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Bush Administration's Biggest Bloopers of 2003

Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers. She can be reached at

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Washington, Dec. 30, 2003

Some of the words uttered by very important people in Washington in 2003 are best forgotten.

On the other hand, as we enter an election year, maybe they should be remembered. Many of the official statements were made about the war in Iraq, and the so-called imminent threat Iraqi weapons posed for the United States:

  • On March 17, three days before the invasion of Iraq, President Bush said in an address to the nation: 'There is no question we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical.'

    On May 1, he delivered a war-ending speech on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln off the coast of California with a banner across the ship reading: 'Mission accomplished.'

    But the death toll approached 470 G.I.s on Friday and is unlikely to stop climbing anytime soon. The number of combat wounded is 2,679.

  • In an interview on December 16, television anchorwoman Diane Sawyer pressed Bush on the fact that no unconventional weapons had been found in Iraq some nine months after the search had begun.

    Bush kept interjecting: 'Yet.'

    Sawyer persisted, asking about the administration's flat statements that Saddam had such weapons versus the mere possibility that he could acquire them.

    An exasperated Bush replied: 'So, what's the difference?'

    Do we really have to explain?

  • On October 17, Bush gave an interview to Fox News, saying he does not read newspapers.

    'The best way to get the news is from objective sources,' Bush said. 'And the most objective sources I have are the people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.'

    Objective? Hardly. Protective? Absolutely.

  • On December 15, after attending more than 30 fund-raisers in recent months to rally the G.O.P. troops, Bush told a news conference: 'There is plenty of time ahead for politics. Now is not the time.'

    Who is he kidding?

  • Last June, during one of his many church speeches, Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin said George W. Bush became president 'because God put him there.' He also said Islamic extremists hate us 'because we are a Christian nation.'

    Boykin went on to claim that a Muslim warlord in Somalia had been defeated because 'I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real god and his was an idol.'

    His zealotry smacks of the extremism he hates.

  • On January 22, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ruffled diplomatic feathers when he referred to France and Germany as the 'old Europe' and the former communist nations now in N.A.T.O. as the 'new Europe.'

    This is the same 'old Europe' that stood by us in the Cold War and is now heading up security operations and civil enforcement operations in Afghanistan.

  • On March 7, Secretary of State Colin Powell said: 'Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.'

    Isn't it time for Powell to recant?

  • On January 9, then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, 'We know for a fact there are weapons (of mass destruction) there.'

    Any regrets, Ari?

  • On December 17, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the Bush administration gave a classified intelligence briefing to members of Congress in October 2002 saying Iraq not only had the weapons 'but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities.' The briefing was held before the vote authorizing the use of force to attack Iraq.

    So why the congressional silence - throughout 2003 - after being misled into voting for war?

  • On May 28, in a Vanity Fair interview, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraqi war, told of the administration plotting to sell the war to the American public.

    'For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue - weapons of mass destruction because it was one reason everyone could agree on.'

    Honest but appalling.

  • After a trip to Iraq in late July to check on how the U.S. occupation was going, Wolfowitz warned: 'Foreigners should stay out of Iraq.'

    A little too late, isn't it?

  • For credibility, I'll take former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. He reminded us on December 23 that there are only two justifications for pre-emptive war: the presence of a threat of armed action credibly documented, and an urgency that does not tolerate delay.

    The U.S. action against Iraq met neither test.