This month marks the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War. For the last two months Guerrilla Blog has joined Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies in chronicling the history of the Bush Administration’s drumbeat for war. From claiming that the inspection process was taking too long to pressuring allies such as Turkey to take part in a preemptive war, the Bush Administration made the case for war. While beating the drums for war, Bush Administration officials engaged in one of the largest frauds ever perpetrated on the America public.
At best misstatements, at worst outright lies and deceptions, Bush Administration officials habitually made false statements during the public relations campaign to sell the Iraq War. In 2008, a study by the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism found that President Bush and Administration officials publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001:
On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration’s case for war.
It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose “Duelfer Report” established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.
In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.
President Bush, for example, made 232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda. Secretary of State Powell had the second-highest total in the two-year period, with 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda. Rumsfeld and Fleischer each made 109 false statements, followed by Wolfowitz (with 85), Rice (with 56), Cheney (with 48), and McClellan (with 14).
Photo: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. (DoD photo by R. D. Ward.)