One also might think that a newspaper would have
some interest in holding dishonest politicians accountable, especially
when the consequences of their deceptions have been as grievous as
George W. Bush’s Iraq War lies. But that also is not the way of the
More than three years into the Iraq War, the Post’s
top news executives remain steadfast defenders of Washington’s neoconservatives who
pushed the dangerous doctrine that military invasion was the way to
“democratize” Muslim countries in the Middle East. In 2002-2003, the
Post’s senior editors cast Iraq War skeptics out of the polite opinion-page
society – and are still at it.
After last week’s House debate on Iraq, here is how
the lead Post editorial treated Bush’s critics for favoring a prompt
U.S. military withdrawal:
“Many Democrats, looking to exploit bad news
without appearing to rejoice in it, demagogued about presidential
‘lies,’ obtusely denied any relationship between Iraq and the war on
terrorism and called for troop withdrawal without honestly facing the
consequences of such a move.” [Washington Post, June 17, 2006]
If you parse the Post’s comment, you would have to
conclude that Democratic war critics are truly despicable and crazy
people. They eagerly exploit the “bad news” deaths and maiming of
American soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, while
concealing a private joy over this mayhem for crass political reasons.
These Democrats also slander President Bush via the
suggestion that he lied about the reasons for the Iraq War. The verb “to
demagogue” means to manipulate a population by appeals to emotions or
prejudices, suggesting the use of illogical or false arguments.
The Post apparently buys into the administration’s
defense that Bush may have made statements about Iraq’s weapons of mass
destruction that turned out not to be true, but that he believed the
claims were true at the time and therefore didn’t lie.
And as for Bush’s misleading juxtapositions linking
Iraq and al-Qaeda in speech after speech before the war, the Post is
apparently accepting Bush’s explanation that he didn’t explicitly equate
Iraq and al-Qaeda – even if he did plant that impression in the minds of
most Americans, including the troops sent to Iraq.
Lies & Lies
But, as we have written repeatedly at
Consortiumnews.com, even if one bends over backward to give Bush the
benefit of every doubt – as the Post would not do for almost any other
politician – there are clear cases in which Bush lied while knowing the
For instance, in mid-July 2003, as the
administration’s WMD case against Iraq was collapsing, Bush began
altering the early history of the war to make his actions appear more
On July 14, 2003, Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein
had barred United Nations weapons inspectors from Iraq when, in fact,
they were admitted in November 2002 and given free rein to search
suspected Iraqi weapons sites. It was Bush who forced the U.N.
inspectors to leave in March 2003 so the invasion could proceed.
But faced with growing doubts about his
justifications for war – former Ambassador Joseph Wilson had challenged
Bush’s nuclear weapons claims about Iraq a week earlier – Bush
began rewriting the history of the U.N. weapons inspectors.
Apparently trusting in the weak memories of the
American people and the timidity of the U.S. press, Bush
“We gave him [Saddam Hussein] 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.”
In the following months and years, Bush repeated
this claim in slightly varied forms as part of his litany for defending
the invasion on the grounds that it was Hussein who “chose war,” not
Meeting no protest from the Washington press corps, Bush continued
repeating his lie about Hussein showing “defiance” on the inspections.
Even three years into the war, Bush was still citing this bogus history
as he did on March 21, 2006, in response to a question from veteran
White House correspondent Helen Thomas.
“I was hoping to solve this [Iraq] problem diplomatically,” Bush
said. “The world said, ‘Disarm, disclose or face serious consequences.’
… We worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the
world. And when he chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to
disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And
The significance of the repeated lie about Hussein denying the
inspectors is that Bush can’t simply blame his advisers for giving him
bad information. Bush was fully aware of the U.N. inspectors and what
happened to them.
'Downing Street Memo'
Indeed, documentary evidence shows that Bush was determined to invade
Iraq in 2002 and early 2003 regardless of what U.S. intelligence said
about Iraq’s WMD or what the Iraqis did to cooperate with the U.N.
The infamous “Downing
Street Memo” recounted a secret meeting on July 23, 2002, involving
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security aides.
At that meeting, Richard Dearlove, chief of the British intelligence
agency MI6, described his discussions about Iraq with Bush’s top
advisers in Washington.
Dearlove said, “Bush wanted to remove Saddam,
through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and
WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
Then, at an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 31, 2003,
Bush and Blair discussed their determination to invade Iraq, though Bush
still hoped that he might provoke the Iraqis into some violent act that
would serve as political cover, according to minutes written by Blair’s
top foreign policy aide David Manning.
So, while Bush still was telling the American people that he
considered war with Iraq “a last resort,” he actually had decided to
invade regardless of what positive steps Iraq might take, according to
the five-page memo.
The memo also revealed Bush conniving to deceive the American people
and the world community by trying to engineer a provocation that would
portray Hussein as the aggressor. Bush suggested painting a U.S. plane
up in U.N. colors and flying it over Iraq with the goal of drawing Iraqi
fire, the meeting minutes said.
“The U.S. was thinking of flying U-2 reconnaissance aircraft with
fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours,” the memo said about
Bush’s scheme. “If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.” [See
to Talk War Crimes.”]
Regardless of whether any casus belli could be provoked, Bush
already had “penciled in” March 10, 2003, as the start of the U.S.
bombing of Iraq, according to the memo. “Our diplomatic strategy had to
be arranged around the military planning,” Manning wrote.
According to the British memo, Bush and Blair acknowledged that no
weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, nor were they likely
to be found in the coming weeks, but that wouldn’t get in the way of the
U.S.-led invasion. [NYT, March 27, 2006]
Ousting the Inspectors
So, Bush clearly knew that Hussein had permitted
the inspectors into Iraq to search suspected weapons sites. Bush also
knew that he was the one who forced the inspectors to leave so the
invasion could proceed in March 2003. [For more on Bush's pretexts for
war in Iraq, see Consortiumnews.com’s “President
Bush, With the Candlestick…”]
Another Bush lie has been exposed in Ron Suskind's
new book, The One Percent Doctrine. Suskind reports that U.S.
intelligence informed Bush that captured al-Qaeda operative Abu Zabaydah
was mentally ill and a relatively insignificant figure, mostly
responsible for arranging travel for al-Qaeda family members, but Bush
still portrayed Zabaydah's capture as a major victory.
Two weeks after being informed of Zabaydah's minor
role, Bush delivered a speech calling Zabaydah “one of the top
operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United
States,” Suskind reported.
Despite this body of evidence, the Post’s editors
still accuse Democrats in Congress who dare cite Bush's lies as
engaging in demagoguery.
According to the Post, these Democrats also
“obtusely denied any relationship between Iraq and the war on
terrorism.” Yet, in leveling that charge, the Post ignores the fact that
U.S. intelligence has long acknowledged that it had no credible evidence
of operational ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda before the war – which is
the point that Democrats have been making.
Indeed, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his
secular regime had ruthlessly repressed Islamic extremists. In the
Muslim world, Hussein was viewed as a bitter enemy of Osama bin-Laden,
not an ally.
The Post’s editors also must know that the Bush
administration has misled the American people on this point by
“cherry-picking” intelligence, such as arguing that Jordanian terrorist
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had spent time in Baghdad before the invasion.
This argument resurfaced during a public
confrontation between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA
analyst Ray McGovern in Atlanta on May 4, 2006. Trying to justify the
Iraq invasion, Rumsfeld said, “Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar
period. That is a fact.”
McGovern countered, “Zarqawi? He was in the north
of Iraq in a place where Saddam Hussein had no rule. That’s also ...”
“He was also in Baghdad,” Rumsfeld interjected.
“Yes,” McGovern said, “when he needed to go to the
hospital. Come on, these people aren’t idiots. They know the story.”
In this confrontation, Rumsfeld had reverted back
to pre-war talking points that the administration had used to create the
false impression of a link between Hussein’s government and al-Qaeda.
However, no serious intelligence professional
believed that Zarqawi seeking medical treatment in Baghdad – with no
indication that Hussein’s government even knew about the trip – proved
an al-Qaeda tie-in to pre-war Iraq.
Yet, instead of upbraiding Bush for this and other
deceptions, the Post’s editors lashed Democrats for doing what
newspapers normally are expected to do: call public servants to account
for misleading the public.
But none of this behavior by the Post should come
as any surprise.
The Post’s editors now have a long record of
following the neocon line on Iraq and the Middle East, no matter how
misguided or dishonest those positions. One Post editorial even repeated
some of the Right’s personal smears against Joe Wilson who dared
criticize Bush for “twisting” the WMD intelligence on Iraq. [See
of the Post’s Editorial Page.”]
While refusing to tolerate challenges to Bush’s
past words and deeds, the Post’s editors now insist that the United
States continue to stand behind Bush as he presses ahead with an
indefinite U.S. military occupation of Iraq.
In the editorial, the Post denigrated congressmen
who favored a U.S. withdrawal as seeking cheap political gain
“predictable in an election year.” The editorial then praised members of
Congress who back Bush on keeping U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely as
“willing to acknowledge such [hard] truths in the face of electoral
In other words, anyone who favors withdrawal is a
political hack, but anyone who goes along with Bush – and the Post’s
editors – is a profile in courage.
Yet, war critics, such as Democratic Rep. John
Murtha of Pennsylvania and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, have
never suggested that the options left by Bush’s disastrous polices are
desirable; the selection must be made among the least awful.
But the Post’s editors are back to the same tricks
they used before the Iraq invasion, demeaning anyone who offers
alternatives to Bush’s approach and dismissing those people as foolish,
opportunistic and dishonest. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Politics
So, instead of creating a diverse environment for
the difficult debate that is now needed, the Post’s editors instead
continue funneling the decision-making into a narrow corridor leading to
whatever the neocons want. As the U.S. death toll climbs past 2,500,
there may come a point when the American people demand more from their
news media than this manufactured consent.
After all, it’s likely that the Post’s editors
don’t know many of the mostly working-class kids sent off to Iraq to
kill and be killed. Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt and publisher
Donald Graham certainly move in higher-brow circles where airy
neoconservative theories remain in vogue.
But these young soldiers are the children of
American mothers and fathers; they are the brothers and sisters of other
Americans; they deserve better than to be cannon fodder for the egos of
a misguided Washington elite.
[For more on the Post’s Iraq War coverage, see
Ricky Proehl Syndrome.”]