In Washington, politicians “regenerate” honesty like a salamander growing back a lost tail. And there is no statute of limitation on when a politician’s henchmen can magically restore his honor.
Karl Rove has a new book out claiming that Bush never lied about the Iraq war. Instead, there were some misstatesments with immaculate intent.
This is utter crap.
Bush told so many lies about Iraq that people forgot all except a few brazen highlights. Here’s a piece I did for USA Today in 2003 on why Bush’s entire case for the war was a damn lie.
USA TODAY August 14, 2003
By accident or design, Bush hyped case for war
By James Bovard
President Bush, in his July 30 press conference, declared: “I take personal responsibility for everything I say, of course. Absolutely.” Bush made this declaration in response to a question about wrong information regarding Iraq’s attempt to purchase uranium in Niger. He hoped it would end a controversy that is eating away like an acid drip on his administration’s credibility. But the “16 words” — as Bush defenders characterize his reference to the attempted uranium purchases in his State of the Union address — were not the most brazen example of trampling the truth on the road to war.
From January onward, Bush constantly portrayed the United States as an innocent victim of Saddam Hussein’s imminent aggression. His repeated claims that war was being “forced upon us” was the biggest, most consistent scam Bush used to convince the American people that their government had no alternative but to invade another nation. Examples:
•Jan. 28, in his State of the Union address: “If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means, sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military, and we will prevail.”
•Feb. 10, in a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville: “If war is forced upon us — and I say ‘forced upon us’ because use of the military is not my first choice — I hug the mothers and the widows of those who may have lost their life in the name of peace and freedom.”
•Feb. 20, at a Kennesaw, Ga., school: “If war is forced upon us, we will liberate the people of Iraq from a cruel and violent dictator.”
•Feb. 26, at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington: “If war is forced upon us by Iraq’s refusal to disarm, we will meet an enemy who … is capable of any crime.”
The longer Bush continues warring, the more vital it is for Americans to learn the lessons of the Iraq war. Simply because Saddam was evil did not purify this war against Iraq. Certainly, a military victory does not automatically absolve the Bush administration of the falsehoods it told prior to launching an unprovoked and unnecessary war. If victory is justice’s only measure, then the U.S. government could lie about almost any other government and — after the U.S. military assaulted the country into submission — it would be another triumph for “the American way.”
Shortly after his inauguration, Bush joked to a crowd of Washington insiders: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you need to concentrate on.” It would be naive to assume that all of Bush’s false statements are accidents or oversights. White House senior policy adviser Karl Rove explained to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward how the war on terrorism would be judged by the American public: “Everything will be measured by results. The victor is always right. History ascribes to the victor qualities that may or may not actually have been there. And similarly to the defeated.”
Lies regarding the use of government power are almost never harmless errors. The more lies officials are allowed to tell, the less chance citizens have of controlling the government. And the more power a politician seeks, the more dangerous his lies become.
The fact that Bush went to war against Iraq based on false charges and a deceptive strategy is the key to knowing what to expect from the remainder of the Bush presidency. There is no reason to presume that Bush was more deceptive and manipulative on the war on Iraq than he is on the war on terrorism or other subjects. Whether Bush and his appointees will be held personally liable for their falsehoods is a grave test for American democracy.
James Bovard is the author of the forthcoming Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil.