Another lie on Iraq
WHEN President Bush declared last week that "nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered" the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a large segment of the American public must have been very surprised.
They would be the die-hard supporters of the war in Iraq, the one-quarter to one-third of Americans who, according to opinion polls, believe to this day that Saddam was somehow involved in 9/11.
No one likes to think that their President is lying, but for Mr. Bush to casually reverse five years of rhetoric is like Bill Clinton claiming "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
No, there is no DNA evidence that we know of to indict Mr. Bush for perjury. But the public record includes repeated statements by the President, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other administration officials that linked responsibility for the 9/11 attacks to Iraq, both directly and indirectly.
The alleged connection was the administration's strongest selling point for the war, slaking the American people's thirst for revenge for the 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
As Mr. Bush put it on Oct. 7, 2002, "We know that Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy - the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al-Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. … We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases."
Here he is again, in his 2003 State of the Union address: "And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda."
And in his "Mission Accomplished" photo op, May 1, 2003: "In the war on terror, Iraq is now the central front."
Mr. Cheney was even more specific: In 2003, the vice president claimed that the government was learning "more and more" about links, before 9/11, between Iraq and al-Qaeda. This came even after the CIA had debunked any such claims. In 2004, the veep said flatly that Saddam "had long-established ties with al-Qaeda."
Now, you can argue all day about whether faulty U.S. intelligence misled Mr. Bush, or about what the meaning of "suggested" is, but this much is clear: The administration relentlessly blurred what was a clear distinction between the militantly secular regime of Saddam and Islamic extremists like the 9/11 hijackers so as to create a laser-beam connection in the public mind that they were one and the same.
So for Mr. Bush to now claim that "nobody has ever suggested" that the Sept. 11 attacks were ordered by Iraq, as he did last week, is yet another lie in the chain of mendacity that shackles the Bush presidency.
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