Bush Defends Use of Bogus Saddam Link to 9/11
In the waning days of his failed presidency, George W. Bush has launched a quixotic reclamation project to salvage his irreparably tarnished reputation. Sadly, that effort stumbled out of the gate earlier this week when the President and Karl Rove couldn't get their stories straight as to whether Bush would have launched his war on Iraq had he known with certainty that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. But when it comes to his repeated use of a nonexistent link between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks to sell the Iraq conflict to the American public, Bush insisted today, there is no need for a "redo."
In an address today to the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, DC, President Bush argued that the truth should not be the lens through which his decision to invade Iraq should be viewed. Whether Saddam had actual connections to Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the September 11 calamity, he proclaimed, was virtually irrelevant:
"It is true, as I have said many times, that Saddam Hussein was not connected to the 9/11 attacks. But the decision to remove Saddam from power cannot be viewed in isolation from 9/11. In a world where terrorists armed with box cutters had just killed nearly 3,000 people, America had to decide whether we could tolerate a sworn enemy that acted belligerently, that supported terror, and that intelligence agencies around the world believed had weapons of mass destruction. It was clear to me, to members of both political parties, and to many leaders around the world that after 9/11, this was a risk we could not afford to take."
Of course, as ThinkProgress detailed, President Bush and Vice President Cheney throughout 2002 and 2003 warned of the mythical alliance between Saddam and Bin Laden. For example, on October 14, 2002, Bush announced that "We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade." On the eve of the war, the President told Americans that Iraq "has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda." And as hostilities commenced, Cheney on March 21, 2003 decried Iraq as the "geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."
As I documented back in June 2005, President Bush continued to nurture the false Iraq connection to 9/11 long after he grudgingly admitted on September 17, 2004 that "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."
As it turns out, for George W. Bush the "risk we could not afford to take" was not averting war with Iraq, but the absence of a compelling sales pitch for it. And to be sure, Bush was in that regard quite successful. As an October 2003 PIPA survey showed, even after the invasion of Iraq, majorities of Americans continued to believe Bush administration claims about Saddam (Iraq role in 9/11, an alliance between Saddam and Al Qaeda, and Saddam's WMD) all long since proven false. (Unsurprisingly, viewers of Fox News were the most delusional.) And as late as July 2006, fully 50% of Americans still believed the discredited claim that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.
In his revisionist history of the Iraq war today, George W. Bush would only acknowledge "the fight in Iraq has been longer and more costly than expected." As for the lies and deceptions that made his Iraq disaster possible, Bush remains unencumbered by the truth. As he struggles to shape his legacy, Bush's hopes history will share his belief that nothing succeeds like failure.