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Home > War On Terror

Warning: you are in "imminent" danger of being lied to

3 February 2004

The latest howler to come out of Washington is White House Spokesman Scott McClellan's assertion that Bush and the boys never used the word "imminent" to describe the threat posed by Saddam Hussein:

"I think some in the media have chosen to use the word ‘imminent’. Those were not words we used. We used, ‘grave and gathering’ threat."

Fortunately for us, we don’t necessarily have to believe everything government officials tell us, because there's this handy little thing called the internet – so simple that even reporters can use it (not that many did, judging from a quick Google News search).

A simple query of the word "imminent" on the White House website brings up about 100 pages, and there's not much good news in there for Dubya.

To be fair, Bush – most notably in last year's State of the Union address – did at times pointedly say that Saddam was not an "imminent" threat. And the president and his advisers often used heavily guarded language that neatly avoided the i-word. But just as frequently, they failed to correct reporters using that same word and generally contributed to the feeling that Saddam was knocking on the door with a pocket full of anthrax.

Back in February 2003 at a press conference, McClellan himself described Iraq as an "imminent threat" to Turkey while discussing the possibility of NATO action. But still more damning evidence is out there. This is from a March 11, 2003 press briefing with then-White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer (emphasis added):

QUESTION: Can you substantiate the credibility of the President's statement that Iraq is capable of, or direct an imminent attack on the United States? And I have a follow-up.

MR FLEISCHER: The President does believe that Iraq is a direct threat to the United States as a result of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, particularly biological and chemical weapons.

And here's an excerpt from an October 16, 2002 press briefing (again, emphasis added):

QUESTION: Ari, the President has been saying that the threat from Iraq is imminent, that we have to act now to disarm the country of its weapons of mass destruction, and that it has to allow the UN inspectors in, unfettered, no conditions, so forth.

MR FLEISCHER: Yes.

That's just from the run-up to war. After Saddam retreated to his spiderhole, the spin doctors got bolder. Consider this from May 7, 2003 (emphasis still added):

QUESTION: Well, we went to war, didn't we, to find these -- because we said that these weapons were a direct and imminent threat to the United States? Isn't that true?

MR FLEISCHER: Absolutely. One of the reasons that we went to war was because of their possession of weapons of mass destruction. And nothing has changed on that front at all. We said what we said because we meant it. We had the intelligence to report it. Secretary Powell said it.

That makes it absolutely clear: Saddam was seen as an "imminent" threat – and McClellan should be seen as a liar.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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