Ari Fleischer is a liar. He lies about stuff big and small. And as President George W. Bush’s press secretary during the run-up to the Iraq War, he participated in a large effort to exaggerate and misrepresent what the intelligence community believed about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s (negligible) links to al-Qaeda.
But Fleischer does not like it when people point out that he’s a liar, so he took to Twitter on Tuesday night to mark the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and address what is, in his mind, a major tragedy surrounding the war: the fact that people sometimes point out that he and his friends are liars.
Some might argue the real victims of the war are the nearly 300,000 civilians and combatants killed due to an unnecessary invasion, but Fleischer would rather focus on his and his colleagues’ hurt feelings.
Fine. Let’s focus there. Fleischer is, once again, lying — and lying about the times his colleagues lied. There were numerous occasions when Bush and his advisers made statements that intelligence agencies knew to be false, both about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and about Iraq President Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent links to al-Qaeda. The term commonly used for making statements that one knows to be false is “lying.”
Mother Jones’s David Corn has been excellent about chronicling specific examples over the years. Here are just a few:
- In October 2002, Bush said that Saddam Hussein had a “massive stockpile” of biological weapons. But as CIA Director George Tenet noted in early 2004, the CIA had informed policymakers it had “no specific information on the types or quantities of weapons agent or stockpiles at Baghdad’s disposal.” The “massive stockpile” was just literally made up.
- In December 2002, Bush declared, “We do not know whether or not [Iraq] has a nuclear weapon.” That was not what the National Intelligence Estimate said. As Tenet would later testify, “We said that Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon and probably would have been unable to make one until 2007 to 2009.” Bush did know whether or not Iraq had a nuclear weapon — and lied and said he didn’t know to hype the threat.
- On CNN in September 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice claimed that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq were “only really suited for nuclear weapons programs.” This was precisely the opposite of what nuclear experts at the Energy Department were saying; they argued that not only was it very possible the tubes were for nonnuclear purposes but that it was very likely they were too. Even more dire assessments about the tubes from other agencies were exaggerated by administration officials — and in any case, the claim that they’re “only really suited” for nuclear weapons is just false.
- On numerous occasions, Vice President Dick Cheney cited a report that 9/11 conspirator Mohamed Atta had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer. He said this after the CIA and FBI concluded that this meeting never took place.
- More generally on the question of Iraq and al-Qaeda, on September 18, 2001, Rice received a memo summarizing intelligence on the relationship, which concluded there was little evidence of links. Nonetheless, Bush continued to claim that Hussein was “a threat because he’s dealing with al-Qaeda” more than a year later.