Currently stirring up the faithful in the right-wing blogosphere is this article in the Washington Post titled ‘Bush Lied’? If Only It Were That Simple.
The subject is the long-awaited Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information .
Fred Hiatt, over at the Washington Post, makes much of the phrase found in many of the conclusions of the report, “were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates.” What he doesn’t tell you is that the committee only examined five of George Bush’s speeches, not the totality of the administration’s statements, so this bit from Bush wasn’t addressed:
Q: Weapons of mass destruction haven’t been found. So what argument will you use now to justify this war?
Bush, May 29, 2003: 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.
Bush, Sept. 17, 2003: We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th . What the Vice President said was, is that he has been involved with al Qaeda. And al Sarawak, al Qaeda operative, was in Baghdad. He’s the guy that ordered the killing of a U.S. diplomat. He’s a man who is still running loose, involved with the poisons network, involved with Ansar al-Islam. There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties.
Cheney, March 16, 2003: Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators… .
Q: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?
Cheney: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators… . The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.
Cheney, March 16, 2003: I’m confident that our troops will be successful, and I think it’ll go relatively quickly, but we can’t…
Cheney: …we can’t count on that.
Cheney: Weeks rather than months. There’s always the possibility of—of complications that you can’t anticipate, but I’m—I have great confidence in our troops. The men and women who serve in our military today are superb. Our capabilities as a force are the finest the world has ever known. They’re very ably led by General Tommy Franks and Secretary Rumsfeld. And so I have great confidence in the conduct of the military campaign. The really challenging part of it to some extent may come in the—in the aftermath once the military segment is over and we move to try and stand up a new government and—and turn over to the Iraqi people the responsibilities to their nation.
Q: And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction?
Rumsfeld, May 30, 2003: Not at all. If you think — let me take that, both pieces — the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
Q: Based on what you know right now, how close is Saddam Hussein’s government — how close is that government to developing a nuclear capability?
Rice, September 8, 2002: You will get different estimates about precisely how close he is. We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance — into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to — high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.
We know that he 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.
The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
All that aside, Hiatt is right, the Rockefeller report says, several times, that Bush administration statements “were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates…” But he leaves out the second half of the sentence, “…but did not convey the substantial disagreements or evolving views that existed in the intelligence community.”
“Did not convey”? When you look at what they did convey, like “And let there be no doubt about it, his regime has dozens of ballistic missiles and is working to extend their range in violation of U.N. restrictions” (Donald Rumsfeld, testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, 18 Sep 2002) that’s an understatement.
In other cases, the “generally substantiated” bit is this: “Both of these statements were substantiated by intelligence assessments, however both referred to pre-Gulf War programs.”
“Statements in the major speeches analyzed, as well [as] additional statements, regarding Iraq’s contacts with al-Qa’ida were substantiated by intelligence information. However, policy-makers’ statements did not accurately convey the intelligence assessment of the nature of those contacts, and left the impression that those contacts led to substantial cooperation between Iraq and al-Qa’ida.”
That is to say, they didn’t actually lie, but they deliberately left you with a false impression that they didn’t bother to correct.
Then there are the conclusions that don’t waffle even a little bit. For example: “Statements by the President and Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was preparing to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.”