Editorial: Truth / Too little of it on Iraq
is not a public relations man for the Bush administration,
not a spinmeister nor a political operative. He's
the vice president of the United States, and when
he speaks in public, which he rarely does, he owes
the American public the truth.
In his appearance
on "Meet the Press" Sunday, Cheney fell woefully
short of truth. On the subject of Iraq, the same
can be said for President Bush, Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.
But Cheney is the latest example of administration
mendacity, and therefore a good place to start in
holding the administration accountable. The list:
• Cheney repeated the mantra that the nation
ignored the terrorism threat before Sept. 11. In
fact, President Bill Clinton and his counterterrorism
chief, Richard Clarke, took the threat very seriously,
especially after the bombing of the USS Cole in
October 2000. By December, Clarke had prepared plans
for a military operation to attack Osama bin Laden
in Afghanistan, go after terrorist financing and
work with police officials around the world to take
down the terrorist network.
was to leave office in a few weeks, he decided against
handing Bush a war in progress as he worked to put
a new administration together.
briefed national security adviser Condoleezza Rice,
Cheney and others. He emphasized that time was short
and action was urgent. The Bush administration sat
on the report for months and months. The first high-level
discussion took place on Sept. 4, 2001, just a week
before the attacks. The actions taken by the Bush
administration following Sept. 11 closely parallel
actions recommended in Clarke's nine-month-old plan.
Who ignored the threat?
• Cheney said that
"we don't know" if there is a connection between
Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
He's right only in the sense that "we don't know"
if the sun will come up tomorrow. But all the evidence
available says it will -- and that Iraq was not
involved in Sept. 11.
Cheney offered stuff,
but it wasn't evidence. He said that one of those
involved in planning the attack, an Iraqi-American,
had returned to Iraq after the attack and had been
protected, perhaps even supported, by Saddam Hussein.
That proves exactly nothing about Iraq's links to
the attack itself.
Cheney also cited a supposed
meeting in Prague between hijacker Mohamed Atta
and a senior Iraqi intelligence officer -- but the
FBI concluded that Atta was in Florida at the time
of the supposed meeting. The CIA always doubted
the story. And according to a New York Times article
on Oct. 21, 2002, Czech President Vaclav Havel "quietly
told the White House he has concluded that there
is no evidence to confirm earlier reports" of such
Moreover, the United States now
has in custody the agent accused of meeting with
Atta. Even though he must know how much he would
benefit by simply saying, "Yes, I met Atta in Prague,"
there has been no announcement by the administration
trumpeting that vindication of its belief in an
Iraq-Sept. 11 link.
• In trying to make that
link, Cheney baldly asserted that Iraq is the "geographic
base" for those who struck the United States on
Sept. 11. No, that would be Afghanistan.
• On weapons of mass destruction, Cheney made a
number of statements that were misleading or simply
false. For example, he said the United States knew
Iraq had "500 tons of uranium." Well, yes, and so
did the U.N. inspectors. What Cheney didn't say
is that the uranium was low-grade waste from nuclear
energy plants, and could not have been useful for
weapons without sophisticated processing that Iraq
was incapable of performing.
said, "To suggest that there is no evidence [in
Iraq] that [Saddam] had aspirations to acquire nuclear
weapons, I don't think is valid." It's probably
not valid; Saddam wanted nuclear weapons. But Cheney
is changing the subject: The argument before the
war wasn't Saddam's aspirations; it was Saddam's
active program to build nuclear weapons.
Cheney also said "a gentleman" has come forward
"with full designs for a process centrifuge system
to enrich uranium and the key parts that you need
to build such a system." That would be scientist
Mahdi Obeidi, who had buried the centrifuge pieces
in his back yard -- in 1991. Obeidi insisted that
Iraq hadn't restarted its nuclear weapons program
after the end of the first Gulf War. The centrifuge
pieces might have signaled a potential future threat,
but they actually disprove Cheney's prewar assertion
that Iraq had, indeed, "reconstituted" its nuclear-weapons
Cheney also said he put great store
in the ongoing search for Saddam's WMD program:
"We've got a very good man now in charge of the
operation, David Kay, who used to run UNSCOM [the
U.N. inspection effort]." In fact, Kay did not run
UNSCOM; for one year he was the chief inspector
for the International Atomic Energy Agency's team
But it's funny Cheney should mention
Kay. Last summer, the leader of the 1,400-person
team searching for WMD expressed great confidence
that they would find what they were looking for.
He said he wouldn't publicize discoveries piecemeal
but would submit a comprehensive report in mid-September.
Apparently he has submitted the report to George
Tenet at the CIA. The question now is whether it
will ever be made public; several reports in the
press have suggested that Kay has come up way short.
In five months, 1,400 experts haven't found the
WMD locations that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
said before the war were well-known to the United
Cheney also said that an investigation
by the British had "revalidated the British claim
that Saddam was, in fact, trying to acquire uranium
in Africa -- what was in the State of the Union
speech." The British investigation did nothing of
the kind. A parliamentary investigative committee
said the documents on the uranium are being reinvestigated,
but that, based on the existence of those documents,
the Blair government made a "reasonable" assertion
and had not tried to deliberately mislead the British
To explore every phony statement
in the vice president's "Meet the Press" interview
would take far more space than is available. This
merely points out some of the most egregious examples.
Opponents of the war are fond of saying that "Bush
lied and our soldiers died." In fact, they'd have
reason to assert that "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and
Wolfowitz lied and our soldiers died." It's past
time the principals behind this mismanaged war were
called to account for their deliberate misstatements.
For information supporting the points made in
this editorial, go to
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