Inventing Iraq threat


Nearly everyone now realizes that Iraq never was a serious threat, and that the Bush White House deliberately sucked America into a needless Iraq war that has killed 2,700 young Americans, squandered $300 billion of taxpayer money, and worsened terrorism.

How could the administration so easily manipulate U.S. patriotism and gull the nation into an unnecessary invasion? The explanation is spelled out in a major new book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina, by columnist-critic Frank Rich. The publisher’s summary says:

“When America was attacked on 9/11, its citizens almost unanimously rallied behind its new, untested president as he went to war. What they didn’t know at the time was that the Bush administration’s highest priority was not to vanquish al-Qaida but to consolidate its own power at any cost. It was a mission that could be accomplished only by a propaganda presidency in which reality was steadily replaced by a scenario of the White House’s own invention — and such was that scenario’s devious brilliance that it fashioned a second war against an enemy that did not attack America on 9/11, intimidated the Democrats into incoherence and impotence, and turned a presidential election into an irrelevant referendum on macho imagery and same-sex marriage.”

After suicidal Muslim fanatics — mostly from America’s ally, Saudi Arabia — struck on Sept. 11, 2001, an upsurge of patriotism naturally swept America. The White House skillfully redirected this U.S. fervor against Iraq, which had no connection to 9/11, in “the most brilliant spin campaign ever conducted,” the book says.

Sadly, most U.S. newspapers and news networks didn’t question White House fabrications. The book outlines how they swallowed “Iraqi WMD claims, Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ triumph, the Swift-boating of John Kerry and the writing of fake pro-war letters-to-the-editor from soldiers,” Publishers Weekly sums up. Why didn’t America doubt the need for an Iraq invasion? Because of “a sycophantic media, spineless Democrats and an infotainment culture that happily accommodates the Bush administration’s erasure of the line between reality and fiction,” the journal added.

“Although the administration may be remembered as the worst in American history, the people seem mostly silent,” Kirkus Reviews added. Americans are silent because most U.S. news media failed to expose the fantasies behind Bush’s demand for an Iraq war.

The New York Times printed a professor’s review of Rich’s book, saying:

“The Bush administration has consistently lied about the reasons for going to war, about the way it was conducted and about the terrible consequences. Whatever the merits of removing a dictator, waging war under false pretenses is highly damaging to a democracy, especially when one of the ostensible aims is to spread democracy to others. ... The Bush administration has given hypocrisy a bad name. ...

“In Iraq, heroic stories, like the brave battle of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, were invented and packaged for the press, and those who pointed out the fakery were denounced as leftist malcontents. President Bush dressed up as Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun’ and landed on an aircraft carrier for a photo op declaring a great victory. And the press, by and large, took the bait.”

The book contains an 80-page timeline comparing Bush administration misstatements to actual events. Publishers Weekly says the compilation “builds a comprehensive picture of a White House propaganda campaign to bamboozle the public, smear critics, camouflage policy disasters and win the 2002 and 2004 elections through trumped-up security anxieties.”

This book, we think, signals the judgment that future historians will make about President Bush’s Iraq venture. While the White House was pounding the war drums, it’s sad that only a few voices, such as that of West Virginia’s Sen. Robert C. Byrd, were brave enough to try to warn America.