Reproduced from Yahoo News Jan.23, 2008

Truth was first US casualty in Iraq war: study

2 hours, 15 minutes ago

US President George W. Bush and his top officials ran roughshod over the truth in the run-up to the Iraq war lying a total of 935 times, a study released Wednesday found.

Bush and his administration "waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq," said the damning report entitled "False Pretenses."

According to the Center for Public Integrity, eight administration officials "made at least 935 false statements" about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, or links to Al-Qaeda, on 532 separate occasions.

"In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

But the White House reacted angrily to the study saying it ignored statements by US lawmakers or "people around the world" reflecting what it said was a consensus that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"I hardly think that the study is worth spending time on," spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "As you'll remember, we were part of a broad coalition of countries that deposed the dictator based on a collective understanding of the intelligence."

The center alleged however that the administration's march to war began on September 11, 2001 in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Over the months and as Congress was set to vote to approve the war in August 2002, the number of false statements dramatically increased.

The campaign reached a pitch in early 2003 with Bush's State of the Union address and when then secretary of state Colin Powell took the US case for war to the UN Security Council.

"The cumulative effect of these false statements amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study said.

Charges that Saddam had stockpiled an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction were the main argument used in parliaments around the world and in the United Nations to justify the US-led invasion.

But after the invasion they turned out to be untrue, when no weapons of mass destruction were found.

The study research raises question marks over "the repeated assertions of Bush administration officials that they were merely the unwitting victims of bad intelligence," the center added in the report.

The US president was found to have made the most false statements referring a total of 260 times to Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction and Al-Qaeda's alleged links to the Baghdad regime.

But then-secretary of state Powell only just lagged behind with 254 false communications, said the study by the center's founder Charles Lewis and researchers.

Vice President Dick Cheney, former national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and ex-deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz were also fingered in the study, along with former White House press secretaries Ari Fleisher and Scott McClellan.

Cheney, for example, on August 26, 2002, in an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention, asserted: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

"There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

Former CIA chief George Tenet later noted Cheney's assertions exceeded his agency's assessments at the time, the report said.

In late September 2002, Bush insisted in a radio address that the Baghdad regime posed a global threat.

"The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given," Bush said.

"This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year."