Memo to Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld: The first rule of all con men is “keep your stories straight.”
In a speech Monday to the Council on Foreign Relations, Rumseld – in a rare moment of candor for a Bush administration official – admitted he has not seen any evidence of a link between terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
“To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two,” Rumsfeld said in response to a question of a possible link.
That sent eyebrows arching. The so-called link has been a cornerstone of the Bush administration’s Big Lie on Iraq, one of the two prime reasons for invading the country and launching the war that has – so far – cost more than 1,000 Americans their lives.
The second part of the Big Lie is that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was poised to use them against the United States.
Not so, the defense secretary also admitted on Monday.
“It turns out that we have not found weapons of mass destruction,” Rumsfeld said Monday in his speech to the Council. “Why the intelligence proved wrong I’m not in a position to say, but the world is a lot better off with Saddam Hussein in jail.”
Say what? A member of Bush’s team admitting that both parts of the Big Lie were, in fact, lies? Could this be?
Maybe, maybe not. White House spinmasters went to work immediately on Rumsfeld’s slip into candor. Several hours after his speech, Rumsfeld changed his tune on the Hussein-bin Laden link, saying his comments to the council were “misunderstood” and claiming he has actually said, since September 2002, that such a link existed.
“This assessment was based upon points provided to me by then-CIA Director George Tenet to describe the CIA’s understanding of the al-Qaida relationship,” Rumsfeld said. This so-called intel included “solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qaida members, including some that have been in Baghdad.”
Interesting “clarification” since Rumsfeld said earlier that “intelligence proved wrong” when he admitted no weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq when the U.S. invaded the country last year.
But even that statement was a direct contradiction of what Rumsfeld told Fox news in an interview broadcast Sunday.
“I believe they (the weapons) were there, and I’m surprised we have not found them yet,” Rumsfeld said in the Sunday interview. “He has either hidden them so well or moved them somewhere else, or decided to destroy them … in event of a conflict but kept the capability of developing them rapidly.”
Let’s see if we can keep all these changing stories straight. On Sunday, the defense secretary says there were weapons of mass destruction. On Monday, he says there were not. On Monday, he admits no evidence existed to show a link between Hussein and bin Laden. A few hours later, he recants and says the link existed.
But both assessments, and both stories, were based on intelligence he says was faulty.
So which lie is based on which faulty intelligence?
It’s hard to sustain The Big Lie when the big liars can’t keep their stories straight.