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Jon Schwarz

Jon Schwarz is editor of and was research producer for 'Capitalism: A Love Story.' He's also contributed to the New Yorker, New York Times, Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Slate, Saturday Night Live and NPR.

January 3rd, 2013 9:54 AM

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You, Lyin' Joe Lieberman

As of noon ET, Joe Lieberman will no longer be a U.S. senator. I hope we can all take a moment today to stop and remember his deep, lifelong commitment to lying.

You could fill a book with Lieberman's lies, but some of the most impressive ones have been about Iraq and its supposed weapons of mass destruction. Of course, many U.S. politicians lied about this before we invaded in 2003 – but Lieberman stands apart in his willingness to continue lying just as blatantly, long after all the facts had been definitively established, up to the present day.

Here's Lieberman on Morning Joe in 2011:

LIEBERMAN: ...the evidence is very clear that [Saddam] was developing weapons of mass destruction...Charles Duelfer conducted the most comprehensive report on behalf of our government...he found, and proved I think, that Saddam...was developing chemical and biological weapons.

Lieberman followed that up by mansplaining this issue to Arianna Huffington, who was on the same program:

HUFFINGTON: It was stunning to hear you say that there was evidence that Saddam Hussein was working on weapons of mass destruction, given that even President Bush himself has now accepted that there had been no evidence. So on what basis are you saying that?

LIEBERMAN: I'm basing it on the so-called Duelfer Report. Charles D-U-E-L-F-E-R conducted the most comprehensive report on behalf of our government…

HUFFINGTON: Well, based on this completely unfounded assumption, I sincerely hope for the sake of the country that you do not become Secretary of Defense.

LIEBERMAN: Now Arianna, these are not unfounded. Go read the Duelfer Report.

HUFFINGTON: There is nothing in the report that proves anything that you have said.

LIEBERMAN: I don't think you've read it, sweetheart.

The report to which Lieberman was referring was produced by the CIA's Iraq Survey Group, headed by Charles Duelfer. (That's D-U-E-L-F-E-R, for any of you ladies having trouble wrapping your pretty little heads around this.)

I wouldn't call the Duelfer report impartial; from my perspective it does spin the evidence in the most favorable possible way for war supporters like Lieberman. So it's especially notable that it says nothing like what Lieberman claims.

Here's the report's conclusion about Iraq's non-existent chemical weapons program:

Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter

And here's the report's conclusion about Iraq's non-existent biological weapons program: 1991, Iraqi leaders decided to destroy Iraq’s undeclared weapons stockpile in late 1995, ISG judges that Baghdad abandoned its existing BW program...ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program

This wasn't an isolated incident; Lieberman has lied about the Duelfer report many times. Here he is on the Hugh Hewitt Show back in 2007:

HEWITT: Do you think Saddam had WMD in 2002?

LIEBERMAN: Well, look, he surely, even the Duelfer report, which was the most authoritative report, said he had some, and he had a network of chemical and biological experts working on it, and a kind of fallback network on nukes, which is what he really wanted. Here’s the point. In 2002, Saddam himself said he had weapons of mass destruction, and we gave him every chance, pursuant to the UN resolutions, which the U.S. asked for, to come clean and show us that he had destroyed the inventory of WMD that he filed with the UN as a condition of the end of the Gulf War in ’91, and he wouldn’t do it. So you know, I know people look back and say this was some classic colossal act of deceit by our government. I think everybody in the world, and the best intelligence services, frankly, including most people around Saddam Hussein who’ve been interviewed since, thought that he had WMD.

Let's go through these lies one at a time:

1. "The Dueler report...said he had some." False; see above.

2. "...he had a network of chemical and biological experts working on it." False; see above.

3. "...a kind of fallback network on nukes." God only knows what Lieberman's weaselly words are supposed to mean, but here's what the Duelfer report said about this:

Saddam Husayn ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war. ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program. Although Saddam clearly assigned a high value to the nuclear progress and talent that had been developed up to the 1991 war, the program ended and the intellectual capital decayed in the succeeding years.

4. "In 2002, Saddam himself said he had weapons of mass destruction." Completely false. On the contrary, Iraq and Saddam Hussein said over and over again from 1991 onwards, and especially in the run up to war in 2002 and 2003, that Iraq had no WMD.

5. "...we gave him every chance, pursuant to the UN resolutions, which the U.S. asked for, to come clean...and he wouldn’t do it." Completely false. Iraq explained over and over again to the UN what had happened to its WMD programs after 1991. The reports Iraq filed with the UN say nearly the same thing as the CIA's 2004 Duelfer report.

6. "...everybody in the world, and the best intelligence services...thought that he had WMD." False; some did and some didn't. Most importantly, here's what Alan Foley, who ran the CIA's efforts to investigate Iraq's WMD programs, thought (according to the book The Italian Letter):

There were strong indications that Foley all along was toeing a line he did not believe. Several days after Bush's State of the Union speech, Foley briefed student officers at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, DC. After the briefing, Melvin Goodman, who had retired from the CIA and was then on the university's faculty, brought Foley into the secure communications area of the Fort McNair compound. Goodman thanked Foley for addressing the students and asked him what weapons of mass destruction he believed would be found after the invasion. "Not much, if anything," Goodman recalled that Foley responded. Foley declined to be interviewed for this book.

On the other hand, to the best of my knowledge Lieberman has never claimed that Saddam Hussein was 2000 feet tall and could shoot nuclear laser beams out of his eyes. So I guess we should be grateful for small blessings.

Thirty-one soldiers from Connecticut were killed in Iraq, including Tyanna S. Avery-Felder, 22, of Bridgeport; Anthony D. D’Agostino, 20, of Waterbury; Kemaphoom Chanawongse, 22, of Waterford; and Felix Del Greco, 22, of Simsbury.

May the road rise up to meet you, lyin' Joe Lieberman.

P.S. I would bet $1 million that Joe Lieberman has never read the Iraq Survey Group report.

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