Sunday, November 13, 2011

Propaganda Revisited:
Iraq, Iran, and the Rhyming of History


"It is perfectly possible for a man to be out of prison, and yet not free. To be under no physical constraint and yet to be psychological captive, compelled to think, feel and act as the representatives of the national state or some private interest within the nation wants him to think feel and act."

- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (1958)

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

- George W. Bush, Greece, NY (May 24, 2005)

Last night's GOP debate in South Carolina proved a few things (beyond revealing widespread Republican support for torture and the permanent military occupation of Middle Eastern countries): Republican candidates - with the notable exception of Ron Paul - are really scared of an Iranian nuclear weapons program that doesn't exist. In fact, some of them - not Herman Cain - would really like to see the Islamic Republic bombed by the United States or Israel or both as soon as possible.

Mitt Romney declared, "If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon." He added that, if harsh sanctions and continued sabotage and assassinations don't curb Iran's uranium enrichment, he would "absolutely" support a military assault to prevent an "unacceptable" Iranian nuclear weapon.

Newt Gingrich agreed, saying, "you have to take whatever steps are necessary." Rick Santorum was really hopeful that the United States is engaged in international terrorism by murdering Iranian scientists and encouraged the U.S. and Israel to "take out" Iran's "nuclear capability" with air strikes.

Herman Cain and Rick Perry, meanwhile, suggested that economic warfare is the way to go. Cain advocated further sanctions and financial support to Iranian terrorist groups like the MEK in order to foment violent regime change. Perry said, "This country can sanction the Iranian central bank right now and shut down that country's economy, and that's what the president needs to do," which would undoubtedly be an act of war.

Only Ron Paul dissented, stating that "it isn't worthwhile" to start a war with Iran. "I'm afraid what's going on right now," Paul reminded the crowd, "is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq and, you know, they didn't have weapons of mass destruction."

He's not wrong. By taking a trip down the memory hole, it's clear that what we've been hearing about Iran for the past three decades bears a striking resemblance to the lies we were told about Iraq in the years leading up to the invasion, occupation, and devastation of that country. The record demonstrates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that fear-mongering and propagandizing about "weapons of mass destruction" was not solely a Republican pastime. Lying about evil Muslim nukes was, and continues to be, a bipartisan affair.

Away we go!

On November 29, 1990, veteran New York Times columnist William Safire rebuked "so-called experts" in their confident assessment "that Saddam Hussein would not have a complete nuclear weapons system for at least 5 to 10 years" and quoted President George H.W. Bush as telling an assembly of U.S. troops, "Those who would measure the timetable for Saddam's atomic program in years may be seriously underestimating the reality of that situation and the gravity of the threat." Safire added, "His press spokesman defined that timetable as "'within months.'" He also reported that Senator Ted Kennedy, who he described as "privy to new intelligence data similar to that given the President," had recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "the best estimates, I imagine, are eight or nine months, possibly, under the best of circumstances."

Safire continued, "This tells us that Mr. Hussein will probably be able to set off the largest truck bomb or land mine ever made next summer, with at least a deleterious effect on the local environment," and concluded:
[T]he new estimate also tells us this: Iraq's all-out nuclear weapons quest is a fact, not a theory -- and autonomous, not subject to blockade. If he can explode a test device by one means in months, it would be dangerously foolish to think he could not explode a weapon built by another means within a few years.
In his State of the Union address on January 27, 1998, Bill Clinton said, "Together we must also confront the new hazards of chemical and biological weapons and the outlaw states, terrorists and organized criminals seeking to acquire them. Saddam Hussein has spent the better part of this decade and much of his nation's wealth not on providing for the Iraqi people, but on developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the missiles to deliver them." Directing his remarks to the Iraqi leader he added, "We are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again."

The next month, on February 4, 1998, Clinton declared that "one way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction. That is our bottom line." Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott concurred and called for regime change in Iraq: "We should do everything we can to get this resolved and find a way to have him removed from office, one way or the other." Also in agreement was House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who explained, "My hope is that military planning will be designed to coerce him or replace him and will not simply punish him and leave him in charge of building the weapons. That's not a victory. That's a defeat."

On February 12, 1998, Delaware Senator Joe Biden stated, "Fateful decisions will be made in the days and weeks ahead. At issue is nothing less than the fundamental question of whether or not we can keep the most lethal weapons known to mankind out of the hands of an unreconstructed tyrant and aggressor who is in the same league as the most brutal dictators of this century." His colleague Senator Tom Daschle added, "It is essential that a dictator like Saddam not be allowed to evade international strictures and wield frightening weapons of mass destruction...Neither the United States nor the global community can afford to allow Saddam Hussein to continue on this path."

On February 17, 1998, while addressing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an assembly of Defense Department employees, President Clinton insisted that "meeting the threat posed by Saddam Hussein is important to our security," and added, "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. We want to seriously reduce his capacity to threaten his neighbors."

The next day, on February 18, 1998, discussing Iraq, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned on CNN "that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."

In a letter to Bill Clinton, sent on October 9, 1998, twenty-seven members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Daschle, Carl Levin, Chris Dodd, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Jon Kyl, Dianne Feinstein, Strom Thurmond, John Kerry, and Rick Santorum, called upon the president "to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."

On December 16, 1998, California Representative Nancy Pelosi told Congress, "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process. The responsibility of the United States in this conflict is to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, to minimize the danger to our troops and to diminish the suffering of the Iraqi people."

On November 10, 1999, Madeleine Albright informed a gathering in Chicago that Saddam Hussein "has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction, and palaces for his cronies."

On December 5, 2001, nine Congressmen, including Senators John McCain, Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, and Joe Lieberman, sent a letter to George W. Bush appealing for military action against Iraq: "The threat from Iraq is real, and it cannot be permanently contained. For as long as Saddam Hussein is in power in Baghdad, he will seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. We have no doubt that these deadly weapons are intended for use against the United States and its allies. Consequently, we believe we must directly confront Saddam, sooner rather than later."

In his very first State of the Union address, on January 2002, George W. Bush said, "Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror," before also claiming that "Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror" and insisting that "the Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade." He then referred to both, along with North Korea, as constituting "an axis of evil," which "threaten[s] the peace of the world." Bush continued, "By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger" and warned that "time is not on our side." Nevertheless, Bush declared, "I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

In a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations on February 12, 2002, former Vice President Al Gore described the government in Iraq as "a virulent threat in a class by itself" which "could bring us great harm."  He As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table.

In his April 22, 2002 column in The Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer wrote that, following the Gulf War, "Saddam survived, rearmed, defeated the inspections regime, and is now back building weapons of mass destruction." He added, "Time is running short. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. He is working on nuclear weapons. And he has every incentive to pass them on to terrorists who will use them against us."

Speaking to the press from Qatar on June 11, 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responded to a question about a recent comment he had made doubting Iraqi claims:
I was asked a question about Iraq announcing the day before that they do not have weapons of mass destruction, and they asked me what I thought about that. I said, "That's a lie," and I may have even said, "That's a world class lie."

Now that's true; it is a lie. They do have weapons of mass destruction. They've used chemical weapons on their people, they have had an aggressive program to develop nuclear weapons, and there is no question that they are developing biological weapons.

Now why did I say that? I said that because it is true. The truth has a certain virtue it seems to me. What I said didn't raise tensions, what raises tensions in the region is Saddam Hussein developing weapons of mass destruction and threatening neighbors.
Arch-neoconservative Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, told James Rubin in a July 11, 2002 interview on PBS' "Wide Angle" program that Saddam Hussein "is working feverishly to acquire nuclear weapons." Perle added, "[W]e have no time to lose, and I think the president understands that and it’s probably taken too long already, but I don’t think it’ll be much longer."

Speaking on Meet the Press to Tim Russert on August 4, 2002, then-Delaware Senator Joe Biden said, "We know he continues to attempt to gain access to additional capability, including nuclear capability."

Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention on August 26, 2002, Dick Cheney said, "But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons...Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon...Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

Speaking with former Jerusalem Post correspondent and AIPAC newsletter editor Wolf Blitzer on CNN on September 8, 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "We know that [Saddam Hussein] has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought, maybe six months from a crude nuclear device." She famously continued, "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't what the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

On September 10, 2002, David Albright and Corey Hinderstein of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) wrote that "[h]igh-resolution commercial satellite imagery shows an apparently operational facility at the site of Iraq's al Qaim phosphate plant and uranium extraction facility (Unit-340), located in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border" and determined, "Unless inspectors go to the site and investigate all activities, the international community cannot exclude the possibility that Iraq is secretly producing a stockpile of uranium in violation of its commitments under Security Council resolutions. The uranium could be used in a clandestine nuclear weapons effort."

On September 12, 2002, George W. Bush told the United Nations General Assembly, "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons," continuing, "United Nations inspections also reveal that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard, and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons." He didn't stop there:
"Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program — weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials, and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon...Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year."
He also asserted that "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence," before stating, "The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one."

On September 19, 2002, Carl Levin opened a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on U.S. Policy on Iraq by stating, "We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandates of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them."

In a September 20, 2002 oped in The Wall Street Journal entitled "The Case for Toppling Saddam," then-former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Iraqi leader "a dictator who is rapidly expanding his arsenal of biological and chemical weapons, who has used these weapons of mass destruction against his subjects and his neighbors, and who is feverishly trying to acquire nuclear weapons."  Furthermore, he wrote, "He no longer needs one large reactor to produce the deadly material necessary for atomic bombs. He can produce it in centrifuges the size of washing machines that can be hidden throughout the country -- and Iraq is a very big country. Even free and unfettered inspections will not uncover these portable manufacturing sites of mass death."

On September 23, 2002, former Vice President Al Gore told the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, "What makes Saddam dangerous is his effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction. What makes terrorists so much more dangerous than they have ever been is the prospect that they may get access to weapons of mass destruction," continuing, "Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." While encouraging diplomatic efforts, Gore concluded, "The president should be authorized to take action to deal with Saddam Hussein as being in material breach of the terms of the truce and therefore a continuing threat to the security of the region. To this should be added that his continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially a threat to the vital interests of the United States."

On September 27, 2002, Senator Ted Kennedy, speaking at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said, "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed." Later in his speech, Kennedy declared, "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction," adding, "Clearly, we must halt Saddam Hussein's quest for weapons of mass destruction," then noted he was opposed to war.

In October 2002, a United States National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) judged with "high confidence" that "Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding, its chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions." The NIE also stated, "If Baghdad acquires sufficient fissile material from abroad it could make a nuclear weapon within several months to a year," but that even "[w]ithout such material from abroad, Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until 2007 to 2009."

On October 3, 2002, Senator Robert Byrd wrote in The New York Times, "We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities," adding, "Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons."

In a radio address on October 5, 2002, George W. Bush stated, "The danger to America from the Iraqi regime is grave and growing."

The same day, ubiquitous "nuclear expert" David Albright opined on CNN, "In terms of the chemical and biological weapons, Iraq has those now. How many, how could they deliver them? I mean, these are the big questions."

During a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 7, 2002, George W. Bush warned the crowd of Iraq's "drive toward an arsenal of terror," insisting that Iraq "possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons." Bush declared, "Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon." He added, "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." Furthermore, he said, "Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

The same day, Senator John Edwards addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. and said, "My position is very clear: The time has come for decisive action to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. I am a co-sponsor of the bipartisan resolution we're currently considering." He continued,
"Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave threat to America and our allies -- including our vital ally, Israel. For more than 20 years, Saddam has obsessively sought weapons of mass destruction through every possible means. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons today, that he has used them in the past, and that he is doing everything he can to build more. Every day he gets closer to his longtime goal of nuclear capability. We must not allow him to get nuclear weapons."
On October 9, 2002, Senator John Kerry stated, "There is little question that Saddam Hussein wants to develop nuclear weapons," and determined to "give the President of the United States the authority to use force — if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."

While vigorously, eloquently and commendably opposing the resolution which would grant George W. Bush "authority" to wage war on Iraq, Senator Patty Murray nevertheless noted, "Over the years, Iraq has worked to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons...There can be no doubt that Iraq has continued to pursue its goal of obtaining weapons of mass destruction." A statement her office released also called Saddam Hussein an "evil menace."

The same day, Senator Chris Dodd declared, "There is no question that Iraq possesses biological and chemical weapons and that he seeks to acquire additional weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. That is not in debate."

On October 10, 2002, John Rockefeller, speaking on the Senate floor, said, "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years," he declared that "Saddam Hussein represents a grave threat to the United States," and determined "we must use force to deal with him if all other means fail."

Also addressing the Senate on October 10, 2002, Hillary Clinton said, "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program," adding, "It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." Fellow New York Senator Chuck Schumer added, "Saddam Hussein is an evil man, a dictator who oppresses his people and flouts the mandate of the international community. While this behavior is reprehensible, it is Hussein's vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and his present and potential future support for terrorist acts and organizations, that make him a terrible danger to the people to the United States."

Concurring with his colleagues, John McCain declared, "Saddam Hussein is on a crash course to construct a nuclear weapon."

Then-Senator Rick Santorum also supported legislation authorizing military force in Iraq, noting that "Saddam Hussein has displayed remarkable staying power and a powerful appetite for acquiring weapons of mass destruction."

The same day, during a simultaneous debate in Congress, Representative Henry Waxman expressed his agreement with George W. Bush that "we cannot leave Saddam to continue on his present course. No one doubts that he is trying to build a nuclear device, and when he does, his potential for blackmail to dominate the Persian Gulf and Middle East will be enormous, and our efforts to deal with him [will] be even more difficult and perilous. The risks of inaction clearly outweigh the risks of action."

Two days later, on October 12, 2002, George W. Bush assured his radio audience, "Confronting Iraq is an urgent matter of national security."

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said on December 2, 2002, "Saddam Hussein does not exactly have a track record of telling the world the truth...If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world...And so it's, on the one hand, mildly encouraging that Iraq would now admit to what it's been doing. But on the other hand, a lie is still a lie...they sought to produce these for the purpose of production of nuclear weapons, not conventional."

On December 8, 2002, Senator Bob Graham revealed on Face the Nation, "We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction." He later repeated that he had personally "seen enough evidence...seen enough just to be satisfied that there has been a continuing effort by Saddam Hussein, since the end of the Gulf War, particularly since 1998, to reestablish and enhance Iraq's capacity, weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and nuclear."

The next month, on January 9, 2003, when a reporter asked Fleischer whether it would be "disappointing...if there were no weapons there [in Iraq]," Fleischer responded confidently, "We know for a fact that there are weapons there."

During a speech at Georgetown University on January 23, 2003, John Kerry stated that "without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime" and who "presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation." Kerry continued, "And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction," reiterating that "the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real."

On January 28, 2003, George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address. In it, he said, "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent," and declared:
"The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide."
Furthermore, Bush claimed, "With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region" and could "[s]ecretly, and without fingerprints...provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own." He assured the American people and the world that, on February 5, 2003, "Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's legal -- Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups."

Early in Colin Powell's presentation before the UN Security Council, he declared, "Indeed, the facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction," and doubled-down on this claim toward the end: "We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he's determined to make more." He declared, "We have no indication that Saddam Hussein has ever abandoned his nuclear weapons program," adding, "Saddam Hussein is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb."

Three days later, during a radio address, George W. Bush said, "The Iraqi regime has acquired and tested the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction. It has never accounted for thousands of bombs and shells capable of delivering chemical weapons. It is actively pursuing components for prohibited ballistic missiles. And we have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."

On February 10, 2003, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One that Iraq was "an imminent threat."

In a speech for the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute at the Washington Hilton Hotel on February 26, 2003, George W. Bush stated, "In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world -- and we will not allow it." After labeling Saddam Hussein a "tyrant" with "close ties to terrorist organizations," Bush declared:
The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted. We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed.
Bush then said, "A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions." He insisted that the Iraqi people "live in scarcity and fear, under a dictator who has brought them nothing but war, and misery, and torture," and that while "[t]heir lives and their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein...Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us."

On March 6, 2003, Bush held an evening press conference in the White House during which he claimed that Saddam Hussein and his "weapons of terror...are a direct threat to this country, to our people, and to all free people." Bush made numerous statements associating Saddam Hussein with "terrorist organizations" and the events of September 11, 2001. Answering a reporter's question, Bush said, "September the 11th should say to the American people that we're now a battlefield, that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist organization could be deployed here at home. So, therefore, I think the threat is real."

"The American people know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," Bush said and described Saddam Hussein as "somebody who may some day decide to lob a weapon of mass destruction on Israel" and "a master at deception." Furthermore, Bush asserted that "if war is upon us because Saddam Hussein has made that choice," adding that "we will respect innocent life in Iraq."

"We will be changing the regime of Iraq, for the good of the Iraqi people," Bush explained.

The following day, March 7, 2003, twelve days before the United States invaded Iraq, Colin Powell again addressed the UN Security Council and commented on a recent IAEA report on Iraq. He said, "As we all know, in 1991 the IAEA was just days away from determining that Iraq did not have a nuclear program. We soon found out otherwise," adding, that "Iraq has obstructed the inspectors at nearly every turn over the years." He told the Council, "So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? I think our judgment has to be clearly not." Though Powell paid lip-service to claim that "Nobody wants war," he warned against inaction, stating, "Iraq [is] once again marching down the merry path to weapons of mass destruction, threatening the region, threatening the world" and ending his address by stating, "The clock continues to tick, and the consequences of Saddam Hussein continued refusal to disarm will be very, very real."

On March 16, 2003, Dick Cheney told Tim Russert on Meet the Press that even positive overtures by Saddam Hussein would be ignored. "If he gave everything up tomorrow and stays in power, you have to assume that as soon as the world is looking the other way and preoccupied with other issues, he'd be back again rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons capabilities and once again reconstituting his nuclear program," Cheney said. "At the front of our concern is the proposition that the al Qaeda organization is absolutely determined to do everything they can to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons," Cheney later remarked. "Saddam Hussein becomes a prime suspect in that regard because of his past track record and we know he has developed these kinds of capabilities," he said, continuing "We know he has used chemical weapons. We know he has reconstituted these programs since the Gulf War. We know he's out trying again to produce nuclear weapons and we know he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al Qaeda organization."

On March 17, 2003, George W. Bush told the nation, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," continuing, "The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other."

From the Oval Office on March 19, 2003, George W. Bush said, "The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder" and stressed that "[w]e come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people."

On March 21, 2003, White House spokeman Ari Fleischer told the press, "Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly," and said the U.S. charges would be vindicated "in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes." Regarding the large number of journalists embedded with the invading troops, Fleischer declared, "you will find the answers and they will speak volumes themselves."

The next day, speaking in Qatar, General Tommy Franks told reporters, "There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them."

On March 23, 2003, Kenneth Adelman, former Reagan official and Pentagon advisor, told The Washington Post, "I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction," claiming these caches were around Tikrit and Baghdad. The Post also quoted Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke as affirming the U.S. knowledge of "a number of sites" where Iraqi WMD would be found.

A week later, in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on March 30, 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explained that, at that point, the U.S. military invading Iraq "happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed," but assured his host, "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

On April 2, 2003, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw noted, "Saddam's removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction."

On April 10, 2003, Ari Fleischer told a White House press briefing, "But make no mistake -- as I said earlier -- we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found."

On April 20, 2003, David Albright of ISIS, despite being a source of many of the pre-invasion claims about Iraq's nuclear program, told the Los Angeles Times, "If there are no weapons of mass destruction, I'll be mad as hell. I certainly accepted the administration claims on chemical and biological weapons. I figured they were telling the truth. If there is no [unconventional weapons program], I will feel taken, because they asserted these things with such assurance."

Speaking on a panel entitled "Iraq: What Lies Ahead" held by the American Enterprise Institute on April 22, 2003 alongside Newt Gingrich, leading Iraq (and now Iran) hawk Charles Krauthammer declared, "Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem."

Addressing factory workers at the Lima Army Tank Plant in Ohio on April 24, 2003, George W. Bush stated, "We are now working to locate and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," adding that "it's going to take time to find them. But we know he had them. And whether he destroyed them, moved them, or hid them, we're going to find out the truth. And one thing is for certain: Saddam Hussein no longer threatens America with weapons of mass destruction."

On April 25, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld explained that the U.S. was close to being able to "track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country." The same day, The New York Times quoted George W. Bush as telling Tom Brokaw aboard Air Force One, "I think there's going to be skepticism until people find out there was, in fact, a weapons of mass destruction program," but acknowledged, "it's going to take time to find them."

Speaking from his ranch in Crawford, Texas on May 3, 2003, alongside Australian Prime Minister John Howard, George W. Bush told the press, "Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The United States -- United Nations Security Council voted 1441, which made the declaration it had weapons of mass destruction. It's well-known it had weapons of mass destruction. And we've also got to recognize that he spent 14 years hiding weapons of mass destruction. I mean, he spent an entire decade making sure that inspectors would never find them. Iraq's the size of the state of California. It's got tunnels, caves, all kinds of complexes. We'll find them. And it's just going to be a matter of time to do so."

On May 4, 2003, Colin Powell told reporters, "And I'm absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We're just getting it just now."

On May 6, 2003, in the Oval Office, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld were asked by the press whether evidence of WMD would be forthcoming. Bush responded, "I'm not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein -- because he had a weapons program. I will leave the details of your question to the experts, but one thing we know is that he had a weapons program. We also know he spent years trying to hide the weapons program. And over time the truth will come out and the American people will see that when we rid Saddam Hussein from -- got him out of power, we made America more secure." When a reporter asked what the Defense Secretary's thoughts were, Rumsfeld replied curtly, "I like the President's answer."

As the official story began to change, Condoleezza Rice defensively claimed that the U.S. government never expected that "we were going to open garages and find" weapons of mass destruction and, on May 13, 2003, General David Petraeus suggested all weapons may have been "destroyed years ago" or right before the war" or may still be "hidden." Nevertheless, on May 21, 2003, Marine Corps. commander General Hagee told The New York Times, ''Before the war, there's no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical. I expected them to be found. I still expect them to be found.'' A few days later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, in an Today Show interview on NBC, said "Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we're interrogating, I'm confident that we're going to find weapons of mass destruction."

On May 29, 2003, George W. Bush, during an interview with TVP, a Polish broadcast, "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them."

Despite Bush's protestations, it was clear there were no weapons to find. During a teleconference on May 30, 2003, Lt. General James Conway, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, admitted,
"It was a surprise to me then, it remains a surprise to me now, that we have not uncovered weapons, as you say, in some of the forward dispersal sites. Again, believe me, it's not for lack of trying. We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there. Now, what that means in terms of intelligence failure, I think, is too strong a word to use at this point. What the regime was intending to do in terms of its use of the weapons, we thought we understood or we certainly had our best guess, our most dangerous, our most likely courses of action that the intelligence folks were giving us. We were simply wrong. But whether or not we're wrong at the national level, I think, still very much remains to be seen."
In stark contrast to this statement, at a press briefing the very same day, Army Major General Keith W. Dayton, Defense Intelligence Agency operations director and head of the government's Iraq Study Group, said, "Do I think we're going to find something? Yeah, I kind of do, because I think there's a lot of information out there, and that's why I tell you, this is going to be a deliberate process, but it will be a long-term process as well. This is not necessarily going to be quick and easy, but it will be very thorough."

On June 9, 2003, following a White House Cabinet meeting, George W. Bush was quoted by Reuters as claiming, "Iraq had a weapons program. Intelligence throughout the decade showed they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced with time we'll find out they did have a weapons program."

During a pres conference on June 24, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld told reporters, "I don't know anybody that I can think of who has contended that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons," before contradicting himself by adding, "I don't know anybody in any government or any intelligence agency who suggested that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons."  He later stated that, according to an Iraqi defector, there was "hard evidence that in fact Saddam Hussein did have nuclear weapon program, unambiguously."

On July 9, 2003, while accompanying George W. Bush on a trip to South Africa, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was asked by reporters whether the fact that no chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons have yet been discovered in Iraq cast any doubt on the pre-invasion intelligence or the decision to go to war. Fleischer, in one of the most surreal responses of all time, said,
"I think the American people continue to express their support for ridding the world of Saddam Hussein based on just cause, knowing that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons that were unaccounted for that we're still confident we'll find. I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are. We know he had them in the '90s, he used them. So just because they haven't yet been found doesn't mean they didn't exist. The burden is on the critics to explain where the weapons of mass destruction are. If they think they were destroyed, the burden is on them to explain when he destroyed them and where he destroyed them...It will take as long as it takes until they're discovered. The world is safer."
Incidentally, this entire press conference appears to have been scrubbed from the White House archives, but a copy of it remains on, of all places, the website of the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

On August 24, 2003, General Myers told Tim Russert on Meet the Press that the discovery of WMD would happen eventually, explaining, "the system we have in place, the process we have in place will work, and we’ll find what we are after."

On September 14, 2003, Dick Cheney told Tim Russert on Meet the Press, "There's no doubt in my mind but what Saddam Hussein had these capabilities. This wasn’t an idea cooked up overnight by a handful of people, either in the administration or out of the CIA," later reiterating, "I think in the final analysis, we will find that the Iraqis did have a robust program...So I say I'm not willing at all at this point to buy the proposition that somehow Saddam Hussein was innocent and he had no WMD and some guy out at the CIA, because I called him, cooked up a report saying he did. That's crazy. That makes no sense. It bears no resemblance to reality whatsoever."

On October 2, 2003, in a statement before Congress, former weapons inspector and Iraq Study Group head David Kay said, "We have not yet found stocks of weapons, but we are not yet at the point where we can say definitively either that such weapon stocks do not exist or that they existed before the war and our only task is to find where they have gone." He added, "Despite evidence of Saddam's continued ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material."

At a reelection campaign luncheon in Austin, Texas on November 7, 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney boasted of his administration's success.  "In Iraq, a ruthless dictator cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them," he said. "He gave support to terrorists, had an established relationship with al Qaeda, and his regime is no more."

Speaking to National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on January 25, 2004, two days after resigning from his position as Iraq Survey Group chief, David Kay admitted, "My summary view, based on what I've seen, is we're very unlikely to find large stockpiles of weapons. I don't think they exist."

Nevertheless, Secretary of State Colin Powell stuck to the Bush Administration's talking points. "Iraq had the intent to have weapons of mass destruction and they had previously used weapons of mass destruction. They had programs to develop such weapons," he said. "And what we were trying to find out was what inventory they actually had, and we are still examining that question."

Similarly, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith said in a May 4, 2004 speech, "I think no one can properly assert that the failure so far to find Iraqi WMD stockpiles undermines the reasons for the war." He continued, "The strategic rationale for the war didn't actually hinge on classified information concerning chemical and biological stockpiles; rather, it depended on assessments about the nature of the Saddam Hussein regime and its activities. The relevant facts were available to the public."

When the final Iraq Survey Group (ISG) report was published in early October 2004, chief US weapons inspector Charles Duelfer revealed that the ISG "has not found evidence that Saddam possessed WMD stocks in 2003."

Over a year later, on December 2, 2005, General Tommy Franks said on Fox News, "No one was more surprised than I that we didn't find [weapons of mass destruction in Iraq]."

Later than month, on December 14, 2005, George W. Bush spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. He told the gathering,
When we made the decision to go into Iraq, many intelligence agencies around the world judged that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. This judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of governments who did not support my decision to remove Saddam. And it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong.
Unrepentant, Bush added, "Given Saddam's history, and the lessons of September 11, my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat, and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power. We are in Iraq today because our goal has always been more than the removal of a brutal dictator. It is to leave a free and democratic Iraq in its place."

The consequences of such repeated lies have been devastating. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqis have been killed. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), "4.7 million Iraqis have been uprooted as a result of the crisis in Iraq. Of these, over 2 million are living as refugees in neighbouring countries." Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women have been widowed and an estimated 5 million Iraqi children have been orphaned. Under both U.S. occupation and a corrupt puppet government, the torture of Iraqis has continued.

Since March 19, 2003, at least 4,483 American military personnel have died in Iraq. Tens of thousands more have been wounded, an estimated 20% of all Iraq veterans suffer from PTSD, and an average of 18 veterans commit suicide every day.

And now, the same claims that drove the U.S. to invade Iraq are being made again, often by many of the same people promoting identical lies and stoking fear. The drums of war continue to beat louder and louder, attempting to drown out the voices of reason and reality.

In his 1946 introduction to Brave New World, Aldous Huxley wrote, "The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth."

Now is not the time to remain silent.

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A debt of gratitude is due to the following sources for helping to make this post possible:

"Iraq WMD Lies: The Words of Mass Deception," What Really Happened

"Bush Administration Officials' Lies about Iraq's Supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction in Their Own Words," compiled by Jackson Thoreau, Global Research, 02.18.2004

"A History Of Lies: WMD, Who Said What and When," Information Clearing House

"In Their Own Words: Who Said What When," PBS, 10.09.2003

"Pre-War Quotes from Democrats," Reasons for War: Things You Might Have Forgotten about Iraq

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1 comment:

Tariq said...

Is it possible, though, that the fact that Iran's efforts toward developing and sustaining Nuclear energy distinguishes them from Iraq? What I mean is, all of the political obfuscation regarding Iraq's WMD programs is one thing but doesn't the fact that Iran has been directly outspoken about their nuclear energy plans create a legitimate divide between suspicions of their nuclear goals as opposed to Iraq's unrealized nuclear goals?
I know that Israel bombed the Osirak reactor back in 1976 but was there any evidence beyond that date that serves to prove that Iraq even had a plan to continue it's quest for independent nuclear energy? The Osirak reactor was never repaired after the attack and thus never became critical thus Iraq never had the opportunity to develop energy much less a weapon thus rendering claims against it circa 2000 spurious. Iran, on the other hand, is nuclear capable.
I agree that all nations are entitled to safe, sustainable, renewable energy so I'm not positing an opinion on the matter. But for arguments sake, isn't it an important distinction to make? I'm interested in your thoughts.