Liar, liar

In a devastating blow to George W. Bush’s most powerful rationale for the invasion of Iraq, the bipartisan September 11th commission found no link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks, and no evidence of collaboration between Hussein and Al Qaeda.

“We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States,” the commission’s interim report said.

Bob McIlvaine, whose 26-year-old son was killed at the World Trade Center, responded emotionally. “It’s all lies. Bush should be impeached because he lied,” he told the World.

“It upsets me that so much attention has been paid to Iraq. From the very beginning, I knew there was no connection,” McIlvain said.

No one explored the Saudi Arabia and Pakistan connection, although much information was available, said McIlvain, who attended every commission hearing. “Everyone seems to forget this was a terrible failure,” he said. “Terror has increased because of the war on Iraq.”

Widening exposures of U.S. torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and throughout the region shredded another element of the administration’s three-pronged Iraq war rationale – its claim of bringing freedom and human rights to Iraq. A flood of testimony implicated the White House, and Bush himself, in authorizing torture by discarding international and U.S. laws which require humane treatment of detainees. In an effort to stem the hemorrhage, the administration released a February 2002 Bush memo that talked of treating detainees humanely, but even that memo asserted the president’s right to “suspend” the Geneva Conventions on treatment of detainees when deemed militarily necessary. A flurry of White House damage control efforts failed to quiet the unfolding controversy.

The third justification for the war was Iraq’s purported possession of weapons of mass destruction that supposedly posed an imminent threat to the U.S. That claim was demolished earlier this year, and WMDs have disappeared from the vocabulary of Bush officials.

The nation’s largest union, the 1.6-million-member Service Employees, issued a stinging condemnation of the Iraq war and Bush administration lies. Some 4,000 delegates at the union’s convention in San Francisco unanimously called for ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq and bringing the troops home. (See next week’s issue for a complete report.)

The commission report, released June 16, directly contradicted numerous statements by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials over the past two and a half years, in which they repeatedly tied the Iraq war to 9/11 and terrorism. The commission found that there had never been a “collaborative relationship” between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

After the commission report was released, Bush and Cheney and other top Republicans went into linguistic overdrive, twisting everyday words like “relationship” and “contacts” in an all-out effort to maintain the discredited Iraq war justification. Bush insisted that his administration “never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al-Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.” However, Cheney continued to speak of “overwhelming” evidence of an Iraq-Qaeda axis.

In a stinging editorial, The New York Times pointed to “the depth and ferocity of the administration’s capacity for denial.” The Times charged that Bush and Cheney “not only brushed aside the panel’s findings and questioned its expertise, but they are also trying to rewrite history.”

“Mr. Bush said the 9/11 panel had actually confirmed his contention that there were ‘ties’ between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He said his administration had never connected Saddam Hussein to 9/11. Both statements are wrong,” The Times declared.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said the commission’s findings showed that the “administration misled America and … reached too far.”

“They did not tell the truth to Americans,” he said.

Former Vice President Al Gore charged the Bush administration is intentionally misleading the American people by continuing to falsely connect Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Bush and Cheney have “institutionalized dishonesty as an essential element of their policy process,” he said.

A 36-page report issued in March by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) documents “237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq” made by Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice between 2002 and 2004. Of those “misleading statements,” the report identifies 61 about the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection.

For example, Bush said in September 2002, “The war on terror, you can’t distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.” In his infamous “mission accomplished” speech, May 1, 2003, calling the Iraq war “a crucial advance in the campaign against terror,” he declared, “We’ve removed an ally of Al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding.” The 9/11 commission debunked these claims.

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org.