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The Two Biggest Lies of George W. Bush

Dan Froomkin:

The Two Most Essential, Abhorrent, Intolerable Lies Of George W. Bush's Memoir: [T]he two most essential lies -- among the many -- in his new memoir are that he had a legitimate reason to invade Iraq, and that he had a legitimate reason to torture detainees. Neither is remotely true. But Bush must figure that if he keeps making the case for himself -- particularly if it goes largely unrebutted by the traditional media, as it has thus far -- then perhaps he can blunt history's verdict....

In "Decision Points," Bush describes the invasion of Iraq as something he came to support only reluctantly and after a long period of reflection. This is a flat-out lie. Anyone who paid any attention to the news at the time knew Bush was dead-set on war long before he sent in the troops in March 2003. And there is now an abundant amount of documentation, in the form of leaks, unclassified memos, witness interviews and other people's memoirs to prove it.... The only real question is whether he actively deceived the American public and the world -- or whether he was so passionate about selling the public on the war that he intentionally blinded himself to how brazenly Vice President Cheney had politicized and abused the intelligence process....

Bush writes in his memoir that the idea of attacking Iraq came up at a meeting of his national security team at Camp David, four days after the 9/11 attacks. By his account, it was then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who "suggested that we consider confronting Iraq as well as the Taliban." Bush writes that he eventually decided that "[u]nless I received definitive evidence tying Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 plot I would work to resolve the Iraq problem diplomatically."... In the first tell-all book from inside Bush's national security team, Richard A. Clarke wrote in 2004 of a meeting he had with Bush the day after 9/11:

The president in a very intimidating way left us, me and my staff, with the clear indication that he wanted us to come back with the word there was an Iraqi hand behind 9/11 because they had been planning to do something about Iraq from before the time they came into office.... I think they had a plan from day one they wanted to do something about Iraq. While the World Trade Center was still smoldering, while they were still digging bodies out, people in the White House were thinking: 'Ah! This gives us the opportunity we have been looking for to go after Iraq.'

Clarke notes that the following day, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complained in a meeting that there were no decent targets for bombing in Afghanistan and that the U.S. should consider bombing Iraq, which had better targets.

At first I thought Rumsfeld was joking. But he was serious and the President did not reject out of hand the idea of attacking Iraq. Instead, he noted that what we needed to do with Iraq was to change the government, not just hit it with more cruise missiles, as Rumsfeld had implied.

Just over two months later, on Nov. 21, 2001, Bush formally instructed Rumsfeld that he wanted to develop a plan for war in Iraq. Sixteen months after that, in March 2003, the invasion began....

That torture is even a subject of debate today is a testament to the devastating effect the Bush administration has had on our concept of morality. And in his book and on his book tour, far from hanging his head in shame, Bush is more explicit and enthusiastic than ever before endorsing one of torture's iconic forms. "Damn right," he quotes himself as saying in response to a CIA request to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. "Had we captured more al Qaeda operatives with significant intelligence value, I would have used the program for them as well."

Bush's two-part argument is simple; That waterboarding was legal (i.e., that it was not really torture); and that it worked. But neither assertion is remotely true. Waterboarding -- essentially controlled drowning -- involves immobilizing someone and pouring water over their mouth and nose in a way that makes them choke. It causes great physical and mental suffering, but leaves no marks. It's not new; villains and despots have been using it extract confessions for something like 700 years. The CIA just perfected it. It is self-evidently, almost definitionally, torture. The U.S. government had always considered it torture. In 1947, the U.S. charged a Japanese officer who waterboarded an American with war crimes. It is flatly a violation of international torture conventions. And as far as I know, no American government official had ever even suggested it wasn't torture until a small handful of lawyers in Bush's supine Justice Department, working under orders from the vice president, claimed otherwise...

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