Is Bush lying about his lies?
November 25, 2005
BY ANDREW GREELEY
Not only did the Bush administration deceive the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq, it is now deceiving them about the deceptions. In a burst of political tantrums, the president and the vice president have shouted that it was "irresponsible" to assert that there had been deception and it was unfair to the troops fighting in Iraq.
Is the administration lying about its lies? That many of the arguments in favor of the war were false is beyond question. Nor can there be any serious doubt that the new argument that it is irresponsible to question the old arguments is also false. But if a lie is a conscious effort to deceive, then the charge that the president and the men around him deliberately lied and are now lying again, then that issue must be left to heaven. It is enough to say they spread falsehoods three years because they had made up their minds that there had to be a war and are now spreading falsehoods about the original falsehoods. The president is not a man who likes to admit he was wrong. Therefore, one must cover up the mistakes.
Consider some of the evidence. Vice President Dick Cheney and the president both insisted that Iraq was trying to import "yellowcake" uranium for nuclear weapons. Then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and the vice president warned of "mushroom clouds."
Bush says that everyone agreed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He has said in the past that it was not his fault that all the intelligence agencies of the world believed that they did. Therefore, the intelligence agencies of the world were to blame for the mistake, he wasn't. Everyone in Washington, he argues, supported the war.
In truth, many Democratic senators did, not realizing how much the case in favor of the war had been cooked. In the national intelligence estimate issued just before the war, the internal dissent was excluded. The administration had created an atmosphere of fear and deception that indeed won support for the war.
Now we realize that even before Sept. 11, the powerful people in the administration (Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz) wanted a war with Iraq. The day of the attack some of them tried to find evidence that Iraq had attacked us. Now there was certainly going to be a war, and the challenge was to present a case to the American people to win their support for the war.
The search for evidence was essentially a search to make the case, not a search for the truth, much as one prepares a political campaign or support for legislation or drafts a legal brief. One looked for evidence that would justify the war as preventing Rice's mushroom clouds. One took whatever one could find. Even Colin Powell says his sad attempt to be the Adlai Stevenson of his day was the worst experience of his life. The U.N. inspectors found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. But that conclusion was dismissed, in effect, as a typical example of U.N. "waffling." No one in the administration, as far as I know, has ever said that the inspectors were right. It would seem such a suggestion is "irresponsible."
The buck stops in the Oval Office. If the president was not deliberately lying to the American people, he nonetheless presided over what was in effect and in truth a massive deception. He would be much wiser to admit his mistake and assume responsibility, but it is apparently not in his character to do so.
Moreover at least three-fifths of the American people now believe that he did in fact deceive them. The question arises as to whether he and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are also deceiving us on the certainty of victory in Iraq. Granting for the sake of an argument that we must train a functioning Iraq army, why will no one in the administration predict how long that will take? Why after several years of that effort is there only one fully capable Iraqi unit (of 750 men)?
James Fallows, in a long and careful article in the Atlantic Monthly, says that it would probably take 10 years, just as anonymous hints from the Pentagon assert. The alternative is set a strict schedule for withdrawal, which Fallows admits would be a loss of honor.
Whose honor? That of the United States or those who fabricated the reasons for the war? What honor do Bush and Cheney have left?
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