WASHINGTON: A study by two non-profit journalism organisations found that President George W. Bush and officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years that followed the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The study concluded that the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanised public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretences.”
The study was posted on the website of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said he could not comment on the study because he had not seen it.
The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Mr. Bush and officials said unequivocally on at least 532 occasions Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to Al-Qaeda or both.
“It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al-Qaeda,” according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study.
Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.
Mr. Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq’s links to Al-Qaeda, the study found.
That was second only to Mr. Powell’s 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and Al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Parliament has passed a law to change the Saddam Hussein-era flag, meeting the demands of the Kurdish minority who threatened not to fly the banner during a pan-Arab meeting in the Kurdish-run north next month.
The absence of Iraq’s internationally recognised flag during a regional gathering on the territory of a founding member of the Arab League would have created negative publicity in the Arab world, where many see the Kurds as being too close to the Americans or harbouring separatist intentions. — AP