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Those Lies, Again

By Robert Parry
March 22, 2006

In a nationally televised press conference, George W. Bush repeated some of his favorite lies about the Iraq War, including the canard that he was forced to invade because Saddam Hussein blocked the work of United Nations weapons inspectors in 2003.

Bush has uttered this lie in a variety of forms over more than 2 ½ years, yet the Washington press corps has never challenged the President directly about the falsehood. He got away with it again on March 21 when no journalist followed up the question from Helen Thomas that elicited Bush’s response.

Some TV commentary about the Thomas-Bush exchange even suggested that Bush had scored points with the American public for calling on – and then slapping down – the senior White House correspondent who is known for her irreverent and acerbic questions. But Bush’s truthfulness wasn’t questioned.

Bush reasserted his false claim about the U.N. inspectors after Thomas noted that Bush’s pre-war rationales had turned out to be false, an apparent reference to Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s supposed links to al-Qaeda.

“Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime,” Thomas said. “Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true.

“My question is: Why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, your Cabinet officers, former Cabinet officers, intelligence people and so forth -- but what's your real reason? You have said it wasn’t oil, the quest for oil. It hasn’t been Israel or anything else. What was it?”

Bristling at the question, Bush said, “I think your premise, in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist – that I didn’t want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect. …

“No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it’s just simply not true.”

Bush then launched into his revisionist history, saying that before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, “we used to think we were secure because of oceans” that surrounded the United States. (But no one living during the Cold War thought that the Atlantic and Pacific protected the United States from thermonuclear attack launched by Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles.)

“I also saw a threat in Iraq,” Bush said. “I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That’s why I went to the Security Council. That’s why it was important to pass (Resolution) 1441, which was unanimously passed.

“And the world said, ‘Disarm, disclose or face serious consequences.’ And therefore, we worked with the world. 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. And the world is safer for it.”

Iraq’s Compliance

But Bush’s statement is false both in suggesting that Resolution 1441 authorized the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq – when it actually demanded that Iraq submit to arms inspections – and in claiming that Hussein “chose to deny the inspectors.”

In reality, Hussein accepted the U.N. inspectors in November 2002, granted them unrestricted access to suspected sites and announced – accurately as it turned out – that Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction.

U.N. chief inspector Hans Blix reported that Iraq was cooperating with his team and the U.N. Security Council thus refused to endorse Bush’s insistence on war in March 2003. Bush then rebuffed the U.N. Security Council, forced the inspectors to leave and invaded Iraq in violation of the U.N. Charter.

Yet, Bush has been presenting his bogus pre-war history since July 2003, three months after Baghdad fell, when the absence of WMD was becoming obvious and an Iraqi insurgency was beginning to kill scores of American soldiers.

In his first version of this revisionist history, Bush said about Hussein, “we gave him 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.”

When the U.S. news media failed to object to Bush’s rewritten history, he continued to spin out this lie in various forms, including at the Republican National Convention and during the presidential debates. [For more on this longstanding falsehood, see Consortiumnews.com’s “President Bush, With the Candlestick…”]

Peaceful Democracies?

Bush also repeated another pleasing – but false – bromide about democracies being intrinsically peaceful.

At the March 21 press conference, Bush said: “History has proven that democracies don’t war. And so, part of the issue is to lay peace, is to give people a chance to live in a peaceful world where mothers can raise their children without fear of violence.”

But the history is far more complicated. Even in ancient times, democracies often were the instigators of war. Democratic Athens broke the Peace of Nicias in 418 B.C. by attacking undemocratic Sparta. The Roman Republic waged war on its neighbors for generations before it became an empire.

Even in American history, the democratic government of the United States has waged war against Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans and even against other Americans in the Civil War. In modern times, the United States also has gone to war without direct provocation, most notably in Vietnam in the 1960s and in Iraq now.

European democracies have a similarly spotty record. Great Britain fought to maintain its empire even after the monarchy had given way to democratic institutions. The same was true for France, which fought colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria in the years after World War II.

In Germany, Adolf Hitler exploited opportunities created by democracy in his rise to power, as his nationalist socialism resonated with voters suffering economic deprivation and harboring anti-Semitic prejudices. After winning the largest number of seats in parliament, Hitler engineered his fateful appointment as chancellor in 1933.

History also teaches that democracy is no guarantee of justice. Consider the oppression of African-Americans in the United States, first through slavery and then segregation.

Nor is moderation an inevitable byproduct. Democratic elections in some Muslim countries have boosted Islamic fundamentalists, not secular moderates, as happened during the 1990s in Algeria where fundamentalist electoral gains were so strong that the army intervened to prevent an Islamist victory.

In Iraq, too, U.S.-imposed “democratic institutions” have not been a cure-all. Indeed, they have strengthened Shiite fundamentalists and further divided the country along sectarian lines, rather than elevate moderate leaders and unite the rival religious factions.

But this mixed reality – like the real history of the Iraq arms inspections – was missing in Bush’s televised news conference. The White House press corps also continued to avert its eyes from Bush’s falsehoods. After Helen Thomas’s question and Bush’s deceptive answers, her colleagues did nothing to call the President to account.


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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