Did the President Lie? (April fooled you!)

April fools! I confess. I used a little bit of misdirection in the survey that I posted yesterday. Yes, it was tricky. But it was an April Fool’s gag with a point.

What was the trick? I began the post by discussing the fact that many people believe that President Bush lied about WMD in Iraq before the war. But in the last sentence of the fifth paragraph, I stopped using Bush’s name and substituted the generic appellation “the President of the United States.”

None of the survey questions used Bush’s name. In fact, all of the quotations of “the President” are taken from speeches that Bill Clinton gave in 1998 as a lead-up to the airstrikes he ordered against Iraq. Here are the survey results:

Was President Clinton being truthful when he said . . .



Quote 1



Quote 2



Quote 3



Here are the sources of the quotations, which you can read for yourself:

Quote 1-January 27, 1998 – State of the Union

Quote 2-December 16, 1998 – Address to America about Airstrikes in Iraq

Quote 3-February 17, 1998 – Address to Joint Chiefs and Pentagon Staff

What do Clinton’s statements have to do with the “Bush-lied-people-died” narrative that I referred to in yesterday’s post? President Bill Clinton’s 1998 statements about Iraq’s WMD’s were every bit as strong as President Bush’s were in 2002. Neither President Clinton nor President Bush was lying. Both were simply acting on what was the settled opinion of intelligence analysts in the United States and around the world. They all truly believed that Saddam Hussein was producing and stockpiling WMD’s.

The “Bush-lied-people-died” narrative simply doesn’t account for the historical record, which is very clear. To be sure, the intelligence was flawed, and the policy-makers were not well-served by those inaccurate estimates. But to claim that the policy-makers were somehow producing flawed intelligence is simply not credible. Politicians from both parties came to the same conclusions about Iraq’s WMD’s. It was not an idea that was cooked up by the Bush administration.

None of these observations constitute a justification for the war in Iraq. That is another question entirely. But it does show that the “Bush-lied-people-died” criticisms of the war are not very serious.

For a great assessment of the flawed pre-war intelligence estimates, see Tim Russert’s interview with CIA Director Michael Hayden (transcript). The video is below.


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