Wall Street Journal: The Dangerous Lie That ‘Bush Lied’

I was watching when Ron Fournier made the assertion Laurence H Silberman references. I find it sickening people claim Bush lied us into war. Yes, many of them are on the left and I simply refer them to their most favorite fact checker Snopes.com and their long list of statements made by Democrats regarding weapons of mass destruction. Then I remind them what a real repeated lie is:

In the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Silberman took another shot at debunking this anti-war slogan that evolved into journalistic truth:

In recent weeks, I have heard former Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier on Fox News twice asserting, quite offhandedly, that President George W. Bush “lied us into war in Iraq.”

I found this shocking. I took a leave of absence from the bench in 2004-05 to serve as co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction—a bipartisan body, sometimes referred to as the Robb-Silberman Commission. It was directed in 2004 to evaluate the intelligence community’s determination that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—I am, therefore, keenly aware of both the intelligence provided to President Bush and his reliance on that intelligence as his primary casus belli. It is astonishing to see the “Bush lied” allegation evolve from antiwar slogan to journalistic fact.

The intelligence community’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated, in a formal presentation to President Bush and to Congress, its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction—a belief in which the NIE said it held a 90% level of confidence. That is about as certain as the intelligence community gets on any subject.

Recall that the head of the intelligence community, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, famously told the president that the proposition that Iraq possessed WMD was “a slam dunk.” Our WMD commission carefully examined the interrelationships between the Bush administration and the intelligence community and found no indication that anyone in the administration sought to pressure the intelligence community into its findings. As our commission reported, presidential daily briefs from the CIA dating back to the Clinton administration were, if anything, more alarmist about Iraq’s WMD than the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

Saddam had manifested sharp hostility toward America, including firing at U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zone set up by the armistice agreement ending the first Iraq war. Saddam had also attempted to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush —a car-bombing plot was foiled—during Mr. Bush’s visit to Kuwait in 1993. But President George W. Bush based his decision to go to war on information about Saddam’s WMD. Accordingly, when Secretary of State Colin Powell formally presented the U.S. case to the United Nations, Mr. Powell relied entirely on that aspect of the threat from Iraq.

Our WMD commission ultimately determined that the intelligence community was “dead wrong” about Saddam’s weapons. But as I recall, no one in Washington political circles offered significant disagreement with the intelligence community before the invasion. The National Intelligence Estimate was persuasive—to the president, to Congress and to the media.

Granted, there were those who disagreed with waging war against Saddam even if he did possess WMD. Some in Congress joined Brent Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and former national security adviser, in publicly doubting the wisdom of invading Iraq. It is worth noting, however, that when Saddam was captured and interrogated, he told his interrogators that he had intended to seek revenge on Kuwait for its cooperation with the U.S. by invading again at a propitious time. This leads me to speculate that if the Bush administration had not gone to war in 2003 and Saddam had remained in power, the U.S. might have felt compelled to do so once Iraq again invaded Kuwait.

In any event, it is one thing to assert, then or now, that the Iraq war was ill-advised. It is quite another to make the horrendous charge that President Bush lied to or deceived the American people about the threat from Saddam.

I recently wrote to Ron Fournier protesting his accusation. His response, in an email, was to reiterate that “an objective reading of the events leads to only one conclusion: the administration . . . misinterpreted, distorted and in some cases lied about intelligence.” Although Mr. Fournier referred to “evidence” supporting his view, he did not cite any—and I do not believe there is any.

He did say correctly that “intelligence is never dispositive; it requires analysis and judgment, with the final call and responsibility resting with the president.” It is thus certainly possible to criticize President Bush for having believed what the CIA told him, although it seems to me that any president would have credited such confident assertions by the intelligence community. But to accuse the president of lying us into war must be seen as not only false, but as dangerously defamatory.

The charge is dangerous because it can take on the air of historical fact—with potentially dire consequences. I am reminded of a similarly baseless accusation that helped the Nazis come to power in Germany: that the German army had not really lost World War I, that the soldiers instead had been “stabbed in the back” by politicians.

Sometime in the future, perhaps long after most of us are gone, an American president may need to rely publicly on intelligence reports to support military action. It would be tragic if, at such a critical moment, the president’s credibility were undermined by memories of a false charge peddled by the likes of Ron Fournier.



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6 Responses to Wall Street Journal: The Dangerous Lie That ‘Bush Lied’

  1. Not a fair contrast. Both Presidents spoke in support of information they were given by staff, and both were mistaken, because the information they were given was incorrect. Mistakes aren’t lies.

    • Bret Rickert says:

      BS! Obama knew.

      That’s just one video. there’s also one were he states to Paul Ryan people would have to lose their plan

      • The fact is that some people lost their plans, some got plans who never had them, and most people either stayed exactly the same or saved on their premiums – and NO ONE had anticipated the large number of states that would choose to opt-out of running their own insurance exchanges. No one HAD the correct information, so Obama could not have known.

      • Bret Rickert says:

        Stow your crap. People said this would happen, but folks like you said “that’s not true.” I happen to be one of those who lost the plan they were happy with. Now, my monthly premiums are 30% more, my deductible multiplied by 5 and I lost my doctor. But hell! I have maternity care coverage and a pediatric dental plan, Just what a 48 year old single male needs. And more people have been hurt by Obamacare than helped

  2. I’m not going to participate in pointless “link wars”, and I treated you with respect. If your style is to toss insults, you aren’t worth engaging with. If more people had been hurt than helped, the program would already have been repealed.

    • Bret Rickert says:

      Not anywhere did I toss an insult. If you don’t know why the law hasn’t been repealed then you do not understand how our government works. If you think it’s pointless to provide support for my position you aren’t worth engaging.

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