WASHINGTON — Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a "political propaganda campaign" led by President Bush and aimed at "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war."
McClellan includes the charges in a 341-page book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a "lack of inquisitiveness."
McClellan has harsh words for many of his former colleagues. He accuses former White House advisor Karl Rove of misleading him about his role in the CIA leak case. He describes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as being deft at deflecting blame. He calls Vice President Dick Cheney "the magic man" who steered policy behind the scenes.
McClellan, who resigned in April 2006, stops short of saying Bush purposely lied about his reasons for invading Iraq, writing that he and his subordinates were not "employing out-and-out deception."
But in a chapter titled "Selling the War," he alleges that the administration repeatedly shaded the truth and that Bush "managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option."
McClellan, once a staunch defender of the war, comes to a stark conclusion: "What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."
McClellan's criticisms are striking, given that they come from a man who followed Bush to Washington. The White House declined to comment.
McClellan also has kind words for Bush, calling him "a man of personal charm, wit and enormous political skill."