Today, President Bush defended his foreign policy over the past eight years in an address to the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, DC. At one point, he acknowledged that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks but justified using such a connection to push for the Iraq war:
It is true, as I have said many times, that Saddam Hussein was not connected to the 9/11 attacks. But the decision to remove Saddam from power cannot be viewed in isolation from 9/11. In a world where terrorists armed with box cutters had just killed nearly 3,000 people, America had to decide whether we could tolerate a sworn enemy that acted belligerently, that supported terror, and that intelligence agencies around the world believed had weapons of mass destruction. It was clear to me, to members of both political parties, and to many leaders around the world that after 9/11, this was a risk we could not afford to take.
Bush has repeatedly stated that Saddam was not connected to 9/11. However, those statements came only after the war. Prior to the war, Bush and other administration officials repeatedly strove to create the impression that the Iraqi dictator was directly involved in the attacks:
“We know that Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network share a common enemy: the United States of America. We know that Iraq and Al Qaida have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.” [Bush, 10/14/02]
“The use of armed forces against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” [Bush’s Letter to Congress, 3/21/03]
“If we’re successful in Iraq … we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.” [Cheney on NBC's Meet the Press, 9/14/03]
The effect was a public who supported Bush’s Iraq invasion based on this false premise, along with the equally false claim that Iraq had WMD. A Sept. 2003 poll found that seven in 10 Americans believed Saddam was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. Nevertheless, Bush has tried to rewrite history and claim that he never made that connection in the first place, saying in May 2006, “First, just if I might correct a misperception, I don’t think we ever said — at least I know I didn’t say — that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein.”
Bush still embraces his pre-war lies, as he admitted in his Saban address today, because without them, the public wouldn’t have supported his case for war.