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Monday, March 22, 2004

Mr. President: Were you lying then or are you lying now? 

One of the more interesting lines of defense the Administration is taking to rebut the Richard Clarke brouhaha is stated basically thusly: "Of course Saddam wasn't involved in 9/11. We knew that." This defense has taken several forms. One, in a press conference today:
Q Well, so are you saying that while the President doesn't recall that conversation, are you leaving open the possibility that there's these three eyewitnesses that Clarke says, therefore it may have happened?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but let's go even beyond that. One, in the immediate aftermath of an attack like that, you want to explore all possibilities. And that's what this administration did. Of course, you want to do that. But just days later, the President met with his National Security Council; the Director of Central Intelligence informed him that there was no link between the September 11th attacks and Iraq. And at the National Security Council meeting, what happened? There was a map that was unrolled on the table, and it was a map of Afghanistan. And what did the President do? The President directed that we go into Afghanistan, and we go after al Qaeda, and we go after and remove the Taliban from power so that al Qaeda would no longer have a safe harbor from which to plan and plot their attacks on the American people. (emphasis added by G&G)
From Condi Rice in today's WaPo:
Once advised that there was no evidence that Iraq was responsible for Sept. 11, the president told his National Security Council on Sept. 17 that Iraq was not on the agenda and that the initial U.S. response to Sept. 11 would be to target al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The White House's "fact-checking" press release says basically the same thing.

This is odd because the whole run-up to Iraq was predicated on the conscious and continuous conflating of Iraq with Al-Qaeda and Saddam with Osama. Remember these gems (via CAP):
"There's overwhelming evidence there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government. I am very confident that there was an established relationship there." - Vice President Cheney, 1/22/04

“The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction.” – President Bush's UN speech, 9/23/03

“Iraq [is] the central front in the war on terror.” – President Bush's UN speech, 9/23/03

“You can't distinguish between al-Qaida and Saddam.” – President Bush, 9/25/02

“There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties.” – President Bush, 9/17/03

“There was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda.” – Vice President Cheney, 9/14/03
So, Dr. Rice, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush: Were you lying then or are you lying now?

thanks to jk for thematic and other guidance on this post.
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