We now have a new president and, hopefully, a new chapter in American history will begin. I still, however bristle when I look back on the lies that were told to justify the invasion of Iraq. There is no more despicable thing that a president and his administration can do than lie to get into a war that is not only unnecessary, but counter-productive.
On “Meet the Press” in December, 2001, Vice-President Dick Cheney said it was “pretty well confirmed” that Sept. 11 hijacker Muhammad Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. Unfortunately, the story was dismissed as spurious by the FBI, who had placed Atta in Florida at the time based on car rental records. The CIA came to the same conclusion, yet Cheney continued to tell the story for another two years.
There was also no evidence of a connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. After Sept. 11, former CIA director George Tenet ordered a complete review of all intelligence related to al-Qaeda going back 10 years. They found no evidence of a relationship.
Bush administration officials continued to assert Hussein had longstanding ties to al-Qaeda, but Hussein was a secular leader, whom religious radicals like Osama bin Laden typically despised.
Furthermore, secular Arab leaders, such as Hussein and the late President Hafez al-Assad of Syria, had a history of violently persecuting Islamic radicals.
It also seemed bizarre that Hussein would essentially commit suicide by supplying weapons and training to Islamic terrorists, knowing that it would be traced back to him. Saddam Hussein’s talent was surviving and holding onto power, so why would he give all that up?
Furthermore, much of the intelligence community did not think that Hussein had biological weapons or a nuclear weapons program, yet the Bush administration spoke as if it were an uncontested fact. Quite the opposite was the case.
After Hussein ejected United Nations weapons inspectors in late 1998, Iraq was monitored via spy satellite and aircraft. In order to develop a nuclear weapon, tens of thousands of centrifuges would have been needed, as well as enormous facilities to store and power those centrifuges. Thus, it would have been nearly impossible to develop a nuclear weapon undetected.
However, Cheney, on Aug. 26, 2002, said the following: “Many of us are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.” Knight-Ridder reporter Jonathan Landay afterward spoke with a contact involved in nuclear proliferation issues who said that Cheney was lying.
If something is only a hotly debated opinion, it is a lie to pass it off as gospel truth. Neither Bush nor any subordinate used caveats like “we think,” “there may be,” or the like. Instead they described the evidence as “bullet-proof.” What could be more despicable and misleading than that?
Several months ago I viewed a photo essay of President Bush visiting seriously wounded servicemen at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. One was a young Marine who had been blinded and had his legs blown off. He was with his mother and his dejected emotional state was plainly visible on his face.
I have often wondered what President Bush must have thought knowing that he had needlessly destroyed that young Marine’s life, as well as many others like him.
Christopher Herrin is a graduate Religious Studies major and a columnist for the Daily Forty-Niner.