Second-order lying

Or should we call it “meta-lying”? Bush fibs about the fibs he told.

The Pants-on-Fire Administration continues to hit new lows. In today’s divisive (and therefore unpatriotic) Veteran’s Day address, in which he accused his opponents of lacking patriotism, the Chickenhawk-in-Chief managed to lie about his previous lies.

Perhaps this should be called second-order lying, or meta-lying.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President (alas) of the United States:

Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war.

These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community’s judgments related to Iraq’s weapons programs.

Ummmmm … no. The committee found no proof that pressure had led the intelligence community to change its conclusions, not that no pressure was applied. Carl Levin, a member of that committee, pointed out that George Tenet himself acknowledged that the Administration put pressure on the CIA to cook its findings:

“… this report reflects the fact that there was tremendous pressure inside the agency. As a matter of fact, Tenet himself said, and this report reflects that, that he was told by analysts that they were under tremendous pressure. And what Tenet said is, well, in that case, just try to ignore that pressure. But the pressure was clearly there.”

Bush also trotted out the “but-they-voted-for-it-so-it’s-their-fault” line:

Many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: When I vote to give the president of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat and a grave threat to our security.

That’s why more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.

“Access to the same intelligence”? Well, not quite. They had access to what the Administration gave them access to, not to the raw material which, as even the Republicans now admit, didn’t support the conclusions drawn from it about a nuclear program and the transfer of WMD technology to terrorists.

The question of whether the Administration misrepresented the intelligence presented to it (as opposed to the question whether the intelligence itself was flawed) was not addressed in the Senate Intelligence Committee report. That report reflected only Phase I of what was supposed to be a two-phase operation, with the question of Administration misrepresentation of intelligence deferred to Phase II. It was the Republicans’ attempt to indefinitely postpone Phase II that led to Harry Reid’s demand for a closed session two weeks ago. Presumably that stalling reflects the GOP’s judgment that the results of such an inquiry would be devastating.

So how is it, exactly, that the moral onus for the decision of those Senators and Representatives to believe what the President and his appointees told them rests on those who were deceived rather than those doing the deceiving?

Even Administration water-carrier Pat Roberts, speaking when the Phase I report was released, admitted that the distortion between intelligence as gathered and intelligence as reported to the Congress was relevant to the question of whether or not to go to war.

Asked if he believed Congress would have authorized the use of force against Iraq had it known the weakness of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Roberts said, “I do not know.” He said he would have voted for the war in Iraq on humanitarian grounds, but that it would have been a different kind of war. He said it would have been more similar to the U.S. interventions in Kosovo and Bosnia in the 1990s — an apparent reference to the fact that U.S. ground troops were not deployed in either of those conflicts.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: