McClellan says first loyalty is to truth as he defends Bush book

Declaring that "loyalty to the truth" was more important than his affection for President George Bush, the softly-spoken former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, took to the airwaves yesterday to defend his bombshell new book, that has become an overnight sensation and accuses the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

"The White House would prefer that I not talk openly about my experiences," he said in a combative interview on NBC television yesterday. "These words didn't come to me easy... I'm disappointed that things didn't turn out the way we all hoped they would." Mr McClellan went on to say: "I have a higher loyalty... than my loyalty to my past work. I have a loyalty to the truth."

He had not spoken out sooner about the use of lies and propaganda to sell the war in Iraq because he, like other Americans, gave the President the benefit of the doubt. "My beliefs were different then. I believed the President when he talked about the grave and gathering danger from Iraq," Mr McClellan explained.

Mr McClellan, who followed Mr Bush from Texas to Washington, was always seen as a Bush loyalist and his book, What Happened, Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, was written more in sorrow than in anger. It has reopened the debate over the Iraq invasion at a time when the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, is accusing the Democrat Barack Obama of "surrender" over Iraq.

Describing Mr Bush as "a gut player," Mr McClellan said discussions about invading Iraq began soon after the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001.

He declared yesterday that his own misgivings about the rush to invade Iraq were offset by his personal feelings for Mr Bush and respect for his foreign policy advisers. The President was guilty of self-deception rather than distortion, and had not consciously inflated the threat of Iraq unleashing weapons of mass destruction, Mr McClellan said: "He came to convince himself of that."

He also underlined that the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, "was given a lot of deference by the President," and said "in a number of ways, he has not served the President well".

Mr McClellan has also attacked the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, saying she did not challenge the President when she should have. "Too often, she was too accommodating [to the President's views]," he said, and she too bowed to Mr Cheney and the former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Despite a chorus of damnation from Mr McClellan's former associates, the allegations dominated the airwaves.

Speaking in Europe, Ms Rice launched into a long-winded defence of the invasion of Iraq, saying that people frequently did not appreciate the significance of events until long afterwards.

"We did some things well, some things not so well. The one thing that I am certain was not a mistake was to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein," she said. She added that America was not alone in believing that "the monster that was Saddam Hussein... had weapons of mass destruction that he was hiding."

Mr McClellan's allegations that the media had been gullible in accepting propaganda from the White House have also touched a raw nerve. Jessica Yellin, who worked for ABC television until last year, said: "The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever and the President's high approval ratings."

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea