W.: Still Not Telling the Truth about Iraq

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He’s baaaaack. George W. Bush releases his book this week–in which he complains about Kanye West and defends his decision to invade Iraq. As David Corn points out in his PoliticsDaily.com column, Bush is still telling whoppers about the Iraq war. And so far, he hasn’t been called out by the establishment media for his falsehoods. Here’ Corn nailing him:

Bush is mounting a defense, as selective as it might be, of the Iraq war. He acknowledges that he experiences “a sickening feeling every time” he recalls the absence of WMDs in Iraq, but he contends that invading Iraq was the right move because “America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD.”

Yet that statement is flat-out wrong. Not the “safer” part, but the description of Saddam Hussein and WMDs. Bush is still trying to mislead the American public, for at the time of the invasion, Saddam, brutal dictator that he was, was not pursuing the development or production of WMDs. The Bush administration’s own investigation found this. Following the invasion, there was an probe of Iraq’s WMD activity conducted by Charles Duelfer, a hawkish fellow whom had been handpicked by the administration to handle this sensitive job. In 2004, his Iraq Survey Group submitted it’s final report. The report noted that Saddam “aspired to develop a nuclear capability.” But it was quite clear on the key point: Iraq had not been actively working on WMD projects. The Duelfer report concluded that Iraq’s ability to produce nuclear weapons–the most troubling W in the WMD category–had “progressively decayed” since 1991 and that inspectors had found no signs of any “concerted efforts to restart the program.” In plain talk: nada on nuclear. The same was true, the report said, for biological and chemical weapons. It found that by 1995, under UN pressure, Iraq had abandoned its biological weapons efforts and that there was no evidence Iraq had made any chemical weapons in the preceding 12 years.

The report was blunt: “The former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners.”

Nobody working on WMDs; no schemes to develop or obtain such weapons. The bottom-line: Saddam was not pursuing weapons of mass destruction. The UN inspections of the 1990s and the international anti-Iraq sanctions had rendered Iraq’s weapons programs kaput.

So once again, Bush is not being accurate–or honest. To justify the war, the ex-president maintains he took out a dictator who was seeking the worst weapons imaginable. Did Bush not read the Duelfer report–at the time of it’s release or in the six years since? Or does he not care about the real truth of his war? There’s a question that ought to be put to him during the PR blitz for Decision Points.

And allow me to pile on. In a push-the-book interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Bush claims that had he not invaded Iraq, Saddam “would still have the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction.” Again, that’s not so. See above. Per the Duelfer report, Saddam did not have such a capacity.

In that same interview, Bush, still on the subject of Iraq, declares, “I gave diplomacy every chance to work.” This is another super-sized whopper. As Michael Isikoff and I revealed in our book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, on May 1, 2002–almost a year prior to the invasion–Bush angrily told press secretary Ari Fleischer, “I’m going to kick [Saddam’s] sorry motherf****** ass all over the Mideast.” (Our source, Adam Levine, a White House aide, was a witness to the encounter.) Those are not the words of a fellow committed to a diplomatic solution.

That anecdote aside, the facts contradict Bush’s claim: At the time of the invasion, the UN weapons inspections program was under way and succeeding in Iraq. The inspectors were resolving key issues, such as whether aluminum tubes obtained by Iraq were for a project to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons (they were not). They also were finding no signs of WMDs. The inspectors were getting a difficult job done and, as we know now, deriving the right answers. Certainly, they were encountering problems. Saddam was not cooperating 100 percent. But the inspectors were navigating the roadblocks, and robust inspections were proceeding.

Occasionally you will hear some Bush defender say that Saddam tossed out the inspectors and that’s why Bush had to invade. This is not so. The inspectors were yanked out of Iraq by the UN because of the pending invasion. That is, by invading Iraq, Bush ended the ongoing diplomatic process that was effectively dealing with the supposed Iraqi WMD threat. He did not give it “every chance to work.”

Corn asks, “Will Bush get away with these, uh, misrepresentations?” His prediction is not encouraging: “He did so as president, and history may be repeating itself this week.”


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