- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The invasion of Iraq was unnecessary, and the Bush administration led the nation into a pre-emptive war based on “propaganda” and dishonesty, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan says in a new book.

“War should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary,” Mr. McClellan writes in his book “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.”

The 40-year-old Texan says that while “waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake,” the Bush administration compounded its mistake by making “a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”

The Bush administration’s main motive for invading Iraq was to introduce “coercive democracy,” Mr. McClellan says, and their “marketing decision” to present a different rationale - weapons of mass destruction - led the White House down a slippery slope of misrepresentation.

Mr. McClellan, who served Mr. Bush from 1999 to 2006, also says the White House engaged in “deception” after the disclosure of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity, and that top White House advisers Karl Rove and Lewis I. “Scooter” Libby, and “possibly Vice President [Dick] Cheney … allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie.”

The book also states Mr. McClellan is now convinced that “in [the Bush administration’s] reliance on secrecy and manipulation, they were ultimately fooling themselves.”

As a result, Mr. McClellan - who thinks he personally failed in his duty as a public servant and was not prepared for the job - says the Bush presidency went “disastrously and irretrievably off course.”

Mr. McClellan’s book goes on sale Monday. The Washington Times obtained a copy in advance.

The White House declined to comment on the book last night, but in November, when a small excerpt of Mr. McClellan’s book regarding the Plame incident was released, White House press secretary Dana Perino said she discussed the book with the president.

Mr. Bush told Mrs. Perino he “has not and would not knowingly pass false information.”

Mr. McClellan, who served in the press secretary position from 2003 to 2006, does not accuse Mr. Bush of lying or deceiving anyone about the Plame incident, but, in fact, says the president was deceived by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby about the disclosure of Mrs. Plame’s identity.

Mr. Libby was found guilty by a federal jury last year of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the Plame matter.

As for Mr. Bush, Mr. McClellan says the president is “a man of personal charm, wit, and enormous political skill” who “did not consciously set out to engage in these destructive practices.”

“But like others before him, he chose to play the Washington game the way he found it, rather than changing the culture as he vowed to do at the outset of his campaign for the presidency,” Mr. McClellan writes. “And like others before him, he has engaged in a degree of self-deception that may be psychologically necessary to justify the tactics needed to win the political game.”

The volume is notable for its harsh criticisms by a former insider of an administration known for adhering to a strict code of loyalty.

While Mr. McClellan’s book was written in part to argue he was not made privy to all relevant information during the waging of the Iraq war, the book’s jacket refers to him as part of Mr. Bush’s “inner circle of trusted advisors.”

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