News & Politics

Ari Fleischer Destroys Liberal 'Bush Lied, People Died' Myth About Iraq War

President George W. Bush delivers an address regarding the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States to a joint session of Congress Thursday, Sept. 20, 2001, at the U.S. Capitol. Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

Ari Fleischer, who served as President George W. Bush’s press secretary in his first term, took to Twitter today to address a longstanding liberal myth about the Iraq War. “The Iraq war began sixteen years ago tomorrow,” he tweeted. “There is a myth about the war that I have been meaning to set straight for years. After no WMDs were found, the left claimed ‘Bush lied. People died.’ This accusation itself is a lie. It’s time to put it to rest.”

The fact is that President Bush (and I as press secretary) faithfully and accurately reported to the public what the intelligence community concluded. The CIA, along with the intelligence services of Egypt, France, Israel and others concluded that Saddam had WMD. We all turned out to be wrong.  That is very different from lying. After the war, a bipartisan group was created to determine what went wrong, particularly why the intelligence community’s conclusions about Iraq were so different from what was found on the ground after the war.

Fleischer went on to cite relevant portions of the Robb-Silberman Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was issued in March 2005. Below are key quotes from the report’s findings that Fleischer cited.

Nuclear Weapons Summary Finding:

The Intelligence Community seriously misjudged the status of Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program in the 2002 NIE and other pre-Iraq war intelligence products. This misjudgment stemmed chiefly from the Community’s failure to analyze correctly Iraq’s reasons for attempting to procure high-strength aluminum tubes.

Biological Warfare Summary Finding:

The Intelligence Community seriously misjudged the status of Iraq’s biological weapons program in the 2002 NIE and other pre-war intelligence products. The primary reason for this misjudgment was the Intelligence Community’s heavy reliance on a human source–codenamed “Curveball”–whose information later proved to be unreliable.

Chemical Warfare Summary Finding:

The Intelligence Community erred in its 2002 NIE assessment of Iraq’s alleged chemical warfare program. The Community’s substantial overestimation of Iraq’s chemical warfare program was due chiefly to flaws in analysis and the paucity of quality information collected.

The commission also addressed the allegations that intelligence analysts were pressured by policymakers to alter their assessments of Iraq’s nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons capabilities. According to the commission, “The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments.”

Fleischer calls the “Bush lied. People died” allegation “a liberal myth created to politically target President Bush. I understand the anger that was felt after no WMDs were found. But that doesn’t justify calling the President a liar. I can only hope that serious historians and other experts do their homework and resist falling for this myth.”

Liberal myths like this persist because political leaders, the media, and academia perpetuate them. Let this be a lesson for when the Mueller report comes out and tells us what we already know: there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Will that matter to the liberal left? Nope. They still believe “Bush lied. People died.” Twenty years from now they’ll still be calling Trump a Russian puppet because it’s easier for them to believe that than to concede the truth: that Trump won in 2016 in a fair election.

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Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis