A closer look at the Bush record -- from
the war in Iraq to the war on the environment
take the exit ramp off the Bush presidency in November?
Colin Powell's Legend
Colin Powell's sterling reputation in Washington hides his life-long role
as water-carrier for conservative ideologues.
Recounting the controversial presidential campaign
Is the national media a danger to democracy?
The Clinton Scandals
The story behind President Clinton's impeachment
Pinochet & Other Characters
The Dark Side of Rev. Moon
Rev. Sun Myung Moon and American politics
Contra drug stories uncovered
How the American historical record has been tainted by lies and cover-ups
The October Surprise
The 1980 October Surprise scandal exposed
From free trade to the Kosovo crisis
Other Investigative Stories
Bush Trims a Tale
By Robert Parry
September 23, 2004
to the United Nations, George W. Bush scaled back one of the lies he
routinely tells the American people: Bush didn’t repeat his claim that
Saddam Hussein barred U.N. weapons inspectors from Iraq before the
That Bush claim – accusing Hussein of having
refused to admit the U.N. inspectors in 2002-2003 – has become a central
part of Bush’s rewriting of the history of the Iraq War. The revision
lets Bush present himself as a reasonable man who exhausted all peaceful
options before turning to war as a last resort.
Apparently trusting that his American audiences and
the U.S. press corps won’t challenge his false assertions, Bush has
pitched this lie again and again, including in his acceptance speech to
the Republican National Convention. But he trimmed the tale back on
Sept. 21 while addressing the U.N. General Assembly, a place where the
facts are better known.
Still, Bush offered a muddled war rationale that
retained a whiff of his revisionist history. “The Security Council
promised serious consequences for his [Hussein’s] defiance,” Bush said.
“And the commitments we make must have meaning. When we say serious
consequences, for the sake of peace, there must be serious consequences.
And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world.”
This account had factual problems, too. It
suggested that Hussein remained in defiance of U.N. demands that he rid
his country of weapons of mass destruction and that Hussein was not
cooperating with the U.N., when the evidence now is that Iraq had no WMD
stockpiles and was cooperating – albeit belatedly – with the U.N.
Bush also didn’t mention that the U.N. Security
Council rebuffed his request to authorize the Iraq invasion in 2003. Nor
did Bush address the statement by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan
terming the U.S.-led invasion “illegal.”
But – while Bush’s U.N. speech may have been a
sanitized version of reality – he seems to have recognized that the
“full monte” of his false history wouldn’t play well before the General
Assembly where hundreds of officials know the facts. Bush appears to
have a much lower opinion of the American people’s knowledge or their
interest in the truth.
Within months of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq,
Bush began fudging the history. In July 2003, Bush said about Hussein,
“we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let
them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to
remove him from power.”
Bush reiterated that war-justifying claim in
January 2004, saying: “We went to the United Nations, of course, and got
an overwhelming resolution -- 1441 -- unanimous resolution, that said to
Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which
obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance.
It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.”
Last March 19, on the invasion’s first anniversary,
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued the same historical point in an
op-ed article in the New York Times.
“In September 2002, President Bush went to the
United Nations, which gave Iraq still another ‘final opportunity’ to
disarm and to prove it had done so,” Rumsfeld wrote, adding that
“Saddam Hussein passed up that final opportunity” and then rejected a
U.S. ultimatum to flee. “Only then, after every peaceful option had been
exhausted, did the president and our coalition partners order the
liberation of Iraq,” Rumsfeld wrote.
Deceiving the RNC
In his acceptance speech to the Republican National
Convention, Bush again felt confident that he could get away with
spinning the history to a gullible audience. He said:
“We went to the United Nations Security Council,
which passed a unanimous resolution demanding the dictator disarm, or
face serious consequences. Leaders in the Middle East urged him to
comply. After more than a decade of diplomacy, we gave Saddam Hussein
another chance, a final chance, to meet his responsibilities to the
civilized world. He again refused, and I faced the kind of decision no
president would ask for, but must be prepared to make.”
The reality, of course, was different. Starting in
fall 2002, Hussein did grant the U.N. weapons inspectors free rein to
search any suspect WMD site of their choosing. U.N. chief inspector Hans
Blix wrote that he was encouraged by the Iraqi cooperation in letting
his inspectors check out sites identified by Washington as possible WMD
Though finding no WMD at those sites, Blix’s
inspections team was expanding its operations in early 2003. But Bush
wanted to go to war. So he forced the U.N. inspectors to leave in
mid-March 2003. “Although the inspection organization was now operating
at full strength and Iraq seemed determined to give it prompt access
everywhere, the United States appeared as determined to replace our
inspection force with an invasion army,” Blix wrote in his book,
(Oddly, when I have mentioned Blix in previous
articles, Bush defenders have fired off e-mails denouncing Blix as an
incompetent because he failed to find Iraq’s WMDs. It’s almost as if
these writers have climbed into a time capsule impervious to the fact
that Bush administration inspectors also have found no evidence of Iraqi
Bush’s misleading account of the Iraq War history
undercuts another article of faith among Bush defenders: that his
pre-war assertions about Iraq’s WMD were honest mistakes, not
intentional lies. These defenders insist that Bush is what the Economist
magazine has called a “sincere deceiver” who may have deceived the
public but did so believing what he said.
If Bush were a “sincere deceiver,” however, he
would not continue to mislead the American people about something as
important as why the nation went to war. He would take pains to spell
out the circumstances that existed before the invasion, even if those
facts make him look rash or unreasonable. He would not lie to the
American people about Hussein supposedly refusing to admit U.N. weapons
inspectors before the war.
Also, the fact that Bush scaled back his deceptive
account when he was speaking to the U.N. – an audience keenly aware of
the real facts – is additional evidence that Bush knows what he’s doing
when he tries to slip his dishonest version past less informed
Americans. Bush is demonstrating that he is an “insincere deceiver” who
cares only about keeping the American people in line behind him and he
will say whatever it takes to do that.
Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories for the Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s, has
written a new book entitled, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush
Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. Copies can be obtained now from the
publisher at www.secrecyandprivilege.com .
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