You Can’t Handle the Truth

George W. Bush, Liar-in-Chief

Ian Williams

While not quite as bad as Pyongyang TV with its references to beloved leaders, it came close. As the president declared war on international law, CNN and other channels did not refer to George W. Bush by name: that might have reminded people of the all too frail humanity of the inarticulate Alfred E. Newman figure with perplexed, furrowed brows squinting at the teleprompter as he mouthed the lethal banalities of war.

No, in awed tones, the announcers referred to “the President of the United States,” often adding for reverential emphasis, “speaking from the Oval Office.” Along the bottom of the screen, the announcement was that the “disarmament of Iraq,” as the official euphemism du jour had it, was underway.

Whether by habit or by conscious design, the announcers thus distinguished Bush—the executioner general of Texas, who only won the election by staging riots in Florida to stop the recounts—from the awesome office of American head of state and commander-in-chief. A poll earlier this week showed that 20 percent of Americans supported the war because they had to support the president, and those deferent feelings run strong in the American people.

Such emotions may have helped them overlook some of the more inconvenient details. “On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets,” Bush said. Yet George II saw no need to consult his viceroys and governors. Bush’s devoted ally Blair was only told an hour before the shooting started.

The president alleged: “More than 35 countries are giving crucial support. … Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.” Some coalition! The president of Bulgaria, one so-called ally, said, “I do not accept this war,” denouncing it as illegal without U.N. approval. Many others expressed similar reservations. The president of Latvia explained disingenuously, “We wanted to join NATO.” The president of Turkey announced that unilateral U.S. action is wrong. And, of course, in every other country in the world except Kuwait and Israel, overwhelming majorities of the population also think that it is wrong.

Interestingly, Bush, unlike Blair, did not invoke the need to enforce U.N. resolutions, whether or not the United Nations wanted them enforced. He never believed the United Nations was worth dealing with anyway. The administration’s war rhetoric, and the war’s name itself, “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” suggests this is about restoring freedom and democracy, a moral if unlikely outcome of the proposed regime change, and thus illegal under international law.


In his address, Bush told the world: “Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly. Yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and their friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder,” despite the complete failure of U.S. intelligence to prove the allegation.

The war, Bush said, was necessary “so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.” Here again, Bush evoked the terrorist connection—which not even Blair has had the gall to repeat at risk of being laughed off the front benches.

Interestingly though, the truth-challenged chad-churner’s letter to Congress repeated this outright lie, which makes the Gulf of Tonkin look jejune by comparison. Bush wrote to Congress on Wednesday: “Reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.” Yet France, for example, was offering a compromise of a few weeks’ delay for the inspectors to report.

Most flagrantly, Bush added: “Acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

There is no evidence whatsoever that Iraq “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” September 11. None of the anchors on network TV dared call George II on it.

Is this really the type of democracy we are proposing to introduce to the Middle East? Through a war in which the “President of the United States, speaking from the Oval Office” has conscripted 30 governments against the will of the majority of their peoples, to follow a country whose Congress has been lied to?

Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

Ian Williams is the author of Deserter: Bush’s War on Military Families, Veterans and His Past, now available from Nation Books.
Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.