Months before President George W. Bush’s speech on September 11, 2002, the New York Times reported at the time, White House officials confirmed the Bush administration had already been “[planning its Iraq strategy] long before President Bush’s vacation in Texas” in August of that same year.
The strategy was to persuade the public and Congress that the United States and its allies should confront the “threat from Saddam Hussein.”
The now infamous 9/11 anniversary speech — and the speech before the United Nations following the anniversary remarks — both stressed the importance of “[ridding] the world of terror.” But before speaking to the United Nations, Bush made the clearest case for war.
Claiming “our principles and our security are challenged today by outlaw groups and regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions,” Bush presented his case against Iraq, claiming Hussein had only “contempt for the United Nations … [claiming] it had no biological weapons. ”
Making the case that Iraq had a clandestine “weapons program … producing tens of thousands of litres of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs and aircraft spray tanks,” Bush and his administration sold the invasion of Iraq with lies.
How the Bush Administration and the Media Sold the Iraq War
In 2003, Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, laid out Bush’s rationale for war in Iraq, saying Iraq had been given several chances to “comply” with U.N. resolutions regarding the country’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.
He added that America had “proof” the Hussein regime had “evacuated” — not destroyed — its weapons, adding that the U.S. government had “satellite photos that indicate[d] that banned materials [had] recently been moved from a number of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities.” But what the media then failed to dig into was how the evidence presented by Powell had been introduced in a way that helped the administration make the case for war, even as Powell himself knew— or at least seemed to know — that there was a possibility they were putting “half a million troops in Iraq and march[ing] from one end of the country to the other [to] find nothing.”
On the day Powell delivered his speech, then-CIA operations officer Valerie Plame Wilson noticed his claims “simply did not match the intelligence which she had worked on daily for months.”
Making use of claims made by a discredited Iraqi defector code-named “Curveball,” Powell ignored the fact the CIA haddeemed the source a “fabricator” and used the source’s shaky evidence to convince the media, as well as other global powers, they should all go along with the U.S. plan.
At the time, the New York Times, which had previously openly reported that the Bush administration had been planning on “selling” the Iraq war using the best marketing strategies at hand, published a number of opinion pieces reinforcingthe idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. After reports proved Bush’s rationale for war had been debunked, the prestigious publication had to retract.
The late Michael Ratner, an attorney who served as the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, once accused the “liberal media,” along with the government, of selling the Iraq war not by simply claiming Hussein had WMDs, but also “by claiming that there was a relationship between Saddam Hussein, who led Iraq at the time, and al-Qaeda.”
By referring to al-Qaeda repeatedly during his U.N. speech, Powell spoke to people’s fears. That was a logical strategy considering the country had been healing from the 9/11 terror attacks. But the media failed to question this link, which had been established via a source who had been tortured.
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush administration had pressured the CIA to find a way to connect Iraq and al-Qaeda, an effort that ultimately helped boost the case for war before the international community.
What the White House wanted finally materialized when officials tortured al-Libi.
The man who was waterboarded into providing phony info on the al-Qaeda link to Iraq later died in a Libyan prison of an apparent suicide.