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Bush: Trust the American People, More Candor Is Required

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An almost uncannily balanced assessment of the “Bush lied” perspective in light of the apparent absence of WMD in Iraq, the Kay statements, etc., by Stuart Taylor in the National Journal:

    Democrats are in full cry about what Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer calls President Bush’s “egregious deception in leading us to war on phony intelligence.” Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts asserted in October: “Before the war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie.” Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who voted to authorize the war, says, more cautiously, that Americans were “misled,” especially by Vice President Cheney.

    Aside from the mounting evidence that Saddam Hussein had few, if any, weapons of mass destruction, the “Bush lied” boomlet has been fueled both by the president’s own obstinate refusal to acknowledge the massive intelligence failure that now sits in plain view and by his obtuse, at times outlandish, answers to legitimate questions. When Diane Sawyer of ABC News asked him on December 16 to justify prewar claims stating “as a hard fact that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that [Saddam] could move to acquire those weapons,” for example, Bush shot back: “So what’s the difference?” Fatuous arrogance: not a good way to regain lost trust.

Sometimes Bush is his own worst enemy, and his administration’s refusal to admit ambiguity or subjectivity into any of their decisions is merely fodder for those who seek to discredit his policies by discrediting his administration. This is a recipe for disaster – Bush must trust the judgment of the American people enough to be as honest as possible. We do not need to be led by the hand nor deceived into doing the right thing.

    Still, the charges that Bush, Cheney, and Secretary of State Colin Powell lied us into war are, at best, recklessly irresponsible hyperbole. While most of their WMD claims now appear way off base, none of the claims were without support in the intelligence agencies’ prewar assessments. And there is no evidence that Bush, Cheney, or Powell did not believe their own prewar assertions.

    Democrats should remind themselves that Bush and Cheney were not the first to make such claims about Iraq. “The U.S. intelligence community’s belief toward the end of the Clinton administration [was] that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program and was close to acquiring nuclear weapons,” Kenneth M. Pollack, who served on President Clinton’s National Security Council, wrote in the January/February issue of The Atlantic Monthly. That was also the view of some European intelligence services, all of which also thought that Saddam probably had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

    It was Clinton who warned on February 17, 1998, that, unless restrained by force, Saddam “will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, some way, I guarantee you he’ll use the arsenal.”

    ….The record is littered with unduly confident and conclusive administration assertions about Iraqi WMD, as well as about Saddam’s much-touted but unproven ties to al Qaeda. Bush, Cheney, and Powell purported to be certain of “facts” about which the intelligence was far short of certain. They omitted the intelligence agencies’ caveats, cautions, and dissenting views. And they stretched the findings of Hans Blix and his U.N. inspectors, who now appear to have been far closer to the mark than the administration officials who portrayed them as patsies.

    ….Some 30 more-or-less overblown administration statements are catalogued in a 106-page January 8 report (PDF) by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Similarly overblown, in my view, is the authors’ own grave charge that (intelligence failures aside) Bush, Cheney, and Powell “systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq’s WMD and ballistic missile programs.”

    Some degree of selective disclosure and one-sided advocacy is to be expected — indeed, unavoidable — when any president uses enormously complex intelligence findings to rally support for a war. But this administration’s outward certitude amid undisclosed intelligence-community doubts was more selective, and thus more misleading, than it needed to be. By airbrushing out the uncertainties, Bush, Cheney, and Powell denied us the opportunity to reach fully informed judgments about a matter of incalculably grave consequence.

    Would many supporters of the war have been opposed had Bush, Cheney, and Powell been more candid? Not in my case. In a post-9/11 world, Saddam’s defiant behavior and the risk of Iraq’s acquiring nuclear weapons would have provided a casus belli even had I known everything Bush knew. (I might well have had a different view, however, had I also known that Saddam’s WMD were mostly a mirage.)

I would not have had a different view had I known the WMDs did not exist, although I concede that others may reasonably differ. I think forcible regime change in Iraq was the right thing to do and ASAP was the right time to do it.

I am gratified that the administration is pursuing a multilateral approach to restructuring the “greater Middle East”, which should reduce some of the din caused by those who accuse it of unnecessarily alienating allies with the invasion. But the fact that the “allies” most vocally alienated – Russia, Germany, France – have been implicated in their own Iraqi scandal regarding the U.N oil for food program very much calls into question the principles of their “principled refusal” to support the invasion.

    How far Bush and Cheney have fallen short of reasonably full disclosure is a question on which the independent commission now being formed should provide timely guidance for voters. Whether Bush and Cheney were candid enough to be entrusted with another term is a question that voters must answer for themselves.

I agree – but for me, the importance of the war on terror and the administration’s commitment to it, SO FAR answers that question in the affirmative. I do not have the sense that Kerry shares the same sense of urgency nor commitment to carry the war forward.

I would appreciate a lot more candor from the administration, though: if you’re making a judgment call, tell us that’s what you’re doing. Trust us.

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
  • shaun

    From the written records of CHARLES PINCKNEY of South Carolina, of the proceedings during the drafting of the Constitution in 1789 concerning the statement of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN at the convention concerning Jewish immigration. (Original in the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.)

  • anand


    If I am a parrot, I’m flattered you think I’m “near-perfect.” I have often admired parrots, especially the big macaws. I must confess, however, that I too have never read Chomsky past a cursory glance at his theories on the news-media. I’m not a true scholar, and base my statements on what I observe in the news, readings that interest me, and my personal experience of the world.

    I find it interesting that you’re able to so easily dismiss colonialism, but you didn’t back up your statistics, or really answer my points in any meaningful way. I also have to protest your scoring, ’cause the Cheney-Haliburton connection should be well into the double-digits, percentage-wise.

    War on terror for money? Maybe not, but how you or anyone else can conflate attacking Iraq with the war on terror amazes me. There is no evidence of a bonafide Al-Queda connection. All I’ve seen are reports of supposed communication, which proves nothing, and there is plenty of evidence that Hussein had a deep distrust of the religious zealots.

    The War on Terror is another matter altogether. I think you can put it in the same bin with the War on Drugs in terms of efficacy.

    As for your parting shot, I do not believe that US = evil. The harm we have inflicted upon the world in our attempts to run it has been great, but our attempts, mainly non-gov, to help have been surpassed by none. I firmly believe that in the US, as well as the rest of the world, the majority of people are primarily interested in living peaceably, and think about politics like they think about the weather.

    There is a lot of arrogance in this country. That’s not really disputable. As I said, it’s natural for those on top to posess arrogance. What gets me all riled up is the general lack of insight and perspective.

    I have a fairly firm belief that what is true once will be true and again again, and I’ll just say the word Rome.

    If you don’t think that the American empire exists, well . . . I’m not sure what other proof you need. The names I mentioned are just the tip of the ice-berg.


    I think you have a good point about the WMD paranoia not being limited to the Bush camp, and I could understand making rash decisions under the pressure of post 9/11 America, but as we have learned, Iraq was already on the table. In my view, the decision to go to war was rash at best. Given that most of the people I know were predicting this outcome months before the bombing began, I don’t think it is excusable. Our government should know better.

    I don’t really believe that governing through stealth and deception is acceptable, and to support Hussein as long as we did was criminal. Stalin is an . . . interesting . . . example of succesful foreign policy. Forgive my ignorance, but was his leadership in question at the time?

    Anyhoo, it’s a pleasure to chaw on this with y’all. I’m off to sharpen my beak.

  • Eric Olsen

    Though we differ, that was very reasonable Manny.

  • shaun

    Does anyone know what company has been contracted to rebuild iraq. If you do than you know nothing that lying piece of crap cheney said can be trusted

  • Manny J

    Taylor is very on-target. I find it bizarre that this, of all things, should be the event that melted Bush’s teflon coating.

    It was David Kay’s report and testimony that finally convinced the holdouts that there were no WMDs — but Kay also said that everyone in the intelligence community, Republican, Democratic, or French, sincerely believed there were. He also said that he personally didn’t know anyone who changed their reports because of Administration pressure.

    And in fact, a cursory websearch reveals nobody willing to say that they were so pressured. Cheney’s repeated visits to the CIA and his demands to see their original sources sound like an ATTEMPT to pressure the analysts, but nobody has come forward and said they bent under that pressure and changed their reports. The tone of the NIE changed following Cheney’s visit — but at most, that is a matter of emphasis, not facts. The Administration did not lie, and apparently did not make anyone lie, about Iraq’s breaches.

    Now, they lied about other things related to this war (I’m not even going to start on unrelated lies, like “we can reduce the deficit by 50% while increasing spending and cutting taxes”). Was Saddam Hussein an “imminent” threat, as spokesmen agreed, or an “immediate” threat, as Bush himself announced? No, according to all the intelligence experts. He had WMDs, but was containable. I suppose one could call this a matter of judgment, rather than a lie. But judgment should be based on something, and it is clear that Bush was determined to have this war since at least 9/12, and his advisors had wanted it for years before. So any claim that Bush & Co. carefully looked at the evidence in 2002 and said, ‘yup, imminent threat,’ is horse-puckey.

    And then, of course, they lied about having ever said such things, or meant them as major arguments in favor of war. None of this seems to have bothered America much. Instead, the outrage is focused on the one quite reasonable and honest thing they did –which was to make the same wrong call as everyone else.

    There are times that I agree with P.T. Barnum. Which way to the egress, anyone?

    BTW, I disagree with Eric on the necessity of ousting Saddam. Especially just then. We had every right to take him out, and some reason, surely. He was a scumbag, and in material breach of our agreements, and our enemy.

    But so was Stalin, and we managed to use him against Hitler. I think we missed a golden opportunity to play Iraq against its theocratic neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia, which are the real terrorist hotbeds. Saddam always preferred being our client to being our enemy, which is why he cleared his invasion of Kuwait with Glaspie.

    Instead, we are well on the way towards turning Iraq into another Afghanistan. This seems unhelpful, especially when we needed the troops for Afghanistan.

    Well, we’ll see. Trompling Iraq seems to have had a salutary effect on Libya and Iran, so we may manage to pull a meaningful win out of this one yet.

  • Eric Olsen

    Yes it does, that is an excellent point, Hal! Note my stats were in the 90-95% range – there is some truth almost everywhere. If nothing else, as the Chinese say, “There is truth in lies about the liar.”

  • While I’ve never read anything by Chomsky – not a page, not a paragraph – don’t you think the statement once made about George W. Bush might apply to Chomsky:

    “Some things are true even if [Chomsky] believes them.” ~ Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks, but re the email, you flatter yourself.

    Like you said, so much to say, but we have been discussing Chomsky and you are a near-perfect parrot, so I will just say post-colonialism is 90% horseshit, the U.S. as a colonial power (since at least WWll) is 90% horseshit, the “war on terror for money” argument is 95% horseshit (I don’t like the Cheney-Haliburton connection either, hence the 5%), etc. In short, the amount of “arrogance and ignorance” in the above comment is staggering indeed. The world of Noam is a wondrous thing: if it’s US, it’s evil.

  • anand

    Sorry for the long post, there’s so much to say about this.

    What puzzles me about most of the discourse on this matter is the degree to which people give our leaders the benefit of the doubt. Why should we trust them?

    Bush and Cheney are no different from their true power base, put succinctly, the Enron-Haliburton crowd. As a group these men have shown that they are perfectly willing to skew and invent facts and numbers to suit their selfish and greedy purposes. If we examine Iraq from this standpoint, it seems obvious that a similar deception has occured. They cooked the intelligence the same way Enron cooked the books. So what did they stand to gain?

    Let’s see.

    $ 85 billion in war contracts this year alone, the huge inflation of the military budget, a more solid hold on Iraqi AND Saudi oil, and the massive bump in popular support that follows any war, no matter how well justified, are just a few things that come to mind.

    If you add to that the massive deficit, the new trade agreements, the tax cuts, Cheney’s energy commision scandal . . . it looks more and more like an all out run for the money.

    Even holding that aside, doesn’t anyone have an awareness of how our attempts at foreign intervention have gone in the past? Do the names Mobuto, Qadafi, Amin, and Noriega ring a bell? Wasn’t Hussein part of the same larger crowd of puppet dictators set up to secure post-colonial nations for the US during the cold war?

    This is well-documented, folks. The US decided that it was too dangerous to let these countries develop on their own given the “communist threat.” Instead of giving aid and trying to guide them towards democracy and free-market capitalism, the dictators were installed. It probably seemed the more affordable, less uncertain way, since men are easily ruled by greed and fear, and less easily by reason.

    Of course, these methods “worked” only as long as the USSR existed, and I don’t think I’m going very far out on a limb to suggest that the havoc these men and their ilk wrought on their people has as much to do with the rise of terroism as anything else, unless you want to get into a larger discussion of colonialism.

    All this talk about moral justification seems like shallow rationalization. If the US was really interested in helping the people of Iraq, we could have done so with constructive economic tactics years ago (rather than sanctions, which are no more constructive or humane than bombing civilians, oh, and we did that too).

    It’s not uncomomon for powerful nations to rationalize their brutal, self-interested colonial behavior. Throughout history, it has been great fuel for zealots and ideologues. In the age of American dominance we have managed to inject an ambiguous liberating moral democracy into the fuel. The amount of arrogance and ignorance in this country is staggering, to put it mildly.

    Yes, Hussein was horrible, and I’m sure his removal was welcome to most Iraqis. However, what has followed is the real test of our motives, and it doesn’t look like we’re doing very well. Didn’t plan well enough? B.S. Seems more like certain people in control DECIDED not to listen to wisdom, common sense, or the MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WORLDWIDE who were asking them to slow down. Doing so would not have served their purposes. As a result, the country is in ruins, and our credibility throughout the world is shot.

    Of course, the general methods of these people do not inspire any confidence that they even care. Do I have to remind anyone that Cheney actually had to be told that it wasn’t acceptable to be on the Haliburton payroll while serving as second-in-command? Isn’t that, like, Civics 101?

    Not like that stopped him. They’re just saving his paycheck till he comes back out the ol’ revolving door, and he’s certainly delivered well enough to justify the expense.

    BTW Just so nobody wastes any time, I don’t check this email address, so save your hate mail.

  • shaun

    i totally agree that we should not leave now. that is about the only thing that we could do worse than we already have

  • Being “still there” is a different issue.

    The US screwed up and got in for the wrong reasons, but that means that the departure has to be handled especially well.

    The idea of selecting a governing council then having that American-selected body select American-approved regional representatives who would select assemblies who would select a governing body for the country does not represent “bringing democracy to the Middle East.” The US must do better than that.

    The politically-driven deadline of June is just plain stupid, when the departure should be based on conditions in Iraq rather than on an approaching election in the US. Anything else simply devalues the US even more.

  • Eric Olsen

    Shaun, I agree that we did not plan well enough for post-invasion Iraq and that has caused us additional problems, but we are still committed to following through and that is why we are still there, as we should be.

  • Oops – typo: Make that “9/15/01”

  • PS: In those early days, Cheney was a good guy as far as Iraq and Saddam went according to Woodward:

    p. 91: [9/15/03] “[Cheney said:] ‘If we go after Saddam Hussein, we lose our rightful place as good guy.’

    “Cheney thus joined Powell, Tenet and Card in opposing action on Iraq.”

    He was right.

  • You don’t think that the neos are political?


    Oh, and there’s the other thing in Woodward’s book, about how the possibility of getting bogged down in Afghanistan wouldn’t play well, so they should find an easier target, “which put Iraq back on the table” (pp. 82-83).

  • Eric Olsen

    How do you get from “had plans to remove Saddam” to “did it for domestic political reasons”? I thought they did it for ideological reasons, according to your usual statements.

  • shaun

    ERIC, please tell me you are joking. The reason we are losing troops is because we didn’t have plans to rebulid. The chaos over there that was caused by us is not be controlled properly due to poor planning. They have no police over there our don’t deal with normal issues like the police would, thesoldiers that re over there were trained to attack not to be political peace makers. Bush did nothing to prepare for post war iraq

  • Eric: No, I don’t.


    Personally, I don’t think it’s right to cause Americans to die for domestic political reasons. I despise this administration for doing that.

    I guess that’s another place we differ.

  • Eric Olsen

    If we had no plans to help rebuild Iraq we would have been long gone by now. It is exactly this commitment that is now causing daily casualties among our armed forces. But this commitment is just as critical as Saddam’s ouster, maybe more so. This is what we must do differently from the first Gulf War: we must close the loop this time.

  • shaun

    your right, it was a good thing to rid the world of saddam, but what gave us the right to do so. One of bush’s own cabinet members admitted that he had plans of going into iraq before 9/11, that just gave him a better excuse. The choice to go into iraq should have been a UN decision, but arrogant America, they didn’t (cause it was wrong) we wnt in anyways, with no plans to help rebuild iraq. This is why we we are hated around the world. What reasons did we have to go in their at this time. Was he a threat? Not really when compared to someone such as north korea, but iraq was easier to pick on

  • Eric Olsen

    No, I don’t. Saddam should have been tossed on his ass in ’91 – his forcible ouster would have been appropriate at ANY time after that. That the administration understood the need to finish unfinished business is a positive, not negative, thing.

  • It was political, to further a neoconservative agenda that was being heavily pushed in the mid- to late-1990s (no, it wasn’t a ‘conspiracy’, it was a publicized plan).

    Bob Woodward tells us in “Bush At War” how it was kicked off on 9/12 – yes, the day after 9/11 – by Rumsfeld:

    p. 49: [this occurs on September 12th] “Rumsfeld raised the question of Iraq. Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just al Qaeda? … Rumsfeld was raising the possibility that they could take advantage of the opportunity offered by the terrorist attacks to go after Saddam immediately.”

    We know how that worked out.

    Don’t you find it totally beyond the pale? Especially in light of the hundreds of thousands of lives risked and all the lives lost because it?

    I do.

  • Had Bush been honest about the reasons for invading Iraq, the invasion very likely would not have happened.

    Hal, what reasons are those? I am just curious because I have heard lots of people come up with lots of reasons.

  • I think forcible regime change in Iraq was the right thing to do and ASAP was the right time to do it.

    You’re entitled.

    And it may even have been “a good thing” to dump Saddam.

    But using 9/11 and the War on Terror as the excuses for doing so is despicable.

    Had Bush been honest about the reasons for invading Iraq, the invasion very likely would not have happened.