I Was Right
Before the war — when it mattered — I documented the Bush team's
"techniques of deceit," but the major media weren't interested.
December 17, 2005
By Dennis Hans
Edwards began his widely discussed guest
column for the Washington Post, titled "The Right Way in Iraq,"
with these dramatic words: "I was wrong."
The former senator and vice presidential candidate now regrets
his vote granting President George W. Bush the authority to invade
Iraq in the event that Saddam Hussein thwarted peaceful international
efforts to rid him of his presumed weapons of mass destruction and
The biggest mistake of Edwards and many other yes-voting Democrats
as well as countless self-styled "liberal hawks" (many of whom release
their droppings at the New Republic, Slate, Washington Monthly and
American Prospect and might better be described as "easily suckered
right-leaning centrists") was to take Bush at his word when he promised
to give inspections a fair chance and go to war only as a last resort.
Just because someone speaks plainly, looks you in the eye and gives
you a firm, manly handshake doesn't mean he's trustworthy. Such
behavior is characteristic of genuine straight shooters, but also
of con artists.
Unlike Edwards and the liberal hawks, I was right. Despite never
having won a MacArthur "genius" award, in a series of prescient
pre-war essays dating from October 2002 (links and excerpts are
presented in this
"Greatest Hits" piece) I explained in great detail how Bush
and his foreign-policy team were systematically and knowingly misleading
Congress, the news media and the citizenry, and how most of the
news media were letting the Bushies get away with it.
My writings cited and credited the exceptions to news media incompetence,
slumbering and cowardice, including the Washington Post's Joby "Aluminum
Tubes" Warrick, Knight-Ridder's Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel,
the Los Angeles Times' Greg Miller and Bob Drogin, and a non-journalist
who did more than all the mainstream reporters put together: Glen
Rangwala of England's Cambridge University. His pre-war writings,
including a devastating dissection of Powell's U.N. presentation,
are collected here.
I introduced the con-artist metaphor Oct. 19, 2002, in the essay
Bush Aided by Media's Wusses of Mass Credulity", which explained
the process by which large sections of the public had come to believe
two things — Iraq currently possessed a nuclear weapon and had participated
in the 9-11 terror attacks — that the administration itself knew
was not true and had not said so directly. It's all about the drumbeat,
of one official pronouncement after another that overstates the
evidence but not to the point of saying "Saddam has nukes" or "Saddam
was definitely involved in 9-11" — and counting on the news media
to treat such pronouncements respectfully.
My most widely posted and distributed pre-war piece was a 5,000-word
opus titled "Lying
Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His 'Techniques of Deceit'" (Feb.
I documented 15 such techniques, the first of which was "Stating
as fact what are allegations — often highly dubious ones."
I illustrated that technique with three examples, the first two
from the Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union address, the third from
Bush's Oct. 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati. The lines may ring a bell:
"From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s,
had several mobile biological weapons labs."
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently
sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
"We've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb
making and poisons and deadly gases."
I explained how those are examples of lying with verbs. "Know"
and "learn" convey knowledge. In each case, neither the Bush or
Blair administration knew any of these things for a fact. This was
obvious AT THE TIME simply from what each administration stated
was their source of knowledge: "defectors" on the mobile labs; unconfirmed
"reporting" on the training; vague "intelligence"(a word that does
not mean "proof") on Saddam's pursuit of African uranium — "intelligence"
the Brits were not sharing with anyone, including the U.N.'s International
Atomic Energy Agency, which was aggressively seeking "actionable
intelligence" on that very matter.
How would Bush like it if our mass media presented as established
fact the unconfirmed tabloid story that, after nearly 20 years of
sobriety, he is again drinking heavily? In that case, the Bush team
would very loudly remind the public that allegation is not fact,
and it would berate any media outlet that didn't make that distinction.
Pretending an unconfirmed allegation is an established fact is
LYING. Removing the caveats is LYING. Exaggerating for effect is
In each case, the speaker is intentionally conveying a false or
misleading picture for the listener. It is this intent to deceive
that is at the heart of lying.
Here are some other techniques of deceit I documented in "Lying
Us Into War":
Withholding the key fact that destroys the moral underpinning
of an argument; Misrepresentation/Invention; Delegated lying/Team
lying; Straw man; Withholding the key fact that would alert viewers
that the purported grave threat is non-existent; Using mistranslation,
misquotation and context-stripping to plant a frightening impression
in the minds of trusting citizens that is the exact opposite of
what you know to be true; Putting the most frightening interpretation
on a piece of evidence while pretending that no other interpretation
exists; Bold declarations of hot air; Creating in the public mind
an intense but unfounded fear; Citing old news as if it's relevant
today, while leaving out the reason it's not; Transference; and
I also wrote about the administrations's knight in shining armor.
Open Letter to the U.N. About Colin Powell", posted the day
before he addressed the Security Council, I laid out all the shady-lawyer
techniques he was likely to use to mislead the world, and I showed
that his track record marked him as a man not to be trusted.
I described Powell as "the ultimate 'team player' on a team that
cheats" and raised the possibility he would stoop to presenting
allegations obtained through torture. On both counts, Powell didn't
let me down. Here's an excerpt:
"Powell's presentation will be in the form of 'here is
the unvarnished truth as we understand it.' But his will be
a case for the prosecution and should be viewed as such. He
will present only those tidbits that strengthen his case while
suppressing tidbits that undermine it — and he will have a great
advantage over a prosecutor in an American court.
"You see, that prosecutor would earlier have taken part in
what is called the 'discovery' phase. The rules differ by state
and by type of case, but the idea is that both sides in a trial
get access to just about all the information and evidence the
other side has gathered. You, on the other hand, will not be
privy to the mountain of evidence from which Powell has selected
his damning tidbits. You won't have access to the material that
places each accusation in its proper context, or the material
that weakens or directly contradicts each accusation.
"Nor will you know if certain evidence is unreliable because
it was obtained through torture. On Monday Kenneth Roth, executive
director of Human Rights Watch, wrote a letter
to Powell urging him to denounce the use of torture and
not to include in his presentation any 'information' obtained
through torture or severe mistreatment. (An in-depth story in
the Dec. 26 Washington Post, cited by Roth, indicates the administration
now countenances torture.) Would the Bush administration permit
U.S. intelligence agencies to torture directly and/or ship detainees
to foreign torture centers in hopes of extracting the magic
words 'Saddam and al Qaeda — all for one and one for all'? You
might want to ask Secretary Powell."
The answer, we now know, is yes. And though Powell may not have
known that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi cried "Uncle Sam" because of the
threat or reality of torture by his Egyptian interrogators, Powell
was surely aware of the possibility: months earlier he had lost
the torture debate inside the administration.
Hours before Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, I explained
something that is only now dawning on John Kerry and other dimwits
of my own Democratic Party: "The
Evidence Bush is Withholding Weakens, Not Strengthens the Case for
Inspired in part by what I had heard and read from gullible Bob
Woodward, I wrote that "many in the news media are filing lame stories
on the alleged dilemma facing the president - should he risk exposing
intelligence 'sources and methods' to make the smoking-gun case
against Saddam Hussein, or should he protect sources and methods
even if it weakens his case? Such reporters are operating from a
preposterous premise: This is an honest president in an honest dilemma,
rather than a president who, when it comes to Iraqi policy, has
never hesitated to misrepresent, exaggerate and lie."
I explained how the aluminum tubes were a perfect example. Bush's
speeches gave nary a hint that those tubes could possibly serve
a non-nuclear purpose, or that the specifications of the tubes made
them a bad fit for nuclear centrifuges. Dr. Rice described the tubes
as "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." But the IAEA
had said BEFORE the State of the Union address that the tubes were
a good fit for Iraq's conventional rockets and, for a host of technical
reasons, ill-suited for centrifuges. A few days before that address,
Joby Warrick of the Washington Post penned a long story on the doubts
of both the IAEA and U.S. government experts. Bush and all the people
who signed off on that address and earlier ones were quite willing
to leave viewers with a highly misleading impression.
On Feb. 19, 2003 I penned an advice column, "I'm
Calling You Out," directed primarily at journalists. Here's
what I told Bob Woodward:
"Go back and read pp. 124-29 of your 1987 book
'Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987.' Then write a front-page
story about the precise parallels between the corruption of the
intelligence process in 1981 under Reagan-Casey and today under
And I recommended that all journalists . . .
"Never use the verbs 'think' or 'believe' when
reporting what Bush administration officials 'say' about Iraq
or Saddam. You do not know what these officials 'think' or 'believe';
you only know what they SAY they think and believe. Powell - the
most credible administration official in the eyes of Americans
and the world - almost certainly didn't 'believe' that Osama had
formed a 'partnership' with Saddam when Powell went before the
Senate and selectively quoted from Osama's latest message, leaving
out the part where Osama calls Saddam an 'infidel' whose 'jurisdiction
. . . has fallen.' If the most credible Bush administration official
will deceive so brazenly - he knew that within hours the complete
Osama transcript would be available worldwide - imagine what the
'less credible' members of this administration are capable of."
That's just the tip of my iceberg. I may have been ineffectual
— thanks to countless rejections from incompetent or cowardly editors
at mass-audience mainstream outlets, who when it mattered most were
loathe to publish anything that challenged conventional wisdom and
the administration's integrity. But I was right.
Dennis Hans is a freelance writer who has taught courses in mass
communications and American foreign policy at the University of
South Florida-St. Petersburg; he's also a basketball shooting instructor.
Prior to the Iraq war, Hans penned the prescient essays "Lying
Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His 'Techniques of Deceit'" and
Disinformation Age". He can be reached at HANS_D@popmail.firn.edu