- About TFT
Friday Thing Archive
- Politics
- Media
- Culture and Society
- War On Terror
- People
- Places
- World
- Popped Clogs
- Music
- Books
- Film
- Etc
Help And Info
- Contact Details
- Advertising
- Jobs
- Privacy Policy
- XML Feed

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.


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

Subscribe to The Friday Thing for free

Bad words ahead The Friday Thing is a weekly email comment sheet. Casting a cynical eye over the week's events, it is rarely fair and never balanced.

A selection of articles from each week's issue appear online, but to enjoy the full Thing, delivered by email every Friday - as well as access to almost five years of back issues - you'll need to subscribe. It's absolutely free.

"Razor-sharp comment and gossip." - The Sunday Times

"Hilariously cynical..To describe it as 'irreverent' is to do the newsletter an injustice." - The Observer

"Sharp, intelligent, opinionated, uncompromising and very, very funny. Just like 'Private Eye' used to be." - Alec McKelland

"Wicked" - Channel 4

"Ace" - Time Out

"'We rise once again in advocacy of The Friday Thing. We realize that some of you may be unwilling to spend [your money] on plain-text comment, but you're only depriving yourself." - The Minor Fall, The Major Lift

"Subscribing to this at the beginning of the year was undoubtedly one of the better decisions I've made. Superlative, and utterly marvellous. I look forward to Fridays now, because I can't wait for the next issue. Fucking fucking brilliant." - Meish.org

"Featuring writers from The Observer, Smack The Pony and The 11 O'Clock Show... will continue to attract new subscribers sight unseen" - NeedToKnow

"The Friday Thing is so good it's stopping me from doing a bunk of a Friday afternoon." - Annie Blinkhorn (The Erotic Review)

"So now" - The Evening Standard

"Damn it, you rule. May you never, ever back down." - Paul Mayze

"Ace" - PopJustice

"Snarky" - Online Journalism Review

"Can you please stop making me laugh out loud... I'm supposed to be working, you know!" - Tamsin Tyrwhitt

"Your coverage of stuff as it spills is right on the money." - Mike Woods

"Popbitch with A-Levels." - Tim Footman

"In an inbox full of trite work-related nonsense, TFT shines from under its subject heading like the sun out of Angus Deayton's arse." - Nikki Hunt

"A first rate email. It's become an integral part of my week, and my life would be empty and meaningless without it (well, *more* empty and meaningless anyway)." - Mark Pugh

"Genius, absolute bit of class. And you can quote me on that." - Lee Neville

"If you're hipper than hell, this is what you read." - MarketingSherpa

"The most entertaining email I've had all week. Great tone." - Matthew Prior

"A massive and engrossing wit injection." - idiotica.co.uk

"I wouldn't know satire if it bit me on the arse. But I did like the Naomi Campbell joke." - Matt Kelly (The Mirror)

"Has had an understandably high profile among people who know about these things." - Guy Clapperton (Guardian Online)

"Satirical sideswipes at the burning issues of the day." - Radio 5 Live

"Puerile and worthless... Truly fabulous... Do read the whole thing." - Stephen Pollard

© The Friday Thing 2001-2008 - All Rights Reserved