More than two months after the
In the months leading up to the war,
Bush warned repeatedly that unless the United States invaded Iraq and “disarmed
Saddam Hussein,” the Iraqi leader would supply terrorists with chemical,
biological and even nuclear weapons to use against the American people. He
cited this allegedly imminent threat as the reason for rejecting international
law and unleashing the
That these claims have proven to be
lies hardly comes as a surprise. Even before the conquest of
The charge that
Since the war began, however, every element of the Bush administration campaign on weapons of mass destruction has been shown to be false.
* The claim that Iraq has sought uranium from Niger, in west Africa—this proved to based on forged documents and was exposed as a lie nearly a year before Bush included the charge in his 2003 State of the Union address.
* The claim that thousands of aluminum tubes imported by
* The claim that Iraq had up to 20 long-range Scud missiles, prohibited under UN sanctions—no such rockets have been found, nor were any fired during the military conflict.
* The claim that Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including nerve gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin—nothing has been found, despite searches at hundreds of sites targeted before the war by US intelligence reports.
* The claim that Saddam Hussein had
issued chemical weapons to front-line troops who would use them when
The Bush administration was reduced to citing the discovery of two tractor trailers near Mosul as proof that Iraq possessed mobile biological weapons labs—a charge that featured prominently in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council on February 5. But no trace of a biological agent was found on the trucks, and the White House has been compelled to backtrack even on this threadbare claim, suggesting that the trucks may be evidence of a weapons “program,” not of weapons themselves.
A pretext for aggression
It is necessary to reiterate, in the
face of ongoing attempts by the Bush administration and its media apologists to
rewrite history, that
There were repeated, explicit claims by US government officials, not only that Iraq was in possession of huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions, but that US intelligence agencies had pinpointed the precise locations where these weapons were stored, the identities of those involved in their production, even the military orders issued by Saddam Hussein for their use in the event of war.
There were dozens of such statements, of which only a few need be cited here:
February 8, 2003—Bush said in his weekly radio address: “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.”
The politics of the lie
Democratic and Republican
congressmen and media commentators have described the Bush administration’s actions
as exaggeration, hype or embellishment, or at most undue pressure on the CIA
and other intelligence agencies to produce a compelling “case” against
It is important to recall the
context in which the “weapons of mass destruction” campaign unfolded. Mass
protests throughout the world had demonstrated as the New York Times admitted
at the time, that there were “two superpowers—the
The Bush administration faced
unprecedented opposition on the UN Security Council, and threats of veto by
The campaign of lies about weapons
of mass destruction was required to overcome the impact this worldwide
opposition was having on
The Bush administration employs a
definite methodology: truth is what you say it is, and events have no objective
consequences. So long as it can deploy the resources of the federal government
and the corporate-controlled media to reinforce its version of events,
bombarding masses of people with propaganda images and drowning out any
alternative explanation, the right-wing clique that dominates in
This method, saturated with contempt for the American people and their democratic right to control public policy, goes back to the origins of this administration. Bush claimed an electoral mandate for an ultra-right agenda, despite running as a “compassionate conservative”—the advertising slogan employed to cloak his real program in moderate garb—and despite losing the popular vote and entering the White House thanks to the intervention of the right-wing majority on the US Supreme Court.
In his domestic policies, Bush lies on a monumental scale: tax cuts for the rich are a “jobs program”; cuts in Medicare and Medicaid are “reforms”; slashing spending on public education is repackaged as “no child left behind”; the establishment of the legal framework of a police state is the defense of “freedom” against terrorism.
There is another gross deception: the claim that the Bush administration and US intelligence agencies had no information that would have enabled them to prevent the September 11 terrorist attacks, or respond to the hijackings once they were under way.
The administration blocked any
serious investigation of September 11, despite a mass of evidence that
At the same time, it used the tragedy as a pretext for setting into motion a far-right agenda of political repression and war—an agenda that had been prepared well in advance.
The preferred methods of the Bush
administration are to suppress and censor information, smear its critics as
traitors and accomplices of terrorism, and, when all else fails, brazen things
out by piling new lies upon the old. Thus the exposure of the WMD fabrication
There is no precedent in American history for the sheer scale of falsification engaged in by the Bush administration, the Republican Party and their media chorus. The “credibility gap” of the Vietnam War era is nothing compared to the lie machine of the current government.
Lying on such a scale has a definite impact on the body politic. It contributes to the destruction of any political connection between the working people, the vast majority, and the ruling clique. The masses become alienated from the regime, while the regime loses any ability to understand the intensifying social antagonisms building up underneath its feet. Contradiction is piled upon contradiction, and the conditions created for social and political eruptions.
Despite the delusions of the White
House, events do have consequences. It has taken only a few weeks for the
conquest and occupation of
The unprecedented international
antiwar movement in advance of the invasion is another objective event with
vast consequences, although Bush sneered at the protests, saying he would not
decide policy based on a “focus group.” Mass opposition to the
The role of the Democrats
One argument recently advanced by media and political apologists is that the Bush administration could not be lying about weapons of mass destruction because that would require a vast conspiracy, including the CIA, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Congress and the previous Clinton administration, directed against the American people.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair
put this case most crudely, declaring that no one could believe that he and
Bush had deliberately fabricated a pretext for war because that would be “too
gross.” Republican Senator John McCain asked whether critics of the war
disbelieved “every major intelligence service on earth, generations of UN
That is a fair description of the
international campaign against
During the Clinton years, Iraq was
repeatedly required to prove a negative—to demonstrate the absence of such
weapons throughout its territory—and every failure to achieve this inherently
impossible task was used to continue the starvation of the Iraqi people, at the
cost of more than a million lives. Now the Bush administration makes use of the
crimes of the
None of the Democratic congressional leaders or presidential candidates dares to indict the Bush administration for dragging the American people into war on the basis of lies. In some cases (Congressman Richard Gephardt, Senator Joseph Lieberman, Senator Hillary Clinton) they are directly complicit in the lies. In others, sheer political cowardice in the face of attack from the extreme right plays a major role (Senator Tom Daschle).
Still others (Senators Robert Graham
and Carl Levin) criticize the White House out of concern that the exposure of
Bush’s lies over
The media and the war
The American media parroted
uncritically the claims by the Bush administration that
The media has always served as an instrument of big business, but there has been a qualitative deterioration over the past 30 years. During the Vietnam War, there was considerable critical reporting—at least in the war’s later stages—as the credibility of government claims of impending victory were called into question by events. Leading US media outlets published the Pentagon Papers and exposed the Watergate scandal.
Over the last decade, in particular, the media has prostrated itself before every provocation by the right wing, portraying the Whitewater investigation and Lewinsky affair as a legitimate exposure of wrongdoing in the Clinton White House, legitimizing the theft of the 2000 presidential election, accepting without question the portrayal of September 11 as a bolt from the blue that could not have been anticipated by the Bush administration, and now endorsing the conquest of Iraq.
Such formerly liberal organs as the New York Times may whip themselves over such peccadilloes as the Jayson Blair affair—in which a junior Times reporter fabricated quotes and incidental details of many stories—but they have no qualms in collaborating with the Pentagon and CIA to fabricate the pretext for a war in which tens of thousands have died.
A remarkable opinion poll was
published recently, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes
Such findings are an indictment of
the role of the American media in systematically misinforming and confusing the
American people. But they also demonstrate that the supposedly widespread
public support for the war in
The process of media manipulation has definite limits. Like the Bush administration, the media has discredited itself in the eyes of tens of millions of people, who recognize that both government spokesmen and their media counterparts lie without scruple or limit.
The coming reckoning
The supreme role of the lie in US
politics reflects not simply the cynicism of the media, but rather the enormity
of the social contradictions within
It is impossible for the ruling class to give an honest accounting for a system that heaps up riches for the privileged few, while driving down the living standards of the vast majority of the population. These social tensions are leading inexorably to major political upheavals.
The exposure of the Bush
administration’s claims about weapons of mass destruction has already had a
colossal impact overseas, where British Prime Minister Tony Blair is being
openly accused of lying to Parliament and the British people. The reaction in
Sooner rather than later, however,
the contradictions of American imperialism must find a political outlet. As the
The claims of “weapons of mass
destruction” and “war for democracy” will come back to haunt the Bush
administration and the entire
All of the institutions of the American ruling elite are implicated in crimes of staggering dimensions—the White House, the Congress, the judiciary, the military, the media, the corporate aristocracy. Any significant movement from below will produce a crisis not only of a president or administration, but of an entire social order.
Washington’s war of terror in Iraq
[18 June 2003]
Iraqi “bioweapons” trailers: another “smoking gun” goes up in smoke
[12 June 2003]
Crisis over missing Iraqi WMDs
Britain: Blair, advisor boycott parliamentary inquiry
[12 June 2003]
Friedman: We did it “because we could”
New York Times covers up for lies on Iraq war
[6 June 2003]
US government lied about Iraqi weapons to justify war
[31 May 2003]
Into the maelstrom: the crisis of American imperialism and the war against Iraq
[1 April 2003]