Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

An Unchallenged Lie that Still Drives Me Up the Wall

I've mentioned this one before, but for my "Day of Shame," post I wanted to reference it, and it deserves its own post. The best write-up I've seen is from The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber. They've written a number of good books, and you can see some of their other work at the website for the Center for Media and Democracy/PR Watch.

From chapter five, "Rewriting History":

In November 2005, President Bush chose Veteran's Day to lash out at "Democrats and anti-war critics" who "are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war." It was deeply irresponsible," Bush said, "to rewrite the history of how that war began." [1]

The Bush administration itself, however, has tried repeatedly to rewrite the history of the war. In July 2003, when his popularity was still high, Bush explained the justification for war as follows, during a photo opportunity with United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan. "The fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region." [2]

This was as clear a case of falsehood as can be imagined. Weapons inspectors were not allowed to operate in Iraq during a four-year period beginning in 1999, but contrary to Bush's claim, Saddam Hussein did allow the weapons inspectors to return in 2002, and they were only withdrawn for their own safety when Bush decided to bypass them and the United Nations Security Council and proceed with his invasion of Iraq. Yet Bush's falsehood barely revealed a peep of criticism at the time from the U.S. news media, still seemingly hypnotized by Bush's popularity. His statement was ignored altogether by the New York Times. The Washington Post noted the discrepancy between Bush's words and reality in the most polite terms possible, stating merely that "the president's assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to the war this spring: Hussein had, in fact, admitted the inspectors and Bush has opposed extending their work because he did not believe them effective." [3]

Since then, the administration's rhetoric about Iraq has shifted further, and the changes have taken it in directions that undermine its original case for war. During the initial buildup to war, the main arguments were:

• We know that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
• Saddam Hussein is allied with Al Qaeda.
• The people will welcome American troops as liberators, so the war will be a "cakewalk" and the postinvasion occupation will be brief.

Those arguments have now shifted to the following:

• We were wrong about our intelligence assessments, but so was everyone else.
• We can't leave now, or the terrorists will win.
• If we leave now, all the lives and money we've spent will have been wasted.

Each of these arguments is also deceptive, but before considering the specifics of how they are misleading, it is worth noting that each of the current arguments is a pale and unconvincing version of the original case for war. The Bush administration has been forced to fall back on these weaker arguments because it has no choice. Reality is sinking in, even at the top levels of government.

Let's look at each of the Bush administration's current arguments in turn...

(I'll provide the footnote info if anyone wants a specific source.)

"Reality is sinking in" was probably premature, but by September 2006 when this book came out, a little more reality had at least entered the public debate, even if it eluded the White House.

I remember hearing Bush spout this lie, and it going unchallenged. Within four months of the invasion, Bush lied, making the outrageous claim that America only invaded Iraq because we were forced to, because Saddam Hussein kicked out the weapons inspectors. Despite these events being in recent memory, with no historical research necessary, despite these events being central to the entire invasion and war, Bush said this, having the arrogance to think he could get away with it. And he was right. I felt incredibly frustrated, and disgusted with the media. If they couldn't even get simple factual matters right, even after they'd occurred in plain sight, what hope was there? If they couldn't challenge the president on a bald, self-absolving lie, how could they be trusted? Of course, at this point, with the horrible media conduct leading up the war, far more grievous, I wasn't truly surprised. My frustration was more along the lines of, "You can't even contest this, get this one right?" Gullible and eager for war though many in the press were, many actually believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, whereas here was something they absolutely knew, firsthand, was false. It was yet another sign to me not only that the media as a whole were lapdogs unwilling to challenge Bush, but that the media as a whole really didn't give a damn that the war had been waged under false pretenses. Whether one agreed with invading Iraq or not, Bush had consistently bullshitted, and the media just didn't feel that was important because far too many of them either agreed with the policy or were frightened to question it for fear of being smeared as unpatriotic. These were world-changing events, with serious, often dire consequences for real people, but you'd never have known it from how casually Bush rewrote history and the press played dutiful stenographer. In the case of Bush's lie about the weapons inspectors, obviously reporters knew it was a lie, but they either felt it was unimportant or just didn't care. Between Bush and the media, I'd still say Bush has more contempt for the American people, but boy, it's a close one.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)


Rogue said...

I can see why you're energized...you don't have your facts straight.
Check this Clarity For Contrarians

Batocchio said...

Rogue, sell it to someone who can't read, can't think and can't fact-check. Did you read that even the Pentagon confirms there was no operational Al Qaeda-Iraq link? You cite the very report, but somehow missed that. The Bush administration sold Iraq as possessing WMD and an imminent threat. They also suggested a 9/11-Iraq link (Cheney's still doing that). Both were false. Furthermore, you haven't addressed the main point of my post, a clear lie by Bush uncorrected by the press. Get your own facts straight or actually address the post before you waste my time.