Nevertheless, White House spokesman Scott McClellan lashed out at a Washington Post report that in May 2003, Bush described two Iraqi trailers as mobile biological weapons labs although two days earlier a Pentagon field investigation had debunked those suspicions in a report to Washington.
The lead in the Washington Post left the impression for the reader that the President was saying something he knew at the time not to be true, McClellan said on April 12, 2006. That is absolutely false and it is irresponsible, and I dont know how the Washington Post can defend something so irresponsible.
But the truth is that Bush has been caught, again and again, relying on lies and distortions to confuse the American people about the Iraq War. Sometimes, he can blame U.S. intelligence agencies for the false information, but other times, he simply lies about facts that he personally knows.
On July 14, 2003, Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein had barred United Nations weapons inspectors from Iraq when, in fact, they were admitted in November 2002 and given free rein to search suspected Iraqi weapons sites. It was Bush who forced the U.N. inspectors to leave in March 2003 so the invasion could proceed.
But faced with growing questions about his justifications for war in summer 2003, Bush revised this history, apparently trusting in the weak memories of the American people and the timidity of the U.S. press. At the end of an Oval Office meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Bush told reporters:
In the following months and years, Bush repeated this claim in slightly varied forms as part of his litany for defending the invasion on the grounds that it was Hussein who chose war, not Bush.
Meeting no protest from the Washington press corps, Bush continued repeating his lie about Hussein showing defiance on the inspections. Bush uttered the lie as recently as March 21, 2006, when he answered a question from veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas.
I was hoping to solve this (Iraq) problem diplomatically, Bush said. The world said, Disarm, disclose or face serious consequences. We worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did. And the world is safer for it.
The significance of this lie about the inspectors when judging Bushs proclivity to lie rests on the fact that he cant simply blame his advisers when cornered. Bush was fully aware of the U.N. inspectors and what happened to them.
'Downing Street Memo'
Indeed, documentary evidence shows that Bush was determined to invade Iraq in 2002 and early 2003 regardless of what U.S. intelligence could prove or what the Iraqis did.
For instance, the so-called Downing Street Memo recounted a secret meeting on July 23, 2002, involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security aides. At that meeting, Richard Dearlove, chief of the British intelligence agency MI6, described his discussions about Iraq with Bushs top advisers in Washington.
Dearlove said, 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.