I'm obsessed with the debate over deception leading up to the Iraq war like I haven't been obsessed with anything in politics since the election. That's largely because I feel very strongly that the most heinous and unforgivable thing President Bush has done in the past five years is mislead the country into war. Not because the war is wrong (that's a separate debate), but because it's so deeply immoral to circumvent honest debate in a democracy over the decision to sends hundreds of thousands of Americans into harm's way, tens of thousands to be seriously injured, and thousands to their death, not to mention the death and injuries to civilians. Anyway, you get the picture.
The other reason is that this is a debate we could easily have had a year ago... BEFORE THE ELECTION. How do I know this? Brendan, Bryan and I wrote a book that covered alot of this territory. It came out in August of 2004. We finished writing it in the spring of 2004.
Now, many people have written very cogent articles or blog posts about just how deceptive President Bush was in the runup to the Iraq war and what bullshit his and Cheney's defenses (for example, here, here and here) have been (see here, here, here here and here). And that's great.
But as we oddly have this discussion now a year after the election and two plus years after invasion and three years after Congress, including half the Democrats, essentially voted to give the President authority to go to invade Iraq (even if that's not what the resolution said, everyone knew what was going on), I think it's worth mentioning some things that were on the public record, at the latest, in the spring of 2004, and that we could have debated then if Bush was unpopular enough / Democrats had the balls to point out the truth then. All these points current being debated were demonstrated thoroughly in All the President's Spin (I won't explain them in detail on the assumption anyone reading this recognizes the key points. If not, please buy the book)
-The administration presented shaky evidence as fact or near fact to make it seem certain that Iraq had or was acquiring nuclear weapons
-Bush and his aides regularly used five- or ten-years or even older evidence about Iraq's WMD program, specifically on chemical and biological weapons, as if it was current intelligence (in fact they had little to no idea what Iraq had done on that front since 1998)
-The aluminum tube bullshit
-The nonsense about the unmanned aerial vehicles Iraq could use to deliver WMDs to attack us or our allies within 45 minutes
-Connecting Saddam Huseein to Al Qaeda by presenting the sketchy to disproven (depending who you ask and when) meeting of Iraqi intelligence officials with Mohammed Atta in Prague as fact (I'm talking to you, Mr. Cheney)
-Saying that Al Qaeda operatives were operating in Iraq while ignoring the fact that they were in Kurdish controlled nortern Iraq, not in areas controlled by Saddam Hussein
-Continually associating Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, and 9/11 in his speeches without directly asserting they had a tight relationship in order to get the public to connect the dots in their minds (which seemed to succeed)
These are all facts on the record as of well over a year go. Some war supporters somewhat acknowledge it but don't seem to think it's nearly as important as I do. Fair enough. But then there's those Bush supporters who basically come across as pathetic, grasping at straws to make the other side look bad or hypocritical while avoiding the primary issue and the mountains of evidence reasonable people in this debate are engaging.
Bottom line: Did most people as of 2002 (and definitely in 1998, as many Bush defenders feel the need to point out, as if that was relevant 4 years later) believe Saddam Hussein had WMD of some sort? yes. Was the case much less certain than the Bush administration made it appear? yes. Was there strong evidence to back up the case that Iraq had nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapons program, as the Bush administration claimed? no. Was there evidence to back up the claim that Saddam Hussein had a connection of any significance to Al Qaeda, as the Bush administration claimed? no. Did any serious person think Iraq had a connection to the attacks of 9/11, as the Bush administration regularly insinuated? no.
Conclusion: Did high ranking officials in the Bush administration, including the president, say numerous things to rally support amongst the public and the Congress and the world community for the invasion of Iraq that they knew, or should have known, were untrue or misleading? yes.
Is that a serious matter for which the President should face serious consequences? hell yes.