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Bush End Game
George W. Bush's presidency since 2007
Bush - Second Term
George W. Bush's presidency from 2005-06
George W. Bush's presidency, 2000-04
Who Is Bob Gates?
The secret world of Defense Secretary Gates
Bush Bests Kerry
Gauging Powell's reputation.
Recounting the controversial campaign.
Is the national media a danger to democracy?
Behind President Clinton's impeachment.
Pinochet & Other Characters.
Rev. Sun Myung Moon and American politics.
Contra drug stories uncovered
America's tainted historical record
The 1980 election scandal exposed.
From free trade to the Kosovo crisis.
GOP/Media Rewrite Iraq War History
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and radio personality Jay Diamond are right to wonder why Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney got away with rewriting a key chapter of the Iraq War history without political reporters raising a peep.
At the June 5 Republican debate, co-sponsored by CNN, Romney defended George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003 on the grounds that Saddam Hussein refused to let United Nations weapons inspectors in to search for WMD.
If Saddam “had opened up his country to I.A.E.A. inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction,” the war might have been averted, the former Massachusetts governor said.
But the reality is that Hussein did open up his country through the fall and winter of 2002-03, giving Hans Blix and his U.N. inspection team free rein to check out suspected WMD sites. It was President Bush who forced the U.N. inspectors out in March 2003 so his invasion could proceed.
The answer to the media question of why the U.S. press corps didn’t object to Romney’s bogus account is that Washington journalists have accepted this revisionist history since Bush began lying about the facts in July 2003.
On July 14, 2003, as the U.S.-led WMD search was coming up empty and only four months after Bush pushed the U.N. inspectors out of Iraq, he began asserting that Hussein had never let the inspectors in. Bush told reporters:
“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.”
Facing no contradiction from the White House press corps, Bush continued repeating this lie in varied forms over the next four years as part of his public litany for defending the invasion.
On Jan. 27, 2004, for example, Bush said, “We went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution – 1441 – unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.”
Color of Truth
As the months and years went by, Bush’s lie and its unchallenged retelling took on the color of truth.
At a March 21, 2006, news conference, Bush again blamed the war on Hussein’s defiance of U.N. demands for unfettered inspections.
“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 we did.”
Only two weeks ago, at a press conference on May 24, 2007, Bush offered a short-hand version, even inviting the journalists to remember the invented history.
“As you might remember back then, we tried the diplomatic route: [U.N. Resolution] 1441 was a unanimous vote in the Security Council that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. So the choice was his [Hussein’s] to make. And he made a choice that has subsequently caused him to lose his life.”
In the frequent repetition of this claim, Bush never acknowledges the fact that Hussein did comply with Resolution 1441 by declaring accurately that he had disposed of his WMD stockpiles and by permitting U.N. inspectors to examine any site of their choosing. [For more on Bush's Iraq War deceptions, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s Killer Talking Points.”]
Prominent Washington journalists have even repeated Bush’s lie as their own. For instance, in a July 2004 interview, ABC’s veteran newsman Ted Koppel used it to explain why he – Koppel – thought the invasion of Iraq was justified.
“It did not make logical sense that Saddam Hussein, whose armies had been defeated once before by the United States and the Coalition, would be prepared to lose control over his country if all he had to do was say, ‘All right, U.N., come on in, check it out,” Koppel told Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now.”
Of course, Hussein did tell the U.N. to “come on in, check it out.” But he did so in the real history, not in the faux reality that now governs Washington.
This strategy of repeating a “big lie” often enough to make it sound true was famously described in the writings of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels during World War II. However, given the relatively free U.S. press, many Americans felt they were protected from “big lie” techniques, counting on journalists to call lying politicians to account.
But that clearly is no longer the case – and hasn’t been for some time. Facing career pressure from well-organized right-wing attack groups, American journalists act more like triangulating politicians, fearful of accusations of “liberal bias” or unpatriotic behavior or softness on terrorism.
To have challenged George W. Bush in July 2003 – when he was near the height of his popularity and to do so in a way that might be interpreted as defending Saddam Hussein – would have looked like career suicide to many American reporters.
So, discretion – or in this case the acceptance of a lie as truth – was the better part of valor. And once the lie was repeated enough, it would have sounded odd to suddenly start challenging what had become the official version of reality. It was the smarter choice to stay silent and avoid certain punishment from Bush’s defenders.
Clever journalists know that it’s much safer to bash someone like, say, Al Gore. There’s virtually no career downside to do that. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The New Assault on Al Gore.”]
Now, the bogus history of Saddam Hussein barring the U.N. inspectors has been passed down to a new political generation and surely is believed by millions of Americans who will be called on to evaluate this latest cast of aspiring presidential hopefuls.
To state the obvious, this is not the way a healthy democracy should work.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
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