Two non-profit journalism organizations are claiming that President Bush and other senior officials made hundreds of false statements about the threat from Iraq during the two years that followed the 9-11 terrorist attacks, describing them as "orchestrated deception" on the path to war.
While the claims are more than the latest variant of the "Bush lied" talking points--circulated for years by Democratic politicians and anti-war activists--the so-called "study" is curious, in several respects. For starters, the two left-wing organizations that conducted the study (The Fund for Independence in Journalism and the Center for Public Integrity), focused solely on statements by administration officials. In fact, the study's website touts a "searchable" database of public comments that allegedly pushed the nation toward war.
Trouble is, the center's database is limited by design. Researchers looking for a comment by a Congressional Democrat urging action against Iraq are simply out of luck. By focusing almost exclusively on administration officials, the study implies that Congress had almost no role in approving military action against Iraq, and that Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the war.
Wrong on both counts. Not only did a number of Congressional Democrats authorize the use of force against Saddam, many of their leading lights warned about the dangers posed by Iraq's WMD programs. But somehow, study authors omitted these quotes, recorded during the same time that Bush was mounting that disinformation campaign:
"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002, in a speech in San Francisco.
"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."Senator Ted Kennedy, in a Sept. 27, 2002 speech at Johns Hopkins University.
We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..." Senator Robert Byrd, Oct. 3, 2002, during Senate debate over the possible use of force against Iraq.
"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." Senator John Kerry, Oct 9, 2002, during the same Senate debate.
And, here's another blast from the past:
"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program.He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." Senator Hillary Clinton, Oct 10, 2002-
If you accept the center's thesis that we were tricked into going to war, how do you explain those rather inconvenient statements, which (essentially) echo comments from the Bush Administration. It would suggest that Democrats who were concerned about Saddam's suspected WMD arsenal were either (a) duped; (b) willing participants in the same disinformation effort, or (c) they arrived at the similar conclusions on the threat, based on the best intelligence data then available. Given the fact that Congress had access to the same information (and that few Democrats want to be viewed as George Bush's puppet), we'll go out on a limb and choose Option C.
Fact is, there was near-consensus among western intelligence agencies about the existence of Saddam's WMD arsenal in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom (anyone remember the famous "slam dunk" comment by then-CIA Director George Tenet?) There was also strong evidence of pre-war ties between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaida, as detailed by a Kurdish official in 2006, and a seminal 2003 article by the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes. The Senate Intelligence Committee later determined that such contacts did not constitute a "formal relationship." However, the panel was careful to differentiate between such a relationship and less formal contacts, which likely existed for years. And evidence of those ties continues to surface, despite the assertions of the Senate report.
So what's driving the Center for Public Integrity report? George Soros money, for one thing. A Soros-funded organization, The Open Society Institute, gave the center at least 1.7 million between 2000-2002, to help fund its "investigative" projects. The center's Soros connection also extends through PBS journalist Bill Moyers, who sites on the institute's board and provided additional funding through his Schumann Foundation.
In return, the center's reporting has largely reflected the positions of its benefactors. In 2004, Lewis appeared on Moyers NOW program to discuss the influence of "big money" on the presidential candidates. There was virtually no discussion of Soros, and attempts to sway the campaign through various groups he supports, including MoveOn.org. In return, the center (along with other Soros-funded media operations) have pursued investigations that focus on favorite left-wing targets: Haliburton; the purported torture of terror suspects; the drug industry, and the government's "failed" response to Hurricane Katrina.
Which brings us back to their latest "expose" on those false statements about the Iraq War. Given the study's obvious flaws (apparently, only Republicans made misleading statements about the threat from Saddam) and the center's extensive ties to left-wing activists and funding sources, the resulting analysis is nothing more than a multi-media joke. Coming from the Center for Public Integrity (and their cohorts at The Fund for Independence in Journalism), assertions about an "orchestrated deception campaign" are about as believable as their own claims of independence and objectivity.