by William Rivers Pitt
June 3, 2003
In September of 2002, fully six months before George W. Bush attacked Iraq, I published a small book entitled "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You To Know." The essential premise of the book was that the threats surrounding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were wildly overblown by the Bush administration for purely political reasons. In the opening paragraphs, I framed the argument as follows:
According to Bush and the men who are pushing him towards this war-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle.The United States will institute a "regime change" in Iraq, and bring forth the birth of a new democracy in the region. Along the way, we will remove Saddam Hussein, a man who absolutely, positively has weapons of mass destruction, a man who will use these weapons against his neighbors because he has done so in the past, a man who will give these terrible weapons to Osama bin Laden for use against America.
A fairly cut-and-dried case, no? America is more than prepared to listen to these pleasing arguments about evil in black and white, particularly after the horrors of September 11th. Few can contemplate in comfort the existence of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in the hands of a madman like Saddam Hussein. The merest whisper that he might give these weapons to Qaeda terrorists is enough to rob any rational American of sleep. Saddam has been so demonized in the American media-ever since the first President Bush compared him to Hitler-that they believe the case has been fully and completely made for his immediate removal.
Yet facts are stubborn things, as John Adams once claimed while successfully defending British redcoats on trial for the Boston Massacre. We may hate someone with passion, and we may fear them in our souls, but if the facts cannot establish a clear and concise basis for our fear and hatred, if the facts do not defend the actions we would take against them, then we must look elsewhere for the basis of that fear. Simultaneously, we must take stock of those stubborn facts, and understand the manner in which they define the reality-not the rhetoric-of our world.
The case for war against Iraq has not been made. This is a fact. It is doubtful in the extreme that Saddam Hussein has retained any functional aspect of the chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons programs so thoroughly dismantled by the United Nations weapons inspectors who worked tirelessly in Iraq for seven years. This is also a fact.
This was a straightforward argument, set against stern and unrelenting prophesies of doom from Bush administration officials, and from Bush himself. I can tell you, as the writer, that it was a tough sell. The facts contained in the book were absolutely accurate, as has been proven in the aftermath of war, but Americans are funny. They fall for Hitler's maxim on lies over and over again: "The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." Over and over and over and over and over again, the American people were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction practically falling out of his ears. The American people were told that Hussein was giving away these weapons to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda the way you and I might give away birthday presents.
Feast for a moment, on this brief timeline:
"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
- Dick Cheney, August 26 2002
"If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world."
- Ari Fleischer, December 2 2002
"We know for a fact that there are weapons there."
- Ari Fleischer, January 9 2003
"We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more."
- Colin Powell, February 5 2003
"Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes."
- Ari Fleischer, March 21 2003
"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them."
- Gen. Tommy Franks, March 22 2003
"We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad."
- Donald Rumsfeld, March 30 2003
"I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass destruction will be found."
- Ari Fleischer, April 10 2003
"There are people who in large measure have information that we need . . so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country."
- Donald Rumsfeld, April 25 2003
"I am confident that we will find evidence that makes it clear he had weapons of mass destruction."
- Colin Powell, May 4 2003
These are the words of administration officials who were following orders and the party line. It has been axiomatic for quite a while now that the people behind the scenes, and not the Main Man Himself, are running the ways and means of this administration. Harken back to the campaign in 2000, when the glaring deficiencies in ability and experience displayed by George W. Bush were salved by the fact that a number of heavy hitters would be backstopping him. Yet a Democrat named Harry Truman once said, "The buck stops here." What did the man in receipt of said stopped buck have to say on the matter?
"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
- George W. Bush, September 12 2002
"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."
- George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 28 2003
"We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."
- George Bush, February 8 2003
"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
- George Bush, March 17 2003
"We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them."
- George Bush, April 24 2003
"We'll find them. It'll be a matter of time to do so."
- George Bush, May 3 2003
"I'm not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein -- because he had a weapons program."
- George W. Bush, May 6 2003
It has become all too clear in the last several days that the horrid descriptions of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were nothing more than the Big Lie which Hitler described. The American people, being the trusting TV-stoned folks they are, bought this WMD lie bag and baggage. Imagine the shock within the administration when Lieutenant General James Conway, top US Marine Commander in Iraq, said that American intelligence on Iraqi WMDs was "Simply wrong." Conway went on to state about the WMDs that, "We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there."
Imagine the consternation within the administration when Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said on May 28 that, "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." A short translation of that comment is as straightforward as one can get - There was no real threat of WMDs, but everyone who wanted the war for whatever reasons decided to settle on that concept because it was an easy sell to Americans still traumatized by September 11.
Imagine the teeth-gnashing within the administration when Patrick Lang, former head of worldwide human intelligence gathering for the Defense Intelligence Agency, accused Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld's personal intelligence team of having "cherry-picked the intelligence stream" to make it seem like the WMD threat in Iraq was real. Lang went on to say that the DIA was "exploited and abused and bypassed in the process of making the case for war in Iraq based on the presence of WMD." Vince Cannistraro, former chief of the CIA counterterrorist operations, described serving intelligence officers who blame the Pentagon for proffering "fraudulent" intelligence, "a lot of it sourced from the Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi."
Ahmad Chalabi, it should be noted, is the hand-picked-by-Don-Rumsfeld successor to power in Iraq. Chalabi was convicted in 1992 of 31 counts of bank fraud and embezzlement in Jordan and sentenced to 22 years hard labor in absentia. Even the most optimistic of intelligence observers take what he has to say with a massive grain of salt. Certainly, as the chosen leader of Iraq - a position he has enjoyed thanks to Rumsfeld and his cabal since 1997 - Chalabi had no reason whatsoever to exaggerate or lie about Iraq's weapons program. Of course.
The process of proving the presence of Iraqi WMDs has been tortured, to say the least. Bush at one point described recent Iraqi efforts to purchase "significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Greg Thielmann, recently resigned from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, was appalled by these claims. "When I saw that, I was really blown away," said Thielmann. His Bureau of Intelligence and Research had absolutely debunked this claim. The documents used to support the accusation were crude forgeries - the name on the letterhead of the main evidentiary document was that of a Nigerian minister who had been out of office for ten years. When he saw that Bush was using the fraudulent documentation to back up his claims, he thought to himself, "Not that stupid piece of garbage," according to Newsweek.
And then, of course, there was the famous presentation by Colin Powell to the UN on February 5th. Powell held aloft a British Intelligence dossier on the current status of Iraqi weapons, praised it lavishly, and used it as the central underpinnings of his argument that Iraq was a clear and present danger. It came to light some days later that vast swaths of the dossier he praised had been plagiarized from a magazine article penned five months earlier by a California graduate student from California whose focus had been Iraq circa 1991. You can read more on this aspect of the mess in my article from that time entitled Blair, Powell UN Report Written By Student. Last week, Powell described this profoundly flawed UN presentation as "the best analytic product that we could have put up."
The aggravation within the administration, after all these statements, caused George W. Bush to exclaim on May 30, "But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them." He was referring to an alleged Iraqi mobile chemical laboratory, one of the "Winnebagos of Death" described by Colin Powell. Said mobile facility contained exactly zero evidence of having been used to produce weapons of any kind, and was in fact most likely used as a mobile food testing platform in the service of Saddam Hussein, who was always paranoid about assassination.
Over 170 American soldiers died in the second war in Iraq. The Iraqi populace is deeply angered by the American presence in their country, and they are armed to the teeth. More soldiers will die in the impossible police action that has become victory's inheritance. Thousands of Iraqi civilians have died, along with untold scores of Iraqi soldiers. The Middle East has been inflamed by the war; bombings in Riyadh and Casablanca provide a bleak preview of what is to come. According to Mr. Bush, the entire thing was aimed at that one mobile lab. The thousands of tons of WMDs we were promised do not exist, so that empty mobile lab is what we must settle for if we are to justify this war in our hearts and minds.
Once upon a time, we impeached a sitting President for lying under oath about sexual trysts. No one died, no one had their legs or arms or face or genitals blown off because of the lies of a President who had been caught with his pants down. Today in America, we endure a sitting President who lied for months about the threat posed by a sovereign nation. That nation was invaded and attacked, and thousands died because of it. The aftereffects of this action will be felt for generations to come. The very democracy which gives us meaning as a country has been put in peril by these deeds. When the smoke cleared, every reason for that war was proven to be a lie.
Of course, there will be no impeachment with a Republican Congress. This must not dissuade us from demanding satisfaction. Let the House be brought to order. Gavel the members to attention, and let the evidence be brought forth. Let there be justice for the living and the dead. Let this man Bush be impeached and cleansed from office for the lies he has told. These are not innocent lies. The dead remember.
William Rivers Pitt 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 www.SilenceIsSedition.com. Scott Lowery contributed research to this report. Bill Chirolas located the administration quotations. This article first appeared in Truthout (www.truthout.org).