top 40 lies on Iraq
Bring 'em On!
The Bush administration's top 40 lies about war and terrorism
By Steve Perry
Wednesday 30 July 2003
Author'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, www.bushwarsblog.com.
1) The administration was not bent on war with Iraq from 9/11
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, "Fuck
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
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 would listen.
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 program.
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."
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 it again.
7) An International Atomic Energy Agency report indicated that Iraq
could be as little as six months from making nuclear weapons.
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 operation."
9) The U.S. wants democracy in Iraq and the Middle East.
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 to
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
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 friends."
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
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
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 hearing.
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 evidence.
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
8:40 NORAD command center claims first notification of likely
Flight 11 hijacking.
8:42 Flight 175 veers off course and shuts down its transponder.
8:43 NORAD claims first notification of likely Flight 175 hijacking.
8:46 Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center north tower.
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 93 hijacking.
9:24 NORAD claims first notification of likely Flight 77 hijacking.
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
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.
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 Pentagon.
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
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 billion and three
months; this stood in fairly stark contrast to UN estimates that an
aggressive rebuilding program could cost up to 0 billion a year
for a minimum of three years.
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
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 people.
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 military ranks.
18) Despite vocal international opposition, the U.S. was backed by
most of the world, as evidenced by the 40-plus-member Coalition of
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
19) This war was notable for its protection of civilians.
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
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
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
21) Saddam was planning to provide WMD to terrorist groups.
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
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
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
24) People detained by the U.S. after 9/11 were legitimate terror
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 September 2002."
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
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
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,
27) U.S. troops "rescued" Private Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi
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
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 city.
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 the throng.
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
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
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
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
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
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 food."
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 the crowd.
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 cronies.
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 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 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 0 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
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
partisans--meaning, in practice, anyone who resists the U.S.
occupation too zealously.
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 s