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Volume 3,  Number 24              July 20 - 26, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines

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Mr. Bush, You Are A Liar

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

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There was a picture on the front page of the New York Times on Tuesday, July 8. It showed several American soldiers in Iraq sitting in utter dejection as they were informed by their battalion commander that none of them were going home anytime soon, and no one knew exactly when they were going home at all. PFC Harrison Grimes sat in the center of this photo with his chin in his hand, staring at ground that was thousands of miles from his family and friends. A soldier caught in the picture just over PFC Grimes' shoulder had a look on his face that could break rocks.

212 of PFC Grimes' fellow soldiers have died in Iraq, and 1,044 more have been wounded. The war created chaos in the cities, and it seems clear now that very little in the way of preparation was made to address the fact that invasion leads to social bedlam, not to mention a lot of shooting. Last Sunday, CNN's Judy Woodruff showed a clip of a Sergeant Charles Pollard, who said, "All we are here is potential people to be killed and sitting ducks."

According to the numbers, almost two thirds of the soldiers killed in Iraq since May 1 died in "non-combat related" mishaps like accidental weapons discharges, accidental detonations of unexploded ordnance, and questionable car crashes. There are some in the world who might take comfort from the fact that only one third of the dead since May came from snipers or bombs or rocket-propelled grenades. Dead is dead, however. There is no comforting them.

A significant portion of the dead and wounded came after Bush performed his triumphant swagger across the deck of an aircraft carrier that was parked just outside San Diego bay. Those dead and wounded came because the Bush administration's shoddy planning for this whole event left the troopers on the firing line wide open to the slow and debilitating bloodletting they have endured. A significant portion of the dead and wounded came after Bush stuck his beady chin out on national television and said, "Bring 'em on!"

When a leader sends troops out into the field of battle, they become his responsibility. When his war planning is revealed to be profoundly faulty, flawed in ways that are getting men killed, he should not stick his banty rooster chest out to the cameras and speak with the hollow bravado of a man who knows he is several time zones away from the violence and bloodshed.

Such behavior is demonstrably criminal from a moral standpoint. The events that led to this reprehensible display were criminal in a far more literal sense.

Bush and the White House told the American people over and over again that Iraq was in possession of vast stockpiles of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Bush and the White House said over and over again that this was a direct threat to the United States. Bush and the White House told the American people over and over again that Iraq was directly connected to al Qaeda terrorism, and would hand those terrible weapons over to the terrorists the first chance they got. Bush and the White House told Congress the same thing. Very deliberately, Bush and the White House tied a war in Iraq to the attack of September 11.

It was all a lie. All of it.

When George W. Bush delivered his constitutionally-mandated State of the Union Address in January 2003, he stated flatly that Iraq was attempting to develop a nuclear weapons program. "The British government has learned," said Bush in his speech, "that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa." He delivered this proclamation on the basis of intelligence reports which claimed that Iraq was attempting to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger.

Vice President Cheney got the Niger ball rolling in a speech delivered August 26, 2002 when he said Saddam Hussein had "resumed his effort to acquire nuclear weapons." As the data clearly shows, Mr. Cheney was a central player in the promulgation of the claim that Iraq was grubbing for uranium in Africa. This statement was the opening salvo.

CIA Director George Tenet made this same claim in a briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee on September 24, 2002. This briefing was the deciding factor for a number of Senatorial fence-sitters unsure about voting for war. Bush, in a speech delivered on the eve of the Congressional vote for war on Iraq, referenced the Niger uranium claims again when he raised the specter of a "mushroom cloud" just three sentences after evoking "The horror of September 11."

That sealed the deal. Congress voted for war, and a clear majority of the people supported the President.

In the last week, a blizzard of revelations from high-ranking members of the intelligence community has turned these Bush administration claims inside out. It began with a New York Times editorial by Joseph Wilson, former US ambassador to several African nations. Wilson was dispatched in February of 2002 at the behest of Dick Cheney to investigate the veracity of the Niger evidence. Wilson spent eight days digging through the data, and concluded that the evidence was completely worthless. The documents in question which purportedly indicated Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium were crude forgeries.

Upon his return in February of 2002, Ambassador Wilson reported back to the people who sent him on his errand. According to his editorial, the CIA, the State Department, the National Security Council and the Vice President's office were all informed that the Niger documents were forged. "That information was erroneous, and they knew about it well ahead of both the publication of the British white paper and the president's State of the Union address," said Wilson in a 'Meet the Press' interview last Sunday.

 "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat," Wilson wrote in his Times editorial. "A legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses." He elaborated further in a Washington Post interview, saying, "It really comes down to the administration misrepresenting the facts on an issue that was a fundamental justification for going to war. It begs the question, what else are they lying about?"

Ambassador Wilson's claims are not easily dismissed. Wilson is a 23-year veteran of the foreign service who was the top diplomat in Baghdad before the first Gulf War. In 1990, he was lauded by the first President Bush for his work. "What you are doing day in and day out under the most trying conditions is truly inspiring," cabled Bush Sr. "Keep fighting the good fight."

A great hue and cry has been raised as to the timing of the data delivery to the policy-makers. Don Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice have both claimed they knew nothing of the forged Niger evidence, claiming the information was buried in the "bowels" of the intelligence services. Vice President Cheney's office has made similar demurrals. Obviously, the administration is attempting to scapegoat the CIA.

Given the nature of Wilson's claims, and given who he is, and given the fact that he was sent to Niger at the behest of Dick Cheney, it is absurd to believe the administration was never given the data they specifically asked for over a year before the war began, and eleven months before Bush's fateful State of the Union Address.

27-year CIA veteran Ray McGovern, writing in a recent editorial, described a conversation he had with a senior official who recently served at the National Security Council. "The fact that Cheney's office had originally asked that the Iraq-Niger report be checked out," said the official, "makes it inconceivable that his office would not have been informed of the results."

Wilson is not alone. Greg Thielmann served as Director of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research until his retirement in September. Mr. Thielmann has come forward recently to join Ambassador Wilson in denouncing the Bush administration's justifications for war in Iraq.

"I believe the Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq," said Thielmann on Wednesday. During his press conference, Mr. Thielmann said that, as of the commencement of military operations in March of 2003, "Iraq posed no imminent threat to either its neighbors or to the United States". Mr. Thielmann also dismissed the oft-repeated claims of a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. "This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude," he said.

Thielmann could have saved his breath, and Wilson could have saved himself a trip, if the Bush administration had bothered to pay any attention to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA's chief spokesman, Mark Gwozdecky, said on September 26, 2002 that no such evidence existed to support claims of a nascent Iraqi nuclear program.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer on July 8 stood before the press corps and said the President's statements during the State of the Union address had been "incorrect."

Let us look at the timeline of this and consider the definition of "incorrect":

February 2002: Ambassador Joseph Wilson is dispatched by Cheney to Niger to investigate Iraq-uranium claims. Eight days later, he reports back that the documentary evidence was a forgery;

August 26, 2002: Dick Cheney claims Iraq is developing a nuclear program;

September 24, 2002: CIA Director Tenet briefs the Senate Intelligence Committee on the reported Iraqi nuclear threat, using the Niger evidence to back his claims;

September 26, 2002: The IAEA vigorously denies that any such nuclear program exists in Iraq;

October 6, 2002: George W. Bush addresses the nation and threatens the American people with "mushroom clouds" delivered by Iraq, using the same Niger evidence;

October 10, 2002: Congress votes for war in Iraq, based on the data delivered by Tenet and by the nuclear rhetoric from Bush four days prior;

January 2003: George W. Bush, in his State of the Union Address, says, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa."

March-April 2003: War in Iraq kills thousands of civilians and destabilizes the nation;

April-July 2003: No evidence whatsoever of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons can be found in Iraq. 212 American soldiers have died, and 1,044 more have been wounded, as a guerilla war is undertaken by Iraqi insurgents;

July 2003: Amid accusations from former intelligence officials, the Bush administration denies ever having known the Niger evidence was fake.

The Bush administration knew full well that their evidence was worthless, and still stood before the American people and told them it was fact. Bush sent the Director of the CIA to the Senate under orders to use the same worthless evidence to cajole that body into war.

That is not being "incorrect." That is lying. In the context of Bush's position as President, and surrounded by hundreds of dead American soldiers piled alongside thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, that is a crime.

They know it, too.

A report hit the Reuters wires late Tuesday night announcing the arrest of an Iraqi intelligence official named Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani. An unnamed "US official" claimed al-Ani had reportedly met with 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta in Prague just months before the attack. The old saw about Iraq working fist in glove with al Qaeda to bring about September 11 was back in the news.

According to the story, neither the CIA or the FBI could confirm this meeting had taken place. In fact, a Newsweek report from June 9 entitled "Where are the WMDs?" shows the FBI was completely sure such a meeting had never taken place. The snippet below is from the Newsweek article; the 'Cabal' statement refers to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his coterie of hawks who have been all-out for war on Iraq since 1997:

"The Cabal was eager to find a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, especially proof that Saddam played a role in the 9-11 attacks. The hard-liners at Defense seized on a report that Muhammad Atta, the chief hijacker, met in Prague in early April 2001 with an Iraqi intelligence official. Only one problem with that story, the FBI pointed out. Atta was traveling at the time between Florida and Virginia Beach, Va. (The bureau had his rental car and hotel receipts.)"

Amid the accusations that have exploded surrounding the revelations of Wilson, Thielmann and other high-ranking intelligence officials, comes now again reports of the infamous Iraq-al Qaeda connection, an administration claim meant to justify the war. As with the Niger forgery, however, it is too easily revealed to be utterly phony.

It reeks of desperation. This administration is learning a lesson that came to Presidents Nixon and Johnson with bitter tears: Scapegoat the CIA at your mortal peril.

There are many who believe that blaming George W. Bush for the errors and gross behavior of his administration is tantamount to blaming Mickey Mouse for mistakes made by Disney. There is a great deal of truth to this. Groups like Rumsfeld's 'Cabal,' and the right-wing think tanks so closely associated to the creation of administration foreign policy, are very much more in control of matters than Bush.

Yet Bush knew the facts of the matter. He allowed CIA Director Tenet to lie to Congress with his bare face hanging out in order to get that body to vote for war. He knew the facts and lied himself, on countless occasions, to an American people who have been loyally supporting him, even as he beats them over the head with the image of collapsing towers and massive death to stoke their fear and dread for his own purposes. In doing these things, he consigned 212 American soldiers to death, along with thousands of innocent bystanders in Iraq. Given the current circumstances, there will be more dead to come.

There is no "The President wasn't told" justification available here, no Iran/Contra loophole. He knew. He lied. His people knew. They lied.

Death knows no political affiliation, and a bloody lie is a bloody lie is a bloody lie. The time has come for Congress to fulfill their constitutional duties in this matter, to defend the nation and the soldiers who live and die in her service. The definition of 'is' has flown right out the window. This 'is' a crime. George W. Bush lied to the people, and lied to Congress.  There are a lot of people dead because of it.

One Congresswoman, Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, released a statement on July 8 that cuts right to the heart of the matter:

"After months of denials, President Bush has finally admitted that he misled the American public during his State of the Union address when he claimed that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium in Africa. That is why we need an independent commission to determine the veracity of the other so-called evidence used to convince the American people that war with Iraq was unavoidable.

"It is not enough for the White House to issue a statement saying that President Bush should not have used that piece of intelligence in his State of the Union address at a time when he was trying to convince the American people that invading Iraq was in our national security interests. Did the president know then what he says he only knows now? If not, why not, since that information was available at the highest level.

"What else did the Bush Administration lie about? What other faulty information did Administration officials, including President Bush, tell the American people and the world? Did the Bush Administration knowingly deceive us and manufacture intelligence in order to build public support for the invasion of Iraq? Did Iraq really pose an imminent threat to our nation? These questions must be answered. The American people deserve to know the full truth."

The voice of Rep. Schakowsky must be followed by others both within and without the majority. If nothing is done about this, American justice is a sad, sorry, feeble joke.

(William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times best-selling author of two books - "War On Iraq" available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," now available from Pluto Press at http://www.silenceissedition.com/)

July 11, 2003


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