u n c o v e r I r a q . c o m

[Written shortly after Britain's Chilcot report was released; published in the Minnepaolis StarTribune on July 18, 2016.]

War and Mis-Remembrance: Chilcot Is Spun
by Drew Hamre

So here we have Britain’s final word on the Iraq war, the 2.6-million word Chilcot report boiled down to a few hundred words from the NY Times, and then buried beneath 900-words of misdirection from Eli Lake, one of the more notorious reporters in the run-up to the Iraq war (“Blair didn’t lie … Neither did Bush”, July 8).

What could possibly go wrong?

First, let’s not bury the lede. The Iraq invasion and subsequent turmoil caused an estimated “461,000 excess deaths from 2003 to 2011” (Chilcot, section 17, citing a University of Washington survey in PLOS Medicine (2013)). Given this background, Lake’s piece is vandalism in a graveyard.

Second, after all the false alarms over Nigerian yellowcake, drones, mobile germ labs, aluminum tubes, underground weapons laboratories, false links to 9/11, false links to Al Qaida, false links to Amerithrax, false comparisons to the Cuban Missile Crisis, after the hounding and character assassination of critics, after the Congressional arm twisting, after the UN spying … after all that, Lake attempts to take a damning report on Blair and somehow turn it into an exoneration of President Bush.

Sorry, but no. A 2008 study from two nonprofit journalism groups found that President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following 9/11, with Bush responsible for 260.

Maybe Lake is being legalistic here, splitting semantic hairs between “lies” versus “deceptive and knowingly misleading”. Perhaps Lake is simply trying to temper the ongoing demonization of Bush, a motive for which I have some sympathy (since the war took root during the Clinton administration, with Albright’s ‘sanctions will continue’ Georgetown speech in 1997 and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998).

Still, there is a yawning chasm between the Bush administration’s pro-war merchandising and calmly reasoned evidentiary judgment, as in former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s March 2003 resignation speech: “We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.“

That yawning chasm is about 461,000 headstones wide, and it is forever, and it would swallow Lake’s murky Beltway jingoism without a ripple.


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