Whitehouse: Bush’s Lies “Rot the Very Fiber of Democracy”

Updated with YouTube from Selise. 

If you’re reading the SSCI Phase II reports, go to this thread to discuss what you’re finding.

But if you want to know what Senator Whitehouse thinks about it, you can see his speech here.

Or you can read it below:

Mr. President, five years ago, President Bush and this administration misled this country into a war that should never have been waged, a war that has cost our nation the lives of more than four thousand courageous men and women, squandered many hundreds of billions of our tax dollars, and diminished the world’s faith in our country.

This morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by our distinguished chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, released a report confirming what many have long feared: that the Bush Administration ignored or swept aside substantial, reliable intelligence that portrayed something other than what the President and his political allies wanted America to see.

Mr. President, the decision to take a nation to war, as Chairman Rockefeller indicated, is among the gravest and most momentous that a leader can make. In our democracy, we expect and deserve to be sure that when our troops are sent in harm’s way, when their families are made to watch and wait through sleepless nights, when our security and national welfare is put on the line, that that decision has been taken for the right reasons. This is a sacred compact, an article of faith, between our people and their government.

This Administration broke that compact, betrayed that faith.

For years, the evidence has mounted that this Administration’s reasons for war were a sham. And just this week, the President’s own former spokesman indicated that the White House ran a "political propaganda campaign" building the case for war.

This morning’s report is a chilling reminder of the Bush Administration’s willingness to overlook or set aside intelligence that did not conform to its pre-ordained view of the world. Over and over again, the Committee documented instances in which public statements by the President, the Vice President, and members of the Administration’s national security team were at odds with available intelligence information.

By leading the American people to believe that the situation in Iraq was significantly more drastic than it actually was, the Bush Administration took this country into an unnecessary war – a war it still refuses to end.

In a speech in Cincinnati, a little over a year after al Qaeda attacked America on September 11th, President Bush said: "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."

In his 2003 State of the Union Address, just a few short weeks before giving the order that began this war, the President said: "Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda."

Mr. President, it was not true. The President of the United States told these things to our people and to the world, and they were false. According to the report released this morning by our Committee,

"Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence."

The Committee found that multiple CIA reports and a National Intelligence Estimate released in November 2002 – even as the Administration was in the drumbeat to war – "dismissed the claim that Iraq and al-Qa’ida were cooperating partners."

It was not true – and yet this President used this claim to convince the American public that there was a link between the Iraqi government and the terrorists that perpetrated the crimes of September 11, 2001.

Again in the October 2002 speech in Cincinnati, the President said: "We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience in using chemical weapons. … Every chemical and biological weapon that Iraq has or makes is a direct violation of the truce that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Yet, Saddam Hussein has chosen to build and keep these weapons despite international sanctions, U.N. demands, and isolation from the civilized world."

Mr. President, the Committee’s report concludes, and I quote:

"Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing."

The intelligence community knew that Saddam Hussein wanted to be able to produce chemical weapons. It could not, however, confirm President Bush’s claim of certainty that Hussein’s regime was actually producing chemical weapons.

Yet the President made that argument, stirring up unfounded fears among the American people.

This Administration not only asserted that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical weapons, and intended to use them. The President also said this in his speech on October 2002: "We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists, or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I’m convinced," he said, "that is a hope against all evidence." A hope against all evidence.

He said: "we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Mr. President, again, it was not true. The Committee’s report states:

"Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information."

At the time of the President’s speech, the intelligence community believed that Saddam Hussein did not possess nuclear weapons.

The President preyed on Americans’ fears of a nuclear attack, perhaps the most terrible fears we could have, to bolster his case for an unwarranted war.

And finally, the President led the American people to believe that if it came to war in Iraq, America’s military would easily help liberate a grateful nation. In Cincinnati in 2002, he said this: "If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors."

Mr. President, this was the hope against all evidence. Analysis by the Defense Intelligence Agency assessed that, and I quote, "the Iraqi populace will adopt an ambivalent attitude toward liberation." There’s an understatement. The CIA wrote in August 2002 that "traditional Iraqi political culture has been inhospitable to democracy." According to the Committee’s report, "Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic [situations], did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products."

The view of the President and Vice President that American troops would be "greeted as liberators" did not take into account the complex social, political, and sectarian dynamics at work, about which the intelligence community was well aware. Yet this Administration still led the American people to believe that our troops would be welcomed, that the war would be short, that the burden in lives and dollars would be light, and that victory would be absolute. This delusion, has cost our servicemen and women – and our nation – every day since.

Once again, it was not true, Mr. President. It just was not true. And if this Administration had made the least effort to give an honest review of the classified intelligence, it would have been known to be untrue.

All too often in these seven long years, we have seen this Administration cast aside facts and principles that did not conform with its political aims. We have seen it attempt to take the great institutions of this country, our intelligence community our Environmental Protection Agency, our Department of Justice, and twist them – twist them – to its own ends, without due regard to the welfare of the American people.

Mr. President, I believe the irresponsibility and mismanagement of this Administration will go down in our history as among the darkest moments our government has witnessed. It rots the very fiber of democracy when our government is put to these uses. We do not yet know all the damage that has been done. Yet we hope, through the efforts of this Committee and this body, to continue the long and difficult repair work we have begun.

We can look ahead to next January, when we and our nation can begin again with a new Administration – an Administration that will not break the essential compact of honesty with the American people. [my emphasis]

Well said, Senator.

57 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    An excellent speech. Odd that the Air Force resignations hit the wires just in time to bury it on page 5.

    Boxturtle (If it gets that far)

  2. bonjonno says:

    will any excerpts of this speech find their way to the nightly news so average Americans can hear them? People here have been talking about this all along, and it’s gratifying to see Sen Whitehouse tell it like it is. But the masses need to know…

  3. AZ Matt says:

    OT somewhat:LA Times

    Air Force leadership in shake-up

    From the Associated Press
    10:00 AM PDT, June 5, 2008

    WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are saying that the military and civilian chiefs of the Air Force are resigning.

    Defense officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne to step down.

  4. GeorgeSimian says:

    It’s almost a nice speech, but it needed to end with something like this…

    “…and therefore, I am introducing these articles of Impeachment…”

    Because without that, it doesn’t really mean anything. Bush will say he got it wrong, he already admitted he was wrong, and the Democrats should be passing my tax cuts and not spending time investigating my crimes.

    • sailmaker says:

      “…and therefore, I am introducing these articles of Impeachment…”

      Too bad the Senate can not recommend impeachment. Is there anyway a senator can influence the House, Pelosi for example?

      • BoxTurtle says:

        A Senator certainly can’t force the house or a house member to do anything. HOWEVER, I doubt seriously that any representative would hang up on a Senator from his party.

        Depends on how hard they Sen Whitehouse wanted to push. Clearly, impeachment is STILL off the table.

        I doubt this will go anywhere, Bush will pardon anyone threatened. *sigh*

        “I hereby pardon every citizen, corporation, and political entity for any and all crimes they may or may not have committed in the furtherence of the war on Terror.”

        Boxturtle (It would probably save a forest)

  5. yonodeler says:

    Bush still justifies his invasion of Iraq, he just blames intelligence for being inadequate.

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Man, get busy for one day and there are 7 posts up!
    If there’s an Emptywheel Fellowship offered so that some of us can just follow along for a three or four month period full-time and assist with research, where do I apply?

    I just hate missin’ all the action and knowing I can’t even hope to catch up till the evening.

    On the upside, it’s a thrill to see so much going on!
    And evidently, there’s a big shakeup at the Air Force today.

  7. der1 says:

    Why Rockefeller would release this report and also support telecom immunity is a head banger and then why Reid would let him do it.

  8. yonodeler says:

    I find I’ve been conditioned to think of Iran every time I hear of high-level military leadership changes.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It rots the very fiber of democracy when our government is put to these uses.

    So he’ll vote “NO” on telco amnesty, right?

  10. yonodeler says:

    Meanwhile, the extents of domestic surveillance and collection of personal information have not been admitted by the executive branch or by most in Congress. Current practice may in large part slide beneath any fixes.

  11. DefendOurConstitution says:

    I think all the evidence for a special prosecutor is there. I think the law authorizing that expired and it’s unlikely the Democrats can pass one again.

    Can the Democrats do anything other than subpoena the WH to death? (even a grand jury would be a good beginning)

  12. perris says:

    team b youtube
    we must always bring up the “team b”, put there to manufacture evidence that does not exist, put there by cheney

    also, my favorite line in this unbelieveable speech;

    We do not yet know all the damage that has been done. Yet we hope, through the efforts of this Committee and this body, to continue the long and difficult repair work we have begun.

    finally my skin quivers with patriotism again, it has been too long I’ve been proud of our lawmakers

    today I am proud of whitehouse

  13. wavpeac says:


    No wonder Rove said he needed to resign so he could spend some time with his son and family. (before a frog march and bars obstruct his view)

    It’s coming……..

  14. maryo2 says:

    Is the Air Froce shake up related to weapons procurement and contracts?

    February 16, 2008 – The difference over how many F-22s the Air Force should buy reflects a larger dispute within the Pentagon over weapons procurement and the future of the U.S. military. Many Air Force officials disagree with the administration’s position and favor buying additional F-22s.

    or is it related to “Nearly two dozen retired Air Force officers are lashing out at The Boeing Co. and its “special-interest clients” for what they describe as “scurrilous” attacks on the Air Force for awarding a $35 billion contract for new refueling tankers to another bidder. …
    Northrop Grumman and the maker of Airbus planes beat out the Seattle-based Boeing to win the contract to build military refueling planes, the Air Force said last month. “

    We’d need to know if the retired AF officers are part of the Pentagon messaging unit.

  15. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Quick hat tip to CSPAN for whoever made up the information display on the page of video clips you link to. That is a very nice bit of work.

    • greenbird4751 says:

      i sent your msg, but once i got there it was hard to leave. it’s all spiffy and updated everywhere on c-span. DMC button on the main video page, too…

  16. Petrocelli says:

    The first time I heard Senator Whitehouse, it was about his now famous chart … I hope this speech of his signals a more aggressive stance towards BushCo.

    Sen. Rockefeller’s speech on CSpan also had him whipping BushCo … will have to wait and see what, if any, actions will follow these words …

  17. TobyWollin says:

    And Keith Olberman will just say, in a special comment, “And you, Sir, are a liar.”

  18. maryo2 says:

    Think Progress says that Sen. Wyden is calling for complete review of Rumsfeld’s testimony before Congress.

  19. Bushie says:

    “…[T]he irresponsibility and mismanagement of this Administration will go down in our history as among the darkest moments our government has witnessed. It rots the very fiber of democracy when our government is put to these uses.”

    All true. What is worse, in my opinion was and is the Congressional rubber stamp for the Administration war funding, lies, and failure to require, with few exceptions, accountability.

    • Leen says:

      Exactly. Millions of lives would have been saved. Too bad that they did not do as much research on the intelligence claims before they fucking gave the Bush warmongers the opportunity to invade Iraq

  20. maryo2 says:

    And don’t forget this is coming in five days:

    I [Rep. Waxman] therefore urge you [Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey] to follow Justice Department precedents and provide the records of the FBI interviews with President Bush and Vice President Cheney to the Committee by June 10. [2008].

  21. GregB says:

    Bush’s administration is in full on, flesh eating decay. Scottie MacLellan delivered a shot the dessicated carcass of the Bush monster and the ribs have cracked and shot out dust…….

    We may end up with an impeachment this summer after all.


    • Petrocelli says:

      Summer/fall hearings, to get ‘top viewers’ ratings would be great, given the fall elections …

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      GregB, after the news about the cabal operating out of Cheney’s office that’s now officially published in the SSCI report, impeachment is a must.

      You don’t turn a blind eye to the hard, published evidence that the Preznit, VP, and their cabal set up a parallel government. And if you do turn a blind eye to that, and fail to remove those people… what does that tell the military?

      Should people really be asked to do military service in support of a pack of lies?
      And lies promoted actively by foreign agents?

      I hope your comment turns out to be prescient.

      • Leen says:

        It is just amazing that this intelligence report comes out five and a half years after people like Jason Vest, Kathleen and Bill Christison, Scott Ritter, Mr. El Baradei, Kofi Anan and many other tried and tried to alert the American public to the truth that the WMD intelligence was seriously flawed, and our Congress and the American public should be questioning it. Millions of Americans did question based on what these brave souls tried to tell us early on.

        Jason Vest article in 2002

        The Men from Jinsa

        December 13, 2002
        A Rose By Another Other Name
        The Bush Administration’s Dual Loyalties

        former CIA political analysts


        Niger Documents Timeline
        including El baradei’s speech at the UN where he told the world (many of us were listening) that the NIger Documents were false

  22. bobschacht says:

    Does anyone else think that this report was pried loose from the clutches of the SSCI by the release of Scottie’s book?

    At least the book makes the Republican’s talking point that the report is a partisan witch hunt look a little flimsy, doesn’t it?

    Bob in HI

    • Petrocelli says:

      I think Obama’s friend Jello Jay now understands that the Democratic leader will support an investigation going forward, and I’m going by what JJ said at his Presser today.

      The Dems seem to be growing some spine since Tuesday …

  23. bmaz says:


    In our democracy, we expect and deserve to be sure that when our troops are sent in harm’s way, when their families are made to watch and wait through sleepless nights, when our security and national welfare is put on the line, that that decision has been taken for the right reasons. This is a sacred compact, an article of faith, between our people and their government.

    George Bush statements to Richard Engel:

    “‘This is the great war of our times. It is going to take forty years,’” [Bush told Engel]. “Bush said in forty years the world would know if the war on terrorism, and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, had reduced extremism, helped moderates, and promoted democracy.”
    – Bush admits to Engel that going to war was a decision based on his personal instinct and not on any long-range strategy for the Mideast:
    “I know people are saying we should have left things the way they were, but I changed after 9/11. I had to act. I don’t care if it created more enemies. I had to act.”

    I really do not see any way of reading these two items together that does not directly establish that George Bush affirmatively and personally took this country into an unjustified, unprovoked and unnecessary war of aggression. What is depicted is the patent definition of an international was crime. It just is, and there is no way around that.

    In his 2003 State of the Union Address, just a few short weeks before giving the order that began this war, the President said: “Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda.”

    Mr. President, it was not true. The President of the United States told these things to our people and to the world, and they were false.

    • bmaz says:

      Oops. the following should have been at the bottom of the comment @36

      Has anybody ever seen this evidence? Because I have not. And I will wager that the only semblance of information they might actually have was extracted by enhanced techniques torture. Where are the tapes?

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Where are the tapes?
        Where are the 5,000,000 emails?
        Just for starters.

        GregB @ 30, it would be great if you are correct; I think the odds are increasing in your favor.

        Bob H @34, the final pub date of his book was later than they’d originally planned. His publisher (Peter Osnos) attributes the book’s success to the simple fact that people want to hear what McC is saying.

        But note that both Alice Fisher and Clemens resigned within the past month, and only left DoJ officially in the past week.
        IIRC, Gov. Siegelman was released during the past month (Horton has an update at Harpers/NoComment).
        In addition, it’s probably taken a lot of time for certain investigations to be completed, or get to a point of critical mass.

        The seeming convergence is probably simply the accumulation of a multitude of procedures, investigations, and soul-searching that’s happened in many places and is perhaps now (finally!!) starting to surface.

        Course, I also suspect that Certain Bloggers (TPM, FDL, EW, DWT, C&L) have moved the narrative forward — but again, if the media reports had made sense, none of us would have sought out alternative, more logically rigorous, explanations.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, that’s from Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, who in fact is known to have been tortured in Egypt and thereafter signed a false confession.

      Obviously, there’s probably at least one more. But al-Libi is one (and his testimony was used in Powell’s UN presentation as well.

      • bmaz says:

        Well, there you go. We at places like here, and analogous sites in the blogosphere, and scattered other rational minds, have always known that the case for the Iraq war was nothing but an amalgamation of lies, contortions, misrepresentations, omissions, and disingenuous bunk. It was cobbled together with care so as to maximize the fear and terror the public would feel. But you cannot build a valid and solid foundation on a series of rotting, festering pillars. And you cannot take the country into a war of aggression on the wings of a lie. Bush is fond of comparing his war to World War II; well, there is a direct similarity, but it is not the one he thinks it is. There should also be one further similarity to WWII, the piece de resistance in the final resolution should be similarly brought to bear and bar with Bush & Friends.

    • greenbird4751 says:

      copied. for my “bad news” file of nasty bush stuff. purify the ground he has touched, indeed.
      there can be no more “off the table.” we can perhaps thank scott for blowing on the veil enough for some to jump in shock at what they can see/hear, for some to seek redemption of a sort in “coming clean” and begging to testify, for some to somberly do their duty and impeach.
      my blood runs cold thinking they make freedom cower.

  24. 4jkb4ia says:

    That was beautiful. It shows his experience as a prosecutor. Barack Obama is not the only outstanding orator in our party.

  25. Quzi says:

    what a day…I cannot keep up with your posts, EW.

    It rots the very fiber of democracy when our government is put to these uses

    I love Whitehouse…he utters pure unadulterated truth…something these crroks know nothing about.

    What a great find on Fitz’s comment today…thank you EW for all that you do…your blog is a lifeline for many of us in this undemocracy we live in.

    • greenbird4751 says:

      yes it is. as a bonkers faithful reader, i was dismayed and dismayed as over and over fdl did not load for me yesterday. so, in order not to have to read idiotic comments like the ones i first posted, please fdl–don’t do that again. it scared me.

  26. JThomason says:

    What we are witnessing is the ineluctable deep psychological logic of Bush’s professed view of history “war lord, entrepreneur, trading partner” expressed in an answer to a question about China during a debate in 2000 coming to fruition in a sickening burlesque of enlightened governance. The tragedy of this grotesque chapter is not only the so called “intuitive” causa belli, or the wishful belief that torture will yield fact but more fully in the the underlying pattern of an adolescent-like “magical thinking” and self-centered deceit. Is this monstrous caricature of a juvenile delinquent the best our culture can do having emerged from centuries of enlightened revolution in science? The pattern is of a group of people pitifully naive, inexperienced in actual war, desirous of the unachievable, and irrational. George W. Bush is its perfect representative. Of greater tragedy is that the possible rational responses to the situation created by 9/11 were abandoned in the greater valences of this sickness. The truculence and criminal permissiveness of the Republican political leadership plays out as if in a narrative akin to the one set forth in the Lord of the Flies.

    One can only hope the temper of historic consciousness fully steeped in the limitations that the awareness of human tragedy bolsters will trudge forward again toward hegemony.

    • kspena says:

      Thank you for this statement. Lord of the Flies has been the frame through which I’ve viewed this administration for years now. This pack of ne’er-do-wells stepped out of that novel as imposters who high-jacked the executive institutions of this country. When they were ‘reelected’ in 2004, I thought the grown-ups would never come. But hopefully the adults are beginning to arrive in numbers now.

  27. greenbird4751 says:

    familiar with the goya firing squad painting? what if they were the bad guys being shot, instead: that is, NOT a firing squad, but a court of law, just with the same emotional colors…with their bad guy legs forever in shackles.
    no, not a firing squad. shackles. and hannibal’s masks.

  28. greenbird4751 says:

    WHEN FIREDOGLAKE won’t load on one of the most important days of the year?
    I go bonkers. righteous historic rage. how can we have become so evil that only after seven years we can admit to go-along,get-along…
    i think i’ll stop now. sorry for the use of bandwidth.

  29. Leen says:

    And when I read the conclusions and the recommendations of the Phase II committee I was left with a knot in my stomach wondering just what the repercussions will be for those who so clearly lied our nation into an unnecessary war. The language used by this committee to describe the creating, cherry picking and disseminating of false intelligence ” inappropriate, ill advised, highly inappropriate” is no more than a wrist slap for those responsible. The question is will our congress take this report and do something? Hold those responsible ACCOUNTABLE?

    Holding those responsible for disseminating false intelligence ACCOUNTABLE is the very least, the very least that our Representatives can do for the the unnecessary and immoral loss of American and Iraqi lives, the destroyed country of Iraq and 4 million Iraqi refugees. Will our Congress do anything with this report or will the “fiber of our Democracy” as Senator Whitehouse has so eloquently stated “continue to rot”?

    We are writing, e-mailing, calling, our Reps. We are doing our part. Will they do theirs? We are waiting for ACCOUNTABILITY, And the whole world is watching.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Prediction: the November elections (and the Sept primaries) are going to be won or lost on turnout.

      If Congress doesn’t initiate legal proceedings against the nest of spies run out of OVP, and include GWBush — for turning a blind eye in order to maintain ‘plausible deniability’ — then all I can do is shrug and say, “Fuck it. I’m not voting. And I’m done contributing. I refuse to help enable a system so weakened and corrupt that it can’t even reign in thugs and spies. The very idea of supporting this mess, even by voting, is revolting.”

      When a US Senate report makes clear that Congress, the FBI, the CIA, and the military have been subverted by a nest of spies and no one does anything about it — the criminals keep their nice, cushy lives…. there’s simply no point in paying attention, let alone voting. F*ck that bullshit.

      That makes about as much sense as paying the Mafia to intimidate you. Thanks all the same, but I’ll have to take a pass…

      McClatchy gives front page attention to the ‘cabal’ that operated out of OVP and the Pentagon.
      Meanwhile, at the NYT no front page headline about the nest of spies. Go figure.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          McClatchy really owes the NYT editors a few bouquets as ‘thanks’ for giving them such a great opportunity to build new readership.

          This has zero to do with ‘media convergence’ or ‘digital technologies’, and everything to do with two very human factors: (1) editorial judgment and (2) reporting talent.

          McClatchy seems to be the leaner operation, but they’re outpacing the NYT by a country mile.

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