Nov 11 (TSR) – CBS Face the Nation featured interviews with Barack Obama and George W. Bush this weekend (11/9/14), and part of the latter discussion covered the Iraq War. The show provided one more chance for Bush, with an assist from host Bob Schieffer, to misstate some facts about the decision to invade:
SCHIEFFER: Were you surprised, when you gave the ultimatum to Saddam, that he didn’t leave? Did you think there was a chance he might leave?
BUSH: I really did. Yeah.
SCHIEFFER: You really did?
BUSH: I did. Yeah. You know when he was captured, I was told that the FBI agent that talked to him, he said, “I just didn’t believe Bush.” And it’s hard for me to believe he didn’t believe me.
BUSH: We’d given an ultimatum to the Taliban and delivered–I make the point in the book, of course, that–and Dad understood this better than anybody–that when you say something as president, you better mean it. Words mean something.
BUSH: And he was very clear at times during his presidency, and meant it. I thought I was pretty clear at times during my presidency, and meant it. Saddam Hussein didn’t believe us, so I was surprised.
SCHIEFFER: But you thought that he would believe you, and that he would leave?
BUSH: I thought that there was a chance. Yeah, I certainly hoped so, but he didn’t. And so that’s why I put in the book he chose war.
The implication is pretty clear: The war happened when Saddam Hussein decided he wouldn’t leave Iraq. Before the Face the Nation interview aired, CBS Evening News (11/7/14) broadcast a portion of it, with anchor Scott Pelley saying: “It was in 2003 that President George W. Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq after Saddam Hussein defied an ultimatum to give up power.”
But in reality, the war was going to happen no matter what Saddam Hussein did. As FAIR (Press Release, 3/19/03) noted at the time, amidst the media hoopla over Bush’s declaration, the New York Times (3/18/03) very clearly reported, under the headline “Allies Will Move In, Even if Saddam Hussein Moves Out,” that a US-led invasion would happen no matter what:
Even if Saddam Hussein leaves Iraq within 48 hours, as President Bush demanded, allied forces plan to move north into Iraqi territory, American officials said today.
The paper added:
Even if Mr. Hussein were to be ousted in a sudden coup, a military intervention seems very likely. The question no longer seems to be whether American and British troops will enter Iraq but under what circumstances.
Perhaps it is fitting that Bush would say, “When you say something as president, you better mean it”–and then say something so demonstrably false. It would have been nice for CBS to point this out.
Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. FAIR, is an American national media watch group which documents criticism of media bias and censorship in U.S. since 1986.