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Harley Sorensen: The War Built On A Lie

The War Built On A Lie

By Harley Sorensen

Why mince words? These are the facts:

1) President George W. Bush is a liar.

2) Secretary of State Colin Powell is a liar.

3) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is a liar.

4) National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is a liar.

To the above facts we might add these: There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, none were there when our war against Iraq began, and none will be found unless we plant them there.

These are the conclusions one could reasonably reach after reading California Congressman Henry Waxman's web site, the section about forged documents used as a justification for war.

One might also conclude that Waxman has found the smoking gun that could -- and should -- bring down the corrupt Bush Administration.

But, observing the events in Congress last Wednesday, one might conclude further that the Republicans in Congress, by blocking the call for a decent investigation, intend to do their best to see that the Bush Gang is never brought to account for its lying ways.

The sordid truth is that the Bush team lied through its teeth to justify its desire to go to war against Iraq.

This does not surprise me. As long as a year before we started the war, I e-mailed a friend: "Sooner or later Bush will conclude that Saddam has done something horrible, or is about to do something horrible, and the American public will be led to believe we have no choice but to destroy Iraq."

I am not a seer. I have no magical powers that allow me to see the future. But obvious is obvious, and it was obvious long before the war began that Bush would not be satisfied until he could send our young people off to avenge Saddam's attempt to assassinate his father.

The term "weapons of mass destruction" is used these days to cover a multitude of sins. Personally, I believe one "bunker buster" bomb qualifies as such a weapon, or one fighter bomber. But in Bushspeak, a WMD seems to be limited to nuclear devices, biological weapons or chemical weapons.

Before the war, the Bush people sought to provide future cover for their lies by inventing mobile weapons labs. By asserting ahead of time that Saddam's chemical and biological weapons were mobile, the Bushies would have an excuse for not finding them later. They could have been driven off anyway, perhaps to our next target country, Syria or Iran.

Nuclear weapons, on the other hand, cannot be created and then made to disappear so handily, so the Bushies satisfied themselves by "proving" the Iraqis had sought to buy the materials necessary to make nuclear devices.

That "proof" came from our co-conspirators in the war, the British, who said breathlessly that they had uncovered documents that proved the Iraqis had tried to buy uranium from Niger.

So there it was: "proof"! Bush cited this startling "fact" in his 2003 State of the Union address. His merry crew later repeated it and congressmen who believed their president voted in favor of military action against Iraq.

One small problem, however: it was a lie. There was no proof that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger. The documents that "proved" it were forgeries, and not very good forgeries at that. (For instance, they were printed on stationery of a previous Niger regime, and "signed" in part by a guy who had been out of government for more than 10 years. They were so poorly done, Rep. Waxman says, that a simple Google search would have exposed their lack of authenticity.)

That particular Bush lie became public knowledge a few months ago. Now that it's well known, the Bush people are blaming their intelligence agencies. They're throwing up their hands in dismay. Tain't our fault, they say, it's that danged old CIA.

Yeah. Right.

Congressman Waxman, a Democrat who's been in the House since 1974, is focusing his search for truth on one small issue: Why did the president, when he knew it to be untrue, cite the phony uranium-from-Niger fact in his State of the Union Address? So far, after months of trying, Waxman hasn¹t been able to get any satisfactory answers to his question.

Bush's reference to the non-existent uranium deal was a classic of presidential duplicity. What he actually said was, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." That was technically true, as was, "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

Folks, I know we expect politicians to lie to us. There's the old joke: "How can you tell when a politician is lying? … When his lips are moving."

So we expect a little gilding of the lily or shading the truth in an effort to squirm out of an embarrassing situation.

But should we sit back complacently and let politicians lie to us about something as important as going to war? We did that with Lyndon Johnson, and his lies about North Vietnamese attacks on American ships in 1964, and it led to our massive involvement in the Vietnam War with more than 50,000 Americans killed.

It is easy to argue that the war against Iraq was a "good war" because it rid the world of a horrible dictator. In that sense it was a good war, but that doesn¹t justify the lies that led us into that war.

We not only got rid of Saddam with that war, but we destroyed a country and left it in chaos, at a cost of American lives in the hundreds and still rising. Our military is overextended, our reservists are being used as permanent regular troops, and, in a shaky economy, we're putting the cost on credit and hoping our children can some day find a way to pay for it.

Even if you assume all that is good, should we tolerate being lied to on such major issues?

Congressman Waxman is on to something. He's caught the Bushies in baldfaced lies. But even though he's a powerful congressman, he's just one man, and he can be shunted aside.

What we need, I believe, is a hue and cry in this country to match the hue and cry that went up when Bill Clinton lied about sex. We shouldn't leave Waxman dangling out there all by himself. He needs our support.

For the sake of our country's future, we should expose the White House liars for what they are.


Harley Sorensen is a longtime journalist and liberal iconoclast. His column appears Mondays. E-mail him at . This column was first published on SF Gate

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