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The New Lie About Iraq

The newest lie about the Iraq war is that the truth about Iraq was not known before the American attack in 2003. One needs only to search for “lies about Iraq [1]” to see all the many links explaining evidence from before the war started that showed the Bush/Cheney/neoconservative claims to be false.

That false narrative is important to know because many of the same people are now promoting war with Iran, as they were before with Syria. Republican candidates are also stumbling over the question of whether they would have invaded Iraq because it undermines their present, ongoing promotion of an interventionist foreign policy.

Take just one example of such a false claim, which even reached Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address to Congress: “Saddam has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.” It was a lie from the beginning. Bush had been informed that the Department of Energy and State Department intelligence [2] had analyzed the tubes and found them to be useless for a nuclear program, rather being for conventional rockets.

I was very active in reporting on the lies, writing at the time for Antiwar.com, which every day had articles, news reports, and analyses exposing the misinformation. An article I wrote in 2002, well before the war started, “Eight Washington Lies About Iraq [3],” was at the top of a Google search for lies for 7 years. Even today it explains, with links, many of the lies made.


Iraq’s weaknesses were in fact easy to comprehend after nearly nine years of U.S. economic blockade following the First Gulf War. Iraq had been decimated by American bombing of its electricity, sanitation, irrigation, and transportation systems. Almost every bridge was destroyed. A half-million Iraqi children had died [4] of starvation and disease. It was also subject to United Nations (read American [5]) inspectors going all over the country to verify that it was conforming to earlier UN demands for destruction of its nuclear and chemical warfare facilities.

All Americans should be reminded again and again that recent wars were based on lies. The First Gulf War was sold to Americans on the basis of the murder of “incubator babies” [6] and an imaginary Iraqi threat to invade Saudi Arabia, including the assertion that satellite photographs showed the Iraqi Army massed on the Saudi border. The “classified” photos never existed [7]. The Kosovo War was based on reports that 100,000 Kosovan Albanians had been murdered [8] by Serbs, so America had to attack so as to stop the mass killing. It was also a lie.

Today, when all the Republican candidates are being pressured by right-wing media and neoconservative money men to sound (and be) hawkish, Americans should recall how most of Washington’s establishment lied to promote past wars. Wars mean billions of dollars for key congressional districts’ arms producers, millions of rapt viewers for 24-7 cable news, lots of TV time for think-tank chicken hawks,, new jobs for “contractors,” more growth for the “surveillance state.” There’s also the Israel Lobby and Christian Zionists. All In all that is a pretty formidable force for war.

All Americans should be aware and suspicious of again being panicked into supporting more wars.

Jon Basil Utley is publisher of The American Conservative.

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10 Comments To "The New Lie About Iraq"

#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On May 19, 2015 @ 1:12 pm

A great, great article, John Basil Utley!

You’re right: They weren’t “mistakes”! They were “lies”!

Indeed, your 2002 “Eight Washington Lies About Iraq,” was a beacon of truth for a great many of us back in those dark days.

That they were lies is one thing Americans need to understand. But the other thing Americans need to understand is who created the lies – who pushed for the war with Iraq – because, as you point out, they are “many of the same people are now promoting war with Iran.”

#2 Comment By Jake On May 19, 2015 @ 1:43 pm

I read your article ‘Eight Washington Lies About Iraq’ when it was first posted. I sent the link to several ‘conservative’ friends who wanted war, not because they were Christian Zionists (I felt that grouyp was hopeless on the subject), but because they feared what 9/11 meant and knew only what TV news and the hakcs leading the parties told them.

None of them changed their minds about being for a war to kill Saddam Hussien and remake the Middle East. A couple of them gloated when the victory seemed so easy. Not one of them has told me that I was correct all along.

The crowd that wants to land trooops in Syria and Iran will tel any lie to get its wish. It knows that the people hodwinked before will tend to flal for another snow job, because they do not want to havce been wrong the first time.

#3 Comment By JohnG On May 19, 2015 @ 2:26 pm

Thank you for this refreshing and to-the-point article, this combination of intelligence, competence, and integrity is why I support TAC. Sadly, when it comes to our foreign policy “elites” (of course, the term is a stretch), precisely the opposite is the case, a stunning combination of stupidity, ignorance, and crookedness wherever one looks.

May I just add that the lies stretch to before the Kosovo war in the Balkans? The persistent demonizing and periodic bombings of the Serbs (in what are now Croatia and Bosnia) probably ended up giving us Putin in Kremlin and a region that will probably keep exploding in the future. And, by the way, watch out for what is about to happen in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

I believe that the unique historical opportunity for a more just, democratic, and peaceful world was actually squandered under Bill Clinton, with all the nonsense that was done in the Balkans and the de facto preparation of the confrontation with Iraq (remember Madeleine Albright’s famous statement?). George Bush’s war was just a continuation, and WMDs just an excuse that the cakewalk crowd thought would be irrelevant/forgotten as soon as the Iraqis started to throw flowers on American tanks.

The war was a gambit by a political class believing that it could use its powerful military to rule the world by controlling its supply of oil. And, gee, they discovered that it’s a pretty big & messy world out there, surprise! They can’t rule Afghanistan alone, anyone half-familiar with the history of that region could have told them that. So now we are busy talking about “what we knew” and “based on what we knew” hypothetical nonsense just to cover some dumb, arrogant, and dishonest asses rather than simply firing them all, from the media, State Dept., etc.

#4 Comment By SteveM On May 19, 2015 @ 3:38 pm

Jon Basil, great essay. The Iraq invasion was indeed a travesty, but just the tip of the iceberg. The even bigger travesty was the post-invasion exercise nation building. That was the $ TRILLION+ iceberg under the surface.

Once the premise for the invasion was proven false, the U.S. could have arranged for a few Billion to be paid out in strategic bribes to the various factional leaders and gotten out in 2004.

But nope, the arrogant Power Elites in Washington, saturated with hubris and conceit, decided to stay for years. They even built themselves a $700M temple to the god of American arrogance – that humongous, mostly unused White Elephant embassy in Baghdad.

The Republicans who now hem and haw about going into Iraq should also be challenged about the completely fractured decision to stay there and waste huge dollars out the wazoo.

BTW, I mentioned this point several times before. I wish that non-interventionist Conservatives would explicitly monetize these fiascoes. I.e., Push out the cost front and center and rhetorically query the candidates, the MSM and the American people if there are better ways that that money could have been spent at home.

Force the evaluation of that trade-space. The Elites wouldn’t get it, but the American people would know better.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 19, 2015 @ 4:16 pm

On TAC there is much handwringing about the decline of Christian influence in America and the loss of faith generally. President Bush was the poster boy for evangelical Christianity, yet both lied and was manipulated by the unscrupulous, ordering torture and assassination. So the wars turned out badly for average folk, though those allied with Cheney of whatever political stripe profited handsomely. We lose, they win. The neocons are immune to loss of public faith, rather they enjoy full support of donorist elites who buy our democratically unaccountable politicians and get just the wars they continue to want.

As in Europe after the huge losses of World War I, which almost every church supported, there was a great loss of faith. American churchianity, as Dwight Eisenhower put it, is a thoroughly civil religion that supports state aims. He explained that it was built on faith and it mattered not at all which one it was. When the church allies itself with disreputable state actors, some of them Christians in retrospect so obviously dunderheaded, what evaluation will a disillusioned public make of the church’s credibility? It won’t be disbelief in the miracles that causes the falling away, but the mendacious and supplicating justifications that had no resemblance whatsoever to “Just War” and were in reality against every teaching of Jesus. Thus the church’s prophetic role of speaking truth to power in America died.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 19, 2015 @ 8:47 pm


While, in my view the case was not at any level. There was a line of argument that persists to this day in social, political and economic discourse.

Why it has staying power I have no idea, but it remains. Absence of evidence is cause for concluding that the case is made just not visible.

There is no evidence of WMD — response — prove there isn’t.

It used to be taught reverse logic lacks substance, weight and value — pro9ving the negative.

Yet, we see this used in all manner of advocacy. No evidence that homosexual expression is biological in any manner — response, prove that it isn’t.

So anyone who reverses that logic on homosexual expression, can hardly call into question the use of the same model on weapons of mass destruction.

Now while I opposed the both Afghanistan and Iraq, I want to be careful in labeling one’s advocacy a lie. Because that requires me to demonstrate that they knew and believed the opposite of what they proposed. And while the lack of data and rationale for a case seemed obvious to me, and I would think others – whether or not they were lying, deluded, self deceived, or simply wrong is a tough haul. I like to accept that they were just wrong. And that means a lot of people were wrong. Sec. Clinton — wrong.

But if you have scour the internet for compilation of data when the based on presentation, the case did not exist, I am a little concerned about your complaint and even more dubious on the veracity that others wee wantonly lying.

And while it is very convenient to catterwall about neoconservatives. The current state of affairs is the direct result of liberal / democratic leadership. Attempting to ride the neoconservative pony on behalf of Sec Clinton may work with the some, but it woefully tiresome, misleading.

I am also concerned about the veracity of blaming the Christian community for what was a national effort and advocated by non-Christians as well.

#7 Comment By Jake On May 20, 2015 @ 8:46 am


I suggest you spend some time learning about Pope Benedict XV. He knew WW1 was a moral disaster. But as Britain had been officially anti-Catholic for centuries, and Bismarck had led the Second Reich through the kulturkampf, which was about trying to destroy all influence the Catholic Church had in Germany, and France was ruled by militant anti-clericalism, and Russian Orthodoxy was fiercely anti-Papal in its Eastern Orthodox way, and the Ottoman Empire was ruled of, for, and by Islam, nobody was going to listen to any Pope.

The basic problem you note is valid, to put it mildly. American Protestant civil religion is still powerful, and it was to that culture, most often in its more Liberal Northern half, that the children and grandchildren of Catholic immigrants, and Eastern Orthodox immigrants, assimilated.

#8 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 20, 2015 @ 12:10 pm

“I am also concerned about the veracity of blaming the Christian community for what was a national effort and advocated by non-Christians as well.”

“American Protestant civil religion is still powerful, and it was to that culture, most often in its more Liberal Northern half, that the children and grandchildren of Catholic immigrants, and Eastern Orthodox immigrants, assimilated.”

Christian credibility depends upon truth-telling, not its violation. That influence was squandered for less than a mess of Iraqi pottage. There should have been speaking truth to power, not sucking up to Cheneyism, clearly the furthest deviation from Christian conscience.

Catholicism is no balm. Famously, Pope Pius made his peaceful Concordat with Hitler. The Patriarch in Moscow his accommodation to Stalin. In America, the Catholic bishops ordered Thomas Merton into silence for questioning nuclear suicide pacts as public policy. Priestly buggery of young parishioners is an international scandal.

I don’t doubt My Savior, but these leaders who claim His moral authority to justify compromise with and even advocacy and practice of evil are more Judas than Jesus.

When that happens, credibility is lost when the truth is finally exposed and society damaged by loss of trust in those who were charged with providing moral leadership – and in the vacuum, evil grows.

#9 Comment By balconesfault On May 21, 2015 @ 11:41 am

To me the worst behavior on the part of churches during the lead-up to the Iraq Invasion wasn’t their abdication of the role of moral challenge to the inevitable slaughter that would result … but in many cases taking a “rah rah” attitude, or even much worse supporting the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mindset that the Administration was using to silence those who did raise moral and pramatic challenges.

Perhaps soul searching over this is going on out there in public forums popular among the Catholic and Evangelical religious communities – but I haven’t evidence of that soul-searching flow over into the secular media.

#10 Comment By BillWAF On May 24, 2015 @ 11:39 pm

On this website, Rod Dreher recently cited favorably a piece by Damon Linker arguing that the W.Bush administration did not lie the US into Iraq. He should read this article.