Majority in US believes Bush 'stretched truth' about Iraq: poll

That's the headline for an Agence France-Presse story on a University of Maryland survey that found "52 percent of respondents said they believed President George W. Bush and his aides were 'stretching the truth, but not making false statements' about Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear programs."

Which suggests that the issue won't matter much in terms of future elections (even though 10 percent of respondents thought administration officials had presented "evidence they knew was false" to the public and other countries).

Part of this response is doubtless because the Bush people quickly started justifying Gulf War 2 on multiple grounds (including a supposedly desperate need to liberate Iraq), even as the WMD remained the trigger for international action. In any case, the American people seem to be comfortable with a very high level of cognitive dissonance regarding the justification for the invasion of Iraq.

One way to read this sort of response is that it follows from the high levels of public cynicism regarding the government: We've almost come to expect our officials to dissemble to us or be incompetent. In a weird way, bad government actors actually may benefit from such low expectations.


NEXT: Another Libertarian Idea Goes Mainstream

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  1. 10 years later Shrub is still an “underqualified, moronic fratboy, lacking “gravitas”.

  2. Here’s all you need to know:

    QUESTION: “On weapons of mass destruction; is it fair to say now after a few months of looking for them that there is a discrepancy between what the intelligence community and you and your top officials described as the threat from Saddam Hussein and what was actually there on the ground?”

    BUSH: “Saddam Hussein had a weapons program. Remember he used them?he used chemical weapons on his own people. Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to the United States because we removed him, but he was a threat. Such a threat that my predecessor, using the same intelligence in 1998, ordered a bombing of Iraq. I mean, so?he was a threat. He?s not a threat now. And the world is more peaceful by virtue of the fact that he is not in power.”

  3. yeah, but he is lying

  4. Here is the text of Congress’ resolution whereby they turned over the keys to Iraq to our Supreme Court appointed CEO. Every congressman who believed this shit should be pissed off and demand some answers now.

    Of 23 paragraphs of reasons, there is exactly 1 sentence mentioning Iraq’s repression of its own people. Today, though, “Freedom” is our stated goal and everybody questioning the lack of WMD are called “revisionist historians”. I mean, Jeez! He can barely pronounce it.

    Alice in Wonderland.

  5. “Supreme Court appointed CEO”

    did you write this one? it is very clever. not as good as “commander in thief” or “chimpy” though.

  6. Bushitler the Chimposter, and his evil cabal of Zionist Texaco Oilbot Executioner is the one i prefer

  7. Sen. Pat Roberts said this afternoon that he’s seen a trove of CIA evidence on Iraq’s WMD, and he’s urging that it be declassified and released at once. He says it would conclusively demonstrate Bush was right.

    Of course, if you don’t want to believe WMDs existed, then nothing anybody produces at this point will suffice. If there weren’t SS-20 missiles lined up at the Kuwaiti border, loaded with nukes, then anything Bush says must have been a lie. If you are a Bush hater, you’ll just rationalize any evidence away by saying it is fabricated, part of a big conspiracy to enforce the neW World Order on all of use by a vast cabal of Neo-Cons and CapitaWists.

  8. Frenk:

    I despised Clinton as much then as I do Bush now. And the people who go on about Bush’s bringing “honor and integrity” back to the White House are just mirror images of the shitheads who used to travel around in the Razorback Brigade and sing “I believe in a place called Hope.”

  9. Eric:

    If we were decentralized politically and economically, we would be a lot less likely to get in situations that lead to war in the first place.

    If the Morris/Hamilton junta hadn’t hijacked the Articles of Confederation, we’d be a lot better off.

  10. Yessirrree, that Lincoln done fucked everything up.

  11. Senator Pat Roberts nor anybody else has seen or heard of WMD since 1998 when we bombed the hell out of every place they were thought to be. All the evidence of WMD leading up to the invasion was over 5 years old. Every single reference newer than that was a flat-out lie.

    Senator Roberts should either put up or shut up.

  12. Wow. Lefty must have some shit-hot super-high security clearance to know every single bit of evidence leading up to the invasion was over 5 years old, and every single reference newer than that was a flat-out lie.

  13. you don’t have to have security clearance to know that politicians are pretty adept at lying and manipulating information in order to get what they want, that goes for republicans or democrats


    So, we can sit here all night, and criticize Bush, and the Democrats, and Sadam, and Lincoln, and Roberts, and the Repugs, and the whole shebang.

    But when all the puking’s been done, what, at the end of the day, is the libertarian solution to all this?

    (After all, we are a culture of SOLUTIONS, are we not?)

  15. What is surprising is all the neocons et al (Jay Nordlinger is a prime example) that talk about how GWB is honorable and honest etc etc. Granted, GWB hasn’t reached Clinton’s levels yet. But all the lines about “Saddam has WMD and is ready to use them” seem to be pretty much false.

    There was no equivocating at the time. If the WMD were “ready to use” at the time of invasion, there is no way they could have gotten out of the country without being tracked. They haven’t been found, probably because they didn’t exist.

    And a majority of Americans know it–liberal, moderate, and conservative.

  16. First, it is not “cognitive dissonance” for a war to have multiple justifications. A review of the debate over the war will find that the American people were never particularly impressed with the “Jacksonian” WMD track, which remained on the table mostly because of the UN resolutions on WMD.

    Rather, the justification which seems to have caught on with the US public was the “Wilsonian” track of deposing an evil dictator. That justification has been amply supported by the evidence, and since it is the one most Americans placed their markers on in the first place, the lack of WMD evidence to date does not especially bother them.

    As for whether the WMD really existed leading up to the invasion, there was no one (other than Saddam) who said otherwise, including all the EU nations with their own intelligence on the situation. The debate wasn’t about whether there were WMDs, the debate was about what to do about them.

    Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but we are a long long way from knowing what happened to the WMDs that Saddam unquestionably possessed in hte mid-90s. Not only have we not found the WMDs, we haven’t found any evidence of their disposal, so I would say it is very premature for anyone to say that they know the true status of Saddam’s WMDs at this point.

  17. “In any case, the American people seem to be comfortable with a very high level of cognitive dissonance regarding the justification for the invasion of Iraq.”

    …or could it be that they came to their own conclusions about the war and found it justified. Maybe they understood that WMD was just one of many justifiable reasons and that the administration was focusing on WMDs as part of selling the package to the international community.

    In other words, they were “in” on the game plan.

    But I suppose it is more satifying to take an elistist view that the American people are dolts who do whatever Bush tells them to do.

  18. ” They haven’t been found, probably because they didn’t exist.”

    But it was impossible to know this pre-invasion. Most goverments in the EU and the UN also suspected Iraq had WMDs. Frankly the only way to know for sure was to remove Saddam from power.

  19. This (the hidden WMD issue) is a classic example of the press in action. Let’s compare the press’s treatment of the lies and exaggerations of our current president to how they treated others in the past.
    Eric Boehlert has a nice article on this at salon

  20. Congratulations on reaching the shift key, archy. I guess your exoskeleton hasn’t completely hardened yet.

    Seriously, though, I don’t think it’s “elitist” to suggest that the people at the top have an advantage in information and agenda control. It’s quite normal for people to devote more attention to things that affect them locally or on a face-to-face basis: family, work, friends, neighborhood, etc. That’s why, regardless of how formally democratic an organization is, democracy cannot actually function once organizations grow beyond the scale of direct, participatory democracy. For the people who make government policy and run big corporations, matters of policy ARE local and face-to-face, and part of their daily lives. So they will always have an inside track on access to information, shaping the flow of information in society at large, etc.

    That’s why we need to dismantle large, centralized organizations and devolve their functions as much as possible to local areas.

  21. Yes, Kevin, we should have let our city councils decide whther to go to war.

  22. what we individually want and what is possible are not always reconcilable. democracy itself is jsut a trade-off for most people and not their motivating goal.

    that being said, information about this war was distributed in a more decentralized fashion that any previous war in history. The fact that people were better informed while also supporting the war says a lot.

  23. According to David Horowitz: “Anyone who denies that wasn’t a 100% chance of nukes in Iraq is a traitor.”

    Even though I used to support civil liberties, since I was pro-war I am afraid that all you traitors must be locked up. Sorry.

    Did I do it right?

  24. Bring ’em On!

  25. This war was based on lies. Before the war all we heard was “Saddam has wmd’s and he’s ready to use them.” Now that we’re there and can’t find evidence to back up our claim, GWB now says the war was justified since we “liberated” Iraq. Right. Instead of under military rule by Saddam now they’re under military rule by the U.S.
    Our government says they can have free elections, but only if they chose someone who we approve of. Isn’t “democrary” great.

  26. good thing we don’t live in one

    “…a republic, if you can keep it.”

    maybe you should think for yourself instead of relying on what officials tell you. and comparing the US military rule (which is temperory) with saddamite totalitarianism is beyond stupid.

  27. ‘” They haven’t been found, probably because they didn’t exist.”

    But it was impossible to know this pre-invasion. Most goverments in the EU and the UN also suspected Iraq had WMDs. Frankly the only way to know for sure was to remove Saddam from power.’

    So when in doubt, start the killing? Even Shrub said invasion should be a last resort.

  28. no, killing tyrants and their followers is just an added bonus.

  29. Sadaam had some demands to meet, didn’t meet ’em, he’s no longer ruling Irak. End of story.

  30. Nick,

    You’re wrong. Americans wanted to go to war to kick somebody’s ass. Iraq was a pretty good target. That’s all there is to it.

  31. our military rule in Iraq may be “temporary,” but you can be sure well have military bases scattered about the counry and if those darn Iraqis elect the wrong person we’ll just have to dispose of him too I guess.

  32. and yes unfortunately we do live in what can best be described as a democrary, not a republic like the founders envisioned

  33. Joe. Did you actually say “shrub”? You realize that’s a Molly Ivins line from like 10 years ago right? I mean get with the program, that was used when the liberal line was that he was this underqualified, moronic fratboy, lacking “gravitas”, who would just mindlessly follow his father’s policies, which was supported by the fact that he hired all of his father’s advisors etc. Now, all right-thinking people know that he’s this dangerous, warmongering, neocon ideologue, who is somehow simultaneously still a malaprop prone dumbass but also a slick political operator, who is so skilled at the game he was able to fool a majority of both houses of congress into voting for his war resolutions. Why, would that he were merely a “shrub”, a miniature version of his father, another moderate country club replubican, not known for being particularly zionist or philo-semetic, and a realist in foreign policy. That way, at least we’d be spared the horror of having liberated two nations from unspeakable tyrrany, we’d still have our bases in Saudi Arabia, pissing off Islamists the world over, and we’d still be propping up rotten client states. And, if we ever felt our national security threatened, we could certainly go ask Dominique de Villepin what we could do about it, it being the “new world order” and everything. But no, shrub starts hanging out with all these neocons and Likudniks and all hell really breaks loose. Did I get it about right? Stop me if I”m wrong.

    The idea of individuals or municipal governments setting their own foreign policy is intriguing though, and we’ve implemented a bit of it here in NYC. You’ll be happy to know that the city council took time out of their busy schedule to condemn the war, as opposed to say removing huge fetid mounds of garbage from the street, or tyring to stop the schools from sucking. I’m also doing my part. I’m in the 37th round of trade negotiations with Norway as we speak.

  34. eric, don’t you know it is wrong to initiate force against a tyrant?

  35. Stephen Fetchet– let’s wait till that “evidence” is declassified. As I recall from Colin Powell’s debacle in front of the UN, the “evidence” for this war ain’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

    WMD were the only viable and defensible reason for this war. At the time, it was loudly trumpeted. If the threat is proven false, it will mean we went to war for nothing. In that case, Bush will have some tough explaining to do (though I’m sure that Rice and Rove have another brilliant strategy already prepared to handle that eventuality — the “revisionist historian” thing is probably the groundwork).

    The freedom of the Iraqi people is not the business of Americans or American TAX DOLLARS. If we were really interested in FREEDOM, we certainly wouldn’t be so happy to jump in the sack with the Chi-coms.

  36. Mr.Delacroix, the Chi-coms haven’t blown up NYC towers (yet.)

  37. French Press? A’Nuf Said.

  38. It seems we can’t find WMDs. However, if the administration were really lying manipulators, wouldn’t they have at least planted WMDs?

    It would save them plenty of political trouble, especially abroad, and would be the effective, cynical thing to do. Nor would it be too difficult. Why haven’t they?


    If the whole WMDs issue was just one big lie to stampede the country into a war…if they were willing to lie that much…why would they not be willing to lie about the discovery of WMDs? Surely, if they could lie shamelessly for months before the war, it is logically inconsistent to think they would shy away from lying afterwards.

    This is doubly weird since almost everyone agreed that Saddam had WMDs. Even the most vocally antiwar French politicians.

    Maybe the truth is rather mundane. Maybe people fucked up. Maybe we had some evidence, which may or may not have been accurate, maybe we misjudged it, overreacted to it, and made an error. Maybe the administration, and especially the intelligence agencies, are to be blamed for incompetence rather than deceit. Maybe this incompetence was shared by other Western intelligence agencies. Maybe Saddam himself did not know enough about his WMD program…it is quite likely that a dictator surrounded by sycophants would have deluded ideas about his capabilities.

  39. Mr. Anonymous at 2:06 AM: Neither have the Iraqis.

  40. “If the administration had really lying manipulators, wouldn’t they have at least planted WMDs? It would save them plenty of political trouble, especially abroad, and it would be the effective, cynical thing to do. Nor would it be too difficult. Why haven’t they?”

    Patience, patience, Allan … Give ’em time. The election is still several months away.

    Or, as David Letterman used to say, “Timing is everything.”


  41. T Hardin – 50 bucks to you for any proven evidence of WMD that was a threat to the US that’s newer than 5 years. The board can judge.


  42. OK, you’re on, Lefty. How will you pay? Do you have a eBank account? Or maybe PayPal? Or shall we do it via snail-mail? Either way, you better have that 50 ready, cuz you’re gonna lose.

    Snot aperture!

  43. Talk’s cheap.

  44. What? Only 52% of the respondents believe what they are being told by 95% of the press?

    I’d say that indicated a high degree of public cynicism regarding the media. No cognitive dissonance is required, and it is the talking heads who should be uncomfortable with such findings.

  45. Eric,

    A shrub with good hired help is still a shrub.

  46. Someday, Joe hopes to be a shrub.

  47. Someday, I hope to have a name (or at least a handle) so I won’t have to hide anonymously anymore, and so Joe can face his accuser in blog daylight.

  48. Swen Swenson, let’s not forget that we are not being fed this stuff ONLY by the media — anyone with internet access can get the stuff straight from the horses’ mouths at,, etc.

    To blame the whole WMD thing on cynicism about the media is to let the government off the hook. It’s also just plain wrong. GWB and his officials painted WMD very clearly as an imminent danger at the start of the war. Now we can’t find proof of this threat, and it seems strange to many people–including a majority of Americans that also includes me.

    There are some hard questions being asked, with good reason. Nor is this a phenomenon limited to “liberals,” unless we are prepared to expand the definition of liberal to include people like Pat Buchanan. The majority of Americans that questions the WMD threat– incidently, a group bigger than the one that voted for GWB to start with–includes conservatives, moderates, and liberals.

    We are waiting for answers.

  49. Frenk my friend, I doubt that either the whitehouse or the military are perpetuating the ‘Bush is a fibber’ meme, which apparently about 52% of the public is beginning to believe. That’s coming directly from the media.

    The same poll (in May)found that 68% of the public think the Prez made the right decision in going to war in Iraq, while 74% think Bush exhibits strong or very strong leadership in the Iraq situation. You won’t read about either of those statistics in Gillespie’s post, or in the major media (1, 2). I might suggest that is because it is an uncomfortable fit with the ‘majority think Bush is a fibber’ message that headlines the reports.

    Perhaps you’ll forgive me if such selective reporting of the poll results has me a bit cynical about the motivation of the talking heads. I have no intention of ‘letting the government off the hook’. My question is ‘who’s trying to set that hook?’

  50. Swen, of course the gov’t isn’t calling Bush a fibber. I mean only that anyone who goes and reads the various statements from the beginning of the war and contrasts them with the information and statements given out now, the “stretching” is obvious. The poll numbers are not too meaningful, except to show that more people have figured this out.

    Personally, I am mad as hell about this. I thought that if WMD existed and really were ready to use, then the US had a defensible interest in demanding quick action from the UN, and attacking when this wasn’t forthcoming. Now, there is no proof, no evidence, no nothing.

  51. how soon we forget…The beast released bio- and or chemical weapons on innocent children women and men in his own country…He is in the ranks with Hitler…He must be destroyed

  52. Hey Frenk…the proof has been there ..where the hell have you been… Your head stuck in the wall street journal you really know whats going on out there…Did you see the carnage at the beasts hands. Because the children he murdered were not yours,,Then it didn’t really happen,,Get your head out of your ass and see the truth for what it is.

  53. You can all bet your sweet asses the weapons of mass destruction are there…get the blinders off.. They are there… in the desert…some will be found…Hide and go seek ..remember that game. Did ya think he would have them out by the BBQ pit in the picnic area????

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