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Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq reviewed (finally!) 

Image courtesy: Seven Stories Press

Well I've been sitting on the book The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq for literally months after having received it from the publisher Seven Stories Press way back at the end of last year and then not completing reading it until early February. Frankly, the prospect of writing a book review reminded me too much of school work (as long ago as that was). Besides, by that point, any major news around the war seemed to have already happened and the book no longer felt relevant enough to still review. However, with the rise of the insurgency and the Coalition seeming to lose their grip on both control of Iraq (did they ever have control?) and members within the coalition, the debacle of the Iraq war is in fact still ongoing and seeming to only get worse by the day even as the date for the "power transfer" back to the Iraqis rapidly approaches. Because of this, it seemed apropos to make good on my promise and finally give some shine to a book that looks at how Team Bush manipulated their way into this mess in the first place.

The Five Biggest Lies book is based on a widely-read and circulated article, first published on the progressive news website AlterNet, called "Ten Appalling Lies We Were Told About Iraq." The book is a quick and easy read (despite how long it took me to finish) that takes the original ten lies and counterpoint facts rebutting them and refashions them into a five-part thesis of the major misrepresentations used by the Bush administration to justify the war. Obviously, the book is written from a perspective of believing the war was neither necessary nor justified but, throughout, book authors Christopher Scheer, Robert Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry lay out a balanced, precise and detailed case supporting their hypothesis. The Five Biggest Lies is probably the best read for people who, in the run-up to the war, didn't delve into the op-ed section of the newspapers and weekly news magazines and, instead, got their information from the mostly jingosistic TV news coverage served up in the US during that period.

Readers for whom this description applies learn in greater detail why it was obvious before the start of the war that there were no ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda ("Lie number one"); about how regime change in Iraq was part of a long-standing foreign policy goal for the neo-cons in the Bush administration whose dreams of a Pax Americana included establishing a greater (and more permanent) presence in the Middle East; and, with respect to the WMD issue (lies number two: "Iraq had chemical and biological weapons"; and three: "Iraq had nuclear weapons"), about how purported discrepancies between known quantities of Iraqi nerve agents and what was verified as destroyed after the last Gulf War was irrelevant as any remaining agents would have already been rendered useless through degradation or having long passed their expiration date.

They'll also be reminded, if they were paying even just marginal attention to the news, of the fact that the efforts of the UN inspectors were working when they were ordered out of Iraq so the US could invade and that most of the intelligence used to justify the invasion was known to be weak, wrong or, at best, circumstantial long before Bush and Powell et al. admitted as much earlier this year.

But for those who have been closely following the news about the Iraq, whether the yes-man, rah rah propaganda on Fox News or the passive, unquestioning gruel delivered by CNN et al., Five Biggest Lies might still be worth a read though. It serves as a handy primer or reference guide to talking points and evidence to use when you debate the last of your idiot conservative friends who still refuse to admit that, just maybe, the war was a bad idea or, at least, badly planned and excuted.

If there's one major criticism about the book, it's the same one you can make about any book attempting to cover current events: when you try to write history on the fly and rush release a book like this (Five Biggest Lies was first published in October 2003, a scant five months after Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq last year), they tend to suffer from the lack of perspective that more time would allow. Often, as is the case here with the events still unfolding, arguments used will eventually either resonate more deeply in the future or end up becoming completely irrelevant. Seven Stories have attempted to address this issue by printing an updated edition of the book in January with a more in-depth exploration of issues and revelations that have arisen in the post-war period.

If you already bought this book and don't want to buy it twice to get the updated material, you can read excerpts of it here in the article "'Five Lies' Lives On." Even after this update though, the story of how we ended up at war in Iraq continues to have chapters added with no end in sight. Other books like Clarke's All Enemies and Woodward's Plan of Attack have thrown new evidence into the debate and probably do a better job of painting the big picture about all the forces that led to the war. You can be sure that third and fourth editons of Five Biggest Lies could easily come out this year and probably still be out of date by December with all the developments that continue to unfold on a near-daily basis.

The scary thing to consider is that, depsite most of the evidence used in the book being easily corroborated via basic research or issues that got an airing in at least one mainstream media source somewhere, Bush was allowed to hoodwink the public and the US Congress into giving him their support for this faulty foreign policy action without the media calling him on the less-than-compelling evidence for its necessity and an overwhelming lack of international support. Hopefully, the media will start asking those hard questions now. The public deserves answers so they can form a more complete picture and have a real basis from which to make an informed judgement in November as to how successful Bush has been as commander-in-chief. After all, just over one year on from the "end of major combat operations", do you feel safer and do you think terrorist activity has increased or decreased based on the US action in Iraq, Bush's execution of his oft-mentioned "war on terror" or his management of security of the US homeland with tools like the Patriot Act?

The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq can be purchased online at Seven Stories press here or at here.

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