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Owning up to deceptions on the Iraq war

ON THE ASSUMPTION that America is thoroughly brainwashed, President Bush said with no hint of shame, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in September the 11th." National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either . . . direction or control of 9/11." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe I could say" that Saddam Hussein was tied to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

These statements were meant to drown out Vice President Dick Cheney. With public support sagging for the Iraq quagmire, Cheney recently tried to restore legitimacy to the invasion and occupation by resurrecting the discounted claim that top 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent five months before the attacks.

Cheney said the invasion "struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

Cheney was doing what Bush, Rice, and Rumsfeld did all along. To date, 304 American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians are dead because the White House riled up Americans into a rash blurring of the facts until they could no longer distinguish Sept. 11 from Saddam.

Americans believed Bush so thoroughly that 69 percent told a Washington Post poll in August that they found it likely that Saddam was "personally involved" in Sept. 11. Even if that were not true, 82 percent said Saddam provided assistance to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. Americans believed the White House so much that 57 percent of Americans in a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll said the invasion of Iraq and the war on terrorism that began after Sept. 11 were the "same war."

Americans saw it as the same war because of statements like these:

September 2002: Rumsfeld said he had five or six sentences of "bulletproof" evidence that "demonstrate that there are in fact Al Qaeda in Iraq."

When a reporter asked if there are linkages between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Rumsfeld answered, "Yes." Asked "Is there any intelligence that Saddam Hussein has any ties to Sept. 11?" Rumsfeld left the question wide open, saying, "you have to recognize that the evidence piles up."

Asked to name senior Al Qaeda members who were in Baghdad, Rumsfeld said, "I could, but I won't."

In that same month, Rice said that while Saddam was not being accused of directly planning 9/11, "there are clearly links between Iraq and terrorism. . . . Links to terrorism would include Al Qaeda."

In October 2002, President Bush gave a speech in which he said, "We know that Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.

"We've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America. . . . Confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror."

In his February presentation to the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin Powell warned of the "sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network."

In the most cynical moment of all, after launching the invasion, Bush on March 21 wrote a letter to the heads of the House and the Senate that said: "The use of armed force against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

On May 1, when he announced the end of "major combat operations" (more US soldiers have now died in the occupation than the invasion), Bush proclaimed: "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001. . . . The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of Al Qaeda. . . . Our war against terror is proceeding according to the principles that I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country and a target of American justice."

Now Bush comes clean. There is no link between Saddam and 9/11. There is no evidence that Iraq "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001." Coming clean only uncovers the dirt. The links were a lie. The invasion was based on no principles whatsoever.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is

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