“Iraq: The War Card”

When you read each of these two statements, both uttered by American presidents, both therefore highly prominent, given the speaker and the nature of his office, and, most important, both lies, which arouses a more negative reaction in you?


(A) Now I have to go back to work on my State of the Union speech, and I worked on it till pretty late last night. But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time. Never. These allegations are false.


(B) The danger to our country is grave and it is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year.


The first of these statements (A) was made at a White House news conference to announce the "president’s plans to strengthen education, to discuss his historic child care initiative, and particularly to talk about how he has made quality after-school programs a national priority" (Hillary Clinton, in her opening remarks that day).  The participants were the two Clintons, Vice President Al Gore, Department of Education Secretary Richard Riley, and Bill White, the president of the Mott Foundation.  It was only at the very close of the news conference that Bill Clinton made any remarks at all.  And it wasn’t until his very last remarks that he made it a point to refer to "that woman" (Federal News Service, January 26, 1998).  (Can you believe that this crap is already ten years old?)


The second statement (B) was made by Bill Clinton’s successor in the White House, George W. Bush. (See "Radio Address by the President to the Nation," White House Office of the Press Secretary, September 28, 2002.)   I selected it to illustrate a categorically much different kind of lie than the series of lies — including perjured statements made under oath — for which the House Judiciary Committee eventually voted in December 1998 to forward four Articles of Impeachment along to the full House of Representatives, with the full House, in turn, voting to forward two of these Articles along to the Senate for trial in early 1999: Perjury-charges stemming from attack-dog Kenneth Starr’s grand jury inquiry into the presidential penis and White House employees, and obstruction of justice charges from a separate inquiry into the presidential penis dating back to a period time prior to its election to the American Presidency.  (If you can’t recognize the categorical difference between Type (A) and Type (B) lies, particularly with respect to whether they did or did not lead to "high crimes" and their consequences, then I’m sorry — but I can’t help you.)


The other reason I selected this second set of lies about Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda (not to mention about the monsters under your bed) is because it happened to be highlighted by the Center for Public Integrity’s impressive archival undertaking, Iraq: The War Card.  Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War. 


According to the Center’s Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith ("False Pretenses"), "at least 935 false statements" were made by the American President and seven of his regime’s top officials "in the two years following September 11, 2001" as part of a "concerted effort" to militarily seize Iraq — and never look back.  The regime’s lies with respect to Iraq‘s chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs and capabilities, as well as Baghdad‘s ties to Al Qaeda, were "methodically propagated," this report concludes.  "Not surprisingly," they add, "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…. The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war."



(The chart is difficult to read.  But it depicts, on a month-by-month basis from October 2001 through September 2003, the combined lies made by eight Bush regime figures in relation to Baghdad’s WMDs and ties to Al Qaeda.  The highpoint occurred in February 2003, when Colin Powell told the "Security Council there is ‘no doubt’ Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and has the capability to produce more.")


By the Center for Public Integrity’s reckoning, out of the "at least 935" lies they were able to identify for the 24-month period they studied (and remember: this is sticking with lies about Baghdad’s WMDs and its ties to Al Qaeda), George Bush contributed no fewer than 260 of them, Secretary of State Colin Powell 254, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld 109, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer another 109, Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz 85, White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice 56, Vice President Dick Cheney 48, and White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan 14. 


Of course, when we factor in the relative importance of the venues where the lies were told, how methodical in each case their telling was pre-planned and coordinated, and who ultimately executed the dirty deed, then, hands-down, the all-timer for the Lie of This Young Century surely must have been Colin Powell’s February 5, 2003 Orgy of Lies before the UN Security Council.


As best I can tell, all of Bill Clinton’s lies about his penis and numerous women never once caused the loss of a single human life — though how this was exploited by others is a different matter.  Much less did it lead to grave breaches of international peace and security.  Create new enemies where there had been none before. Or destabilize the planet.   


It is therefore a fitting testimony to the depravity of the U.S. political system — and to its dysfunctionality for anything other than the commission of high-crimes of state in the advancement of American Power — that the Clinton White House wound up as the most investigation-worthy in U.S. history, culminating in the near-impeachment of the President for penis-related misdemeanors.


Meanwhile, the Bush White House seizes whole foreign countries.  Drags the "international community" along with it.  Causes the deaths of untold hundreds of thousands. (And perhaps more.)  And yet impeachment remains "off the table."  Even among the leadership of the party of the opposition.  (So called.)


Because when we get right down to it, not only do consequences on this monumentally destructive of a scale not register within the U.S. political culture. But they are expected, because they are exactly the kinds of consequences that an imperious political culture is supposed to produce.  After all.   


Iraq: The War Card.  Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War, Charles Lewis et al., Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism, January 22, 2008
"False Pretenses," Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith, January 22, 2008
"Key False Statements," January 22, 2008
"Methodology," January 22, 2008

Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction — The assessment of the British Government
, September 26, 2002
Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, Central Intelligence Agency, October, 2002

"Remarks to the United Nations Security Council," U.S. Department of State, February 5, 2003

"President’s Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly," White House Office of the Press Secretary, September 12, 2002
Radio Address by the President to the Nation," White House Office of the Press Secretary, September 28, 2002
President Bush Addresses United Nations General Assembly," White House Office of the Press Secretary, September 23, 2003

"Study: Bush, Other Officials Issued Hundreds of False Statements Before Iraq Invasion," Douglass K. Daniel, Associated Press, January 22, 2008 (as posted to Truthout)
"Web Site Assembles US Prewar Claims," John H. Cushman Jr., New York Times, January 23, 2008 (as posted to Truthout)
"Database assembles U.S. warnings of Saddam threat," Reuters, January 23, 2008 
"Bush administration issued hundreds of false statements for Iraq war: study," Xinhua, January 23, 2008

Update (January 27, 2008): George Piro, FBI Agent, interviewed by Scott Pelley, "Saddam’s Confessions," 60 Minutes, CBS – TV, January 27, 2008 (excerpted below).  The Washington Post describes Agent Piro as a "Lebanese American and one of only about 50 Arabic-speaking agents in the FBI, [who] became [Saddam] Hussein’s sole debriefer beginning in January 2004…." ("FBI Agent: Hussein Didn’t Expect Invasion," Ann Scott Tyson, January 26, 2008.)  The interview shows the regime-changed former President of Iraq confirming (at least in the FBI agent’s rendering) what the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (April 1991 – December 1999) used to report throughout the second-half of the 1990s: No more evidence of any "weapons of mass destruction," with what WMDs once did exist having been destroyed. —


Contrast this little excerpt with these three colossal lies of U.S.-U.K. disinformation:


Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction — The assessment of the British Government, September 26, 2002
Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, Central Intelligence Agency, October, 2002

"Remarks to the United Nations Security Council," U.S. Department of State, February 5, 2003



(Footage of trucks hauling weapons)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) That June 2000 speech was about weapons of mass destruction. In talking casually about that speech, Saddam began to tell the story of his weapons. It was a breakthrough that had taken five months.

Agent PIRO: Oh, you couldn’t imagine the excitement that I was feeling at that point.

PELLEY: And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?

Agent PIRO: He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the UN inspectors in the ’90s, and those that hadn’t been destroyed by the inspectors unilaterally destroyed by Iraq.

PELLEY: He had ordered them destroyed?

Agent PIRO: Yes.

PELLEY: So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk? Why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?

Agent PIRO: It was very important for him to project that, because that was what kept him, in his mind, in power. That capability kept the Iranians away. It kept them from reinvading Iraq.

PELLEY: He believed that he couldn’t survive without the perception that he had weapons of mass destruction?

Agent PIRO: Absolutely. [#####]




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