In her predictable Facebook pre-buttal to the President's primetime speech on Iraq Tuesday, Sarah Palin demanded that Barack Obama "admit you were wrong about the surge." But in insisting that "the more honest you are about the past, the more likely it is you will gain the support of the American people," Palin exempted President Bush - and herself - from the lies that were used to sell and perpetuate the war in Iraq. After all, the Bush administration and its Republican amen corner (including her running mate) didn't merely tell the American people about the "smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud," being "greeted as liberators" or an insurgency in its "last throes" (just to recall a few). Bush's defenders, including Sarah Palin herself, continue to peddle the zombie myth of Republican politics, the bogus 9/11 - Iraq connection that will never die.
In her response to a speech on health care by President Obama last September, Palin joined the long list of conservatives before her who sought to polish the Iraq turd by seamlessly connecting it to the September 11 attacks. That night, President Obama noted the inescapable truth that the $900 billion, projected 10-year cost of health care reform would be less than revenue lost to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy or the expenditures on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For that simple math exercise, the Quittah from Wasilla blasted the President, suggesting he betrayed both those killed on September 11 and those who sacrificed for our country since:
"Finally, President Obama delivered an offhand applause line tonight about the cost of the War on Terror. As we approach the anniversary of the September 11th attacks and honor those who died that day and those who have died since in the War on Terror, in order to secure our freedoms, we need to remember their sacrifices and not demonize them as having had too high a price tag."
Barack Obama, of course, did no such thing. But for her part, Sarah Palin helped perpetuate the Republican lie that won't die: the invasion of Iraq, part of her "War on Terror," was a necessary response to the September 11 horror, the war on Saddam part of the "price tag" to be paid to "secure our freedoms" from the Al Qaeda killers who struck 9 years ago.
Which puts Sarah Palin in the large group of Bush administration officials including Dick Cheney, Ari Fleischer, Condoleezza Rice and President Bush himself who continue to peddle the long-debunked 9/11 - Saddam link this year.
In March 2009, the former Vice President insisted to CNN"s John King that the invasion of Iraq was "absolutely the right thing to do," adding:
"I think if you hark back and look at the biggest threat we faced after 9/11, it was the idea of a rogue state or a terrorist-sponsoring state with weapons of mass destruction -- say, nukes, for example -- and providing those to terrorist organizations.
What happened in Iraq is we've eliminated that possibility."
Appearing on Fox News in June just one day after blaming Richard Clarke for his own failure to anticipate the September 11 catastrophe, Cheney pointed the finger at the CIA and the intelligence community ("they missed 9/11"). As for his own repeated past claims that an Iraqi connection to the attacks he once described as "pretty much confirmed," Cheney admitted, not so much:
"On the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in 9-11, there was never any evidence to prove that," he told the "On The Record" host in a joint interview with his daughter Liz. "There was "some reporting early on ... but that was never borne out," Cheney said. "George ... did say and did testify that there was an ongoing relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq, but no proof that Iraq was involved in 9-11."
Cheney's latest revisionist history echoes former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who that same March insisted, "No one was arguing that Saddam Hussein somehow had something to do with 9/11."
Of course, Rice wasn't the only one in the Bush White House contending "there were ties going on between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime," as she insisted as late as September 2006. Echoing President Bush's farewell address in January, former press secretary Ari Fleischer made the Saddam - September 11 connection just the previous week.
Fleischer used a March 2009 appearance with Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to display his gift for fiction regarding the Iraq war and 9/11:
"After September 11th having been hit once how could we take a chance that Saddam might strike again? And that's the threat that has been removed and I think we are all safer with that threat removed."
But if Fleischer was butchering history to justify the calamity in Iraq, he was only following George W. Bush's lead.
An unapologetic President Bush made that clear during his final address to the American people on January 15, 2009. Just days before his departure, Bush seamlessly wove the invasion of Iraq into his revisionist history of the aftermath of September 11, 2001:
"As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe...
...And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them. Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States."
Of course, Bush's subtlety in January was nowhere on display during his jaw-dropping December 15, 2008 interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz. The President wasn't merely content to ignore the bipartisan 9/11 Commission's conclusion that Al Qaeda and Iraq had no "operational relationship." Boasting that "there have been no attacks since I have been president, since 9/11," the President simply dismissed any criticism that it was only his 2003 invasion which brought Al Qaeda forces to Iraq:
BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take -
RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded..
BUSH: Yeah, that's right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they're going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.
In an address ten days earlier to the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, DC, President Bush argued on December 5th that the truth should not be the lens through which his decision to invade Iraq should be viewed. Whether Saddam had actual connections to Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the September 11 calamity, he proclaimed, was virtually irrelevant:
"It is true, as I have said many times, that Saddam Hussein was not connected to the 9/11 attacks. But the decision to remove Saddam from power cannot be viewed in isolation from 9/11. In a world where terrorists armed with box cutters had just killed nearly 3,000 people, America had to decide whether we could tolerate a sworn enemy that acted belligerently, that supported terror, and that intelligence agencies around the world believed had weapons of mass destruction. It was clear to me, to members of both political parties, and to many leaders around the world that after 9/11, this was a risk we could not afford to take."
For his part, Dick Cheney (aided and abetted by his biographer and 9/11-Iraq fabulist Stephen Hayes) has continued to proclaim as fact the nonexistent Bin Laden-Hussein connection. (In March 2008, Cheney anticipated Bush's "so what?" response to Martha Raddatz, shrugging off her assertion that "two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting" in Iraq by simply remarking, "So?") And in an interview with Jim Lehrer of the PBS News Hour on January 14, 2009, Vice President Cheney regurgitated his blatantly discredited claim about an Iraq-Al Qaeda nexus. Answering "I think so" when asked whether the 4500 Americans killed in Iraq was worth it, Cheney continued:
"He'd had a nuclear program in the past. He killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and he did have a relationship with al-Qaida. Now, we've had this debate, keeps people trying to conflate those arguments.
That's not to say that Saddam was responsible for 9/11; it is to say - as George Tenet, CIA director testified in open session in the Senate - that there was a relationship there that went back 10 years."
Of course, as ThinkProgress detailed, President Bush and Vice President Cheney throughout 2002 and 2003 warned of the mythical alliance between Saddam and Bin Laden. For example, on October 14, 2002, Bush announced that "We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade." On the eve of the war, the President told Americans that Iraq "has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda." And as hostilities commenced, Cheney on March 21, 2003 decried Iraq as the "geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."
As Perrspectives documented back in June 2005, President Bush continued to nurture the false Iraq connection to 9/11 long after he grudgingly admitted on September 17, 2004 that "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th." Bush's intentional conflation of the two included the amazing June 18, 2005 statement that "we went to war [with Iraq] because we were attacked." By December 2008, Bush's linkage had morphed into the "risk we could not afford to take."
As it turns out, for George W. Bush the "risk we could not afford to take" was not averting war with Iraq, but the absence of a compelling sales pitch for it. And to be sure, Bush was in that regard quite successful. As an October 2003 PIPA survey showed, even after the invasion of Iraq, majorities of Americans continued to believe Bush administration claims about Saddam (Iraq role in 9/11, an alliance between Saddam and Al Qaeda, and Saddam's WMD) all long since proven false. (Unsurprisingly, viewers of Fox News were the most delusional.) And as late as July 2006, fully 50% of Americans still believed the discredited claim that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.
For that national delusion, Americans can thank the leadership past and present of the Republican Party. But as President Obama announces the end of combat operations in Iraq, Sarah Palin proved once again that being Republican apparently means never having to say you're sorry, "admit you were wrong" or "being honest with us."
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)