Did Bush Make Mistakes in Good Faith?
When we watch a video of Bush being informed of the danger of Hurricane
Katrina and recall that he claimed that there was no way he could have
known of that danger, our faith in his good intentions may be shaken.
And when we learn that Bush has long since authorized wiretapping without
court approval, what are we to make of his public statements (such as
last June 9, or July 14, 2004, or April 20, 2004) when he reassured us
that all wiretapping requires court approval?
Our President says the United States does not torture, but he's been
informed that it does because even if he doesn't read newspapers,
reporters have asked him and his press secretary about specific
cases. When Bush signed a bill banning torture he added a signing
statement claiming the right to keep torturing. Yet he says he
doesn't torture. How should we characterize that statement?
It's clearly not the truth.
On dozens of issues, it is possible to call into question Bush's
veracity, but it is on the issue of the war that we most often hear cries
of "Bush Lied. Thousands Died." In response, we
often hear that Bush meant well, that he honestly thought there were WMDs
and ties to 9-11, or at least that there was a chance that there might
Bush hasn't so much as apologized for supposedly making mistakes, the way
the Prime Minister of Australia did today. But did Bush simply make
Let's look at the evidence.
The Iraq War can be considered a legal war only if it was fought in self
defense. It was not authorized by the United Nations, which is the
only other way to legalize a war.
And the Iraq War can be considered Constitutional only if Congress
provided proper authorization. Congress did pass a resolution, but
contrary to the Constitution, it did not authorize war. It
authorized the President to authorize war should he choose to do so,
provided he met certain conditions.
The resolution said that Bush could use force to "(1) defend the
national security of the United States against the continuing threat
posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security
Council Resolutions regarding Iraq."
Congress required that Bush submit in writing his reasons why a war was
Bush sent Congress a letter and a report three years ago this coming
Saturday, two days before launching the war. In it he claimed that
by attacking Iraq he was defending the US against a threat from
Iraq. He also made reference to UN resolutions, but he had not been
able to obtain a UN resolution authorizing war, and the resolution
regarding inspections would have been best enforced by not pulling out
the inspectors and starting a war.
In the report he sent to Congress, Bush made a number of claims. In
some cases he said he was citing findings of Congress, but he was
actually just citing claims his administration had previously made to
Congress. He said that Iraq was harboring and aiding terrorist
organizations threatening the United States, including al Qaeda, that
Iraq was threatening the United States with long range missiles and
unmanned aerial vehicles, and that Iraq had chemical and biological
weapons and was developing nuclear weapons.
For some of the above claims, Bush cited as a source his own
speeches. For others he cited Colin Powell's UN presentation.
And, in fact, there are people today in America who think Bush might not
have been 100% straight with us, but that Powell certainly was.
Sadly, Powell's own State Department had warned him that most of the
claims he was going to make in that presentation would not even be found
plausible by UN inspectors. I've detailed those warnings in another
Bush also made the same claims he made in his report to Congress in
public statements on television. Congressman Waxman has an online
database of misleading statements by Bush Administration officials.
It contains 55 statements by Bush, including dramatic warnings about
mushroom clouds, and for each one an explanation of why it was
Bush's claims regarding chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and
ties to Al Qaeda were not backed up by evidence, and Bush had been
informed of that fact.
In early October 2002, Murray Waas of the National Journal reports, Bush
was given a one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate that
discussed whether Saddam's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes
was for the purpose of developing a nuclear weapon. This summary
stated that the Energy Department and the State Department's Bureau of
Intelligence and Research believed that the tubes were "intended for
conventional weapons." The White House had bullied the CIA
into claiming otherwise, leaked classified info to the New York Times,
and blitzed the talk shows the next day to make those claims, never
mentioning the refusal of the Energy Department or the State Department
to play along.
Also in early 2003, Bush was given a summary of a National Intelligence
Estimate focusing on whether Saddam Hussein would launch an unprovoked
attack on the United States, either directly, or indirectly by working
with terrorists. The report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies
unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack
the United States -- except if "ongoing military operations risked
the imminent demise of his regime" or if he intended to
"extract revenge" for such an assault. The State
Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, this summary said,
believed that the Iraqi leader was "unlikely to conduct clandestine
attacks against the U.S. homeland even if [his] regime's demise is
On at least four earlier occasions, beginning in the spring of 2002, Bush
was informed during his morning intelligence briefing that U.S.
intelligence agencies believed it was unlikely that Iraq was an imminent
threat to the United States.
For the most part we do not know what was in Bush's daily
briefings. The White House has refused to reveal them even to
select members of Congress. Was he told that Powell's own
department had warned him that the mobile weapons labs were actually
water trucks? Was he told that the Germans had warned that their
source, known as "Curveball," was unreliable and not worth
listening to? Judging by what we know he was told, it seems very
likely that he was also informed of these and similar concerns. In
some cases he was put on notice when he or his press secretary was asked
about them by reporters.
Much of the basis for the claims of WMDs made by Powell and Bush was the
testimony of Hussein Kamel, yet they consistently neglected to mention
that Kamel had said all the WMDs he was describing had been destroyed
years ago. This was public knowledge, for those who sought it out.
Other than the aluminum tubes fraud, the evidence behind the mushroom
cloud threat consisted of a claim that Iraq had attempted to purchase
uranium from Niger. In early 2002, nearly a year before Bush made
that claim in his State of the Union address, a high-level intelligence
assessment by his administration concluded that the sale of uranium from
Niger to Iraq was "unlikely." We don't know whether that
assessment was shown to Bush, but we do know that the claim was inserted
in and then removed from the text of previous Bush speeches. And we
know, as with Iran, that even if Iraq really had been trying to develop
nuclear weapons it would have been years away from being able to use
Some of us also remember Bush promising to fire anyone in the White House
involved in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame to punish her husband
for exposing the uranium hoax. I guess that promise was an honest
When Bush made his formal report to Congress explaining why hundreds of
thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars needed to be
wasted, he had an obligation to make sure he was telling the truth.
Instead, he made baseless claims, claims that would not have met the
standard required to obtain a search warrant, much less justify a
war. Bush engaged in a reckless disregard for the truth.
That's the legal definition of fraud, and defrauding Congress is a
How do we know Bush had no regard for the truth? Because he told
Diane Sawyer so on television. She asked him after the war was
underway about his WMD claims, and he replied: "What's the
difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If
he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger."
The WMDs it turns out were not just fictional, they were also not the
reason for the war. In fact, we know that Bush had been intent on
going to war with Iraq since before he moved to Washington, and that Bush
and his staff worked hard to concoct justifications for doing so.
We know this from Sir Richard Dearlove's report in the Downing Street
Memo and from related documents.
Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says Bush was planning war and
regime change in January 2001.
In March of 2002, Bush was reported as saying "F--- Saddam, we're
taking him out."
Former national security official Richard Clarke says Bush told him on
Sept. 12th, 2001, to find reasons to attack Iraq.
On September 20th, Tony Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from
the war on terror. Bush replied, "I agree with you Tony. We
must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we
must come back to Iraq."
The White House Memo from January 2003, which was leaked this year,
records Bush telling Blair that "It was also possible that a
defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about
Saddam's WMD." That sounds like the comment of someone who
knew he needed more evidence.
Bush also told Blair that "The US would put its full weight behind
efforts to get another [UN] resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even
threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military
action would follow anyway.'' That doesn't sound like someone
working for peace but honestly fooled into believing Iraq was a
threat. That sounds more like someone searching for a way to start
Bush also said that "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance
aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam
fired on them, he would be in breach." I can think of two
explanations for this comment. Either Blair had brought the cast of
Monty Python to the meeting or Bush was trying to provoke a war with a
nation that he found a lot less terrifying than he let on publicly.
In the end it seems clear that Bush did not meet the conditions required
by Congress for launching the war. He launched a war without proper
Congressional authorization, intentionally mislead Congress, and launched
a war that was not in self-defense and not authorized by the U.N.
Had a few or even all of the mythical vast stockpiles of WMDs existed,
that would not have legalized the war. If that were enough to
legalize a war, then it would be legal for any nation to attack the
United States tomorrow. To fight in self-defense, Iraq had to be an
immediate threat, Iraq had to be attacking the US. But Bush and
Blair knew, as revealed in the Downing Street Memo, that Iraq was not a
threat even to its neighbors.
The abuse of power when a President launches an aggressive war is the
most serious possible high crime and misdemeanor.
And what do we do with people who commit high crimes and misdemeanors?
Impeachment is rolling across this country like a flood. Towns and
cities are passing resolutions. Citizens are lobbying their states
to send impeachment charges to Congress. Thus far 30 Congress
Members are backing House Resolution 635 to create an investigation into
grounds for impeachment.
The Senate can't impeach, but today Senator Feingold introduced a
resolution to censure Bush for his illegal wiretapping. And that
helps us move toward impeachment. As evidence, I'll offer the fact
that I did radio interviews all day and have them booked all day tomorrow
on the topic of impeachment, all thanks to Feingold.
Polls show majority support for impeachment, which is remarkable given
the low level of media coverage thus far. But most of the people in
that majority probably do not know they are a majority.
The University of Virginia's Larry Sabato was quoted in the Dallas
Morning News saying "Impeachment is not likely to gain political
traction. Only hard-core Democratic partisans [support it]."
A friend of mine, Brad Friedman, hosts a radio show and asked Sabato if
he had any evidence for that claim. He did not.
This past weekend, Sabato was quoted in the Toronto Star saying Bush has
faced some big "screw-ups" that have cost him. "The
question on the street, from people who are not necessarily political, is
whether the president is competent."
I'm guessing Sabato has no evidence for this one either. I am not
upset about incompetence. I'm interested in the President's
criminality, his dishonesty, his cruelty, and the lives and the families
and the cities he has destroyed.
We must impeach Bush, not because he is incompetent, but because he is a
danger to the world.