1) The administration was not bent on war with Iraq
from 9/11 onward.
Throughout the year leading up to war, the White House
publicly maintained that the U.S. took weapons inspections seriously, that
diplomacy would get its chance, that Saddam had the opportunity to prevent
a U.S. invasion. The most pungent and concise evidence to the contrary
comes from the president’s own mouth. According to Time’s March 31
road-to-war story, Bush popped in on national security adviser Condi Rice
one day in March 2002, interrupting a meeting on UN sanctions against
Iraq. Getting a whiff of the subject matter, W peremptorily waved his hand
and told her, “*censored* Saddam. We’re taking him out.” Clare Short, Tony
Blair’s former secretary for international development, recently lent
further credence to the anecdote. She told the London Guardian that Bush
and Blair made a secret pact a few months afterward, in the summer of
2002, to invade Iraq in either February or March of this year.
Last fall CBS News obtained meeting notes taken by a
Rumsfeld aide at 2:40 on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. The notes
indicate that Rumsfeld wanted the “best info fast. Judge whether good
enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Usama bin
Laden]…. Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
Rumsfeld’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz, the Bushmen’s
leading intellectual light, has long been rabid on the subject of Iraq. He
reportedly told Vanity Fair writer Sam Tanenhaus off the record that he
believes Saddam was connected not only to bin Laden and 9/11, but the 1995
Oklahoma City bombing.
The Bush administration’s foreign policy plan was not
based on September 11, or terrorism; those events only brought to the
forefront a radical plan for U.S. control of the post-Cold War world that
had been taking shape since the closing days of the first Bush presidency.
Back then a small claque of planners, led by Wolfowitz, generated a draft
document known as Defense Planning Guidance, which envisioned a U.S. that
took advantage of its lone-superpower status to consolidate American
control of the world both militarily and economically, to the point where
no other nation could ever reasonably hope to challenge the U.S. Toward
that end it envisioned what we now call “preemptive” wars waged to reset
the geopolitical table.
After a copy of DPG was leaked to the New York Times,
subsequent drafts were rendered a little less frank, but the basic idea
never changed. In 1997 Wolfowitz and his true believers–Richard Perle,
William Kristol, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld–formed an organization
called Project for the New American Century to carry their cause forward.
And though they all flocked around the Bush administration from the start,
W never really embraced their plan until the events of September 11 left
him casting around for a foreign policy plan.
2) The invasion of Iraq was based on a reasonable
belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat
to the U.S., a belief supported by available intelligence evidence.
Paul Wolfowitz admitted to Vanity Fair that weapons of
mass destruction were not really the main reason for invading Iraq: “The
decision to highlight weapons of mass destruction as the main
justification for going to war in Iraq was taken for bureaucratic
reasons…. [T]here were many other important factors as well.” Right. But
they did not come under the heading of self-defense.
We now know how the Bushmen gathered their prewar
intelligence: They set out to patch together their case for invading Iraq
and ignored everything that contradicted it. In the end, this required
that Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. set aside the findings of analysts from
the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (the Pentagon’s own spy
bureau) and stake their claim largely on the basis of isolated, anecdotal
testimony from handpicked Iraqi defectors. (See #5, Ahmed Chalabi.) But
the administration did not just listen to the defectors; it promoted their
claims in the press as a means of enlisting public opinion. The only
reason so many Americans thought there was a connection between Saddam and
al Qaeda in the first place was that the Bushmen trotted out Iraqi
defectors making these sorts of claims to every major media outlet that
Here is the verdict of Gregory Thielman, the recently
retired head of the State Department’s intelligence office: “I believe the
Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American
people of the military threat posed by Iraq. This administration has had a
faith-based intelligence attitude–we know the answers, give us the
intelligence to support those answers.” Elsewhere he has been quoted as
saying, “The principal reasons that Americans did not understand the
nature of the Iraqi threat in my view was the failure of senior
administration officials to speak honestly about what the intelligence
3) Saddam tried to buy uranium in Niger.
Lies and distortions tend to beget more lies and
distortions, and here is W’s most notorious case in point: Once the
administration decided to issue a damage-controlling (they hoped) mea
culpa in the matter of African uranium, they were obliged to couch it in
another, more perilous lie: that the administration, and quite likely Bush
himself, thought the uranium claim was true when he made it. But former
acting ambassador to Iraq Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed in the New York
Times on July 6 that exploded the claim. Wilson, who traveled to Niger in
2002 to investigate the uranium claims at the behest of the CIA and Dick
Cheney’s office and found them to be groundless, describes what followed
this way: “Although I did not file a written report, there should be at
least four documents in U.S. government archives confirming my mission.
The documents should include the ambassador’s report of my debriefing in
Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a CIA report
summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of
the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not
seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know
that this is standard operating procedure.”
4) The aluminum tubes were proof of a nuclear
The very next sentence of Bush’s State of the Union
address was just as egregious a lie as the uranium claim, though a bit
cagier in its formulation. “Our intelligence sources tell us that [Saddam]
has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for
nuclear weapons production.” This is altogether false in its implication
(that this is the likeliest use for these materials) and may be untrue in
its literal sense as well. As the London Independent summed it up
recently, “The U.S. persistently alleged that Baghdad tried to buy
high-strength aluminum tubes whose only use could be in gas centrifuges,
needed to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Equally persistently, the
International Atomic Energy Agency said the tubes were being used for
artillery rockets. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, told the UN
Security Council in January that the tubes were not even suitable for
centrifuges.” [emphasis added]
5) Iraq’s WMDs were sent to Syria for hiding.
Or Iran, or…. “They shipped them out!” was a
rallying cry for the administration in the first few nervous weeks of
finding no WMDs, but not a bit of supporting evidence has emerged.
6) The CIA was primarily responsible for any prewar
intelligence errors or distortions regarding Iraq.
Don’t be misled by the news that CIA director George
Tenet has taken the fall for Bush’s falsehoods in the State of the Uranium
address. As the journalist Robert Dreyfuss wrote shortly before the war,
“Even as it prepares for war against Iraq, the Pentagon is already engaged
on a second front: its war against the Central Intelligence Agency. The
Pentagon is bringing relentless pressure to bear on the agency to produce
intelligence reports more supportive of war with Iraq. … Morale inside
the U.S. national-security apparatus is said to be low, with career
staffers feeling intimidated and pressured to justify the push for war.”
In short, Tenet fell on his sword when he vetted
Bush’s State of the Union yarns. And now he has had to get up and fall on
7) An International Atomic Energy Agency report
indicated that Iraq could be as little as six months from making nuclear
Alas: The claim had to be retracted when the IAEA
pointed out that no such report existed.
8) Saddam was involved with bin Laden and al Qaeda
in the plotting of 9/11.
One of the most audacious and well-traveled of the
Bushmen’s fibs, this one hangs by two of the slenderest evidentiary
threads imaginable: first, anecdotal testimony by isolated, handpicked
Iraqi defectors that there was an al Qaeda training camp in Iraq, a claim
CIA analysts did not corroborate and that postwar U.S. military inspectors
conceded did not exist; and second, old intelligence accounts of a 1991
meeting in Baghdad between a bin Laden emissary and officers from Saddam’s
intelligence service, which did not lead to any subsequent contact that
U.S. or UK spies have ever managed to turn up. According to former State
Department intelligence chief Gregory Thielman, the consensus of U.S.
intelligence agencies well in advance of the war was that “there was no
significant pattern of cooperation between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist
9) The U.S. wants democracy in Iraq and the Middle
Democracy is the last thing the U.S. can afford in
Iraq, as anyone who has paid attention to the state of Arab popular
sentiment already realizes. Representative government in Iraq would mean
the rapid expulsion of U.S. interests. Rather, the U.S. wants westernized,
secular leadership regimes that will stay in pocket and work to neutralize
the politically ambitious anti-Western religious sects popping up
everywhere. If a little brutality and graft are required to do the job, it
has never troubled the U.S. in the past. Ironically, these standards
describe someone more or less like Saddam Hussein. Judging from the state
of civil affairs in Iraq now, the Bush administration will no doubt be
looking for a strongman again, if and when they are finally compelled to
install anyone at all.
10) Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress
are a homegrown Iraqi political force, not a U.S.-sponsored front.
Chalabi is a more important bit player in the Iraq war
than most people realize, and not because he was the U.S.’s failed choice
to lead a post-Saddam government. It was Chalabi and his INC that funneled
compliant defectors to the Bush administration, where they attested to
everything the Bushmen wanted to believe about Saddam and Iraq (meaning,
mainly, al Qaeda connections and WMD programs). The administration
proceeded to take their dubious word over that of the combined
intelligence of the CIA and DIA, which indicated that Saddam was not in
the business of sponsoring foreign terrorism and posed no imminent threat
Naturally Chalabi is despised nowadays round the halls
of Langley, but it wasn’t always so. The CIA built the Iraqi National
Congress and installed Chalabi at the helm back in the days following Gulf
War I, when the thought was to topple Saddam by whipping up and sponsoring
an internal opposition. It didn’t work; from the start Iraqis have
disliked and distrusted Chalabi. Moreover, his erratic and duplicitous
ways have alienated practically everyone in the U.S. foreign policy
establishment as well–except for Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense, and
therefore the White House.
11) The United States is waging a war on terror.
Practically any school child could recite the terms of
the Bush Doctrine, and may have to before the Ashcroft Justice Department
is finished: The global war on terror is about confronting terrorist
groups and the nations that harbor them. The United States does not make
deals with terrorists or nations where they find safe lodging.
Leave aside the blind eye that the U.S. has always
cast toward Israel’s actions in the territories. How are the Bushmen doing
elsewhere vis-à-vis their announced principles? We can start with their
fabrications and manipulations of Iraqi WMD evidence–which, in the eyes
of weapons inspectors, the UN Security Council, American intelligence
analysts, and the world at large, did not pose any imminent threat.
The events of recent months have underscored a couple
more gaping violations of W’s cardinal anti-terror rules. In April the
Pentagon made a cooperation pact with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an
anti-Iranian terrorist group based in Iraq. Prior to the 1979 Iranian
revolution, American intelligence blamed it for the death of several U.S.
nationals in Iran.
Most glaring of all is the Bush administration’s
remarkable treatment of Saudi Arabia. Consider: Eleven of the nineteen
September 11 hijackers were Saudis. The ruling House of Saud has
longstanding and well-known ties to al Qaeda and other terrorist outfits,
which it funds (read protection money) to keep them from making mischief
at home. The May issue of Atlantic Monthly had a nice piece on the House
of Saud that recounts these connections.
Yet the Bush government has never said boo regarding
the Saudis and international terrorism. In fact, when terror bombers
struck Riyadh in May, hitting compounds that housed American workers as
well, Colin Powell went out of his way to avoid tarring the House of Saud:
“Terrorism strikes everywhere and everyone. It is a threat to the
civilized world. We will commit ourselves again to redouble our efforts to
work closely with our Saudi friends and friends all around the world to go
after al Qaeda.” Later it was alleged that the Riyadh bombers purchased
some of their ordnance from the Saudi National Guard, but neither Powell
nor anyone else saw fit to revise their statements about “our Saudi
Why do the Bushmen give a pass to the Saudi terror
hotbed? Because the House of Saud controls a lot of oil, and they are
still (however tenuously) on our side. And that, not terrorism, is what
matters most in Bush’s foreign policy calculus.
While the bomb craters in Riyadh were still smoking, W
held a meeting with Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Speaking
publicly afterward, he outlined a deal for U.S. military aid to the
Philippines in exchange for greater “cooperation” in getting American
hands round the throats of Filipino terrorists. He mentioned in particular
the U.S.’s longtime nemesis Abu Sayyaf–and he also singled out the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front, a small faction based on Mindanao, the
southernmost big island in the Philippine chain.
Of course it’s by purest coincidence that Mindanao is
the location of Asia’s richest oil reserves.
12) The U.S. has made progress against world
terrorist elements, in particular by crippling al Qaeda.
A resurgent al Qaeda has been making international
news since around the time of the Saudi Arabia bombings in May. The best
coverage by far is that of Asia Times correspondent Syed Saleem Shahzad.
According to Shahzad’s detailed accounts, al Qaeda has reorganized itself
along leaner, more diffuse lines, effectively dissolving itself into a
coalition of localized units that mean to strike frequently, on a small
scale, and in multiple locales around the world. Since claiming
responsibility for the May Riyadh bombings, alleged al Qaeda communiqués
have also claimed credit for some of the strikes at U.S. troops in Iraq.
13) The Bush administration has made Americans
safer from terror on U.S. soil.
Like the Pentagon “plan” for occupying postwar Iraq,
the Department of Homeland Security is mainly a Bush administration PR
dirigible untethered to anything of substance. It’s a scandal waiting to
happen, and the only good news for W is that it’s near the back of a
fairly long line of scandals waiting to happen.
On May 26 the trade magazine Federal Computer Week
published a report on DHS’s first 100 days. At that point the nerve center
of Bush’s domestic war on terror had only recently gotten e-mail service.
As for the larger matter of creating a functioning organizational grid
and, more important, a software architecture plan for integrating the
enormous mass of data that DHS is supposed to process–nada. In the nearly
two years since the administration announced its intention to create a
cabinet-level homeland security office, nothing meaningful has been
accomplished. And there are no funds to implement a network plan if they
had one. According to the magazine, “Robert David Steele, an author and
former intelligence officer, points out that there are at least 30
separate intelligence systems [theoretically feeding into DHS] and no
money to connect them to one another or make them interoperable. ‘There is
nothing in the president’s homeland security program that makes America
safer,’ he said.”
14) The Bush administration has nothing to hide
concerning the events of September 11, 2001, or the intelligence evidence
collected prior to that day.
First Dick Cheney personally intervened to scuttle a
broad congressional investigation of the day’s events and their origins.
And for the past several months the administration has fought a quiet
rear-guard action culminating in last week’s delayed release of Congress’s
more modest 9/11 report. The White House even went so far as to classify
after the fact materials that had already been presented in public
What were they trying to keep under wraps? The Saudi
connection, mostly, and though 27 pages of the details have been excised
from the public report, there is still plenty of evidence lurking in its
extensively massaged text. (When you see the phrase “foreign nation”
substituted in brackets, it’s nearly always Saudi Arabia.) The report
documents repeated signs that there was a major attack in the works with
extensive help from Saudi nationals and apparently also at least one
member of the government. It also suggests that is one reason intel
operatives didn’t chase the story harder: Saudi Arabia was by policy fiat
a “friendly” nation and therefore no threat. The report does not explore
the administration’s response to the intelligence briefings it got; its
purview is strictly the performance of intelligence agencies. All other
questions now fall to the independent 9/11 commission, whose work is
presently being slowed by the White House’s foot-dragging in turning over
15) U.S. air defenses functioned according to
protocols on September 11, 2001.
Old questions abound here. The central mystery, of how
U.S. air defenses could have responded so poorly on that day, is fairly
easy to grasp. A cursory look at that morning’s timeline of events is
enough. In very short strokes:
8:13 Flight 11 disobeys air traffic instructions and
turns off its transponder.
8:40 NORAD command center claims first notification of
likely Flight 11 hijacking.
8:42 Flight 175 veers off course and shuts down its
8:43 NORAD claims first notification of likely Flight
8:46 Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center north
8:46 Flight 77 goes off course.
9:03 Flight 175 hits the WTC south tower.
9:16 Flight 93 goes off course.
9:16 NORAD claims first notification of likely Flight
9:24 NORAD claims first notification of likely Flight
9:37 Flight 77 hits the Pentagon.
10:06 Flight 93 crashes in a Pennsylvania field.
The open secret here is that stateside U.S. air
defenses had been reduced to paltry levels since the end of the Cold War.
According to a report by Paul Thompson published at the endlessly
informative Center for Cooperative Research website
(www.cooperativeresearch.org), “[O]nly two air force bases in the
Northeast region… were formally part of NORAD’s defensive system. One
was Otis Air National Guard Base, on Massachusetts’s Cape Cod peninsula
and about 188 miles east of New York City. The other was Langley Air Force
Base near Norfolk, Virginia, and about 129 miles south of Washington.
During the Cold War, the U.S. had literally thousands of fighters on
alert. But as the Cold War wound down, this number was reduced until it
reached only 14 fighters in the continental U.S. by 9/11.”
But even an underpowered air defense system on
slow-response status (15 minutes, officially, on 9/11) does not explain
the magnitude of NORAD’s apparent failures that day. Start with the
discrepancy in the times at which NORAD commanders claim to have learned
of the various hijackings. By 8:43 a.m., NORAD had been notified of two
probable hijackings in the previous five minutes. If there was such a
thing as a system-wide air defense crisis plan, it should have kicked in
at that moment. Three minutes later, at 8:46, Flight 11 crashed into the
first WTC tower. By then alerts should have been going out to all regional
air traffic centers of apparent coordinated hijackings in progress. Yet
when Flight 77, which eventually crashed into the Pentagon, was hijacked
three minutes later, at 8:46, NORAD claims not to have learned of it until
9:24, 38 minutes after the fact and just 13 minutes before it crashed into
The professed lag in reacting to the hijacking of
Flight 93 is just as striking. NORAD acknowledged learning of the
hijacking at 9:16, yet the Pentagon’s position is that it had not yet
intercepted the plane when it crashed in a Pennsylvania field just minutes
away from Washington, D.C. at 10:06, a full 50 minutes later.
In fact, there are a couple of other circumstantial
details of the crash, discussed mostly in Pennsylvania newspapers and
barely noted in national wire stories, that suggest Flight 93 may have
been shot down after all. First, officials never disputed reports that
there was a secondary debris field six miles from the main crash site, and
a few press accounts said that it included one of the plane’s engines. A
secondary debris field points to an explosion on board, from one of two
probable causes–a terrorist bomb carried on board or an Air Force
missile. And no investigation has ever intimated that any of the four
terror crews were toting explosives. They kept to simple tools like the
box cutters, for ease in passing security. Second, a handful of
eyewitnesses in the rural area around the crash site did report seeing
low-flying U.S. military jets around the time of the crash.
Which only raises another question. Shooting down
Flight 93 would have been incontestably the right thing to do under the
circumstances. More than that, it would have constituted the only evidence
of anything NORAD and the Pentagon had done right that whole morning. So
why deny it? Conversely, if fighter jets really were not on the scene when
93 crashed, why weren’t they? How could that possibly be?
16) The Bush administration had a plan for
restoring essential services and rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure after
the shooting war ended.
The question of what the U.S. would do to rebuild Iraq
was raised before the shooting started. I remember reading a press
briefing in which a Pentagon official boasted that at the time, the
American reconstruction team had already spent three weeks planning the
postwar world! The Pentagon’s first word was that the essentials of
rebuilding the country would take about $10 billion and three months; this
stood in fairly stark contrast to UN estimates that an aggressive
rebuilding program could cost up to $100 billion a year for a minimum of
After the shooting stopped it was evident the U.S. had
no plan for keeping order in the streets, much less commencing to rebuild.
(They are upgrading certain oil facilities, but that’s another matter.)
There are two ways to read this. The popular version is that it proves
what bumblers Bush and his crew really are. And it’s certainly true that
where the details of their grand designs are concerned, the administration
tends to have postures rather than plans. But this ignores the strategic
advantages the U.S. stands to reap by leaving Iraqi domestic affairs in a
chronic state of (managed, they hope) chaos. Most important, it provides
an excuse for the continued presence of a large U.S. force, which ensures
that America will call the shots in putting Iraqi oil back on the world
market and seeing to it that the Iraqis don’t fall in with the wrong sort
of oil company partners. A long military occupation is also a practical
means of accomplishing something the U.S. cannot do officially, which is
to maintain air bases in Iraq indefinitely. (This became necessary after
the U.S. agreed to vacate its bases in Saudi Arabia earlier this year to
try to defuse anti-U.S. political tensions there.)
Meanwhile, the U.S. plans to pay for whatever
rebuilding it gets around to doing with the proceeds of Iraqi oil sales,
an enormous cash box the U.S. will oversee for the good of the Iraqi
In other words, “no plan” may have been the plan the
Bushmen were intent on pursuing all along.
17) The U.S. has made a good-faith effort at
peacekeeping in Iraq during the postwar period.
“Some [looters] shot big grins at American soldiers
and Marines or put down their prizes to offer a thumbs-up or a quick
finger across the throat and a whispered word–Saddam–before grabbing
their loot and vanishing.”
–Robert Fisk, London Independent, 4/11/03
Despite the many clashes between U.S. troops and
Iraqis in the three months since the heavy artillery fell silent, the
postwar performance of U.S. forces has been more remarkable for the things
they have not done–their failure to intervene in civil chaos or to begin
reestablishing basic civil procedures. It isn’t the soldiers’ fault.
Traditionally an occupation force is headed up by military police units
schooled to interact with the natives and oversee the restoration of goods
and services. But Rumsfeld has repeatedly declined advice to rotate out
the combat troops sooner rather than later and replace some of them with
an MP force. Lately this has been a source of escalating criticism within
18) Despite vocal international opposition, the
U.S. was backed by most of the world, as evidenced by the 40-plus-member
Coalition of the Willing.
When the whole world opposed the U.S. invasion of
Iraq, the outcry was so loud that it briefly pierced the slumber of the
American public, which poured out its angst in poll numbers that bespoke
little taste for a war without the UN’s blessing. So it became necessary
to assure the folks at home that the whole world was in fact for the
invasion. Thus was born the Coalition of the Willing, consisting of the
U.S. and UK, with Australia caddying–and 40-some additional co-champions
of U.S.-style democracy in the Middle East, whose ranks included such
titans of diplomacy and pillars of representative government as Angola,
Azerbaijan, Colombia, Eritrea, and Micronesia. If the American public
noticed the ruse, all was nonetheless forgotten when Baghdad fell.
Everybody loves a winner.
19) This war was notable for its protection of
This from the Herald of Scotland, May 23: “American
guns, bombs, and missiles killed more civilians in the recent war in Iraq
than in any conflict since Vietnam, according to preliminary assessments
carried out by the UN, international aid agencies, and independent study
groups. Despite U.S. boasts this was the fastest, most clinical campaign
in military history, a first snapshot of ‘collateral damage’ indicates
that between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi non-combatants died in the course of
the hi-tech blitzkrieg.”
20) The looting of archaeological and historic
sites in Baghdad was unanticipated.
General Jay Garner himself, then the head man for
postwar Iraq, told the Washington Times that he had put the Iraqi National
Museum second on a list of sites requiring protection after the fall of
the Saddam government, and he had no idea why the recommendation was
ignored. It’s also a matter of record that the administration had met in
January with a group of U.S. scholars concerned with the preservation of
Iraq’s fabulous Sumerian antiquities. So the war planners were aware of
the riches at stake. According to Scotland’s Sunday Herald, the Pentagon
took at least one other meeting as well: “[A] coalition of antiquities
collectors and arts lawyers, calling itself the American Council for
Cultural Policy (ACCP), met with U.S. Defense and State department
officials prior to the start of military action to offer its
assistance…. The group is known to consist of a number of influential
dealers who favor a relaxation of Iraq’s tight restrictions on the
ownership and export of antiquities…. [Archaeological Institute of
America] president Patty Gerstenblith said: ‘The ACCP’s agenda is to
encourage the collecting of antiquities through weakening the laws of
archaeologically rich nations and eliminate national ownership of
antiquities to allow for easier export.’”
21) Saddam was planning to provide WMD to terrorist
This is very concisely debunked in Walter Pincus’s
July 21 Washington Post story, so I’ll quote him: “‘Iraq could decide on
any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist
group or individual terrorists,’ President Bush said in Cincinnati on
October 7…. But declassified portions of a still-secret National
Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released Friday by the White House show that
at the time of the president’s speech the U.S. intelligence community
judged that possibility to be unlikely. In fact, the NIE, which began
circulating October 2, shows the intelligence services were much more
worried that Hussein might give weapons to al Qaeda terrorists if he were
facing death or capture and his government was collapsing after a military
attack by the United States.”
22) Saddam was capable of launching a chemical or
biological attack in 45 minutes.
Again the WashPost wraps it up nicely: “The 45-minute
claim is at the center of a scandal in Britain that led to the apparent
suicide on Friday of a British weapons scientist who had questioned the
government’s use of the allegation. The scientist, David Kelly, was being
investigated by the British parliament as the suspected source of a BBC
report that the 45-minute claim was added to Britain’s public ‘dossier’ on
Iraq in September at the insistence of an aide to Prime Minister Tony
Blair–and against the wishes of British intelligence, which said the
charge was from a single source and was considered unreliable.”
23) The Bush administration is seeking to create a
viable Palestinian state.
The interests of the U.S. toward the Palestinians have
not changed–not yet, at least. Israel’s “security needs” are still the
U.S.’s sturdiest pretext for its military role in policing the Middle East
and arming its Israeli proxies. But the U.S.’s immediate needs have tilted
since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the Bushmen need a fig
leaf–to confuse, if not exactly cover, their designs, and to give shaky
pro-U.S. governments in the region some scrap to hold out to their own
restive peoples. Bush’s roadmap has scared the hell out of the Israeli
right, but they have little reason to worry. Press reports in the U.S. and
Israel have repeatedly telegraphed the assurance that Bush won’t try to
push Ariel Sharon any further than he’s comfortable going.
24) People detained by the U.S. after 9/11 were
legitimate terror suspects.
Quite the contrary, as disclosed officially in last
month’s critical report on U.S. detainees from the Justice Department’s
own Office of Inspector General. A summary analysis of post-9/11
detentions posted at the UC-Davis website states, “None of the 1,200
foreigners arrested and detained in secret after September 11 was charged
with an act of terrorism. Instead, after periods of detention that ranged
from weeks to months, most were deported for violating immigration laws.
The government said that 752 of 1,200 foreigners arrested after September
11 were in custody in May 2002, but only 81 were still in custody in
25) The U.S. is obeying the Geneva conventions in
its treatment of terror-related suspects, prisoners, and detainees.
The entire mumbo-jumbo about “unlawful combatants” was
conceived to skirt the Geneva conventions on treatment of prisoners by
making them out to be something other than POWs. Here is the actual
wording of Donald Rumsfeld’s pledge, freighted with enough qualifiers to
make it absolutely meaningless: “We have indicated that we do plan to, for
the most part, treat them in a manner that is reasonably consistent with
the Geneva conventions to the extent they are appropriate.” Meanwhile the
administration has treated its prisoners–many of whom, as we are now
seeing confirmed in legal hearings, have no plausible connection to
terrorist enterprises–in a manner that blatantly violates several key
Geneva provisions regarding humane treatment and housing.
26) Shots rang out from the Palestine hotel,
directed at U.S. soldiers, just before a U.S. tank fired on the hotel,
killing two journalists.
Eyewitnesses to the April 8 attack uniformly denied
any gunfire from the hotel. And just two hours prior to firing on the
hotel, U.S. forces had bombed the Baghdad offices of Al-Jazeera, killing a
Jordanian reporter. Taken together, and considering the timing, they were
deemed a warning to unembedded journalists covering the fall of Baghdad
around them. The day’s events seem to have been an extreme instance of a
more surreptitious pattern of hostility demonstrated by U.S. and UK forces
toward foreign journalists and those non-attached Western reporters who
moved around the country at will. (One of them, Terry Lloyd of Britain’s
ITN, was shot to death by UK troops at a checkpoint in late March under
circumstances the British government has refused to disclose.)
Some days after firing on the Palestine Hotel, the
U.S. sent in a commando unit to raid select floors of the hotel that were
known to be occupied by journalists, and the news gatherers were held on
the floor at gunpoint while their rooms were searched. A Centcom spokesman
later explained cryptically that intelligence reports suggested there were
people “not friendly to the U.S.” staying at the hotel. Allied forces also
bombed the headquarters of Abu Dhabi TV, injuring several.
27) U.S. troops “rescued” Private Jessica Lynch
from an Iraqi hospital.
If I had wanted to run up the tally of administration
lies, the Lynch episode alone could be parsed into several more. Officials
claimed that Lynch and her comrades were taken after a firefight in which
Lynch battled back bravely. Later they announced with great fanfare that
U.S. Special Forces had rescued Lynch from her captors. They reported that
she had been shot and stabbed. Later yet, they reported that the
recuperating Lynch had no memory of the events.
Bit by bit it all proved false. Lynch’s injuries
occurred when the vehicle she was riding in crashed. She did not fire on
anybody and she was not shot or stabbed. The Iraqi soldiers who had been
holding her had abandoned the hospital where she was staying the night
before U.S. troops came to get her–a development her “rescuers” were
aware of. In fact her doctor had tried to return her to the Americans the
previous evening after the Iraqi soldiers left. But he was forced to turn
back when U.S. troops fired on the approaching ambulance. As for Lynch’s
amnesia, her family has told reporters her memory is perfectly fine.
28) The populace of Baghdad and of Iraq generally
turned out en masse to greet U.S. troops as liberators.
There were indeed scattered expressions of thanks when
U.S. divisions rolled in, but they were neither as extensive nor as
enthusiastic as Bush image-makers pretended. Within a day or two of the
Saddam government’s fall, the scene in the Baghdad streets turned to
wholesale ransacking and vandalism. Within the week, large-scale protests
of the U.S. occupation had already begun occurring in every major Iraqi
29) A spontaneous crowd of cheering Iraqis showed
up in a Baghdad square to celebrate the toppling of Saddam’s statue.
A long-distance shot of the same scene that was widely
posted on the internet shows that the teeming mob consisted of only one or
two hundred souls, contrary to the impression given by all the close-up TV
news shots of what appeared to be a massive gathering. It was later
reported that members of Ahmed Chalabi’s local entourage made up most of
30) No major figure in the Bush administration said
that the Iraqi populace would turn out en masse to welcome the U.S.
military as liberators.
When confronted with–oh, call them reality
deficits–one habit of the Bushmen is to deny that they made erroneous or
misleading statements to begin with, secure in the knowledge that the
media will rarely muster the energy to look it up and call them on it.
They did it when their bold prewar WMD predictions failed to pan out (We
never said it would be easy! No, they only implied it), and they did it
when the “jubilant Iraqis” who took to the streets after the fall of
Saddam turned out to be anything but (We never promised they would welcome
us with open arms!).
But they did. March 16, Dick Cheney, Meet the Press:
The Iraqis are desperate “to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will
welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that…. [T]he
vast majority of them would turn on [Saddam] in a minute if, in fact, they
thought they could do so safely”).
31) The U.S. achieved its stated objectives in
Afghanistan, and vanquished the Taliban.
According to accounts in the Asia Times of Hong Kong,
the U.S. held a secret meeting earlier this year with Taliban leaders and
Pakistani intelligence officials to offer a deal to the Taliban for
inclusion in the Afghan government. (Main condition: Dump Mullah Omar.) As
Michael Tomasky commented in The American Prospect, “The first thing you
may be wondering: Why is there a possible role for the Taliban in a future
government? Isn’t that fellow Hamid Karzai running things, and isn’t it
all going basically okay? As it turns out, not really and not at all….
The reality… is an escalating guerilla war in which ‘small hit-and-run
attacks are a daily feature in most parts of the country, while
face-to-face skirmishes are common in the former Taliban stronghold around
Kandahar in the south.’”
32) Careful science demonstrates that depleted
uranium is no big risk to the population.
Pure nonsense. While the government has trotted out
expert after expert to debunk the dangers of depleted uranium, DU has been
implicated in health troubles experienced both by Iraqis and by U.S. and
allied soldiers in the first Gulf War. Unexploded DU shells are not a
grave danger, but detonated ones release particles that eventually find
their way into air, soil, water, and food.
While we’re on the subject, the BBC reported a couple
of months ago that recent tests of Afghani civilians have turned up with
unusually high concentrations of non-depleted uranium isotopes in their
urine. International monitors have called it almost conclusive evidence
that the U.S. used a new kind of uranium-laced bomb in the Afghan war.
33) The looting of Iraqi nuclear facilities
presented no big risk to the population.
Commanders on the scene, and Rumsfeld back in
Washington, immediately assured everyone that the looting of a facility
where raw uranium powder (so-called “yellowcake”) and several other
radioactive isotopes were stored was no serious danger to the
populace–yet the looting of the facility came to light in part because,
as the Washington Times noted, “U.S. and British newspaper reports have
suggested that residents of the area were suffering from severe ill health
after tipping out yellowcake powder from barrels and using them to store
34) U.S. troops were under attack when they fired
upon a crowd of civilian protesters in Mosul.
April 15: U.S. troops fire into a crowd of protesters
when it grows angry at the pro-Western speech being given by the town’s
new mayor, Mashaan al-Juburi. Seven are killed and dozens injured.
Eyewitness accounts say the soldiers spirit Juburi away as he is pelted
with objects by the crowd, then take sniper positions and begin firing on
35) U.S. troops were under attack when they fired
upon two separate crowds of civilian protesters in Fallujah.
April 28: American troops fire into a crowd of
demonstrators gathered on Saddam’s birthday, killing 13 and injuring 75.
U.S. commanders claim the troops had come under fire, but eyewitnesses
contradict the account, saying the troops started shooting after they were
spooked by warning shots fired over the crowd by one of the Americans’ own
Humvees. Two days later U.S. soldiers fired on another crowd in Fallujah,
killing three more.
36) The Iraqis fighting occupation forces consist
almost entirely of “Saddam supporters” or “Ba’ath remnants.”
This has been the subject of considerable spin on the
Bushmen’s part in the past month, since they launched Operation Sidewinder
to capture or kill remaining opponents of the U.S. occupation. It’s true
that the most fierce (but by no means all) of the recent guerrilla
opposition has been concentrated in the Sunni-dominated areas that were
Saddam’s stronghold, and there is no question that Saddam partisans are
numerous there. But, perhaps for that reason, many other guerrilla
fighters have flocked there to wage jihad, both from within and without
Iraq. Around the time of the U.S. invasion, some 10,000 or so foreign
fighters had crossed into Iraq, and I’ve seen no informed estimate of how
many more may have joined them since.
(No room here, but if you check the online version of
this story, there’s a footnote regarding one less-than-obvious reason
former Republican Guard personnel may be fighting mad at this point.)
37) The bidding process for Iraq rebuilding
contracts displayed no favoritism toward Bush and Cheney’s oil/gas
Most notoriously, Dick Cheney’s former energy-sector
employer, Halliburton, was all over the press dispatches about the first
round of rebuilding contracts. So much so that they were eventually
obliged to bow out of the running for a $1 billion reconstruction contract
for the sake of their own PR profile. But Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg
Brown Root still received the first major plum in the form of a $7 billion
contract to tend to oil field fires and (the real purpose) to do any
retooling necessary to get the oil pumping at a decent rate, a deal that
allows them a cool $500 million in profit. The fact that Dick Cheney’s
office is still fighting tooth and nail to block any disclosure of the
individuals and companies with whom his energy task force consulted tells
everything you need to know.
38) “We found the WMDs!”
There have been at least half a dozen junctures at
which the Bushmen have breathlessly informed the press that allied troops
had found the WMD smoking gun, including the president himself, who on
June 1 told reporters, “For those who say we haven’t found the banned
manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.”
Shouldn’t these quickly falsified statements be
counted as errors rather than lies? Under the circumstances, no. First,
there is just too voluminous a record of the administration going on the
media offensive to tout lines they know to be flimsy. This appears to be
more of same. Second, if the great genius Karl Rove and the rest of the
Bushmen have demonstrated that they understand anything about the
propaganda potential of the historical moment they’ve inherited, they
surely understand that repetition is everything. Get your message out
regularly, and even if it’s false a good many people will believe it.
Finally, we don’t have to speculate about whether the
administration would really plant bogus WMD evidence in the American
media, because they have already done it, most visibly in the case of
Judith Miller of the New York Times and the Iraqi defector “scientist” she
wrote about at the military’s behest on April 21. Miller did not even get
to speak with the purported scientist, but she graciously passed on
several things American commanders claimed he said: that Iraq only
destroyed its chemical weapons days before the war, that WMD materiel had
been shipped to Syria, and that Iraq had ties to al Qaeda. As Slate media
critic Jack Shafer told WNYC Radio’s On the Media program, “When you…
look at [her story], you find that it’s gas, it’s air. There’s no way to
judge the value of her information, because it comes from an unnamed
source that won’t let her verify any aspect of it. And if you dig into the
story… you’ll find out that the only thing that Miller has independently
observed is a man that the military says is the scientist, wearing a
baseball cap, pointing at mounds in the dirt.”
39) “The Iraqi people are now free.”
So says the current U.S. administrator of Iraq, L.
Paul Bremer, in a recent New York Times op-ed. He failed to add that
disagreeing can get you shot or arrested under the terms of the Pentagon’s
latest plan for pacifying Iraq, Operation Sidewinder (see #36), a military
op launched last month to wipe out all remaining Ba’athists and Saddam
partisans–meaning, in practice, anyone who resists the U.S. occupation
40) God told Bush to invade Iraq.
Not long after the September 11 attacks,
neoconservative high priest Norman Podhoretz wrote: “One hears that Bush,
who entered the White House without a clear sense of what he wanted to do
there, now feels there was a purpose behind his election all along; as a
born-again Christian, it is said, he believes he was chosen by God to
eradicate the evil of terrorism from the world.”
No, he really believes it, or so he would like us to
think. The Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, told the Israeli
newspaper Ha’aretz that Bush made the following pronouncement during a
recent meeting between the two: “God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I
struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did,
and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.”
Oddly, it never got much play back home.
This was truly a collaborative effort from start to
finish. It began with the notion of running a week-long marathon of Bush
administration lies at my online Bush Wars column (bushwarsblog.com).
Along the way my e-mail box delivered more research assistance than I’ve
ever received on any single story. I need to thank Jeff St. Clair and the
Counterpunch website (counterpunch.org), which featured the Lies marathon
in addition to posting valuable reportage and essays every day; I also
received lots of lies entries and documentary links from BW readers Rob
Johnson, Ted Dibble, and Donna Johnson, as well as my colleagues Mark
Gisleson, Elaine Cassel, Sally Ryan, Mike Mosedale, and Paul Demko. Dave
Marsh provided valuable editing suggestions.
I also found loads of valuable information through
Cursor and Buzzflash, the two best news links pages on the internet, and
through research projects on the Bushmen posted at Cooperative Research
(cooperativeresearch.org), Whiskey Bar (billmon.org), and tvnewslies.org.
But the heart of the effort was all the readers of
Bush Wars who sent along ideas and links that advanced the project. Many
thanks to Estella Bloomberg, Vince Bradley, Angela Bradshaw, Gary Burns,
Elaine Cole, George Dobosh, Deborah Eddy, David Erickson, Casey Finne,
Douglas Gault, Jean T. Gordon, Doug Henwood, George Hunsinger, Peter Lee,
Eric Martin, Michael McFadden, George McLaughlin, Eric T. Olson, Doug
Payne, Alan W. Peck, Dennis Perrin, Charles Prendergast, Publius, Michele
Quinn, Ernesto Resnik, Ed Rickert, Maritza Silverio, Marshall Smith,
Robert David Steele, Ed Thornhill, Christopher Veal, and Jennifer Vogel.
And my apologies to anyone else whose e-mails I didn’t manage to save.
Editor’s note: In the interest of relative brevity
I’ve stinted on citing and quoting sources in some of the items below. You
can find links to news stories that elaborate on each of these items at my
online Bush Wars column.