WASHINGTON, D.C. January 23, 2008 — Leading up to the five-year anniversary of the Iraq war, the Center for Public Integrity has released the first analysis of its kind, Iraq – The War Card: Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War. This comprehensive examination of top Bush administration officials' statements over a two-year period shows how top officials galvanized public opinion in the run-up to the March 18, 2003 invasion of Iraq. The project's chronology provides a framework for examining how the administration's false statements led the country into the war in Iraq. The results of this analysis question the repeated assertions of Bush administration officials that they were merely the unwitting victims of bad intelligence.
Center founder Charles Lewis and researchers helping him write a forthcoming, new book, were instrumental in identifying 935 false statements by eight top administration officials that mentioned Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, or links to Al Qaeda, on at least 532 separate occasions. The false statements included in the analysis were made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleisher and Scott McClellan.
“Today, the Center is releasing a remarkable report that squarely meets our mission, to produce original investigative journalism about significant public issues to make institutional power more transparent and accountable,” said Executive Director Bill Buzenberg. “This is a report like no other, which calls into question more than 900 false statements that were the underpinnings of the administration’s case for war.”
“Bush and the top officials of his administration have so far largely avoided the harsh, sustained glare of formal scrutiny about their personal responsibility for the litany of repeated, false statements in the run-up to the war in Iraq,” said Lewis, now president of the Fund for Independence in Journalism and a professor at the American University School of Communications in Washington. “There has been no congressional investigation, for example, into what exactly was going on inside the Bush White House in that period, and now millions of White House emails from 2001 to October 2003 apparently may have been destroyed.”
The analysis graphically shows how President Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials methodically propagated erroneous information over the two years beginning on September 11, 2001. These false statements dramatically increased in August 2002, just prior to congressional consideration of a war resolution and during the critical weeks in early 2003 when the president delivered his State of the Union address and Powell delivered his memorable presentation to the U.N. Security Council. These statements have been included in a fully searchable 380,000-word database, assembled from primary and secondary public sources, major news organizations and more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches, and interviews.
President Bush had the most false statements, at 260, about weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda in Iraq, followed by Secretary of State Powell with 254. The analysis reveals that officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements.