LIES, LIES, LIES
Point by Point, Lie by Lie
Stephen Zunes, March 18, 2003
(Editor's Note: Below is a transcript of President
George W. Bush's address to the nation on Monday, March
17, announcing his readiness to order a U.S. invasion
of Iraq followed by an analysis highlighting some of
the lies and misleading statements in the speech. Such
an overview is necessary since the Democratic Party
leadership in Congress, which has pledged to support
the president in the event of war, declined to take
their traditional opportunity to offer a formal
response. The Green Party, which opposes the war, was
not given the opportunity by the networks to respond.)
"My fellow citizens, events in Iraq have now reached
the final days of decision. For more than a decade, the
United States and other nations have pursued patient
and honorable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime
This is patently false. In 1998, President Bill Clinton
successfully pressured UNSCOM director Richard Butler
to withdraw inspectors without authorization from the
Secretary General or the Security Council--before their
mission was complete--in order to engage in a four-day
heavy bombing campaign against Iraq. As predicted at
the time, this illegal use of military force--combined
with revelations that the United States had abused the
inspections process for espionage purposes--resulted in
the Iraqi government barring the inspectors' return
until a reorganized inspections commission known as
UNMOVIC commenced inspections last year. UNMOVIC
chairman Hans Blix and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
explicitly called upon the United States and the
international community to give the inspectors more
time to do their job, noting that it would take a
number of months before their mission could be
"That regime pledged to reveal and destroy all its
weapons of mass destruction as a condition for ending
the Persian Gulf War in 1991."
Iraq was presented with this demand as part of UN
Security Council Resolution 687, which mandated Iraqi
disarmament of its weapons of mass destruction and
related delivery systems. This was a unilateral decree
from the Security Council which--while nominally part
of the ceasefire agreement--was void of any explicit
threat to continue prosecuting the war if Iraq did not
agree to the disarmament provisions. It is noteworthy
that the demand for Iraqi disarmament in the resolution
was put forward within the context of a call for
regional disarmament. The United States has refused to
encourage any regional disarmament initiative, however,
and remains a strong supporter of the Israeli and
Pakistani governments, which have advanced nuclear
arsenals among other weapons of mass destruction.
"Since then, the world has engaged in 12 years of
diplomacy. We have passed more than a dozen resolutions
in the United Nations Security Council. We have sent
hundreds of weapons inspectors to oversee the
disarmament of Iraq. Our good faith has not been
returned. The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy
to gain time and advantage. It has uniformly defied
Security Council resolutions demanding full
Iraq's cooperation has indeed been less than total, but
most independent reports--even during UNSCOM's
inspections regime between 1991 and 1998--conclude that
cooperation was close to 90%. According to UNMOVIC,
Iraq's cooperation since inspections resumed last year
has been far better.
"Over the years, UN weapon inspectors have been
threatened by Iraqi officials, electronically bugged,
and systematically deceived."
This was not an uncommon practice during the UNSCOM
era, but there have been no reports from UNMOVIC of
such harassment subsequently.
"Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime have
failed again and again--because we are not dealing with
Peaceful efforts at disarming Iraq have succeeded in
eliminating somewhere between 95% and 100% of Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction and related materiel and
delivery systems as a result of UN Security Council
resolution 687 and subsequent resolutions. The
determination to go to war despite such success raises
serious questions as to whether the United States is
governed by peaceful men.
"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments
leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to
possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons
If the United States really has evidence that the Iraqi
government continues to possess and conceal weapons of
mass destruction, why has the Bush administration
refused to make such evidence public or pass such
intelligence on to United Nations inspectors, who have
the authority to destroy them?
"This regime has already used weapons of mass
destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's
Iraq did use chemical weapons against Iranian troops
and Kurdish civilians back in the 1980s when Saddam
Hussein's regime was being supported by the United
States. The Reagan administration covered up for the
Halabja massacre and similar attacks against Kurdish
civilians by falsely claiming that it was the
Iranians--then the preferred enemy--who were
responsible. In addition, the U.S. Defense
Intelligence Agency provided Iraq with U.S. satellite
data to help Saddam Hussein's forces locate Iranian
troop concentrations in the full knowledge that they
were using chemical weapons. Many of the key components
of Iraq's chemical weapons program came from the United
States, ostensibly for pesticides as part of
taxpayer-funded agricultural subsidies, despite
evidence that these U.S.-manufactured chemicals were
probably being diverted for use in illegal chemical
"The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the
This is true, though Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980
was quietly supported by the U.S. government and
ambivalent signals by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq
immediately prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait may
have emboldened Saddam Hussein to conquer the sheikdom
in 1990. Now, with Iraq's offensive military capability
just a fraction of what is was during that period and
an unambiguous resolve by the international community
to thwart such future aggression, there is little
chance of Iraq invading another country again.
"It has a deep hatred of America and our friends."
Iraq willingly accepted U.S. support during the 1980s.
The more belligerent posture of recent years is largely
a result of the U.S. destruction of much of the
country's military and civilian infrastructure in the
1991 Gulf War, which was supported by a number of other
Middle Eastern states with which Iraq had also once
collaborated and been on friendly terms. Subsequent
U.S.-led sanctions, periodic bombing raids, and
invasion threats have resulted in widespread suffering
of the population that has intensified anti-American
sentiment. Had the United States adopted a more
enlightened policy, such deep hatred would likely have
"And it has aided, trained, and harbored terrorists,
including operatives of al Qaeda."
Every independent investigation of every Bush
administration claim of a connection between the
secular Iraqi government and the Islamist al Qaeda
network has found no evidence of any Iraqi aid,
training, or harboring of al Qaeda terrorists.
According to both published U.S. government reports and
independent analyses, Iraq's support for international
terrorism--which has always been restricted to secular
nationalists like the radical Palestinian Abu Nidal
faction--peaked in the 1980s.
"The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or,
one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of
Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated
ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands
of innocent people in our country, or any other. The
United States and other nations did nothing to deserve
or invite this threat. But we will do everything to
defeat it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we
will set a course toward safety. Before the day of
horror can come, before it is too late to act, this
danger will be removed."
The Bush administration has failed to present any
evidence that Iraq has the intention to pass on weapons
of mass destruction to terrorists, an act that would
inevitably lead to a U.S.-led invasion, only in this
case with the support of the international community.
This is the essence of deterrence, which protected the
United States and its allies from Josef Stalin, Mao
Zedung, and other leaders as tyrannical and far more
powerful militarily than Saddam Hussein. And no country
has the right to invade another on some far-fetched
scenario that they might do something someday.
Ironically, as the CIA has noted in a report released
this past October, Saddam Hussein would not likely use
WMDs as a first strike, but in the case of a U.S.
invasion--with nothing to lose and the logic of
deterrence no longer in effect--would be far more
likely to use whatever WMDs he may possess. In other
words, a U.S. invasion, rather than preventing the use
of weapons of mass destruction, would be the most
likely--and the only realistic--scenario that such
horrible weapons would be utilized.
"The United States of America has the sovereign
authority to use force in assuring its own national
security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief,
by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep."
The oath of office also demands that the president
uphold and defend the Constitution of the United
States, which forbids such an illegal use of force.
Virtually no international legal authority recognizes
such an invasion as an act of assuring legitimate
national security interests.
"Recognizing the threat to our country, the United
States Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to
support the use of force against Iraq."
The U.S. Congress--with the support of both the
Republican and Democratic leadership--did authorize the
use of force against Iraq. However, the resolution
violates Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution
which does not allow Congress to grant such open-ended
warmaking authority to the president for an offensive
military action. Only a formal declaration of war in
such a situation can be considered legitimate.
Furthermore, Article VI of the Constitution declares
that international treaties to which the United States
is a party are to be treated as supreme law, thereby
proscribing Congress from passing any resolution that
violates the UN Charter, such as supporting an invasion
of a sovereign nation. As a result, this resolution is
unconstitutional and thereby invalid.
"America tried to work with the United Nations to
address this threat because we wanted to resolve the
issue peacefully. We believe in the mission of the
Then why is the United States violating the UN Charter,
which forbids the use of military force unless a
country finds itself under armed attack or it is
explicitly authorized by the UN Security Council? The
mission of the United Nations is to preserve
international peace and security, not to approve the
invasion of one country by another.
"One reason the UN was founded after the Second World
War was to confront aggressive dictators, actively and
early, before they can attack the innocent and destroy
The United States refused to confront Saddam Hussein
active and early when he was committing acts of
aggression against Iranians and Kurds and opposed
decisive action by the United Nations. Iraq's ability
to attack the innocent and destroy the peace has
already been reduced dramatically through a series of
actions by the United Nations, including authorizing
the use of force to remove Iraqi occupation forces from
Kuwait, placing strict military sanctions against the
dictatorship, and overseeing the most aggressive
unilateral disarmament effort and inspections regime in
history. "In the case of Iraq, the Security Council did
act, in the early 1990s. Under Resolutions 678 and
687--both still in effect--the United States and our
allies are authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of
weapons of mass destruction. This is not a question of
authority, it is a question of will."
The assertion that resolutions 678 and 687 give the
United States the right to invade Iraq is patently
false. Resolution 678 authorized the use of force to
enforce prior UN Security Council resolutions demanding
that Iraq remove its occupation forces from Kuwait.
Once that was accomplished in late February 1991, the
resolution became moot. Resolution 687 called for Iraqi
disarmament of weapons of mass destruction and related
delivery systems, but--even though it was the most
detailed resolution in the history of the United
Nations--no enforcement mechanism was specified.
According to United Nations Charter, such resolutions
can be enforced militarily only if the Security Council
as a whole recognizes that a country is in material
breach, determines that all non-military means have
been exhausted, and specifically authorizes the use of
force. The Security Council has not done so subsequent
to the passage of resolution 678 in late November 1990.
"Last September, I went to the UN General Assembly and
urged the nations of the world to unite and bring an
end to this danger. On November 8th, the Security
Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, finding
Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowing
serious consequences if Iraq did not fully and
True, but it did not authorize the use of force.
Article 14 of that resolution specifically noted that
the Security Council would "remain seized of the
matter," reiterating that only the Security Council as
a whole--not any one member state--has the power to
determine whether military force can be legitimately
utilized to enforce its resolution.
"Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has
There actually are some nations that believe that Iraq
has disarmed under the resolutions. Though this is not
likely the case, the Bush administration has been
unable to present clear evidence to the contrary.
"And it will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds
This is sheer speculation. As a dictator who has proven
his desire to ruthlessly hold on to power at all costs,
he very well could disarm to save his regime. However,
the Bush administration has made clear its intention to
invade anyway, thereby providing little incentive for
Saddam Hussein to do so.
"For the last four-and-a-half months, the United States
and our allies have worked within the Security Council
to enforce that Council's long-standing demands. Yet,
some permanent members of the Security Council have
publicly announced they will veto any resolution that
compels the disarmament of Iraq. These governments
share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve
to meet it."
Actually, most Security Council members do not believe
that Iraq is the imminent threat that the United States
claims it to be, though, if convincing evidence were
presented that Iraq indeed posed a threat to
international peace and security, a clear majority of
the Security Council--including France--have indicated
their willingness to authorize the use of force. A veto
of the proposed U.S.-sponsored resolution by France,
Russia, and China would probably not have been
necessary since the United States was unable--despite
enormous pressure, including promises of increased
foreign aid, trade preferences, and other
incentives--to convince a simple majority of nations on
the Council that it was necessary to take the
unprecedented step of authorizing the United States to
invade Iraq, overthrow the government, and replace it
with one more to its liking.
"Many nations, however, do have the resolve and
fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a
broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just
demands of the world."
There is nothing close to the broad coalition such as
that which joined the United States in ridding Iraqi
occupation forces from Kuwait in 1991, when Iraq
clearly did constitute a threat to peace. As of this
writing, only one major power (Great Britain) and two
minor powers (Spain and Australia) have offered to send
troops. All three of these governments are doing so
contrary to the sentiments of the vast majority of
their population and their combined participation still
leaves the United States contributing at least 85% of
combat forces. As columnist Maureen Dowd noted, since
the Bush administration has driven virtually everyone
from the schoolyard, it now has to rely on imaginary
"The United Nations Security Council has not lived up
to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours."
In reality, the United Nations Security Council has
gone to extraordinary efforts to minimize any threat to
peace from Iraq, including authorizing the use of force
in 1990 to enforce resolutions requiring an Iraqi
withdrawal from occupied Kuwait, the imposition of
strict sanctions against Iraq, and the creation of an
inspections regime that has been largely--if not
100%--effective. By contrast, it is not the
responsibility of the United States or any country to
invade a sovereign nation when it feels like it.
"In recent days, some governments in the Middle East
have been doing their part. They have delivered public
and private messages urging the dictator to leave Iraq,
so that disarmament can proceed peacefully. He has thus
far refused. All the decades of deceit and cruelty have
now reached an end. Saddam Hussein and his sons must
leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will
result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our
choosing. For their own safety, all foreign
nationals--including journalists and inspectors--should
leave Iraq immediately."
President Bush has no authorization to demand that
United Nations inspectors or foreign nationals leave
Iraq. Nor does he have the right to demand that Saddam
Hussein and his sons leave their country. No Security
Council resolutions require that Saddam Hussein resign
or that he and any other member of his family go into
exile. And neither the United States nor any other
country has the right to commence an invasion of
another country at the time of its choosing.
"Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio
broadcast, and I have a message for them. If we must
begin a military campaign, it will be directed against
the lawless men who rule your country and not against
It is highly likely that a major U.S. military
campaign--particularly one with such a heavy reliance
on air power and the determination to seize by force a
capital city of over five million people--will result
in the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.
"As our coalition takes away their power, we will
deliver the food and medicine you need."
In large part as a result of the U.S.-led sanctions,
there are already severe shortages of food and
medicines in Iraq. Strict and mostly equitable
rationing have left few Iraqi families with more than a
couple of days' worth of food in storage. It is
unlikely that the United States will be able to supply
most Iraqis with the food and medicine they need in any
"We will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will
help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and
free. In a free Iraq, there will be no more wars of
aggression against your neighbors, no more poison
factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more
torture chambers and rape rooms."
The fact that the United States has supported scores of
regimes--including a number in the Middle East--that
have tortured, raped, and murdered dissidents raises
serious questions as to whether the Bush administration
really supports a free Iraq. The Bush administration's
ongoing support of Moroccan occupation forces in
Western Sahara, Turkish occupation forces in northern
Cyprus, and Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank,
the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights raises serious
questions as to whether the United States is actually
bothered by countries that commit acts of aggression
against neighbors. The United States also supports a
number of Middle Eastern countries that are believed to
have developed chemical weapons, similarly raising
questions as to whether the Bush administration is
really worried about "poison factories."
"The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your
liberation is near."
Most Iraqis would certainly welcome the end of Saddam
Hussein's regime. But it is highly questionable
whether a Western nation that has already wrought
enormous suffering for the Iraqi people, invades the
country, and installs one of its own generals as a
provisional military governor will be seen as an act of
liberation or a foreign occupation.
"It is too late for Saddam Hussein to remain in power.
It is not too late for the Iraqi military to act with
honor and protect your country by permitting the
peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate weapons
of mass destruction."
First, it is hard to imagine any national army--even
under the most ruthless of dictators--that would not
resist a foreign invasion. Second, if the United States
knows where these alleged weapons of mass destruction
are located, why haven't U.S. government officials
informed UNMOVIC inspectors, who have the authority to
"Our forces will give Iraqi military units clear
instructions on actions they can take to avoid being
attacked and destroyed. I urge every member of the
Iraqi military and intelligence services, if war comes,
do not fight for a dying regime that is not worth your
own life. And all Iraqi military and civilian personnel
should listen carefully to this warning. In any
conflict, your fate will depend on your action. Do not
destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to
the Iraqi people. Do not obey any command to use
weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including
the Iraqi people. War crimes will be prosecuted. War
criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense
to say, 'I was just following orders'."
The United States has actively undermined and refused
to participate in the International Criminal Court,
which was designed to try and punish war criminals like
Saddam Hussein. As a result, any such trials will
likely be under the tutelage of an occupying American
army, which will be seen by the vast majority of the
international community as illegitimate. For a foreign
occupation army to try and punish leaders of an
internationally recognized government--however
reprehensible they may be--is in itself a war crime and
would make these thugs martyrs in the eyes of much of
"Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the
American people can know that every measure has been
taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to
Refusing an illegitimate order by a foreign government
to surrender power is not choosing confrontation. And,
clearly, the Bush administration has not taken "every
measure to avoid war."
"Americans understand the costs of conflict because we
have paid them in the past. War has no certainty,
except the certainty of sacrifice. Yet, the only way to
reduce the harm and duration of war is to apply the
full force and might of our military, and we are
prepared to do so. If Saddam Hussein attempts to cling
to power, he will remain a deadly foe until the end. In
desperation, he and terrorists groups might try to
conduct terrorist operations against the American
people and our friends. These attacks are not
inevitable. They are, however, possible."
Then why prosecute and unnecessary and illegal war?
"And this very fact underscores the reason we cannot
live under the threat of blackmail. The terrorist
threat to America and the world will be diminished the
moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed."
According to the CIA and other estimates, Iraq has not
engaged in any anti-American terrorism since the
alleged 1993 assassination attempt against former
President George Bush and has already dramatically
reduced his support for international terrorism since
the 1980s, when the United States was supporting his
government. By contrast, most intelligence analyses
predict an increase in the terrorist threat to America
and its allies should the United States invade Iraq.
"Our government is on heightened watch against these
dangers. Just as we are preparing to ensure victory in
Iraq, we are taking further actions to protect our
homeland. In recent days, American authorities have
expelled from the country certain individuals with ties
to Iraqi intelligence services. Among other measures, I
have directed additional security of our airports, and
increased Coast Guard patrols of major seaports. The
Department of Homeland Security is working closely with
the nation's governors to increase armed security at
critical facilities across America. Should enemies
strike our country, they would be attempting to shift
our attention with panic and weaken our morale with
fear. In this, they would fail. No act of theirs can
alter the course or shake the resolve of this country.
We are a peaceful people--yet we're not a fragile
people, and we will not be intimidated by thugs and
killers. If our enemies dare to strike us, they and all
who have aided them, will face fearful consequences."
The chances of the United States being attacked will be
greatly increased if the U.S. attacks first. Indeed, if
there was any logic behind the madness of 9/11, it was
Osama bin Laden's hope that the United States would
react in such a way that would only increase the
popularity of anti-American extremists. History has
shown that the more the United States has militarized
the Middle East, the less secure we have become.
"We are now acting because the risks of inaction would
be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power
of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be
multiplied many times over. With these capabilities,
Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose
the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest.
We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises,
before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities."
Iraq has never threatened to attack the United States
nor does it have the ability to attack the United
States. That country became a formidable military
threat back in the 1980s as a result of support from
industrialized nations like the U.S., Great Britain,
France, Germany, and Russia. With a strict military
embargo imposed upon the country since 1990, it will be
extremely difficult for Iraq to become a military
threat to the United States or any other country.
"The cause of peace requires all free nations to
recognize new and undeniable realities. In the 20th
century, some chose to appease murderous dictators,
whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and
global war. In this century, when evil men plot
chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of
appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never
before seen on this earth."
The analogy with Hitler's Germany and other Axis powers
is spurious. Germany was the most powerful
industrialized country in the world in the 1930s. Iraq,
by contrast, is a poor, third-world country that has
had most of its military infrastructure destroyed and
has been under the strictest military and economic
sanctions in world history. The current UN policy of
inspections, sanctions, and the threat of UN-sanctioned
war if Iraq again threatens its neighbors can hardly be
considered "appeasement." None of the Axis powers of
the 1930s were ever subjected to such international
pressure until they had invaded and occupied dozens of
nations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Iraq has not
invaded and occupied any countries since its six-month
occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91.
"Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these
threats with fair notice, in formal declarations--and
responding to such enemies only after they have struck
first is not self-defense, it is suicide. The security
of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."
Essentially, President Bush is saying that a country
has the right to invade and occupy another country
without any evidence that the targeted country has the
intention, willingness, or ability to strike first.
This would give virtually any country the right to
invade any other. Most of Iraq's neighbors do not
consider Iraq to be a threat, either now or in the
"As we enforce the just demands of the world, we will
also honor the deepest commitments of our country."
Violating the U.S. Constitution and international legal
covenants to which the U.S. government is legally bound
is, in reality, a dishonor to the deepest commitments
of the United States.
"Unlike Saddam Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people are
deserving and capable of human liberty. And when the
dictator has departed, they can set an example to all
the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and
If the United States really believes the Iraqi people
are deserving and capable of human liberty, then why
did the U.S. support Saddam Hussein during the height
of his terror? And why are the leading candidates the
United States hopes to install in Baghdad to replace
the current dictatorship lacking anything remotely
resembling democratic credentials?
"The United States, with other countries, will work to
advance liberty and peace in that region."
Then why does the United States support dictatorships
in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Pakistan,
Uzbekistan, and other autocratic regimes? And why does
the United States support Moroccan, Israeli, and
Turkish occupation forces? Such policies belie any
claim of support for liberty and peace.
"Our goal will not be achieved overnight, but it can
come over time. The power and appeal of human liberty
is felt in every life and every land. And the greatest
power of freedom is to overcome hatred and violence,
and turn the creative gifts of men and women to the
pursuits of peace."
To unleash bombs and missiles on cities, to engage in
war-mongering, and to lie to the American people and
the world in order to rationalize such an invasion is
itself a form of hatred and violence.
"That is the future we choose. Free nations have a duty
to defend our people by uniting against the violent.
And tonight, as we have done before, America and our
allies accept that responsibility. Good night, and may
God continue to bless America."
And may God forgive President Bush and the
congressional leaders of both parties who are
responsible for unleashing such horrific violence
against the people of Iraq.