No Comment — January 24, 2008, 12:05 am

935 Lies on the Way to a War

All leaders lie, and so do all human beings. It seems to be a constant of the human condition. However, what they lie about makes a great deal of difference. The prior president lied about his sexual escapades, which for the Republican base was an unforgivable moral flaw (even while, polling shows, for the average European, it was an endearing trait). Now the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism have attempted to quantify and present the lies of the Bush Administration on one vital issue. They present a question: Did the Bush Administration lie its way to war in Iraq? And they give us a very convincing answer: yes. Now for the mainstream media, lying your way to a war is no big deal–after all, most wannabe totalitarian dictators do it. It certainly is not as important as, say, lying about a sexcapade with an intern in a blue dress. What has it cost, after all?

Surely no more than 110,000 people killed, 300,000 casualties and $2.5 trillion in direct costs and likely long-term debt incurred. A pittance. Of course, it will mean a recession—probably a very nasty one. But look at the wonderful things the Bush Administration has achieved? When Clinton left office, gasoline was $1.39/gallon, and today it’s more than doubled, to $3.10, as oil company profits skyrocket. Clinton reduced the national deficit by running up $431 billion in surpluses in his last three years. Bush has run up the deficit by $734 billion in his last three years, and the national debt has swollen under his presidency by $3.5 trillion (it’s much more than that when we tally up the indirect costs incurred, by the way, such as healthcare for the returning veterans. . . but then the Bush Team isn’t so wild about furnishing them with healthcare, as we see from the developments out at Walter Reed). But why should we worry? That will all be left for future generations to cope with, just like the consequences of his misadventures in warfare. Under President Bush the median income in the United States fell by roughly 2%, while the allocation of the nation’s wealth shifted much more dramatically: the poor got much poorer, while the wealthiest 1% of the population got exponentially richer. (Call them the base.) When Clinton left office, the United States was admired and respected by nations around the world, and particularly by our key allies. And after seven years of Bush, the United States is loathed by most of the world and viewed with closely guarded suspicion in the alliances that three generations of Americans sacrificed to forge. This is quite a tally. And it shows the only a part of the costs associated with those 935 lies.

So you, like the mainstream media, think that lying about a war makes no difference? Think again.

Now, about those lies. Here’s the core of the report:

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Mr. Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al Qaeda or both. “It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al Qaeda,” according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. “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.”

Named in the study along with Mr. Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan. Mr. Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq’s links to al Qaeda, the study found. That was second only to Powell’s 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews. “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 study concluded. “Some journalists – indeed, even some entire news organizations – have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, ‘independent’ validation of the Bush administration’s false statements about Iraq,” it said.

Those last lines are particularly important, because they help us understand why the media doesn’t want to expose the lies. There is a key distinction between the mainstream media’s coverage of the Clinton lies and the Bush lies. The difference is that the media was fully complicit in the dissemination of the Bush lies. It transmitted them uncritically, repeatedly, with dramatic amplification, over a period of years. Therefore, in the minds of many if not most of the media moguls, highlighting these lies is an exercise in self-criticism. Now there’s nothing the American mainstream media views with greater distaste than self-criticism. And there’s nothing more needed.

So what about Congress? Isn’t it supposed to be a check on the audacious falsehoods spread by the Executive Branch? That’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind, of course. Moreover, many of them–especially James Madison and Thomas Jefferson–were focused on the risk that an Executive would push the country into an unnecessary war simply to aggrandize his powers through the commander-in-chief clause. Congress was supposed to act as a check against this. But the current Congress, under its white-flag-Democrat leadership, has failed miserably. Here’s what Dan Froomkin has to say about this in yesterday’s Washington Post:

So what, you may well ask, ever happened to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s promised inquiry into whether the White House intentionally deceived the public in the run-up to war? That, presumably, would provide an accountability moment of sorts. You may recall that more than two years ago, in November 2005, Democrats were so upset about Republican foot-dragging on the inquiry that they brought the Senate to a halt with a rare closed session to demand that work resume.

The Republicans, not surprisingly, continued to stall anyway. But the Democrats have controlled the Senate for more than a year now. Where is the report? Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, told me this morning that it will be out before the end of spring. Why the delay? Due to the “lack of comity on the committee” when Rockefeller took over the chairmanship, he decided that pushing ahead with the inquiry right away “would again create tension,” Morigi said.

They just don’t seem to think that it’s terribly important when an Executive lies the country into a war. They have more important things to do. . . like securing retroactive immunity for criminal law offenses by telecommunications companies that finance their election campaigns.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

  • GameBoyFan

    Wah, wah, wah, blubber, blubber, blubber, sob, sob sob.

    • Scott Rasener

      You’re a waste of skin!

  • Keith Rodgers

    This is no different then the current “Jerk” in the White House.
    12 years of Al Qaeda Al Qaeda Al Qaeda. Yet in pure violation of the NDAA the “Jerk” has not only sent nearly 500 Million dollars to the Al Qaeda but Armed them too.

    So when you American’s whine about your lost loved ones on 9/11 and the Wars that followed. Know this.. Obama is Arming the very killers of your loved ones and friends.

    Obama has the “Balls” to say Manning “Broke the Law” it is Obama himself that has.
    This is known as TREASON. But since so my worship my cousin Obama they remain silent as “HE” is their new Savior.

    Yes as long as gays can marry, adopt kid’s have equal spousal support that is afforded to male/female relations, as long as gays can openly serve in the armed forces. The people are “Happy”. It don’t matter that he has lied since day one.
    Killed 4 American’s without trials, drones kids, emergency aid workers and funerals, as it doesn’t affect their getting laid.

  • Keith Rodgers

    If you’d like a current/past list of Obama’s TREASON?

    http://k7ktr.com/treason.html

    I’m sick knowing I’m related to that Murderer!

    Its actual US POLICY to Murder all males of military age and now CHILDREN TOO!

    http://www.militarytimes.com/news/2012/12/marine-taliban-kids-120312w/

    AS USUAL IN HIS “MOST TRANSPARENT ADMINISTRATION EVER” NOT ONE SHRED OF PROOF IS OFFERED OR GIVEN.

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

January 2015

Come With Us if You Want to Live

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Body Politic

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Problem of Pain Management

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Game On

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Love Crimes

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Body Politic·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘He wrote all these love poems, but he was a son of a bitch,’ said a reporter from a wire service.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
Love Crimes·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If a man rapes a woman, she might be forced to marry him, because in Afghanistan sex before marriage is dishonorable.”
Photographs © Andrew Quilty/Oculi/Agence VU
Article
Game On·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union had posed a truly existential threat.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Come With Us if You Want to Live·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I was startled that all these negative ideologies could be condensed so easily into a positive worldview.”
Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:

36,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today