Now Who's Lying?

Posted: Jun 22, 2004 12:00 AM

One of the most reprehensible things about the past year's campaign against President Bush is that his accusers have repeatedly lied in calling him a liar -- and they've marshaled nonexistent evidence to support their fraudulent claims.

One of the principle complaints against President Bush's prosecution of the War on Terror is that he distorted the facts to tie Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks against the United States in order to strengthen his case for attacking Iraq.

Indeed an interim report by the 9/11 commission staff stated there is no credible evidence that Saddam collaborated with Al Qaeda on any attacks against America. A salivating partisan media, Senator Kerry and other assorted Bush-haters seized on that headline as if it were one of the final nails in the president's electoral coffin.

But just like almost every other wished-for smoking gun against President Bush, this "finding" has ended up being an embarrassing, impotent little water pistol.

The Bush administration is guilty of no misrepresentations on this issue. If someone sets about to prove another person of lying, at the very least he should accurately quote the accused. After all, if you don't even know what the alleged liar said, how can you begin to determine whether he lied?

In all their gotcha-mania the accusers failed to meet this threshold requirement. They, including the New York Times, accused the administration of misrepresenting something it never said. You've got to have a representation before you can have a misrepresentation.

But now the Times has belatedly admitted that the Bush administration never claimed there was a specific connection between Saddam and 9/11 attacks, "only that there were ties, however murky, between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

Don't just brush over this as if it's a minor detail. The Times just confessed that neither Bush nor his team ever said Saddam was tied to 9/11. The Times even provided statements from various administration officials claiming there were connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda, but never positing a 9/11 conspiracy. This is a major, painful admission by the Times. Suffice it to say that if administration officials had made such an assertion, the Times would have discovered it in their frantic Nexis searches.

But true to form, the Times refused to remove the Bush smear completely, ending its paragraph with this tacky little bit of innuendo: "although whether there was a deliberate campaign to create guilt by association is difficult to say." Translation: "While we grudgingly concede the Bush team made no express claims tying Saddam to 9/11, it may well have tried to imply there was such a connection by confusing the issue."

What a cheap shot! Not only do we not get an apology from the Times for its own misrepresentations on this very issue, we get a parting shot trying to negate its lame pretense of correcting the record.

But we deserve an apology from the Times for just recently attributing statements to the administration it didn't make and then accusing it of lying about those statements. A scathing, rush-to-judgment Times editorial the day after the release of the commission's interim report makes the point.

The Times editors wrote, "It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11. Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different."

So one week the Times said Bush fraudulently alleged a link between Saddam and September 11, and just a week later, they admit he made no such allegation. But the Times didn't apologize, nor did it withdraw its demand for the president's apology.

But the Times is not the only guilty party here. Senator Kerry, feeling his oats upon release of the commission's interim report, demanded that the president provide "a fundamental explanation about why he rushed to war for a purpose it now turns out is not supported by the facts."

Well, President Bush did not lie about the Saddam/Al Qaeda connection. There is so much material on this it would take a full chapter in a book to do it justice. Regardless, it was just one of many reasons offered to go to war against Iraq.

And since we're on the subject of mea culpas, the commission itself might want to consider sending one President Bush's way. After all its hindsight-based judgmentalism, it can't even get its own story straight about the Saddam/Al Qaeda connection, as witnessed by panel member John Lehman's statements on "Meet the Press."

The next time the chorus of Bush-haters begins its incessant refrain, "Bush lied, Bush lied," perhaps more people will consider the source.