In a December 1 interview with ABC anchor Charles Gibson, George W. Bush gave a grossly erroneous history of the run-up to the Iraq War--a false version of events that Gibson failed to challenge and the Washington Post glossed over the following day.
When Gibson asked if Bush wished he had any "do-overs," Bush responded:
GIBSON: If the intelligence had been right, would there have been an Iraq War?
BUSH: Yes, because Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in to determine whether or not the U.N. resolutions were being upheld. In other words, if he had had weapons of mass destruction, would there have been a war? Absolutely.
GIBSON: No, if you had known he didn't.
BUSH: Oh, I see what you're saying. You know, that's an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can't do. It's hard for me to speculate.
The Washington Post's write-up (12/1/08), praising Bush's "new candor," reported that he admitted to errors and regrets in several key areas. He said he wished "the intelligence had been different" on Iraq but declined to speculate on whether he still would have decided to go to war. "That is a do-over that I can't do," he said.
As Greg Sargent of Talking Points Memo (12/2/08) noted: "For Bush to blame the failure of intel for his decision to invade is not a concession at all, and it is not an admission of failure on his part.... It is an evasion of responsibility for what happened."
But there was an even more glaring distortion of history in Bush's statement: his claim that Saddam Hussein prevented weapons inspectors from conducting searches in Iraq. In reality, the inspections were a well-publicized process that attracted international news coverage and were the subject of lengthy discussions at the United Nations.
This is not the first time Bush has denied this history. As FAIR pointed out (7/18/03), in July 2003 Bush made a similar comment ("We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in"), which the Post soft-pedaled by saying these words "appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring." And reporter Robert Parry (Consortium News, 12/2/08) noted after the ABC interview that Bush has made similar declarations (1/27/04, 3/21/06, 5/24/07)--none of which generated much interest from the corporate media.
It is troubling that Gibson would not challenge Bush on this fundamental misrepresentation of reality--and that the Post would let Bush's lie go unreported.
ACTION: Ask ABC and the Washington Post to clarify--and factcheck--Bush's statements on the prelude to the Iraq War.
Deborah Howell, Ombud
Please post any comments you receive from ABC or the Post on the FAIR Blog.