Jeb Bush gives America the Iraq War reckoning we’ve always needed

Jeb Bush speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Jeb Bush speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Poor Jeb Bush. Really. You have to feel a little sorry for him. More than half a decade after his older brother stepped away from the White House, leaving the US mired in two poorly conceived and disastrously executed wars, Jeb’s fledgling candidacy has suddenly, somehow, triggered the war-reckoning that many in our nation have hungered for since American boots first hit the ground overseas in October of 2001.

There’s no doubt that Bush’s clumsy attempt to grapple with his family’s history and the aftermath of those wars contributed to his personal political crisis. In one sense, the wounds inflicted on his candidacy over the last two weeks are self-inflicted. But it’s also true that no one could have guessed that after years of silence and avoidance and muddle, the media and the public would suddenly choose this moment to demand straight talk about went wrong

Much of the long-overdo bluntness, in fact, has come from a surprising quarter, from pundits on the right who have long resisted any efforts to think through the Afghanistan-Iraq fiasco. Fox News and conservative talk radio hosts have worked for more than a decade to bully us away from factual treatments about how the Bush era White House hyped pre-war intelligence, launching not one but two invasions without proper equipment or training and without any plausible exit strategy.

The devastating impact of the Iraq War in particular on the politics of the Near East have been largely ignored by conservatives as they struggled to lay full blame for that region’s woes at the feet of President Barack Obama. Any effort to look back, any effort to parse our recent, devastating military misadventures has been spun as an effort to excuse or whitewash the current administration’s own foreign policy failures.

To an enormous measure that effort at collective amnesia worked. Most Fox News viewers, in particular, see the deaths of a handful of American embassy workers in Benghazi, Libya, as the fulcrum of a national crisis, a matter worthy of endless congressional investigations and conspiracy theories. But any detailed accounting of what went wrong in Afghanistan and Iraq has been assiduously and aggressively avoided.

Even when former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted repeatedly that no mistakes were made and nothing should have been done differently, the media in general and the conservative media in particular nodded cheerfully and pivoted back to chattering about Mr. Obama’s “naivety” and his suspect motives when dealing with Muslim extremists.

Jeb Bush must have been expecting much the same when he answered Megyn Kelly’s question on Fox News, suggesting glibly that his loyalty to his brother trumped any adult assessment of how our foreign policy went so horribly wrong. He then spent a full week backpedaling and trying to sort out his message, arguing in part that any attempt to think clearly about Afghanistan and Iraq would be a disservice to the troops who fought there.

“Of course, given the power of looking back and having that, of course anybody would have made different decisions,” he finally conceded, in an interview with CNN. “There’s no denying that. But to delve into that and not focus on the future is, I think, where I need to draw the line.”

Other Republicans tried to get back on-message. That message being, of course, that Afghanistan and Iraq were credibly reasoned and competent uses of American power that were going just fine, thank you very much, before Barack Obama mucked them up. Speaking with Chris Wallace on Fox News, Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican presidential candidate from Florida, said bluntly that invading Iraq “was not a mistake.”

Pressed to address our present-day knowledge that the intelligence justifying the war was wrong, Rubio answered this way: “Well, based on what we know now, I would not have thought Manny Pacquiao was going to beat [Floyd Mayweather] in that fight a few weeks ago,” he said. “The question was whether it was a mistake, and my answer is, it’s not a mistake. I still say it was not a mistake because the president was presented with intelligence that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it was governed by a man who had committed atrocities in the past with weapons of mass destruction.”

But even other conservatives simply were no longer buying it. Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, a host on MSNBC who is often talked about as a possible presidential candidate, described the Iraq War as “a horrible idea, as bad an idea as sticking your face in a blender.” Speaking on her radio show, conservative talker Laura Ingraham said, “You can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to do. If you do, there has to be something wrong with you.”

Kentucky senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul went a step further, suggesting that voters should, in fact, use the candidates’ views of the Iraq War as a yardstick to choose who they want to occupy the White House next. “If you want another Iraq War, you know who they can vote for. If they want somebody who will only go to war when it’s the last resort, when we have to defend America or American interests, there are going to be some other alternatives.”

It’s worth pointing out that this rhetoric, from the likes of Scarborough, Ingraham and Senator Paul, is the kind of thing we used to hear only on street corners from anti-war protesters. The mainstream media is still largely terrified of reporting a clear-eyed and aggressively skeptical assessment about what went wrong after 9/11, what the consequences were, and who is responsible.

But here’s an irony. In the final equation, the politicians casting the darkest shadow over our Iraq misadventure and raising the most pressing questions may be Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio themselves. In suggesting that any grown-up conversation about that episode in our history might disrespect service-members who fought and died in Afghanistan and Iraq, they seem to be tacitly supporting the idea that it was a deadly and costly disaster, one that cost thousands of American lives and more than a trillion dollars in misspent tax money, while also destabilizing an already volatile region and discrediting US power overseas.

Here’s the thing, Mr. Bush. If it’s so ugly that we can’t talk about it without dishonoring our most honorable citizen soldiers, then you must think it’s very ugly indeed.

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56 Comments on “Jeb Bush gives America the Iraq War reckoning we’ve always needed”

  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Thanks Brian, on this weekend that we set aside to remember those we have lost in war I hope we all think hard about the repercussions of our beliefs and actions.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    I never had a problem with going into Afghanistan to get Bin Laden and crew responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Everything beyond that was wrong and counterproductive and we still fail to see what began then and now continues is a war between the Shites and Sunni.
    We shouldn’t pick a side in this war because any side we pick will result in both sides hating us, which just might be their game plane since both sides want Islam to be the one and only religion in the world. It’s just that each side wants their version of Islam to be the one and only religion in the world.

  3. Dick gagnon says:

    Excellent article, Brian. The other tragic part of Jeb is that he has many of his big brother’s policy advisors whispering in his ear!

  4. sherm brown says:

    All right, the war against Iraq was inappropriate. It left a vacuum which is filled with psychopathic killers
    What do we do now? The Islamic State is sweeping across Iraq, Syria and threatens a whole lot more.
    Is there any armed force strong enough to face them down? Yes, there is one. Now what do we do?

  5. John Scarlett says:

    Bravo, Brian, well reasoned and clearly expressed, although I thought you should have mentioned how way more Iraqi lives were lost and continue to be lost, both military and civilian, than ours.

  6. Brian Mann says:

    Sherm –

    A couple of thoughts.

    First, here’s the question that I would ask anyone wanting to commit American lives to the fight against ISIS. What’s the end game? There are a half-dozen significantly powerful terror movements across the Near East and Africa. We could defeat any of them militarily. But in almost none of those places does the US have a plausible ally or replacement government capable of taking over after we rout the enemy.

    I would actually be open to a conversation about ‘boots on the ground’ military intervention in any one of those places, if someone would take up in serious terms what happens when our boots leave the ground.

    Meanwhile, what we’ve been doing since Barack Obama took office is trying to fight far more nimbly and flexibly, with far lower exposure. That means drones and air power and targeted military assaults. It also means someone else’s (Kurds, Iraqis, Syrians, etc.) boots on the ground.

    Those who rallied support for and executed the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have been scornful of that approach. But one of the key points of my essay is that I think there is a reasonable place for memory and accountability and skepticism regarding the quality of their strategic vision.

    Some would argue that the fall of Ramadi is evidence that US soldiers are needed. But the fact that Iraq’s army ran away, leaving Ramadi undefended — and the fact that Baghdad has failed utterly to find a way to bridge divides between Sunni and Shia communities — only heighten questions about the long-term mission we might undertake there.

    –Brian, NCPR

  7. The Original Larry says:

    When did war become all about the “end game”? Sometimes, it’s primarily about getting rid of people and regimes that do not conduct themselves in a humane manner. Good thing Lincoln didn’t wait until he had the “end game” figured out before taking action.

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    War has been about the end game since at least the 6th century BCE when Sun Tzu wrote the Art of War. Lincoln did not start the Civil War, if that is the reference you are making. The fact of that war is that Several southern states seceded before Lincoln’s inauguration. Lincoln vowed not to go to war in his inaugural address and attempted peace talks with the renegades but the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. The CSA which initiated the Civil War did indeed have an end game. They believed that European powers would come to their aid forcing the North to allow secession of slave states. The CSA were wrong in their assumption and lost the war. That is why understanding foreign affairs is so important, because your end game depends on it.

  9. The Original Larry says:

    Not sure I understand the point of your history lesson, KHL. Lincoln’s primary goal was to end the rebellion and preserve the Union. How he accomplished that and what would come afterwards were of distinctly secondary importance. He didn’t wait until he had everything sorted out. Sun Tzu notwithstanding, winning the peace is frequently more difficult than winning the war; but wars must be won first. It would be wonderful if everything worked out afterwards but often the most important thing is getting rid of the bad guys, period.

  10. The Original Larry says:

    “Baghdad has failed utterly to find a way to bridge divides between Sunni and Shia communities”

    No kidding. Them, and everyone else for about the last 1,400 years. They’ll retire the Nobel Peace Prize for the guy who figures that one out. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

  11. Mr. Kent says:

    Original Larry-
    Lincoln did not send forth the Union Army to start the Civil War. He did not apply the preemptive doctrine used by GWB in Iraq. He was perfectly willing to let slavery remain in those states and did so until January of 1863. In short, Lincoln reacted to real events. I think your comparison is a poor one based on that fact alone.
    Regarding Iraq, we reacted to ” bad intelligence ” with preemptive force and disregarded the good intelligence we also had at the time. Not sure one can defend poor decision making. And yes, the ” End Game” matters, and if you are going to start a War, then you better have an end game and we had none in Iraq other than the convoluted conservative theory that if you tell someone they are now a democratic nation that the pieces will all fall into place.
    It is clear now that the GWB administration made the worse possible choice by propping up Maliki to take over Iraq.
    Those decisions made in 2003 created ISIS ultimately and gave Iran free reign as it removed it’s biggest natural enemy in the area.

    ” Sometimes, it’s primarily about getting rid of people and regimes that do not conduct themselves in a humane manner.”-OL

    Sorry, but that just does not stand up to reason and even those who espouse that doctrine apply it sparingly. The old and tired argument that Saddam Hussein was a bad man and did bad things and therefore had to go? Well, do I really need to list all the bad men who” do not conduct themselves in a humane manner ? ” Are we to take them all out? Russia, China, North Korea, half of the continent of Africa and on and on and on and on? Should we go after every nation out there with WMD that actually have them?

  12. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    OL, the point is that there are wars of choice and wars of necessity. Lincoln did what he could to avoid war, he did not seek war but war was thrust on him. Lincoln quotes himself in his 1st inaugural address:
    “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so….the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.” then later: 17
    “In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.”

    the whole address is worth a read.

  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Apologies to Mr. Lincoln for a bit of an editing error above.

  14. The Original Larry says:

    Well, if you want to nit-pick and only allow examples of leaders who technically started wars, OK. And if you don’t understand the meaning and construction of sentences that begin with the word “sometimes”, I guess that’s OK too. The real point here is that any words you suspect might be in support of GWB, his friends, relatives or known associates must be met by any opposition you can muster; history, logic and English grammar be damned. After all, you can’t stomach the thought that the American people might actually elect Jeb Bush. That’s what all this nonsense is about.

  15. Walter F. Wouk says:

    I think it’s important to note that the FBI has stated that it has no evidence connecting Osama Bin Laden to the 9-11 attacks; and there is credible speculation that our alleged friends, the Saudis, were responsible for the attacks — which the Bush administration covered up, and the Obama administration is trying to keep under wraps.

    The bottom line is: little Georgie Bush made a mess of things and wasted a lot of lives.

  16. The Original Larry says:

    “I think it’s important to note that the FBI has stated that it has no evidence connecting Osama Bin Laden to the 9-11 attacks”

    It’s even more important to cite your source.

  17. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    OL, the point wasn’t to cherry pick examples or to nit pick. So let’s get back to the specific topic of GWB and his wars.

    Let’s separate Afghanistan from Iraq. I was not totally opposed to military action in Afghanistan. I thought at the time, and still do, that Bush rushed the war while greater effort should have been made to ask the Taliban to hand over bin Laden without use of force. The result would likely have been the same because of interference from Pakistan, but we should always be seen as the country that goes the extra step to avoid conflict where possible. Once we went in I supported action to capture bin Laden and force out the Taliban. Then Bush decided to invade Iraq instead of consolidating the gains in Afghanistan where the people were thrilled to have America come to their rescue.

    In Iraq we took a bad situation one that was repressive but predictable, a place where government functioned, where borders were protected from mass invasion by fanatics, and turned it into an apocalypse with poorly functioning government, weak military and police.

    The military is not and should never be thought of as a tool to re-make the world in ways that we prefer. The military is a tool for defense and for enforcement in situations where all other efforts – social, diplomatic and economic – have failed. To quote many, many, conservatives, we should not be the world’s police.

  18. Mr. Kent says:

    Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or any politician running for political cover on the Iraq debate should be corrected the first time they say ” Based on what we knew then….” We did NOT” KNOW!” They need to be corrected at that point and be honest and defend their pandering to the hard right wing of the Republican party and be a little bit honest and say ” Based on what we THOUGHT we knew.” Obviously there was no hard evidence to support those claims then because of the fact no hard evidence was ever produced in the following years.
    This mantra that ” This is about removing Saddam Hussein ” did not arise until after no WMD or the like were discovered. The reason for going into Iraq changed with each passing month. None of which were presented as the ” reason” at the U.N . presentations or to the nation.
    Any person from any party who says they would do it all over again based on what we thought we knew then is not fit to be President. They obviously have no better judgement than the neo cons who pushed it from day one.

  19. The Original Larry says:

    “Any person from any party who says they would do it all over again based on what we thought we knew then is not fit to be President.”

    Must be great to be an authority on what we should have known and done 15 years ago. It’s easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback but not so easy once you get in the game. Ask Obama; he knows. For that matter, ask any of the Members of Congress who voted for the legislation that initiated the war on terrorism (talk about people without an
    “End Game”!) They should be easy to find: the vote was virtually unanimous.

  20. Mr. Kent says:

    “Must be great to be an authority on what we should have known and done 15 years ago”

    Oh, please. There was plenty ” known” back then, but any that did not fit the narrative being offered up by the neo cons was publicly labeled as “bad” and any morsel that remotely fit was labeled ” good.” Didst thou forget?
    Wilson debunks the whole yellow cake story- So the WH says he is wrong. He was right. But that was not enough, they then out his wife , Valerie Plame ,a CIA ” operative.” They being the VP Cheney. His man Scooter takes the fall for it all. Honestly, Scooter was acting on his own?

    Look, here is the truth of it all, known even then. You need to know nothing more than the Downing Street Memo to capsulize the whole of it, from the build up, the mushroom cloud, the terrorist nonsense tied somehow to 9/11, the Judith Miller fed tales from the WH and on and on.
    Here it is in short as I know even to this day you have absolutely no desire to know or accept the truth. You are not alone, it is the staple of conservatives in the GOP and the right wing media.

    July 23, 2002: The Downing Street Memo was written, in which British intelligence said “C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

    Hindsight is not always 20/20. Jeb Bush and Rubio are using 20/400 hindsight. They are not alone.

    The simple question asked is ” knowing what we know NOW, would you do it all over again?”
    Notice: Not one of them can answer with a simple yes or no. There is no follow up to that question required unless you are pandering.

    The GWB administration was determined to force a regime change in Iraq from day one. the following days were spent making a case to do it even if it meant manipulating intelligence and just plain telling lies. and there you have it.

  21. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Mr Kent, I will address you since OL never seems to allow that the other side has evidence on their side — a truly despicable quality in a person who believes in democracy.

    Anyway, it seems that every single Republican on Earth (yes, folks, I know that I’m engaging in hyperbole) has forgotten that there was a war under GHWB in Iraq which ended with Saddam Hussein still in power but with a “no fly zone” enforced by US (and perhaps NATO, but I’m just working from memory and I’m not going to check facts on this fine point at this moment – others are encouraged to check my facts because, well honestly, I pretty well know my shit but I’m not perfect) airpower. Yes, every once in a while an Iraqi air defense system locked on one of our planes – but that was a tactical mistake on their part because it allowed us to pulverize their air defenses. So when GWB initiated Shock and Awe people thought “wow! how amazing is our military that we could do this with so little loss to our forces” — completely ignoring the results of the 1st Gulf War and the DECADE of action against Saddam Hussein that ensued.

    And while we were enforcing a no fly zone over Iraq (presumably getting intel on their military), and while the UN sent weapons inspectors to verify Saddam’s WMD programs and found that very little unaccounted for somehow the Bush administration found it credible that Saddam was a threat to the world on a par with Adolph Hitler? Seriously, THEY SAID THAT!

    So, this is Memorial Day weekend and it seems completely inappropriate to politicize our remembrance of the men and women who gave all they had to give for our nation…but, (yes, sadly there is a “but”) the leadership of the Republican Party cannot be trusted on issues regarding use of military force. I want to tell my Republican friends and conservatives in general that I understand your love of country. I don’t question your patriotism in any way. I beg you though, please, review the facts. Check the evidence of who was right and who was wrong before you support a person to lead our country in the future. Listen to what people on the other side has to say and allow that they just might be right.

  22. The Original Larry says:

    You caught me in the middle of cocktail hour and consequently in an extraordinarily good mood, so I’ll ignore your “despicable quality” remark, you asshole, and say that i am all good with the “facts” you and Kent are so enamored of. The Downing Street Memo? Really? Might be fact, might not, but either way, the reality is that EVERYONE was convinced Saddam had WMD. Everyone, including the UN inspectors. Besides, how can anyone answer the “if I knew then what I know now” question? I can think of several instances, especially Microsoft stock, the 2001 World Series and that blonde from Tupper Lake, which, if I knew then what I know now, might have greatly enriched, enhanced or at the very least, simplified my life. But I didn’t know then and neither did anyone else. You and Kent are on a vendetta against GWB that makes the Sicilian Mafia look like beginners. Get over it and have another drink; I am. Cheers!

  23. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    OL, the fact that you believe EVERYONE was convinced that Saddam had WMD shows that you are not willing to consider the other side’s point of view. But please have another cocktail.

  24. Mr. Kent says:

    OL, this is not that hard to understand. The GWB administration knew a lot then, they just chose to ignore the parts that did not fit the narrative. They were on a mission from the beginning. The facts have all been written and are part of history and that is that.
    What the GOP is doing now, including you, is blaming the intelligence community instead of just standing tall and accepting responsibility for decisions and actions that proved to be disastrous on a global level. The intelligence community did their job, they provided info that was never conclusive of anything. It was the GWB and the neo cons that decided to accept the parts that supported their dogma. They were wrong then and they are wrong today and the part that should scare the bejeesus out of the American people is the fact that Jeb Bush has taken on the same advisers that controlled GWB. I believe it is called the definition of insanity.
    The record shows that after eight years in office the GWB made bad decision after bad decision, both foreign and domestically to the point that the country on the brink of financial ruin when he left office and that ” mission accomplished” scenario was a mess and Osama was still running around.
    You might want to consider setting the bar a little higher. Or not. Hey, have a great day.

  25. Mr. Kent says:

    Glad to hear you are having a cocktail. Good for you. Koolaid strait up day after day is not good for you. I suppose you could be mixing something with the Koolaid, but that is good too. Enjoy.

  26. The Original Larry says:

    There isn’t enough vodka in the North Country to get me to swallow the liberal bullshit Kent & KHL are putting out. I mean, I read the New York Times too! They speak as if their brand of liberal paranoia is all fact based, but it isn’t. What is factual is their obvious antipathy for all things and people related to GWB. Again I say: get over it! He beat Gore and then he beat Kerry and if this is all you’ve got, you’ll help elect Jeb.

  27. Brian Mann says:

    Here’s my thought exercise as I ponder this debate.

    Let’s imagine that we had compelling evidence that Barack Obama took flimsy and uncertain intelligence and used those data points to construct a narrative — a narrative that he claimed was far, far more solid and verifiable than it actually was.

    Imagine that he pushed that narrative so hard that anyone who disagreed with it or contested it or raised questions about it was dismissed or discredited by agents of the government, to the extent that a CIA agent was outed by a top administration official because her husband was a critic of the war.

    Imagine that Obama worked aggressively through the mainstream media, secretly using outlets like the New York Times to foster the illusion that the case for war was far more solid and credible and that the treat was far more imminent than it actually was.

    Imagine that, in the wake of a devastating national crisis, something similar to 9/11, Obama used that narrative to convince us that the US needed to go fight a war somewhere in the world — a war that would cost taxpayers a trillion dollars, leave nearly 5,000 Americans dead, and many thousands more grievously wounded.

    Imagine that along the way Obama and his surrogates suggested again and again that this war was in some way linked to that national crisis, even though there was no intelligence (even poor intelligence) to suggest any connection.

    Imagine that once Obama led us into that war, he failed to put together a team capable of managing the aftermath of the war with anything like even basic competence.

    Imagine that our soldiers, under Obama’s leadership, were forced to fight without adequate training or equipment. Imagine that while Obama is in office, the VA hospital system used to treat our returning soldiers is allowed to fall into such disrepair that wounded service-members are housed in rooms contaminated with mold and rot.

    Imagine that Obama’s war destabilized an already volatile region in ways that no one can yet understand, raising new fears about our national security, contributing hugely to America’s deep national debt, and deeply stained our reputation overseas.

    Would we say, after the fact, that anyone raising questions about Mr. Obama’s record or demanding accountability was simply partisan? Would we be comfortable with the idea of Democrats or liberals refusing absolutely to discuss or debate how things went so wrong?

    Or would we think that it might serve the best interests of the country to review and try to understand those mistakes?

    And finally, perhaps most pressingly, what would we think if Democrats on the campaign trail hoping to be the next President of the United States continued to argue that the debacle I’ve just described wasn’t a mistake at all?

    –Brian, NCPR

  28. Brian Mann says:

    One final note. Larry has asked for footnotes. Here are a couple of salient references.

    One of the intelligence briefers who regularly passed information to President Bush and the White House has now said that the Bush administration told the public things that simply weren’t reflected in the data gathered by US spy agencies.

    Here’s an exchange just last week between Chris Matthews on MSNBC and Michael Morrell, who served as a CIA Deputy Director and as Acting Director under Bush.

    Matthews asked Morrell about public statements made by Vice President Cheney claiming that Saddam Hussein “has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

    MATTHEWS: Was that [Cheney’s statement] true?

    MORELL: We were saying—

    MATTHEWS: Can you answer that question? Was that true?

    MORELL: That’s not true.

    Later Morrell then described the gap between intelligence and the Bush administration’s statements this way:

    MORELL: As the briefer, my job is to carry CIA’s best information and best analysis to the president of the United States and make sure he understands it. My job is to not watch what they’re saying on TV.

    After some cross-talk, Matthews asked the following.

    MATTHEWS: They [the Bush administration] gave a false presentation of what you said to them.

    MORELL: On some aspects. On some aspects.

    Separately, CIA Director George Tenet, who served under Bush, blasted the administration for failing to give reasonable weight to a variety of options in response to the perceived threat from Iraq. This from the Washington Post, in a treatment of Tenet’s 2007 book:

    “There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Mr. Tenet writes in a devastating judgment that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.

    These treatments of the Bush administration’s push for an invasion of Iraq don’t come from liberals or Democrats. They come from people who served inside that administration. They were conservatives, security experts, part of the national defense apparatus. And they say bluntly that things went horribly wrong.

    –Brian, NCPR

  29. Brian Mann says:

    Sorry, just found this, from the Center for Public Integrity.

    The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

    “It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida,” according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. “In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003.”

    -Brian, NCPR

  30. Jim McCulley says:

    Gee Brian why don’t you have a little integrity yourself even the NYT admits now there were chemical weapons. You can argue to the degree of the threat but it’s completely false to say there were none. What’s truly baffling is why this is now a Republican Presidential candidate issue. The only Presidential candidate that voted for the war (with the same intelligent briefing Bush received) is a Democrat named Hillary.

  31. Mr. Kent says:

    Brian Mann –
    You covered it all. It is hard to understand those that choose to ignore truths, facts and first hand accounts when forming a view of events. It defies logic and reasoning to the point of approaching delusion. Why? To what end?
    This whole ” based on what we knew then ” argument by those that defend the GWB administration for the Iraq War is just one more lie. The GWB administration did know then. History has revealed that to be true. They had an agenda and truth be damned, they would see that agenda was carried out regardless. Domino theory 2.0; Create one democracy in the region and it will spread to all neighboring countries.
    It is shameful that blame has been shifted by the neo cons and GOP Presidential hopefuls to the intelligence community. It was all ” bad intel.” A total lie that they are being allowed to tell over and over.
    It is even more shameful that people like Jeb Bush try to weasel out of the conversation by saying it is a disservice to our men and women in uniform to even consider that it was all one big mistake based on lies. No Jeb, it is a disservice to lie to those that make sacrifices to defend the truth.

  32. Mr. Kent says:

    J. McC

    “why this is now a Republican Presidential candidate issue.”

    Why? Because they say they would do it all the same way again. That’s why. Considering JEB Bush has the same group advising him on foreign policy that advised GWB, then it does matter. As that leftist, communist, socialist, liberal Laura Ingraham said, “You can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to do. If you do, there has to be something wrong with you.”
    Maybe you should do a call in on one of her shows and ask her that question.

  33. Brian Mann says:

    Jim –

    There are lingering debates over specific facts provided by intelligence agencies – that’s a legitimate thing to talk through and question. What did our spies get right and wrong? Who knew what when?

    What’s no longer up for debate, however, is the legitimacy of the larger narrative crafted carefully by the Bush administration during the 2-year run-up to the war.

    The Bush White House linked hundreds of data points – some of them spurious, some of them questionable, some of them entirely fictional – into a story about Iraq which we now know was an entire fabrication.

    Even if Iraq had chemical weapons, no one in 2003 believed that the US was their intended target. No one believed that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Quaeda. No one believed that Iraq was anywhere close to having a nuclear weapons program that could threaten our country.

    Yet that’s the story that the Bush White House told. Over and over. And when people questioned it, they were attacked, or discredited, or marginalized.

    The reason this is an issue for (some) Republican presidential candidates is that they’ve repeated the notion that the Iraq War was not a mistake, and they’ve hired many of the same foreign policy advisers. That seems worthy of scrutiny, as Rand Paul and others have noted.

    –Brian, NCPR

  34. Tony Goodwin says:

    An additional mistake that has not been mentioned is that the GWB administration thought they had an “exit strategy” in the person of Ahmed Chalabi. Chalabi represented himself as the head of the Iraqi National Congress – allegedly a shadow “government in waiting”. Chalabi convinced the GWB administration that all they had to do was get him to Baghdad and he would take over the government so that the Americans could leave.

    It so happens that I have a college classmate, John Walcott, who knew Chalabi when he, Walcott, was posted in Beiruit as the Middle East correspondent for “US News and World Report”. Walcott later was Foreign Editor for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain – a group of newspapers that never bought into the WMD argument. Of Chalabi, Walcott said, “If I gave him a quarter and asked for change, I’d count very carefully what I got back.” Walcott also seemed very sure when he told me and some other classmates that Chalabi had learned that Judith Miller and Scooter Libby were in a relationship. Therefore, Chalabi would contact Libby or Dick Cheney with some information about Iraq’s WMD program. Then he’d feed the same information to Miller. Miller would then be able to tell her editors that her information had been confirmed by a “high government official” and the story would run.

    Now there was every good indication that Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress was a fraud. The NYT Magazine even had a long story to that effect six months before we invaded, but Chalabi’s assurances fit the administration’s plans and they apparently never questioned whether he would actually be able to take over and govern Iraq after we left. When Chalabi couldn’t govern, “stuff happened.”

  35. Mr. Kent says:

    Tony Goodwin-
    Thank you. Excellent post. Very informative.

  36. The Original Larry says:

    I didn’t ask for footnotes, Brian, as you well know. I asked for a source for the statement, “I think it’s important to note that the FBI has stated that it has no evidence connecting Osama Bin Laden to the 9-11 attacks”. I still don’t see the source.

    As for the endless debate about Saddam Hussein and WMD, it’s pointless. He had WMD and he used them. Any credible news source can confirm that. You want to discredit Jeb Bush because he didn’t know then what he knows now or some such rhetorical nonsense? Great, go right ahead. It’s a foolish exercise, but it will be interesting to see how Hillary Clinton tries to explain herself. Jeb may have believed in GW then and he may believe in him still, but he didn’t vote for the war and make a Senate speech in support of it.

  37. Mr. Kent says:

    I do not blame anyone who voted for the Iraq War, Republican or Democrat. They only knew the story they were told by GWB, Cheney, Condyand the neo con operatives and the false information fed to the press. The information they were fed was manipulated, that has been verified by Tenet and others. In essence, they were lied to. The blame rests with those who created a false narrative.

  38. The Original Larry says:

    Neo-con….narrative….manipulated….Cheney. Can you get some new material, please? How come Jeb Bush doesn’t qualify for the “we were lied to” free pass? Do you think he was in on the scam?

  39. Mr. Kent says:

    ” How come Jeb Bush doesn’t qualify for the “we were lied to” free pass? ”

    That makes no sense on so many levels. Of course he is always welcome to tell the truth. Problem for him is if he admits we were lied to, then he is saying his brother is a liar, but elect me as your next President. That is the conservative conundrum-how to wash away the history of the eight years of a Republican Presidential Administration, from Iraq to the economy. Rewrite history.
    It is quite possible that the number one reason President Obama won the last two Presidential elections in two landslides is because the memory of the last Republican President was still too fresh in the peoples memories. It had to be that or they were very contented with Obama. What do you think?
    That “material” is the the truth and factual and written in stone by respected and objective journalists and historians.
    Perhaps you should relax for a bit, your comments lack cohesiveness and substance. I expect better from you. Maybe just having a bad week end. Consider yourself eligible for a free pass.
    Enjoy your day.

  40. Tony Goodwin says:

    I guess it was inevitable that Hillary Clinton’s vote for the “war resolution” would be brought up, but it worth reminding that the vote did not authorize the US to use force UNLESS the UN Security Council had voted in favor of military action against Iraq.

    Here is the relevant text of what action the President was authorized to take:

    The Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to–

    (1) strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and

    (2) obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

    In the end, the Security Council did not authorize military action, but the GWB administration went ahead and invaded anyway without any further authorization from Congress. Thus Hillary voted to go to war IF AND ONLY IF the Security Council voted to take military action. Her vote did not authorize the actions that were ultimately taken.

    In my view, the Security Council was entirely justified in not authorizing military action. By the time of the vote in October, 2002, the UN’s weapons inspection team had been granted full access to any site they wished to inspect and they had found absolutely no WMDs. Now to give credit where credit is due, that full access likely came from the fact that the US had stationed 100,000 troops on Iraq’s border, and Saddam Hussein could well remember what happened the last time his army faced an American force.. But just because we had moved all those troops there, we didn’t have to use them to invade Iraq.

  41. Mr. Kent says:

    Thank you for clarifying that part of the whole affair. Fact and truth should mean something. Sadly, there are those that truth is only an obstacle easily cast aside when it does not fit what you want to believe.

  42. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    It is also worth considering that at the time many argued that it was necessary for President Bush to have a resolution for the use of force as a credible threat to hold over Saddam’s head and that this credible threat of force would be used as a diplomatic tool…just the threat was going to end the crisis.

    As we look back with hindsight it seems hypocritical to criticize Hillary or others who voted in a bipartisan manner to support our President.

  43. The Original Larry says:

    So let me understand this correctly: it’s hypocritical to criticize Hillary Clinton for her vote in favor of the war in Iraq but it’s OK to criticize a guy who didn’t participate in the vote and wasn’t even part of the national government? Read this New Yorker piece for an interesting take on both Jeb and Hillary and the Iraq question. The big difference, to me, is that one of them gave a poor answer to a hypothetical question and the other one has no good explanation for her actual conduct. And before you all get started, let me say that I fully understand the “we were lied to” defense. Trouble is, more than 20 Democrats didn’t fall for it in 2002.

  44. Brian Mann says:

    I think Clinton’s vote is fair game. She’s called that vote “a mistake.” In my view, people should definitely take that into account when choosing who to vote for in November 2016.

    I do think it’s worth factoring in, however, that Clinton — like the rest of us — was subject to the narrative being offered by the Bush White House.

    As a sitting US Senator, she was being told by the Commander in Chief that Iraq represented a clear and present danger, an imminent threat.

    Granted, others were prescient enough to see that this narrative was flawed or false. But there is a meaningful difference between being the politician who created a factually inaccurate story and being the politician who suckered for it.

    –Brian, NCPR

  45. The Original Larry says:

    Now we get to the heart of it: it’s not about Jeb, it’s about Hillary! Talk about creating “narratives” to fit the facts. We have to listen to all this “what would you have done” nonsense (and boy, did Jeb ever walk right into that one!) to distract from what Hillary actually DID. You can parse the facts all you like (who was it who killed tens of thousands of Iranians, Kurds and others with poison gas?) but you can’t change them.

  46. Brian Mann says:

    Larry –

    Okay, really. That just didn’t make sense. You suggested that it wasn’t appropriate to think or talk about Hillary Clinton’s vote in favor of the Iraq War. I said that it was, bit that it was also appropriate to remember the context and the facts surrounding that vote.

    Of course, the same is true for Jeb Bush. When he initially says that the Iraq War was not a mistake, it is of course perfectly fair to think about the context of that statement (including the fact that he wasn’t in a position to vote yay or nay on the resolution). When he later shifts his view to say that it was a mistake based on what we know now, that’s worthy of consideration, too.

    Meanwhile, no one disputes that Saddam Hussein did atrocious things while in power. But stating a random fact isn’t an argument. If your argument is that the US should begin military operations against every dictator in the world who does atrocious things to their people, that’s a different conversation.

    The argument the Bush White House was making was that Iraq was an imminent threat to the US. We now know that was categorically factually false.

    –Brian, NCPR

  47. The Original Larry says:

    I never said it wasn’t appropriate to talk about Hillary’s vote! I don’t know how you got that impression from my comments. Plus, I never said that we should take military action against all dictators, etc., I was reacting to comments by several people, yourself included, that either stated or implied that Saddam did not have WMD. He had them and he used them and the tens of thousands of dead Kurds and Iranians and others killed with poison gas proves it.

  48. Brian Mann says:

    Here’s Bob Woodward’s take on this. He thinks Bush may have made a mistake pulling the trigger on Iraq. He’s convinced that there wasn’t ‘a lie.’

    I think Woodward is defining his terms too narrowly. We know that the Bush administration created a narrative about Iraq that was wholly factually false (not only that Saddam Hussein had WMDs but that the US was a plausible and imminent target).

    Woodward also argues that some kind of ‘momentum’ developed for the argument in favor of war – giving the decision a kind of third-person ‘mistakes were made’ quality — and he says that an invasion began to seem ‘easy.’

    But where did that momentum come from? That’s the question Woodward doesn’t address. Clearly the momentum came from the White House and from Vice President Cheney and clearly at times those officials were saying things to drive momentum that were factually untrue and things that contradicted intelligence reports.

    Does that add up to Bush’s administration ‘lying’? Perhaps not, but it skirts a troubling line.

    -Brian, NCPR

  49. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    It all depends on what the definition of is is.

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