1.25.2008

935 paths to war

There was an AP story this week, picked up by many news outlets, about the lies the Cheney Administration disseminated in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. The original study, by the Center for Public Integrity, deserves a deeper look.

The study is called "The War Card: Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War". This is the best kind of investigative journalism, work that methodically quantifies and proves. The liars can try to wriggle off the hook, but they have been skewered by facts.

All power tries to rewrite history. The more total the power, the more pervasive the rewrite. In our times the airbrushes appear with Orwellian speed, trying to tell us that what we know, really isn't so. That's why we need to constantly document the truth, and save it, cling to it, insist upon it.

From the overview:
President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.

It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose "Duelfer Report" established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq's nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.

In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.

President Bush, for example, made 232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. Secretary of State Powell had the second-highest total in the two-year period, with 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. Rumsfeld and Fleischer each made 109 false statements, followed by Wolfowitz (with 85), Rice (with 56), Cheney (with 48), and McClellan (with 14).

The massive database at the heart of this project juxtaposes what President Bush and these seven top officials were saying for public consumption against what was known, or should have been known, on a day-to-day basis. This fully searchable database includes the public statements, drawn from both primary sources (such as official transcripts) and secondary sources (chiefly major news organizations) over the two years beginning on September 11, 2001. It also interlaces relevant information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches, and interviews.

. . . .

In addition to their patently false pronouncements, Bush and these seven top officials also made hundreds of other statements in the two years after 9/11 in which they implied that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or links to Al Qaeda. Other administration higher-ups, joined by Pentagon officials and Republican leaders in Congress, also routinely sounded false war alarms in the Washington echo chamber.

The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war. Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, "independent" validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq.

It concludes:
Bush and the top officials of his administration have so far largely avoided the harsh, sustained glare of formal scrutiny about their personal responsibility for the litany of repeated, false statements in the run-up to the war in Iraq. There has been no congressional investigation, for example, into what exactly was going on inside the Bush White House in that period. Congressional oversight has focused almost entirely on the quality of the U.S. government's pre-war intelligence — not the judgment, public statements, or public accountability of its highest officials. And, of course, only four of the officials — Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz — have testified before Congress about Iraq.

Short of such review, this project provides a heretofore unavailable framework for examining how the U.S. war in Iraq came to pass. Clearly, it calls into question the repeated assertions of Bush administration officials that they were the unwitting victims of bad intelligence.

Above all, the 935 false statements painstakingly presented here finally help to answer two all-too-familiar questions as they apply to Bush and his top advisers: What did they know, and when did they know it?

There are links to each person in the junta who spread the propaganda, the principal lies that they told, and a correlation between those lies and public opinion. Because, as the report mentions, these liars had a lot of help, as their lies were "amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts".

George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz: mass murderers. Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan: their paid assassins.

To date, there have been almost 90,000 documented Iraqi civilian deaths, and almost 4,238 combined "coalition" deaths (3,931 US).

The formula:

WarCardChart

plus

fox news

and

nyt logo

and

cnn

equals

war

and

iraq dead

and

one price of iraq

Incidentally, that last photo was made public by an employee of a Pentagon contractor, who snapped the photo in Germany and released it to the Seattle Times. She and her husband were both subsequently fired.

Lies, and the power to make the truth go away.

17 comments:

M@ said...

I'm not being facetious when I say that 935 seems really, really low. I think you could hit 10% of that mark from any of Bush's SOTU addresses. I listened to the last one on the radio (why do I do that kind of thing to myself? why?) and I called bullshit on almost every single sentence.

And the really depressing thing is, most reactions to this news will be "but Clinton lied too!!1!" and "all politicians lie, get over it." Ugh.

redsock said...

unequivocally

And that's the other thing. Defenders of these mass murderers will claim that most or all of the statements were prefaced by "we have reason to believe" or "we have been told".

No. They were not. They were presented as flat-out facts, definitive statements. And as we knew then, and as has been further shown through time, they were lies. Provable lies. Indeed, people like Powell and Rice were saying the exact opposite about Iraq only months before 9/11, crowing about how Saddam was impotent.

All of these lies could have been exposed if journalists has decided to do even 50% of their normal jobs. But many of these journalists are not actually journalists. They are members of the criminal cabal itself -- and newspapers like the New York Times are more than willing to give them the ability to splash their propaganda at the top of the front pages day after day after day.

redsock said...

I'm not being facetious when I say that 935 seems really, really low.

I agree. Let's see:

935 lies in 2 years (730 days) = 1.3 lies per day. That's if the study was focused on one person.

But the overview mentions 8 administration officials. 1.3 lies per day = 9 lies per week.

That works out (roughly) to 1 lie per official per week for those 2 years.

Amy said...

and newspapers like the New York Times are more than willing to give them the ability to splash their propaganda at the top of the front pages day after day after day.

Sad to say, I expect our government to lie to us. After Vietnam (and I am sure before, but that was my first exposure), why would anyone trust their assessment of the need for military action? I never believed Bush about Iraq and was amazed by how many smart and good people bought into those lies for so long.

But what really disappointed me was how terribly the media behaved. Where were the investigative media? How could a paper like the NYTimes have been so willingly duped? Perhaps I was naive then, but I was really surprised by the failure of the mainstream media to dig deeper and question what was going on.

L-girl said...

I'm not being facetious when I say that 935 seems really, really low.

I agree.


Notes on the study's methodology are here.

That might help explain where the 953 numbers came from.

I assume they counted conservatively, so as to avoid the one dicey reference out of 1,000,000 cites being pounced on by Freepers and the like.

redsock said...

How could a paper like the NYTimes have been so willingly duped?

They were not duped. They were as much a willing part of the propaganda machine as Rumsfeld, Cheney and Powell.

They were perhaps the most important part -- since they gave the administration the ability to broadcast their blatant lies outside the range of their own voices.

They were not going to question what was going on any more than Rice or Wolfowitz did. Why would they?

L-girl said...

Amy: you are dead on.

The US has a long history of fabricating excuses for military involvement, much of it to protect corporate interest in natural resources (fruit, sugar, tin, oil).

It drove me crazy when people called the invasion of Iraq "unprecedented". If only!

But the near-total lack of skepticism and the blatant cheerleading on the part of the media might have been unprecedented - since 24-hour media all from one point of view is a very recent phenomenon.

Media has always been involved in selling wars to the public. In the early 20th Century the Hearst newspapers were today's Fox. But in those days, there were a dozen newspapers from all different points of view. Now the airwaves are dominated by only one viewpoint.

[Enter obligatory commenter saying the presence of the internet counteracts the Fox effect.]

To which I say, thank goodness for the internet, without it we'd have almost no way to get the truth out there. It's an important weapon, but it's not an antidote.

Seven Star Hand said...

Hello L-girl,

Actually, there is one path to war, paved by greed and deception, and its name is EVIL ! These scoundrels simply found 935 ways to convince the clueless to support them.

Greetings Class,

Now please be seated and listen up! The lectures will now commence...

The combination of the Center for Public Integrity's "Iraq: The War Card" research, George Tenet's book, At the Center of the Storm, Eisner & Royce's The Italian Letter, and the books and research of many others in recent years now provide enough of a foundation for everyone to finally discern that 9:11 was a "false flag" operation against both the American public and the Muslim world. Notice how the Bush/Cheney crew and cohorts ruthlessly profited from these events and the resulting wars and how they were ready and prepared to do so, even before 9:11.

Read More: What they knew and when they knew it!

L-girl said...

Seven Star Hand, thank you for your comment.

Your views are welcome here, but please be aware that wmtc readers are generally intelligent and very well informed. They aren't waiting for new commenters to come along and teach them.

In general, this attitude

Greetings Class,

Now please be seated and listen up! The lectures will now commence...


is not appreciated at all.

You are welcome to join the conversation, as a participant, but not a teacher. Further lectures will be deleted. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

L-girl said...

How could a paper like the NYTimes have been so willingly duped?

They were not duped.


Of course they were not duped, although Amy does say "willingly". Willingly duped seems like a contradiction to me.

The NY Times can be an excellent paper. It has also willingly entered into arrangements where CIA operatives posed as reporters. The Times needs to be treated with the same skepticism that we accord to every other mainstream outlet.

TheIronist said...

(Actually, there is one path to war, paved by greed and deception, and its name is EVIL !)


It is my experience that the evocation of "evil" is usually done precisely at that point where real analysis breaks down.

As for the failure of the US media, insofar as the NYT and the Washington Post are concerned, the failure isn't, as redsock points out, a failure at all, but most likely an intentional omission. The Post and the NYT consider themselves first and foremost to be the official papers of the establishment(and in the US, there is only one). These papers do not conceive of their roles as tribunes of truth to the public at large. In their eyes, they are that section of the establishment which seeks to shape debate about the important issues of the day.

I draw your attention to a recent article by Daniel Ellsberg on the Common Dreams site. Ellsberg details a scandal that goes all the way to the top of the US political establishment, a story that has received a tremendous amount of coverage in media outside of the US (scooped, as it were, by one of Rupert Murdoch's papers!)but virtually none in the US. Here's the link. Read and be saddened.

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/16/6523/

L-girl said...

TheIronist, thanks for that. Daniel Ellsberg is a great hero for justice. I loved that piece about Sibel Edmonds and sent it to many people. It ran originally on the Brad Blog - it was reprinted on Common Dreams.

Amy said...

I also thank you for the link to the Ellsberg piece. I had not heard of this story at all (because I rely so much on the NYTimes and other mainstream sources). And it was interesting to see Ellsberg ask the question I was pondering---would the NYTimes publish the Pentagon Papers today? If not (which seems likely), what happened to them and when did it happen? As someone who has always read and relied on the NYTimes, this is all truly distressing.

And when I said "willingly duped," I meant that the paper, caught up in all the fear and and anger after 9/11, allowed itself, like most Americans, to believe that military action, almost any military action, against almost any Arab/Muslim country was necessary and justifiable. It seems you are all suggesting more than that---not just blindness on their part, but complicity.

Leaving me to ask...who do we trust as a source of information then? I remain skeptical of random websites which have no history or visible accountability. There is just too much crap on the Internet for me to know how to determine a reliable source. Yes, I am now plugged into more progressive websites and try to keep up with them. But why should I trust that they are any less biased, more reliable than the mainstream media?

It's enough to make me truly despair.

L-girl said...

It seems you are all suggesting more than that---not just blindness on their part, but complicity.

It was certainly complicity. Judith Miller knew what she was doing, and so did her editors.

Leaving me to ask...who do we trust as a source of information then? I remain skeptical of random websites which have no history or visible accountability.

I'm not sure what you mean by random websites.

There are many good sources from a progressive point of view that (a) are not owned by major corporations, so they have no conflicts of interest there, (b) do not accept advertising, (c) have a long history of solid journalism from a progressive point of view, revealing perspectives not found in the mainstream, and (d) feature writers who actually do the work of journalism, so can back up their claims.

There's The Nation, The Progressive, Harpers, In These Times, Mother Jones, Utne, Salon, Atlantic, the Guardian (UK), CounterPunch, Tom Paine, American Prospect. That's just off the top of my head.

There are also many sites that pull together lots of different sources of progressive writing, like Common Dreams, Truthout, HuffingtonPost, and others. I find these very helpful and generally rely on them as a filter and time-saver.

L-girl said...

But why should I trust that they are any less biased, more reliable than the mainstream media?

I meant to quote this in my previous comment.

The sources I listed above are biased, from a progressive/left point of view. Their bias is stated openly, and they don't pretend otherwise.

I'm not suggesting that means every word they print is true. But it means they're not trying to protect the status quo, that writers and editors are thinking about how decisions and actions effect the people of the world, not just the stock market.

They have a bias towards peace, social justice, independence, collective action, usually (but not always) democracy. I prefer that to the ridiculous notion that CNN or the New York Times is reporting "the news" in its totality - everything you need to know.

Editorial and journalistic independence is a big factor to me: a source not owned by a major media conglomerate.

Advertising, in general, corrupts. So the absence of advertising, or as little of it as possible, especially the absence of major corporate ads, is a positive sign.

redsock said...

It seems you are all suggesting more than that---not just blindness on their part, but complicity.

Suggesting? I'm stating that it is the undeniable truth that writers and editors at the Times worked side by side with the administration in whipping up the country for the annihilation of Iraq.

The Times should not be unfairly singled out, but it bears a special responsibility because what it chooses to put on its front page is then emulated by dozens of other smaller papers across the country.

When it became SO obvious that the Times had functioned as one of the main propaganda arms of the White House, it had to say something.

The editord mumbled something like "we shoulda been more careful, maybe asked a question or two", then started right in with a lower-key, but quite similar, campaign against Iran.

... plus they continue to employ Murray Chass.

Amy said...

Allan and Laura, thanks for your responses. I am rushing off to VT for the weekend, so no time for a full response, but I hope to get back to it. I appreciate your suggestions, Laura (along with your earlier ones, which I do now check), and Allan, I couldn't agree more about Murray Chass. :)