A refreshing review of a persistent myth came to light earlier this month.
Donald Trump may have helped it along. If he did, likely it was unintentional.
Upon leaving office in 2009, George W. Bush was asked about controversial issues he dealt with during his two terms as president.
The Iraq war was at the top of the list of those issues. He repeatedly said he was satisfied to let history sort it all out.
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With his approval ratings rising by 20 points or so since then, things seemed to be developing in his favor.
Then along came Donald Trump with renewed declarations that Bush lied the country into war by saying Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when Bush knew he didn’t.
Then Trump reversed himself by saying he didn’t know if Bush lied, that he would have to look at some documents or something.
But Trump, the candidate who needs no facts before he speaks, had raised again the specter of Bush lying us into war.
Never mind that a 2005 bipartisan congressional commission found that it was not lies but the nearly universally accepted international intelligence that led to war.
Never mind that esteemed journalist Bob Woodward, largely responsible for the resignation of one president who did indeed lie, spent 18 months searching for Bush’s lies and found none.
Yet the fable endures. Maybe that’s why Trump said what he said.
He needs to spend more time discerning truth instead of repeating nonsense.
Earlier this month, a 28-year former journalist for The New York Times fully exposed the “false narrative … of Bush lying as a lie itself that deserves to be, at last, retired.”
What makes this revelation so sensational is that Judith Miller was a member of the Times staff that won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles on the threat of Osama bin Laden prior to the attacks of 9-11.
She explained how the members of the intelligence community with whom she dealt were “overwhelmingly reliable, hardworking and honest.”
These were the same “American, European and arms-control experts, counterterrorism agents, and analysts who studied Iraq and briefed White House officials and journalists,” leading then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to deliver his pre-war speech to the United Nations concluding that the case for Saddam’s WMD was, in his words, “rock solid.”
“Why wouldn’t he?” Miller asks.
“Over the previous 15 years, none of the congressional committees routinely briefed on Iraq’s WMD assessments expressed concern about bias or error. The decision to go to war in Iraq received broad support in Congress from both Republicans and Democrats — and again for good reason.”
Among those Democrats were future secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, future Vice President Joe Biden, future Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his likely successor, Chuck Schumer.
“No,” she continues, “President Bush did not take America into a war because he was strong-armed by a neoconservative cabal.
“President Bush’s decision was based on the information that he and his team relied on — information that was collected by the world’s top agents and analyzed by the world’s top analysts … they all agreed on one thing — Saddam had and was continuing to develop WMD.”
She concludes, as have many others, that all those intelligence professionals overestimated Saddam’s capabilities. “But here’s the key thing to remember — they were mistakes — not lies.”
Judith Miller’s revelations can be viewed online.
Well more than 2 1/2 million people have seen her five-minute exposition.
I suppose Donald Trump isn’t among them. He should be.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.