“Bush is a Liar”: 50% of Americans
Gallup has found that half of Americans believe that President George W. Bush actively lied to them about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction in the year leading up to the Iraq War.
I am sure that Bush & Co. exercised poor judgment, jumped to conclusions, exaggerated threats on the basis of thin evidence. All that is well documented. But it seems to me remarkable that so many in the public think they actively lied.
It is easy to see why the public so concludes.
Tuesday’s addendum to the Duelfer report concludes that there not only were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but that the rumors put around by the Bush administration and by Fox Cable News that the WMD was sent to Syria are unsubstantiated. (By this point in the story, we may take that to mean flatly “false,” or perhaps “lies.”) I never thought the Syria story made any sense. You can’t truck off thousands of tons of chemical weapons to Syria without being observed (we do have satellites that take a pretty good picture). And the Iraqi nuclear program was dismantled by the UN inspectors from 1991. There’s no evidence of a biological weapons program after about 1995. So what exactly was transported to Syria? It was just a pretext put about by the crowd that wants American boys to die fighting in Syria for some vague geopolitical or economic goal (or just to give Ariel Sharon the elbow room to annex ever more Arab territory).
And, we all remember the false claims about Iraqi uranium purchases in Niger, based on documents some intelligence professionals believe were forged in the United States by persons with a close relationship to Italian military intelligence. That story was false, and even George Tenet told the White House he would not sign off on it. But Bush and his people clearly wanted to put it before the American public. If they weren’t lying, they were at the least reckless with regard to the truth.
The Bush team clearly came into office having decided on having a war. Indeed, Bush told Osama Siblani in a hotel room in Troy, Michigan, in May of 2000 that he was going to get Saddam. So he came in with this plan, and former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill thought that Cheney and others in the administration did, as well.
“And what happened at President Bush’s very first National Security Council meeting is one of O’Neill’s most startling revelations. “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic “A” 10 days after the inauguration – eight months before Sept. 11. “From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.” As treasury secretary, O’Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as “Why Saddam?” and “Why now?” were never asked. “It” was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,’” says O’Neill. “For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.” And that came up at this first meeting, says O’Neill, who adds that the discussion of Iraq continued at the next National Security Council meeting two days later. He got briefing materials under this cover sheet. “There are memos. One of them marked, secret, says, ‘Plan for post-Saddam Iraq,’” adds Suskind, who says that they discussed an occupation of Iraq in January and February of 2001.
I think this is what the public means when they report that Bush lied. They know that there was a pre-existing policy, and that the administration cut and pasted the evidence to push that policy.
The question is whether the increasing lack of trust in Bush’s veracity, in his ability to handle Iraq (54% say he can’t), in his domestic policies such as social security privatization, etc., will cost him control of the Senate in 2006. The tide is beginning to run in that direction.