US President George W Bush and other top officials issued almost one thousand false statements about the national security threat from Iraq following the September 11 attacks, according to a study by two not-for-profit organisations.
The Associated Press reports the study, published on the website of the Centre for Public Integrity, concluded the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanised public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretences”.
According to the study, 935 false statements were issued by the White House in the two years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
In speeches, briefings and interviews, President Bush and other officials stated “unequivocally” on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had links to al-Qaeda, or had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to get them.
“It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaeda,” wrote the study’s authors Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith.
“In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003.”
The study found that President Bush alone made 259 false statements – 231 about weapons of mass destruction and 28 about Iraq’s links to al-Qaeda.
The other officials named in the study are vice president Dick Cheney, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, then-defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then-secretary of state Colin Powell, deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House spokesmen Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.
“The cumulative effect of these false statements – amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts – was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war,” the study concluded.
“Some journalists – indeed, even some entire news organisations – have since acknowledged that their coverage during those pre-war months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional ‘independent’ validation of the Bush administration’s false statements about Iraq.”