre-meditated lies. In the six years  since then, the evidence kept mounting in spite of a huge cover-up effort. David Corn and Michael Isikoff’s Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War [September 2006] and Marcy Wheeler’s Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy [January 2007] were the first two comprehensive books that made it crystal clear that the Bush Administration hadn’t just oversold the war, they had fabricated the  cause for war from the start.

Three more years have passed and David Corn is still having to argue his point – a point that isn’t really in question. Marcy Wheeler [emptywheel] still writes daily posts about increasingly fine aspects of the cover-ups during the early days of the war. President  Obama is slowly pulling us out of Iraq, but rarely mentions how we got there. In England, there’s a major inquiry into their involvement in the Iraq Invasion. The assumption there is that the Americans were set on "Regime Change" in Iraq from the start, from before 911. Their focus is on the process that declared the [illegal] war to be legal – something they assumed didn’t matter in the U.S. Ahmad Chalabi, a person we paid to lie to us, is about to take a seat in the Iraq Parliament, allied with the Iranians. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are off being retired [sort of]. 4385 Americans and thousands of Iraqis have died, countless others injured for life.

If you’ve read down this far, you’re one of the rare people who hasn’t tired of even talking about this story of betrayal by our own government. The Republicans never bring it up for obvious reasons. The Democrats shy away from it presumably to avoid being accused of going on a partisan witch hunt. Or maybe everyone stays away from it because it is simply so painfully embarrassing. While I find it impossible to imagine that something this big will just slide unexamined into the past eclipsed by the issues of the day, that seems to be what’s happening. The 911 Memorial is slowly being built at Ground Zero. It’s designed to show an absence. It looks like the story of the Iraq War isn’t going to even show that. It’s just going to be absent
    March 31, 2010 | 9:44 AM

    Ron Suskind wrote another book about the Bush/Cheney administration called “The One Percent Doctrine”. Suskind writes what Cheney explained “if there was a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction- and there was a small probabilty of such an occurence for some time- the United States must now act as if it were a certainty” I’m glad he is out of the White House now. Bush and Cheney had no business being president and vice president. They ran gov’t as badly as Ken Lay did ENRON but worse because many innocent people died and are dying because of them.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.