Monday, November 14, 2005
So you want details about who lied
JAMES BRUNER GUEST COLUMNIST
Marty McNett of Burlington (Letters, Wednesday) believes there is no proof that President Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so we should lay off claims that he did.
I refer McNett and anyone else who is laboring under that misconception to read "Iraq On The Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements On Iraq," prepared by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform -- Minority Staff Special Investigations Division, March 16, 2004.
This 36-page report goes into great detail about outright false and deceptive public statements by Bush (55 misleading statements), Vice President Dick Cheney (51), former Secretary of State Colin Powell (50), former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (29) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (52) on the subject. These 237 misleading statements were made in a variety of forums (53 interviews, 40 speeches, 26 news conferences and briefings, four written statements and articles and two appearances before Congress) beginning at least a year before the war began, and their frequency peaked at key decision-making points.
Here are a few excerpts:
In October 2002, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research concluded in the National Intelligence Estimate that "the activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons." INR added: "Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program, INR is unwilling to speculate that such an effort began soon after the departure of UN inspectors." The INR position was similar to the conclusions of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which concluded (in March 2003) that there was "no indication of resumed nuclear activities ... nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities."
These doubts and qualifications, however, were not communicated to the public. Instead, the five administration officials repeatedly made unequivocal comments about Iraq's nuclear program. For example, Bush said in October 2002 that "the regime has the scientists and facilities to build nuclear weapons and is seeking the materials required to do so." Several days later, Bush asserted Saddam Hussein "is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon." Cheney made perhaps the single-most egregious statement about Iraq's nuclear capabilities, claiming: "We know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." He made this statement just three days before the war. He did not admit until Sept. 14, 2003, that his statement was wrong and that he "did misspeak."
Bush and others portrayed the threat of Saddam waging nuclear war against the United States or its allies as one of the most urgent reasons for pre-emptively attacking Iraq. Administration officials used evocative language and images. On the eve of congressional votes on the Iraq war resolution (Oct. 7, 2002), Bush stated: "Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
The words "mushroom cloud" echoed time and again in speech after speech by key members of the administration from that point on until the beginning of hostilities. If that isn't lying, I don't know what is.
James Bruner lives in Oak Harbor. He is a retired Air Force major and was a technical editor and writer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for 11 years.