Wednesday, January 23, 2008

They lied. No one could have predicted that.

I'll just bold the vital statistics:

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded 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."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said he could not comment on the study because he had not seen it.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "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."

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.

"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," the study concluded.

"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 said.

In January of 2002 I went into private practice. Earlier the previous fall, in the wake of September 11's tragic events, my co-workers and I had discussed the fact they America intended to go after Iraq as retribution. I thought at the time that was a positively ridiculous proposition, but as history kept unfolding it became clear to me that was exactly what my government intended to do: start an unprovoked war on a completely distinct, uninvolved third party based on a web of deception so thorough that even members of the so-called liberal media (Judith Miller, anyone?) were complicit.

In the discussion fora I was participating in at the time, I remember not only the dismay of trying to speak out against the massive , foolish rush to war and the intoxicated patriotic fervor everywhere I looked ("God Bless America", anyone?), but also the steadfast refusal to consider that the course we were on might be misguided. I remember being accused of treason many times simply for speaking out.

As more developments came to light, we learned -- eventually -- that the Bush administration took the word of an Iraqi ("Curveball") over the advice of a former United States ambassador, and then went out of their way to discredit him by revealing his wife to be a undercover CIA agent.

And then there were the (occasional) unintended consequences: the torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib, the detention without charge of suspected prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay, the no-bid contracts of Halliburton, the loss of life of our brave soldiers who went to war without proper body armor or vehicular plating, the travesty of the poor treatment of our battle-wounded within the veterans' so-called health care system ...

What did I leave out?

Oh, yeah: the refusal of a Democratic Congressional majority elected to do something about it not doing anything about it.

These sad developments compelled many Americans to make the second-most ultimate sacrifice: max out their credit cards, then take out home equity loans to pay them off, then run them up again, all the while keeping their eyes peeled for any distraction from reality, such as American Idol or Dancing With the Stars. It forced mortgage lending companies to bend the rules in order to keep the stock market up and the rest of the economy humming, and it also forced the Bush Administration to cut the taxes for the wealthiest Americans so that they could prop up America's best restaurants and luxury auto dealers.

Everyone has to make sacrifices during a time of war, after all.

But geez, things are still kind of, you know, turning bad a little. So the Fed cuts the funds rate again so that the markets don't drop quite as much and Bush says he'll send us a check for 300 bucks and the surge is working, so hey, maybe we gon' be awright after all.

Ya think?

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