Six years too late, George W. Bush has finally acknowledged that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were citizens of the U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia:
From 2003 to 2007, the number of people who believed Bush’s lie dropped from 70 percent to 33 percent. Bush will never recover from the anger felt by the 37 percent of Americans who came to the realization that they had been lied to by their president.
“There’s a lot of really good people here [in Saudi Arabia]. Look, you can’t deny the fact that some, a majority, of the terrorists came from Saudi, but you should not condemn an entire society based upon the actions of a handful of killers.”
It would have been nice if the interviewer, ABC’s Terry Moran, had gotten Bush on the record about the Middle Eastern nation whose citizens were not represented among these 19 mass murderers.
The breakdown was 15 Saudis, one Egyptian, one Lebanese and two from the Union of Arab Emirates (UAE).
None were from Iraq.
Despite this fact — and the fact that Saddam Hussein was a secular despot who was despised by Osama bin Laden, a right-wing religious fanatic — a poll two years after the attacks, and six months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, 70 percent of Americans believed Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
The fact that a solid majority of the public was misinformed was not an accident. It was a result of a propaganda campaign deployed from the Bush White House:
- “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September 11, Saddam Hussein’s regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America. Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now? And there’s a reason.”
– Bush in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002 (It was this speech in which the CIA forced Bush to remove a claim that Saddam had tried to purchase Nigerian uranium. The claim was reinserted as the famous “16 words” in Bush’s State of the Union speech the following January. When Amb. Joe Wilson called Bush on this lie, Cheney conspired to reveal the secret identity of Wilson’s wife and thus betrayed a clandestine U.S. government operation that tracked the WMD black market. Cheney’s man Scooter Libby took the fall for this treasonous act, apparently on the assurance that he would be pardoned for the crime before Bush leaves office.)
- “But what I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder. Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associated in collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida lieutenants…” And… “We are not surprised that Iraq is harboring Zarqawi and his subordinates. This understanding builds on decades long experience with respect to ties between Iraq and Al Qaida…” And… “Some believe, some claim these contacts do not amount to much. They say Saddam Hussein’s secular tyranny and Al Qaida’s religious tyranny do not mix. I am not comforted by this thought. Ambition and hatred are enough to bring Iraq and Al Qaida together…”
– Former Sec. of State Colin Powell, in his presentation to the UN Feb. 5, 2003, the majority of which, including the connections between Iraq and al Qaeda, has been discredited
- “Before September 11, 2001, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents and lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons, and other plans – this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take just one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.”
– Bush in his Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union speech
- “And for America, there will be no going back to the era before September the 11th, 2001 — to false comfort in a dangerous world. We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.”
– Bush in Sept. 7, 2003, address to the nation
- “If we’re successful in Iraq … we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.”
– Cheney on Meet the Press, Sept. 14, 2003
- “[Saddam Hussein posed a risk in] a region from which the 9/11 threat emerged.”
– National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, Sept. 2003
- “[Saddam Hussein] had long established ties with al Qaeda.”
– Cheney, campaigning for reelection on June 14, 2004
- “The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden.”
– Bush, June 28, 2005
- “That’s right.”
– Dick Cheney, on “Meet the Press,” Sept. 10, 2006, when asked by Tim Russert, “Well, I asked you. I said, is there a connection between Saddam and 9/11 on September ’03, and you said, we don’t know.”
But if you thought the case against Saddam’s masterminding of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, has been resolved, think again. Just four months ago, in September 2007, a staggering one-third of Americans still say they believe the Iraqi government was behind the attacks.
Over the four years between these two polls, the number of people who believed Bush’s lie about Iraq dropped from 70 percent to 33 percent. The anger, betrayal and embarrassment felt by the 37 percent of Americans — roughly 111 million people — who came to the realization that they had been lied to by their president is now and will forever be the defining element of George Bush’s legacy. In our country’s short history, no disinformation campaign by our government has been costlier in American blood and treasure.
They will never forgive him, and nor should they.
Interestingly, the number of Americans who still believe the lie that Saddam caused 9/11 coincides precisely with a poll released yesterday by ABC that found that about one-third of Americans (32 percent) still approve of George Bush’s performance on the job.
Update: As a commenter below correctly pointed out, there was a misattribution of a quote by Bush to Colin Powell in the source article from the BBC from which the quotes were taken. The phrase about the polling attributed Powell was inserted inadvertently. We apologize for the latter, and have vetted each of the quotes from the BBC article and sourced all of them to the White House, except for Rice’s statement, which she made in an ABC News interview and was widely reported, including the reference here in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (We also added three more quotes, two sourced to the White House and one to a “Meet the Press” transcript.)
This does not change in even the slightest way the thrust of this article — that there was a concerted disinformation campaign by Bush officials to convince Americans that Iraq was behind 9/11. The proof of the theory was, and is, the result: In 2003, 70 percent of Americans believed this lie and, as recently as last fall, about one-third still do.