Rhymes With Fire


“In wartime,” declared Winston Churchill, “the truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recalled the quote last fall, as the administration prepared to wage war against Iraq. Months before Baghdad fell, the president and top US officials began making accusations about Iraq’s weapons program, each dutifully trumpeted by the media, that ultimately turned out to be…well, part of truth’s bodyguard. Here are a few worth remembering.

“When the inspectors first went into Iraq and were finally denied access, a report came out of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] that they were six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.”

President Bush, September 7, 2002

“Verification activities have revealed no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material, or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material.”

IAEA report to the UN, April 7, 1999

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from AfricaÉ. He clearly has much to hide.”

President Bush, January 28, 2003

“The IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents [linking Iraq and Niger] are in fact not authentic … . These specific allegations are unfounded.”

IAEA report to the UN, March 7, 2003

“Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles – far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, and other nations.”

President Bush, October 7, 2002

“The missiles have been tested … to a maximum of 183 kilometers [114 miles].”

Hans Blix, UN weapons inspector, January 27, 2003. Baghdad is 547 miles from Jerusalem, 616 miles from Riyadh, and 785 miles from Ankara.

“This is one of about 65 [munitions] facilities in Iraq. We know that this one has housed chemical munitions … . The truck you also see is a signature item. It’s a decontamination vehicle.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell, remarks to the UN Security Council, February 5, 2003

“None of the hot tips were ever confirmed. I don’t know about a single decontamination truck that didn’t turn out to be a fire engine or a water truck.”

Jorn Siljeholm, UN weapons inspector, March 18, 2003

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