More Bitching About WMD Lies

Ho, hum. Another day, another round of criticism of Bush’s willingness to justify the Iraq invasion with lies. First, from the normally-quite-staid LA Times editorial writers: Tell the truth on weapons (login required, cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works).

“We were not lying,” one administration official told ABC News on Friday. “But it was just a matter of emphasis.” No, it wasn’t. Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction is central to the legitimacy of the war.

If it turns out that the administration did mislead the world, the only way to mitigate long-term damage to U.S. credibility is to come clean. Fast.

Next up, Robert Scheer’s latest column: Are we numb or dumb?

It is expected that despots can force the blind allegiance of their people to falsehoods. But it is frightening in the extreme when lying matters not at all to a free people. The only plausible explanation is that the tragedy of Sept. 11 so traumatized us that we are no longer capable of the outrage expected of a patently deceived citizenry. The case for connecting Saddam Hussein with that tragedy is increasingly revealed as false, but it seems to matter not to a populace numbed by incessant government propaganda.

Finally, let’s give the floor to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, writing in his latest piece, Matters of emphasis:

One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false. In fact, my guess is that most Americans believe that we have found W.M.D.’s. Each potential find gets blaring coverage on TV; how many people catch the later announcement — if it is ever announced — that it was a false alarm? It’s a pattern of misinformation that recapitulates the way the war was sold in the first place. Each administration charge against Iraq received prominent coverage; the subsequent debunking did not.

Did the news media feel that it was unpatriotic to question the administration’s credibility? Some strange things certainly happened. For example, in September Mr. Bush cited an International Atomic Energy Agency report that he said showed that Saddam was only months from having nuclear weapons. “I don’t know what more evidence we need,” he said. In fact, the report said no such thing — and for a few hours the lead story on MSNBC’s Web site bore the headline “White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq.” Then the story vanished — not just from the top of the page, but from the site.

Thanks to this pattern of loud assertions and muted or suppressed retractions, the American public probably believes that we went to war to avert an immediate threat — just as it believes that Saddam had something to do with Sept. 11.

Now it’s true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy’s decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn’t happen this time. And we are a democracy — aren’t we?

I guess that has become an empirical question. If we are a democracy, a healthy one, with the kind of well-developed immune system that can successfully fight off an infection by anti-democratic forces, then events between now and November of next year will demonstrate that.

One Response to “More Bitching About WMD Lies”

  1. Joe S Pack Says:

    An important principle of representative government is that politicians must inform the people why our nation goes to war. It is therefore our obligation as citizens to assess the evidence that our leaders provide us in order to justify a declaration of war. I summarize below the evidence that was provided by the present Administration to justify the invasion of Iraq. My reading of the evidence is that it does not seem credible, and if you agree, I encourage you to contact your Congressional representatives and let them know that you support efforts to determine how we can improve the quality of information that is provided to the public to justify future wars.

    One of the main reasons for going to war was to stop Iraq’s ongoing attempts to develop a nuclear weapons program. The first piece of evidence the Bush Administration cited to show that they were attempting to develop such a program was a letter from the President of Niger, which referred to his authority under the 1965 Constitution. That Constitution has been defunct for nearly four years. There were other problems with the letter, including a very poor forgery of the President’s signature.

    Another letter the Administration cited, dated October 2000, purportedly came from Niger’s foreign minister, but was signed by an earlier foreign minister, who left office in 1989.

    The letterhead was out of date and referred to Niger’s “Supreme Military Council” from the pre-1999 era — which would be like calling Russia “The Soviet Union”.

    The CIA expressed concern that the documents were forgeries, yet President Bush somehow found the fabricated evidence credible enough to add it to his State of the Union address. And, months later, his administration still somehow found it credible enough to include in building their case for war to Congress.

    See this investigative report by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Seymour Hersh for further details.

    In addition to citing this evidence that Iraq was attempting to build a nuclear weapons program, the Administration also asserted over the course of months (in the State of the Union address -Oct 7, 2002, before congress, to the press, to the UN — February 5, 2003, right up to the days before the war — March 17, 2003) that they had compelling evidence that Hussein was in league with Al Queda.

    They claimed to have evidence that Al Queda fighters were training in bomb making and the use of chemical weapons in Iraq and that an Al Queda leader had received medical attention in Baghdad. This propaganda effort was successful — polls show that 70% of Americans actually believe that Hussein was behind the attacks of 9/11. In fact, Al Queda fighters were found in a base just northeast of Halabja (just on the Iranian border, in Iraqi Kurdistan) where they were training with Al Ansar Islam rebels. Al Ansar Islam is dedicated to the overthrow of Hussein’s regime.

    The Bush Administration asserted that Iraq posed an immediate threat to us because they had tons of chemical and biological weapons and even presented satellite evidence purporting to show that Iraq was re-building facilities that were used to produce chemical and biological weapons (see, for example, Colin Powell’s speech to the UN). In fact, not one ounce of chemical or biological weapons has ever been found, and not one ounce was used by the Iraqi military even as they were being defeated by American and British troops.

    One might like to think that this was all just one great series of benign misunderstandings. It actually appears to be the product of a direct and conscious effort to build a case for war using evidence from sources that the CIA had deemed unreliable.

    Frustrated with the CIA’s emphasis on providing intelligence limited to what they were able to learn from reliable sources, Donald Rumsfeld created the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. The job of the OSP was to come up with the evidence that was required to sell the war to the American public, either as a self-defense measure against an immediate threat, or as retaliation for 9/11.

    The OSP provided evidence that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, that Iraq had hundreds of tons of chemical and biological weapons and was attempting to acquire large quantities of nuclear weapons grade uranium from an African nation. Much of their evidence came from exiled political opponents of Saddam Hussein, who are now being rewarded with positions of power (literally, in one case — a key informant has been designated by the Bush Administration as a minister of energy). The evidence that Iraq was acquiring nuclear grade uranium has since been proven to be forged.

    Seymour Hersh has documented this in detail, as has investigative reporter Robert Dreyfuss. I have not seen either report in electronic form (though I’ve read the Hersh piece and I recommend it), but The Washington Post summarizes the results of the reports briefly:

    So, the conclusion I reach is that the Bush Administration lured us into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing international law, under false premises. They cited intelligence that they knew to be unreliable to raise the specter of an Iraqi regime that had weapons of mass destruction (which have yet to be found). They claimed to have reliable evidence that Iraq was seeking to re-build its nuclear program (a claim that relied on blatantly forged evidence). They asserted that Iraq was willing to use weapons of mass destruction against the US (though to do so would certainly have spelled the immediate end of a regime that was content to torture its own people), and that Iraq was in league with Al Queda (though Al Queda was in fact training with a group seeking to overthrow Hussein’s regime) They even suggested that Iraq might have been behind 9/11 (a claim for which there is no evidence).

    Whatever half-truths, misleading statements, or calculated disinformation the government has spread to motivate our country to go to war with Iraq, Hussein’s regime was certainly an inhumane dictatorship Reasonable people can argue that war with Iraq was justified because it removed an awful dictator. If so, then the war should have been justified on these grounds.

    The President and his Administration have a positive duty to make reasonable efforts to verify the evidence they cite to Congress and the American people in building their case for sending our troops into battle. Our troops, who willingly put their lives on the line for this country, deserve to know that the reasons they go to war are true. To refer to obviously fabricated evidence in building the case for war is to show contempt the principle that politicians need to acquire the informed consent of the nation before committing our soldiers to war.

    I encourage you to write to your Congressional representatives asking them to support the effort to undertake an investigation of the evidence that was used to motivate the war. The principle of informed consent is of paramount importance now that our President claims the right to launch pre-emptive attacks on sovereign nations that have not attacked us, based on his assertion that they pose a threat to us. If that is our new policy, we’d better be certain that the evidence presented to market the next war is accurate and fully disclosed.

    Best regards,

    Joe S. Pack

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