Man, does Rick Esenberg hate those "Bush Lied, People Died" bumper stickers.
From Shark and Shepherd:
My second post ("Being serious ...) was prompted by commenters who repeated the slander that "Bush lied and people died." If you believe that, I do think that you are either misinformed or hopelessly partisan; even not serious.
As those familiar with intertron traditions know, nothing is worse than being called "not serious."
But people also know that saying something is a slander doesn't make it so.
The Brawler supposes that people like Esenberg would make the argument that, "Bush was acting on the best intelligence available. Obviously in hindsight it was the wrong decision. Iraq did not have WMDs But presidents, particularly in wake of 9/11, sometimes must make difficult choices with the information they have, imperfect as it may be."
But the thing is, Bush and other members of his administration made statements to drum up support for war that exaggerated the strength of the intelligence for those claims or in some cases were contradicted by the available intelligence. And, as for the claim, "Well, the CIA said..." It's still not clear to what extent the Bush Administration i.e. Dick Cheney pushed the agency to take a harder line in its assessment of the threat that Iraq presented.
Fred Kaplan on the the mellifluously titled "Senate Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq By U.S. Government Officials Were Substantiated By Intelligence Information" :
Some of the officials' claims, the committee concludes, were "substantiated by available intelligence information." This was the case for allegations about Iraq's biological weapons facilities, its ballistic-missile programs, and its support for terrorist groups other than al-Qaida.
In several instances, the claims were backed by the intelligence estimate's majority view but were disputed by some of the agencies. (An NIE is a consensus product, put together by the nation's 16 intelligence agencies; if some of the agencies disagree on some point, they often file a dissenting footnote.) This was the case for the claims that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program and that it was building unmanned aerial vehicles for the purpose of dropping biological weapons on Americans and our allies. The Senate report chides the officials for failing, at times willfully, to take these dissents into account.
On a few other issues, officials made claims with great confidence, whereas the intelligence reports expressed considerable uncertainty. This was the case for claims about chemical-weapons production and the prospects of postwar stability.
Finally, several claims had no basis in, or were even contradicted by, the official intelligence reports. These include the claim that Saddam Hussein intended to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, that he had a partnership with al-Qaida, that he had WMD facilities in deep underground bunkers, and that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence officers in Prague in 2001.
It is worth noting that the claims that reflected U.S. intelligence—on biological weapons, ballistic missiles, and support for non-al-Qaida terrorist groups—were, while serious, not the sorts of threats that would rally a nation to war. Meanwhile, the claims that did galvanize support for the invasion—on nuclear weapons and alliances with al-Qaida—either exaggerated or falsified the intelligence of the day.
For example, page 15 of the Senate report notes that Cheney in September 2002 stated there was "irrefutable evidence" that Iraq had reconstituted nuclear weapons -- a claim supported by some agencies but questioned by others (State, DoE). Page 16 notes that Cheney asserted Iraq could, unless stopped, create a nuke in one to three years (Meet the Press, March 16, 2003). That contradicted findings of the NIE,which said it would take Iraq 5 to 7 years or, in a more unlikely scenario in which it obtained fissile materials, 3 to 5 years.
And of course, Bush would also make statements that went beyond the findings of available intelligence: "And he (Saddam) is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon." (10/7/02). "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball,it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." (10/7/02)
One could go on (the Senate report does for 170-plus pages) but you get the picture. The administration made scads of scaremongering statements about Iraq going nuclear to drum up support for the war -- the only way they could drum up support for the war -- and none of these very specific statements were supported by intelligence that possessed remotely the authority the president or his lieutenants suggested (and yes, hanging Cheney's statements on Bush is 100 percent fair given that Bush is the decider).
Now, it's entirely possible that Bush et al deeply and seriously believed that Iraq was an existential threat and they believed that the intelligence they had proved that -- or that future evidence would come to light. (Or that evidence that contradicted their assertions, such as Hans Blix making hash of their certainties weeks before the war, didn't deserve to be taken seriously.) But in making their case to the American people -- who did not necessarily share the decade-old dream of many administration figures in taking down Saddam -- I think that any serious person who looks at the record would have to agree they exaggerated the strength of their case and their information.
A lie is defined by my Webster's II as "a false statement purposely put forward as truth; falsehood;something meant to deceive or give a false impression."
If the slander fits, put it on a bumper sticker.
here we go