Karl Rove: ‘Mushroom Cloud’ Meme Wasn’t Exaggeration

Mushroom cloud from TV series
Mushroom cloud on the horizon from TV series “Jericho.”

Via Media Matters. In his new book, President Bush’s Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove writes (emphasis added):

So, then, did Bush lie us into war? Absolutely not.


From my perch inside the West Wing — but outside the frantic activity in the Situation Room — I could see the care everyone was taking to not overstate the case or exaggerate the danger. The president emphasized this when we reviewed his speeches, and this care was reflected everywhere else in the administration.

(Pages 340-341 of Courage and Consequence)

October 7, 2002

Yeah, right. The fear mongering campaign was deliberate and orchestrated by the White House Iraq Group. Chief Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson proposed the “smoking gun/mushroom cloud” meme as the best way to scare people into backing a war of aggression.

“The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

Condoleezza Rice, September 8, 2002

The scary vision of mushroom clouds was repeated by President Bush and General Tommy Franks, head of Central Command. Vice President Dick Cheney declared Saddam to be a “mortal threat” on his way to “nuclear blackmail.”

The “all fear all the time” campaign worked wonders. From History Commons:

When 100,000 people march against the war in Washington, the largest antiwar demonstration since the Vietnam War, the Post buries the story in its Metro section. …Saddam Hussein is routinely, and effectively, conflated with 9/11, and the “smoking gun-mushroom cloud” trope is reported over and over again in TV news broadcasts. …By late September 2002, over half of Americans polled believe that Saddam was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and 72 percent believe that Saddam will attack the U.S. with chemical or biological weapons.

And then, in October 2002, the Bush administration engineered a vote in Congress on the Iraq AUMF — just days before the first post-9/11 election.

More here: The Bush Administration’s Misleading and Inaccurate Public Statements on Iraq.

UPDATE: More from Rove’s book, via HuffPo:

“Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D.? I doubt it…Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq’s horrendous human rights violations.”

  1. #1 by cav on March 8, 2010 - 9:46 pm

    Karl Rove was / is full of shit, as was / is the creature for whom he operated as a ‘brain’.

  2. #2 by Larry Bergan on March 10, 2010 - 12:37 am

    We were wrong about Rove all along. He’s just a regular guy.

  3. #3 by cav on March 10, 2010 - 4:48 am

    I blame mass democratic projection!

    Please, can we get our meds in the water system nao?

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