Where was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983 AD (1403 A.H). You were turned into scattered pits and pieces at that time; 241 mainly marines solders were killed. And where was this courage of yours when two explosions made you to leave Aden in lees than twenty four hours! But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge, but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the “heart” of every Muslim and a remedy to the “chests” of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu. Osama bin Laden (Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places, Aug. 23, 1996)
Il n’y a pas de devoir plus important que de repousser les Américains hors de la terre sainte. La présence des forces militaires croisées des Etats-Unis est le danger le plus menaçant pour le plus grand pays producteur de pétrole au monde. Osama bin Laden
Si le monde nous dit d’abandonner toutes nos armes et de ne garder que des épées, nous le ferons… Mais s’ils gardent un fusil et qu’ils me disent de ne posséder qu’une épée, alors nous refuserons. Saddam Hussein
Il y a un problème, c’est la possession probable d’armes de destruction massive par un pays incontrôlable, l’Irak. La communauté internationale a raison de s’émouvoir de cette situation. Et elle a eu raison de décider qu’il fallait désarmer l’Irak. (…) Il faut laisser aux inspecteurs le temps de le faire. Jacques Chirac
Dans l’immédiat, notre attention doit se porter en priorité sur les domaines biologique et chimique. C’est là que nos présomptions vis-à-vis de l’Iraq sont les plus significatives : sur le chimique, nous avons des indices d’une capacité de production de VX et d’ypérite ; sur le biologique, nos indices portent sur la détention possible de stocks significatifs de bacille du charbon et de toxine botulique, et une éventuelle capacité de production. Dominique De Villepin (05.02.03)
Les visées militaires du programme nucléaire iranien ne font plus de doute mais les possibilités de négociations avec le régime de Téhéran n’ont pas été épuisées. (…) De l’avis des experts, d’ici deux à trois ans, l’Iran pourrait être en possession d’une arme nucléaire. Rapport parlementaire français (17 décembre 200
Avec la fin de la guerre froide, nous ne faisons actuellement l’objet d’aucune menace directe de la part d’une puissance majeure. Mais la fin du monde bipolaire n’a pas fait disparaître les menaces contre la paix. Dans de nombreux pays se diffusent des idées radicales prônant la confrontation des civilisations, des cultures et des religions. Aujourd’hui, cette volonté de confrontation se traduit par des attentats odieux, qui viennent régulièrement nous rappeler que le fanatisme et l’intolérance mènent à toutes les folies. Demain, elle pourrait prendre d’autres formes, encore plus graves, impliquant des Etats. (…) Notre monde est également marqué par l’apparition d’affirmations de puissance qui reposent sur la possession d’armes nucléaires, biologiques ou chimiques. D’où la tentation de certains Etats de se doter de la puissance nucléaire, en contravention avec les traités. Des essais de missiles balistiques, dont la portée ne cesse d’augmenter, se multiplient partout dans le monde. C’est ce constat qui a conduit le Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies à reconnaître que la prolifération des armes de destruction massive, et de leurs vecteurs associés, constituait une menace pour la paix et la sécurité internationale. (…) Mais ce serait faire preuve d’angélisme que de croire que la prévention, seule, suffit à nous protéger. Pour être entendu, il faut aussi, lorsque c’est nécessaire, être capable de faire usage de la force. Nous devons donc disposer d’une capacité importante à intervenir en dehors de nos frontières, avec des moyens conventionnels, afin de soutenir ou de compléter cette stratégie. (…) La dissuasion nucléaire, je l’avais souligné au lendemain des attentats du 11 septembre 2001, n’est pas destinée à dissuader des terroristes fanatiques. Pour autant, les dirigeants d’Etats qui auraient recours à des moyens terroristes contre nous, tout comme ceux qui envisageraient d’utiliser, d’une manière ou d’une autre, des armes de destruction massive, doivent comprendre qu’ils s’exposeraient à une réponse ferme et adaptée de notre part. Cette réponse peut être conventionnelle. Elle peut aussi être d’une autre nature. (…) Nous sommes en mesure d’infliger des dommages de toute nature à une puissance majeure qui voudrait s’en prendre à des intérêts que nous jugerions vitaux. Contre une puissance régionale, notre choix n’est pas entre l’inaction et l’anéantissement. La flexibilité et la réactivité de nos forces stratégiques nous permettraient d’exercer notre réponse directement sur ses centres de pouvoir, sur sa capacité à agir. Toutes nos forces nucléaires ont été configurées en conséquence. C’est dans ce but que, par exemple, le nombre de têtes nucléaires a été réduit sur certains des missiles de nos sous-marins. Mais notre concept d’emploi des armes nucléaires reste bien le même. Il ne saurait, en aucun cas, être question d’utiliser des moyens nucléaires à des fins militaires lors d’un conflit. C’est dans cet esprit que les forces nucléaires sont fréquemment qualifiées « d’armes de non-emploi ». Cette formule ne doit cependant pas laisser planer le doute sur notre volonté et notre capacité à mettre en oeuvre nos armes nucléaires. La menace crédible de leur utilisation pèse en permanence sur les dirigeants animés d’intentions hostiles à notre égard. Elle est essentielle pour les ramener à la raison, leur faire prendre conscience du coût démesuré qu’auraient leurs actes, pour eux-mêmes et pour leurs Etats. Par ailleurs, nous nous réservons toujours le droit d’utiliser un ultime avertissement pour marquer notre détermination à protéger nos intérêts vitaux. Jacques Chirac (19.01.2006)
Dieu merci, l’Europe n’a pas encore atteint le stade où elle se retrouve nue et sans défense dans le conflit iranien et où elle tremble devant les délires d’un ancien gardien de la révolution devenu fou. Merci, Monsieur le Président Chirac, d’avoir été aussi clair. (…) La France possède encore près de 300 têtes nucléaires dans son arsenal et dispose des engins de lancement les plus modernes pour envoyer ces armes sur n’importe quel point du globe. Ce potentiel de destruction n’a pas vocation à servir de musée, mais à effrayer d’éventuels agresseurs. L’Iran se contente pour l’instant d’agressions verbales – mais combien de temps le resteront-elles ? C’est une bonne chose que Chirac ait placé Téhéran dans sa ligne de mire nucléaire ». Die Presse (Autriche, 20.01.2006)
Un Jacques Chirac inédit a lancé hier un avertissement très dur et inhabituel contre les Etats terroristes. Ambassadeur du pacifisme, de la tempérance et de la mesure pendant la phase préliminaire à la guerre en Irak, et opposé à l’usage de la force contre le régime de Saddam Hussein, le président français change radicalement de terrain. Chirac n’a mentionné aucun Etat en particulier. Il a préféré l’abstraction et a bâti son discours sur la puissance nucléaire de la France, jusqu’ici symbole de la résistance pacifique et pacifiste à la ‘guerre contre le terrorisme’ menée par les Etats-Unis après le 11 septembre. Le président gaulois a rangé sa panoplie de pacifiste et déplié la carte du terrorisme international, considérée comme la feuille de route d’un avenir imprévisible. Et très changeant. ABC (Espagne, 20.01.2006)
Les Etats-Unis n’ont pas envahi l’Irak mais sont intervenus dans un conflit déjà en cours. Kiron Skinner (conseillère à la sécurité du président Bush)
L’affaire Boidevaix-Mérimée est-elle l’arbre qui cache la forêt ? Certaines sources au Quai d’Orsay l’insinuent. « Il est impossible que Mérimée se soit mouillé pour une telle somme (156 000 dollars), qui n’est pas si importante au regard des risques encourus et des profits possibles », estime un diplomate qui a côtoyé l’ancien représentant de la France au Conseil de sécurité. « Nous sommes plusieurs à penser que les sommes en jeu sont en réalité colossales. » Olivier Weber (Le Point 01/12/05)
Those who still oppose war in Iraq think containment is an alternative — a middle way between all-out war and letting Saddam Hussein out of his box. They are wrong. Sanctions are inevitably the cornerstone of containment, and in Iraq, sanctions kill. In this case, containment is not an alternative to war. Containment is war: a slow, grinding war in which the only certainty is that hundreds of thousands of civilians will die. The Gulf War killed somewhere between 21,000 and 35,000 Iraqis, of whom between 1,000 and 5,000 were civilians. Based on Iraqi government figures, UNICEF estimates that containment kills roughly 5,000 Iraqi babies (children under 5 years of age) every month, or 60,000 per year. Other estimates are lower, but by any reasonable estimate containment kills about as many people every year as the Gulf War — and almost all the victims of containment are civilian, and two-thirds are children under 5. Each year of containment is a new Gulf War. (…) The sanctions exist only because Saddam Hussein has refused for 12 years to honor the terms of a cease-fire he himself signed. In any case, the United Nations and the United States allow Iraq to sell enough oil each month to meet the basic needs of Iraqi civilians. Hussein diverts these resources. Hussein murders the babies. (…) But … it is not the only cost of containment. Containment allows Saddam Hussein to control the political climate of the Middle East. If it serves his interest to provoke a crisis, he can shoot at U.S. planes. He can mobilize his troops near Kuwait. He can support terrorists and destabilize his neighbors. The United States must respond to these provocations. Worse, containment forces the United States to keep large conventional forces in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region. That costs much more than money. The existence of al Qaeda, and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are part of the price the United States has paid to contain Saddam Hussein. Walter Russell Mead
Il est maintenant clair que les assurances données par Chirac ont joué un rôle crucial, persuadant Saddam Hussein de ne pas offrir les concessions qui auraient pu éviter une guerre et le changement de régime. Selon l’ex-vice président Tareq Aziz, s’exprimant depuis sa cellule devant des enquêteurs américains et irakiens, Saddam était convaincu que les Français, et dans une moindre mesure, les Russes allaient sauver son régime à la dernière minute. Amir Taheri
Les inspecteurs n’ont jamais pu vérifier ce qu’il était advenu de 3,9 tonnes de VX (…) dont la production entre 1988 et 1990 a été reconnue par l’Irak. Bagdad a déclaré que les destructions avaient eu lieu en 1990 mais n’en a pas fourni de preuves. Thérèse Delpech
Comme l’exemple d’usage chimique contre les populations kurdes de 1987-1988 en avait apporté la preuve, ces armes avaient aussi un usage interne. Thérèse Delpech
L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
Nous croyons qu’une réussite, la démocratie en Irak peut devenir un modèle pour toute la région. Obama (12.12.11)
Nous ne savons toujours pas ce que l’Irak fait ou s’il a les matériaux nécessaires pour construire des armes nucléaires. Je ne suis pas belliqueux. Mais si nous décidons que nous avons besoin de frapper l’Irak à nouveau, il serait fou de ne pas mener la mission jusqu’à son terme. Si nous ne le faisons pas, nous aurons droit à une situation pire que tout: l’Irak restera une menace et aura plus de motivation que jamais pour nous attaquer. Donald Trump (2000)
Oui, je suppose que oui [j’étais en faveur d’une invasion de l’Irak]. J’aurais aimé que la première invasion se passe mieux. Donald Trump (Sept. 11, 2002)
[George W. Bush] doit faire quelque chose ou ne rien faire, parce peut-être qu’il est trop tôt et qu’il faut peut-être attendre les Nations unies, vous savez. Il subit une grosse pression. Je pense qu’il fait un très bon boulot. Donald Trump (2003)
Je suis le seul sur cette scène à avoir dit « N’allez pas en Irak. N’attaquez pas l’Irak ». Personne d’autre sur cette scène n’a dit ça. Et je l’ai dit haut et fort. Et j’étais dans le secteur privé. Je n’étais pas en politique, heureusement. Mais je l’ai dit, et je l’ai dit haut et fort: « Vous allez déstabiliser le Moyen-Orient ». C’est exactement ce qui s’est passé. Donald Trump (2015)
Nous laissons derrière nous un Etat souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec une gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille filnale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour. C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris presque neuf ans. Et aujourd’hui nous nous souvenons de tout ce que vous avez fait pour le rendre possible. (…) Dur travail et sacrifice. Ces mots décrivent à peine le prix de cette guerre, et le courage des hommes et des femmes qui l’ont menée. Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus d’1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30.000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles. Près de 4.500 Américains ont perdu la vie, dont 202 héros tombés au champ d’honneur venus d’ici, Fort Bragg. (…) Les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak. Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir. Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays, car malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires. Obama (14.12.11)
Mr. Speaker, I do not think any Member of this body disagrees that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, a murderer, and a man who has started two wars. He is clearly someone who cannot be trusted or believed. The question, Mr. Speaker, is not whether we like Saddam Hussein or not. The question is whether he represents an imminent threat to the American people and whether a unilateral invasion of Iraq will do more harm than good. Mr. Speaker, the front page of The Washington Post today reported that all relevant U.S. intelligence agencies now say, despite what we have heard from the White House, that « Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States. » Even more importantly, our intelligence agencies say that should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he might at that point launch a chemical or biological counterattack. In other words, there is more danger of an attack on the United States if we launch a precipitous invasion. (…) In my view, the U.S. must work with the United Nations to make certain within clearly defined timelines that the U.N. inspectors are allowed to do their jobs. These inspectors should undertake an unfettered search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and destroy them when found, pursuant to past U.N. resolutions. If Iraq resists inspection and elimination of stockpiled weapons, we should stand ready to assist the U.N. in forcing compliance. Bernie Sanders
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had told [general] Tommy Franks that Iraq had biological weapons and was certain to use them on our troops [but] Mubarak refused to make the allegation in public for fear of inciting the Arab street. (…) Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s longtime ambassador to Washington and a friend of mine since dad’s presidency, came to the Oval Office and told me our allies in the Middle East wanted a decision. George W. Bush
Senior military officers and former Regime officials were uncertain about the existence of WMD during the sanctions period and the lead up to Operation Iraqi Freedom because Saddam sent mixed messages. Early on, Saddam sought to foster the impression with his generals that Iraq could resist a Coalition ground attack using WMD. Then, in a series of meetings in late 2002, Saddam appears to have reversed course and advised various groups of senior officers and officials that Iraq in fact did not have WMD. His admissions persuaded top commanders that they really would have to fight the United States without recourse to WMD. In March 2003, Saddam created further confusion when he implied to his ministers and senior officers that he had some kind of secret weapon. The CIA
Somewhat remarkably, given how adamantly Germany would oppose the war, the German Federal Intelligence Service held the bleakest view of all, arguing that Iraq might be able to build a nuclear weapon within three years. Israel, Russia, Britain, China, and even France held positions similar to that of the United States; France’s President Jacques Chirac told Time magazine last February, « There is a problem—the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq. The international community is right … in having decided Iraq should be disarmed. » In sum, no one doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. (…) Saddam’s behavior may have been driven by completely different considerations. (…) ever since the Iran-Iraq war WMD had been an important element of Saddam’s strength within Iraq. He used them against the Kurds in the late 1980s, and during the revolts that broke out after the Gulf War, he sent signals that he might use them against both the Kurds and the Shiites. He may have feared that if his internal adversaries realized that he no longer had the capability to use these weapons, they would try to move against him. In a similar vein, Saddam’s standing among the Sunni elites who constituted his power base was linked to a great extent to his having made Iraq a regional power—which the elites saw as a product of Iraq’s unconventional arsenal. Thus openly giving up his WMD could also have jeopardized his position with crucial supporters. (…) The war was not all bad. I do not believe that it was a strategic mistake, although the appalling handling of postwar planning was. There is no question that Saddam Hussein was a force for real instability in the Persian Gulf, and that his removal from power was a tremendous improvement. There is also no question that he was pure evil, and that he headed one of the most despicable regimes of the past fifty years. I am grateful that the United States no longer has to contend with the malign influence of Saddam’s Iraq in this economically irreplaceable and increasingly fragile part of the world; nor can I begrudge the Iraqi people one day of their freedom. What’s more, we should not forget that containment was failing. The shameful performance of the United Nations Security Council members (particularly France and Germany) in 2002-2003 was final proof that containment would not have lasted much longer; Saddam would eventually have reconstituted his WMD programs, although further in the future than we had thought. Kenneth M. Pollak
If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction program. Bill Clinton (1998)
Iraq is a long way from [the USA], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face. Secretary of State Madeline Albright (1998)
He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983. Sandy Berger (Clinton’s National Security Adviser, 1998)
Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons-of-mass-destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process. Nancy Pelosi
There is no doubt that . . . Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical, and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf war status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies. Sen. Bob Graham
Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations, and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them. Sen. Carl Levin
In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical- and biological-weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaeda members. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (October 2002)
There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. . . . We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee)
We know that [Saddam] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country. Al Gore (September 2002)
Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power. Al Gore (2002)
I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force—if necessary—to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security. John Kerry (2002)
We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction. Sen. Ted Kennedy (2002)
The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical- and biological-warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons. Sen. Robert Byrd (2002)
Without further outside intervention, Iraq should be able to rebuild weapons and missile plants within a year [and] future military attacks may be required to diminish the arsenal again. (…) it is hard to negotiate with a tyrant who has no intention of honoring his commitments and who sees nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons as his country’s salvation. The New York Times
Of all the booby traps left behind by the Clinton administration, none is more dangerous—or more urgent—than the situation in Iraq. Over the last year, Mr. Clinton and his team quietly avoided dealing with, or calling attention to, the almost complete unraveling of a decade’s efforts to isolate the regime of Saddam Hussein and prevent it from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction. That leaves President Bush to confront a dismaying panorama in the Persian Gulf [where] intelligence photos . . . show the reconstruction of factories long suspected of producing chemical and biological weapons. The Washington Post (January 2001)
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. George W. Bush (January 2003)
Although Saddam’s attitude to al-Qaida has not always been consistent, he has generally rejected suggestions of cooperation. Intelligence nonetheless indicates that … meetings have taken place between senior Iraqi representatives and senior al-Qaida operatives. Butler report (2002)
It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999. The British government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium, and the British government did not claim this. Butler report
I can’t tell you why the French, the Germans, the Brits, and us thought that most of the material, if not all of it, that we presented at the UN on 5 February 2003 was the truth. I can’t. I’ve wrestled with it. [But] when you see a satellite photograph of all the signs of the chemical-weapons ASP—Ammunition Supply Point—with chemical weapons, and you match all those signs with your matrix on what should show a chemical ASP, and they’re there, you have to conclude that it’s a chemical ASP, especially when you see the next satellite photograph which shows the UN inspectors wheeling in their white vehicles with black markings on them to that same ASP, and everything is changed, everything is clean. . . . But George [Tenet] was convinced, John McLaughlin [Tenet’s deputy] was convinced, that what we were presented [for Powell’s UN speech] was accurate. People say, well, INR dissented. That’s a bunch of bull. INR dissented that the nuclear program was up and running. That’s all INR dissented on. They were right there with the chems and the bios. Lawrence Wilkerson
I participated in a Washington meeting about Iraqi WMD. Those present included nearly twenty former inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the force established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of WMD in Iraq. One of the senior people put a question to the group: did anyone in the room doubt that Iraq was currently operating a secret centrifuge plant? No one did. Three people added that they believed Iraq was also operating a secret calutron plant (a facility for separating uranium isotopes). Kenneth Pollack (National Security Council under Clinton, 2002)
Yet even stipulating—which I do only for the sake of argument—that no weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq in the period leading up to the invasion, it defies all reason to think that Bush was lying when he asserted that they did. To lie means to say something one knows to be false. But it is as close to certainty as we can get that Bush believed in the truth of what he was saying about WMD in Iraq. How indeed could it have been otherwise? George Tenet, his own CIA director, assured him that the case was “a slam dunk.” This phrase would later become notorious, but in using it, Tenet had the backing of all fifteen agencies involved in gathering intelligence for the United States. (…) The intelligence agencies of Britain, Germany, Russia, China, Israel, and—yes—France all agreed with this judgment. And even Hans Blix—who headed the UN team of inspectors trying to determine whether Saddam had complied with the demands of the Security Council that he get rid of the weapons of mass destruction he was known to have had in the past—lent further credibility to the case in a report he issued only a few months before the invasion (…) So, once again, did the British, the French, and the Germans, all of whom signed on in advance to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s reading of the satellite photos he presented to the UN in the period leading up to the invasion. Norman Podhoretz
Throughout the Bush years, liberals repeated “Bush lied, people died” like a mantra. That slander wasn’t true then and it’s not anymore true now that it has resurfaced. There are many legitimate criticisms of the way the Bush Administration conducted the war in Iraq and even more of the way Obama threw away all the blood and treasure we spent there for the sake of politics, but you have to be malicious or just an imbecile at this point to accuse Bush of lying about WMDs. To begin with, numerous foreign intelligence agencies also believed that Saddam Hussein had an active WMD program. The « intelligence agencies of Germany, Israel, Russia, Britain, China and France » all believed Saddam had WMDs. CIA Director George Tenet also rather famously said that it was a “slam dunk” that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (…) Additionally, many prominent Democrats who had access to the same intelligence that George Bush did came to the same conclusion and said so publicly. If George W. Bush lied, then by default you have to also believe that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, Robert Byrd, Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders also lied. Even Bernie Sanders, who opposed the war from the beginning, publicly said he believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. (…) Given all of that, it’s no surprise that everyone from the head of the CIA to Bernie Sanders to the British thought that Saddam had WMDs; yet George W. Bush is the one who is accused of deliberately sending American soldiers to their deaths over a lie. No honest person can read all of this and STILL repeat the disgusting smear that George W. Bush lied about WMDs to get us into war in Iraq. John Hawkins
In October 2002, President Bush asked for the consent of Congress — unlike the Clinton resort to force in the Balkans and the later Obama bombing in Libya, both by executive action — before using arms to reify existing American policy. Both the Senate (with a majority of Democrats voting in favor) and the House overwhelmingly approved 23 writs calling for Saddam’s forced removal. The causes of action included Iraq’s violation of well over a dozen U.N. resolutions, Saddam’s harboring of international terrorists (including those who had tried and failed to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993), his plot to murder former president George H. W. Bush, his violations of no-fly zones, his bounties to suicide bombers on the West Bank, his genocidal policies against the Kurds and Marsh Arabs, and a host of other transgressions. Only a few of the causes of action were directly related to weapons of mass destruction. (…) No liberal supporters of the war ever alleged that the Bush administration had concocted WMD evidence ex nihilo in Iraq — and for four understandable reasons: one, the Clinton administration and the United Nations had already made the case about Saddam Hussein’s dangerous possession of WMD stockpiles; two, the CIA had briefed congressional leaders in September and October 2002 on WMD independently and autonomously from its White House briefings (a “slam-dunk case”), as CIA Director George Tenet, a Clinton appointee, later reiterated; three, WMD were only a small concern, at least in the congressional authorization for war, which for the most part dealt with Iraq’s support for terrorism in the post–9/11 climate, violation of the U.N. mandates, and serial genocidal violence directed at Iraq’s own people and neighboring countries; and, four, the invasion was initially successful and its results seemed to have justified it. (…) The surge engineered by General David Petraeus worked so well that Iraq was not much of an issue in the 2008 general election. President-elect Barack Obama entered office with a quiet Iraq. For example, about 60 American soldiers died in 2010 in combat-related operations in Iraq — or roughly 4 percent of all U.S. military deaths that year (1,485), the vast majority of these due to non-combat causes (motor-vehicle and training accidents, non-combat violence, suicide, drugs, illness, etc.). (…) No wonder, then, that Vice President Joe Biden in February 2010 claimed that Iraq was so successful that it might well become one of the administration’s “greatest achievements.” Obama himself was eager, given the apparent calm, to pull out all U.S. peacekeepers before the 2012 election. A mostly quiet Iraq, contrasted with the escalating violence in Afghanistan and the turmoil of the Arab Spring, apparently made that withdrawal possible — so much so that Obama declared: “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” (…) Predictably, the departure of several thousand U.S. peacekeepers from Iraq allowed the Shiite partisan Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to renege on his promises of equitable treatment for all Iraqi factions. Iran sensed the void and sent in Shiite operatives. The extremism of the Arab Spring finally reached Iraq. ISIS was the new Islamic terrorist hydra head that replaced the al-Qaeda head, which had been lopped off in Iraq during the surge. Iraq went from “self-reliant” to being the nexus of Middle East unrest. All President Obama’s euphemisms for ISIS violence did not mask the reality of the disintegration of Iraq. (…) Had Eisenhower, in Obama-like worry over his 1956 reelection bid, yanked out all U.S. peacekeepers in December 1955, and blamed the resulting debacle on his Democratic predecessor (“Truman’s War”), while writing off the North Korean aggressors as jayvees, we can imagine a quick North Korean absorption of the South, with the sort of death and chaos we are now seeing in Iraq. (…) We can surely argue about Iraq, but we must not airbrush away facts. The mystery of the current Iraq fantasy is not that a prevaricating Donald Trump misrepresents the war in the fashion of Democratic senators and liberal pundits who once eagerly supported it, but that his Republican opponents so easily let him do it. Victor Davis Hanson
Attention: un mensonge peut en cacher un autre !
Services de renseignements américains, britanniques, russes, allemands, français et israéliens, inspecteurs internationaux en Irak, officiers de Saddam, Mubarak, Prince Bandar, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, Robert Byrd, Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders …
A l’heure où, les mythes ont la vie dure, le candidat républicain Donald Trump entonne à son tour le refrain du prétendu mensonge de l’ancien président George W. Bush sur les ADM de Saddam à la veille de l’invasion américaine du printemps 2003 …
Et pour ceux qui, 13 ans après, n’ont toujours pas compris que la question n’était pas l’existence des ADM de Saddam, ce dont tout le monde – services de renseignements français et officiers de Saddam compris – étaient convaincus, mais la manière de traiter le problème …
Devinez qui, évoquant dans une interview à Time de février 2003 le « problème » de la « possession probable d’armes de destruction massive par l’Irak » et la nécessité, certes par la voie non-militaire des inspections, de le « désarmer » …
S’était joint à l’interminable liste desdits » menteurs » …
Interview de M. Jacques Chirac, Président de la République, à « Time Magazine » du 16 février 2003, sur sa position en faveur de la poursuite des inspections en Irak, le rôle positif de la présence militaire américaine au Moyen Orient pour le désarmement irakien, les relations franco-américaines et la question d’une nouvelle résolution de l’ONU autorisant des frappes militaires contre l’Irak.
QUESTION – Est-ce que le rapport des inspecteurs, la semaine dernière, a marqué un tournant dans le débat sur l’Iraq ?
LE PRESIDENT – J’avais reçu dans les deux jours précédents une série de coups de téléphone de chefs d’Etat, membres du Conseil de sécurité ou d’ailleurs non membres du Conseil de sécurité. Et j’en avais tiré la conclusion que la recherche déterminée d’une solution au désarmement de l’Iraq par un processus pacifique était partagée par une majorité de responsables politiques.
QUESTION – En cas de guerre, quelles conséquences voyez-vous pour le Moyen Orient ?
LE PRESIDENT – Les conséquences d’une guerre seraient considérables : sur le plan humain, sur le plan politique, par une déstabilisation de l’ensemble de cette région. J’ajoute qu’il est très difficile d’expliquer que l’on va dépenser des sommes colossales pour faire la guerre alors qu’il y a peut-être une autre solution et que l’on ne peut pas assumer le minimum de responsabilité dans le domaine de l’aide au développement.
QUESTION – Pourquoi, plus que Tony BLAIR ou George BUSH, vous attendez-vous à des conséquences aussi graves ?
LE PRESIDENT – Simplement, je n’ai pas la même appréciation. Parmi les conséquences négatives de cette guerre, il y aurait une réaction de la part de l’opinion publique arabe et musulmane. A tort ou à raison, mais c’est un fait. Une guerre de cette nature ne peut pas ne pas donner une forte impulsion au terrorisme. Elle pourrait créer des vocations pour un grand nombre de petits BEN LADEN.
Les musulmans et les chrétiens ont beaucoup à se dire. Et ce n’est pas par la guerre qu’on favorisera ce dialogue. Je suis contre le choc des civilisations. Cela fait le jeu des intégristes.
Il y a un problème, c’est la possession probable d’armes de destruction massive par un pays incontrôlable, l’Iraq. La communauté internationale a raison de s’émouvoir de cette situation. Et elle a eu raison de décider qu’il fallait désarmer l’Iraq.
Alors, les inspections ont commencé. C’est naturellement un travail long et difficile. Il faut laisser aux inspecteurs le temps de le faire. Et, probablement, cela c’est la position de la France, renforcer leurs moyens, notamment leurs moyens d’observation aérienne. Pour le moment, rien ne permet de dire qu’elle ne marche pas.
QUESTION – Est-ce que la France ne se dérobe pas à ses responsabilités sur le plan militaire envers son plus vieil allié ?
LE PRESIDENT – La France n’est pas un pays pacifiste. Nous avons dans les Balkans plus de soldats que les Etats-Unis. La France n’est évidemment pas un pays anti-américain. Elle est profondément amie des Etats-Unis. Elle l’a toujours été. Et la France n’a pas pour vocation de soutenir un régime dictatorial, ni en Iraq, ni ailleurs.
Nous n’avons pas non plus de divergences de vues sur l’objectif : l’élimination des armes de destruction massive de Saddam HUSSEIN. Et, pour tout dire, si Saddam HUSSEIN pouvait disparaître, ce serait certainement le meilleur service qu’il pourrait rendre à son peuple et au monde. Mais nous pensons que cet objectif peut être atteint sans mettre en oeuvre une guerre.
QUESTION – Vous avez l’air de placer davantage la responsabilité sur les inspecteurs, pour qu’ils trouvent les armes, plutôt que sur Saddam HUSSEIN, pour qu’il déclare ce qu’il a ?
LE PRESIDENT – Y-a-t-il en Iraq des armes nucléaires ? Je ne le pense pas. Y-a-t-il d’autres armes de destruction massive ? C’est probable. Il faut donc les trouver et les détruire. Dans la situation où il est actuellement et contrôlé comme il l’est, est-ce que l’Iraq représente un danger important et immédiat pour la région ? Je ne le crois pas. Et donc, dans ces conditions, je préfère poursuivre sur la voie définie par le Conseil de sécurité. Puis, on verra.
QUESTION – Quelle circonstance pourrait justifier la guerre ?
LE PRESIDENT – C’est aux inspecteurs de faire rapport. On leur fait confiance. On leur a donné une mission et on leur fait confiance. S’il faut augmenter leurs moyens, on augmente leurs moyens. Donc, c’est à eux de venir dire un jour au Conseil : « nous avons gagné, c’est terminé, il n’y a plus d’armes de destruction massive », ou bien : « il est impossible pour nous de remplir la mission que vous nous avez donnée, nous nous heurtons à des mauvaises volontés et à des blocages de la part de l’Iraq ». Alors, le Conseil de sécurité serait fondé à délibérer sur ce rapport et à prendre sa décision. Et, dans cette hypothèse, la France n’exclut naturellement aucune option.
QUESTION – Mais, sans la coopération iraquienne, même 300 inspecteurs ne peuvent faire le travailà
LE PRESIDENT – Ça, il n’y a pas l’ombre d’un doute. Mais c’est aux inspecteurs de le dire. Moi, je fais simplement le pari qu’on peut obtenir de l’Iraq une plus grande coopération. Si je me trompe, il sera toujours temps d’en tirer les conséquences.
Quand un régime comme celui de Saddam se trouve pris entre la mort certaine et l’abandon de ses armes, il doit faire le bon choix. Mais je ne suis pas sûr qu’il le fera.
QUESTION – Si, aux Nations Unies, les Etats Unis venaient à présenter une résolution en faveur de la guerre, est-ce que la France utiliserait son droit de veto ?
LE PRESIDENT – J’estime qu’il n’y a pas de raison de faire une nouvelle résolution. Nous sommes dans le cadre de la résolution 1441, poursuivons. Je ne vois pas ce qu’une nouvelle résolution pourrait apporter de plus.
QUESTION – Certains vous accusent d’être animé par l’anti-américanisme ?
LE PRESIDENT – Je connais les Etats-Unis depuis longtemps, j’y suis allé souvent, j’y ai fait des études. J’ai été « fork-lift operator » pour Anheuser-Busch à Saint Louis, j’ai été « soda jerk » chez Howard Johnson. J’ai traversé dans tous les sens les Etats-Unis en auto-stop. J’ai été journaliste et j’ai écrit un article pour le « Times Picayune » de la Nouvelle Orleans qui est paru en une.
Je connais les Etats-Unis mieux peut-être que beaucoup de Français et, j’aime beaucoup les Etats-Unis. J’ai beaucoup de très bons amis là-bas. C’est un pays où je me sens bien. J’aime beaucoup la « junk food » et, chaque fois que je vais aux Etats-Unis, je reviens avec un nombre excessif de kilos.
J’ai toujours été un partisan, un supporter de la solidarité transatlantique. Quand j’entends dire que je suis un anti-américain, je suis triste. Je ne suis pas en colère. Mais je suis triste.
QUESTION – Pensez-vous que le fait que l’Amérique soit la seule superpuissance est un problème ?
LE PRESIDENT – Une société où il y a un seul puissant est toujours une société dangereuse et qui provoque des réactions. C’est pour cela que je suis pour un monde multipolaire dans lequel il est évident que l’Europe a sa place. De toute façon, le monde ne sera pas unipolaire. Dans les cinquante ans qui viennent, la Chine représentera une puissance considérable. Donc, le monde sera différent. Et donc, autant essayer de l’organiser dès maintenant. La solidarité transatlantique restera à la base de ce monde multipolaire de demain dans lequel l’Europe a un rôle à jouer.
QUESTION – Les tensions à cause de l’Iraq n’ont-elles pas empoisonné la relation transatlantique ?
LE PRESIDENT – Je le répète : il faut désarmer l’Iraq. Pour cela, l’Iraq doit faire plus qu’il ne le fait aujourd’hui. Si l’on désarme l’Irak, l’objectif recherché par les Américains sera atteint. Et si on le fait, il n’y a pas de doute sur le fait que ce sera dû en grande partie à la présence de l’armada américaine sur place. S’il n’y avait pas eu l’armée américaine, il n’est pas du tout évident que Saddam aurait accepté de jouer le jeu.
Si l’on va au terme des inspections, les Américains auront en fait gagné dans la mesure où c’est essentiellement grâce à la pression qu’ils auront exercée qu’on aura pu désarmer l’Iraq.
QUESTION – Vous ne pensez pas qu’il serait politiquement extrêmement difficile pour le Président BUSH de faire machine arrière sur la guerre ?
LE PRESIDENT – Je ne suis pas si sûr. Il aurait deux avantages s’il ramène ses soldats. Je me place dans la situation où les inspecteurs diraient : « Maintenant il n’y a plus rien », ce qui prendra encore un certain nombre de semaines. Si l’Iraq n’a pas coopéré et que les inspecteurs disent : « ça ne marche pas », cela pourrait signifier la guerre. Mais si l’Iraq est objectivement désarmé, ses armes de destruction massive éliminées, et que c’est vérifié par les inspecteurs, à ce moment-là, Monsieur BUSH pourra dire deux choses : premièrement, » grâce à mon intervention, l’Iraq a été désarmé ». Et, deuxièmement, « je l’ai fait sans faire couler le sang ». Dans la vie d’un homme d’Etat, cela compte. Sans faire couler le sang.
QUESTION – Oui, mais Washington pourrait bien aller à la guerre malgré votre plan.
LE PRESIDENT – C’est leur responsabilité. Si jamais ils me demandaient mon conseil, ce n’est pas ce que je leur recommanderais.
Le candidat à l’investiture républicaine affirme qu’il s’était opposé à l’intervention de 2003. Un récit que ne confirment pas vraiment ses propos de l’époque…
Depuis qu’il s’est lancé dans la course à la Maison Blanche, le milliardaire Donald Trump essaye de faire valoir son expertise en politique internationale en affirmant, entre autres, qu’il a toujours été opposé à la guerre en Irak, lancée en mars 2003. Par exemple, le 13 février dernier, lors d’un débat en Caroline du Sud, il a déclaré, face à ses concurrents:
«Je suis le seul sur cette scène à avoir dit « N’allez pas en Irak. N’attaquez pas l’Irak ». Personne d’autre sur cette scène n’a dit ça. Et je l’ai dit haut et fort. Et j’étais dans le secteur privé. Je n’étais pas en politique, heureusement. Mais je l’ai dit, et je l’ai dit haut et fort: « Vous allez déstabiliser le Moyen-Orient ». C’est exactement ce qui s’est passé.»
Son assurance a évidemment fait tiquer bon nombre de journalistes américains, qui ont décidé de fouiller dans le passé du candidat pour retrouver cette soi-disant déclaration prémonitoire. Et comme le montre le site Politifact et le Washington Post, les sources permettant d’étayer ses propos sont très maigres. Le 28 janvier 2003, quelques mois avant l’invasion, Trump était assez indécis sur le sujet devant les caméras de Fox News:
«[George W. Bush] doit faire quelque chose ou ne rien faire, parce peut-être qu’il est trop tôt et qu’il faut peut-être attendre les Nations unies, vous savez. Il subit une grosse pression. Je pense qu’il fait un très bon boulot.»
Une semaine après l’invasion, lors d’une soirée post-Oscars, au bras d’une mannequin qui allait devenir sa femme deux ans plus tard, il explique que la guerre pourrait poser problème, parce que «la guerre est un bordel». Mais quelques jours après, il estimera aussi que «le marché va grimper comme une roquette» avec ce conflit.
Ce n’est qu’un an et demi plus tard que l’homme d’affaires va se montrer très virulent envers une invasion devenue catastrophique. En août 2004, dans Esquire, il parle du «bordel dans lequel nous sommes» et affirme qu’il n’aurait pas géré le conflit de la sorte. Chez Larry King, trois mois plus tard, il dira encore: «Je ne crois pas que nous ayons pris la bonne décision en allant en Irak, vous savez, j’espère que l’on va s’en sortir.»
Jusque-là, rien à voir donc avec ses affirmations du 13 février dernier. Et puis Buzzfeed a retrouvé la trace d’une interview de Trump à l’automne 2002, au micro d’Howard Stern. Un an pile après les attentats du 11 septembre, le célèbre animateur lui demande s’il était en faveur d’une invasion de l’Irak. «Oui, je suppose que oui, avait-il alors répondu. J’aurais aimé que la première invasion [en 1991, ndlr] se passe mieux.»
Cette semaine, sur CNN, Anderson Cooper lui a logiquement demandé de réagir à cet extrait. «J’ai pu dire ça, a répondu Trump. Personne ne m’a demandé ça. Je n’étais pas en politique. C’était certainement la première fois que l’on me posait la question.»
Mais Buzzfeed a aussi ressorti un passage très politique de l’un des nombreux livres de l’homme d’affaires, The America We Deserve («L’Amérique que nous méritons»), publié en 2000:
«Nous ne savons toujours pas ce que l’Irak fait ou s’il a les matériaux nécessaires pour construire des armes nucléaires. Je ne suis pas belliqueux. Mais si nous décidons que nous avons besoin de frapper l’Irak à nouveau, il serait fou de ne pas mener la mission jusqu’à son terme. Si nous ne le faisons pas, nous aurons droit à une situation pire que tout: l’Irak restera une menace et aura plus de motivation que jamais pour nous attaquer.»
Difficile donc de comprendre la position de Donald Trump sur cette guerre très coûteuse pour les Etats-Unis. Mais il apparaît clair aujourd’hui que son discours soi-disant visionnaire ressemble à tout sauf à la vérité.
The Huffington Post
Thirteen years ago, on October 9, 2002, I made the following statement on the floor of the House of Representatives:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from New Jersey for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, I do not think any Member of this body disagrees that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, a murderer, and a man who has started two wars. He is clearly someone who cannot be trusted or believed. The question, Mr. Speaker, is not whether we like Saddam Hussein or not. The question is whether he represents an imminent threat to the American people and whether a unilateral invasion of Iraq will do more harm than good.
Mr. Speaker, the front page of The Washington Post today reported that all relevant U.S. intelligence agencies now say, despite what we have heard from the White House, that « Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States. » Even more importantly, our intelligence agencies say that should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he might at that point launch a chemical or biological counterattack. In other words, there is more danger of an attack on the United States if we launch a precipitous invasion.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the President feels, despite what our intelligence agencies are saying, that it is so important to pass a resolution of this magnitude this week and why it is necessary to go forward without the support of the United Nations and our major allies including those who are fighting side by side with us in the war on terrorism.
But I do feel that as a part of this process, the President is ignoring some of the most pressing economic issues affecting the well-being of ordinary Americans. There has been virtually no public discussion about the stock market’s loss of trillions of dollars over the last few years and that millions of Americans have seen the retirement benefits for which they have worked their entire lives disappear. When are we going to address that issue? This country today has a $340 billion trade deficit, and we have lost 10 percent of our manufacturing jobs in the last 4 years, 2 million decent-paying jobs. The average American worker today is working longer hours for lower wages than 25 years ago. When are we going to address that issue?
Mr. Speaker, poverty in this country is increasing and median family income is declining. Throughout this country family farmers are being driven off of the land; and veterans, the people who put their lives on the line to defend us, are unable to get the health care and other benefits they were promised because of government underfunding. When are we going to tackle these issues and many other important issues that are of such deep concern to Americans?
Mr. Speaker, in the brief time I have, let me give five reasons why I am opposed to giving the President a blank check to launch a unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq and why I will vote against this resolution. One, I have not heard any estimates of how many young American men and women might die in such a war or how many tens of thousands of women and children in Iraq might also be killed. As a caring Nation, we should do everything we can to prevent the horrible suffering that a war will cause. War must be the last recourse in international relations, not the first. Second, I am deeply concerned about the precedent that a unilateral invasion of Iraq could establish in terms of international law and the role of the United Nations. If President Bush believes that the U.S. can go to war at any time against any nation, what moral or legal objection could our government raise if another country chose to do the same thing?
Third, the United States is now involved in a very difficult war against international terrorism as we learned tragically on September 11. We are opposed by Osama bin Laden and religious fanatics who are prepared to engage in a kind of warfare that we have never experienced before. I agree with Brent Scowcroft, Republican former National Security Advisor for President George Bush, Sr., who stated, « An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken. »
Fourth, at a time when this country has a $6 trillion national debt and a growing deficit, we should be clear that a war and a long-term American occupation ofIraq could be extremely expensive.
Fifth, I am concerned about the problems of so-called unintended consequences. Who will govern Iraq when Saddam Hussein is removed and what role will the U.S. play in ensuing a civil war that could develop in that country? Will moderate governments in the region who have large Islamic fundamentalist populations be overthrown and replaced by extremists? Will the bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority be exacerbated? And these are just a few of the questions that remain unanswered.
If a unilateral American invasion of Iraq is not the best approach, what should we do? In my view, the U.S. must work with the United Nations to make certain within clearly defined timelines that the U.N. inspectors are allowed to do their jobs. These inspectors should undertake an unfettered search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and destroy them when found, pursuant to past U.N. resolutions. If Iraq resists inspection and elimination of stockpiled weapons, we should stand ready to assist the U.N. in forcing compliance.
Victor Davis Hanson
February 23, 2016
Donald Trump constantly brings up Iraq to remind voters that Jeb Bush supported his brother’s war, while Trump, alone of the Republican candidates, supposedly opposed it well before it started.
That is a flat-out lie. There is no evidence that Trump opposed the war before the March 20, 2003 invasion. Like most Americans, he supported the invasion and said just that very clearly in interviews. And like most Americans, Trump quickly turned on a once popular intervention — but only when the postwar occupation was beginning to cost too much in blood and treasure. Trump’s serial invocations of the war are good reminders of just how mythical Iraq has now become.
We need to recall a few facts. Bill Clinton bombed Iraq (Operation Desert Fox) on December 16 to 19, 1998, without prior congressional or U.N. approval. As Clinton put it at the time, our armed forces wanted “to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors. Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world. Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons.” At the time of Clinton’s warning about Iraq’s WMD capability, George W. Bush was a relatively obscure Texas governor.
Just weeks earlier, Clinton had signed the Iraq Liberation Act into law, after the legislation passed Congress on a House vote of 360 to 38 and the Senate unanimously. The act formally called for the removal of Saddam Hussein, a transition to democracy for Iraq, and a forced end to Saddam’s WMD program. As President Clinton had also warned when signing the act — long before the left-wing construction of neo-con bogeymen and “Bush lied, thousands died” sloganeering — without such an act, Saddam Hussein “will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you he’ll use the arsenal.” Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, often voiced warnings about Saddam’s aggression and his possession of deadly stocks of WMD (e.g., “Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face”). Indeed, most felt that the U.S. had been too lax in allowing Saddam to gas the Kurds when it might have prevented such mass murdering.
In October 2002, President Bush asked for the consent of Congress — unlike the Clinton resort to force in the Balkans and the later Obama bombing in Libya, both by executive action — before using arms to reify existing American policy. Both the Senate (with a majority of Democrats voting in favor) and the House overwhelmingly approved 23 writs calling for Saddam’s forced removal. The causes of action included Iraq’s violation of well over a dozen U.N. resolutions, Saddam’s harboring of international terrorists (including those who had tried and failed to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993), his plot to murder former president George H. W. Bush, his violations of no-fly zones, his bounties to suicide bombers on the West Bank, his genocidal policies against the Kurds and Marsh Arabs, and a host of other transgressions. Only a few of the causes of action were directly related to weapons of mass destruction.
Go back and review speeches on the floor of Congress in support of the Bush administration’s using force. Some of the most muscular were the arguments of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer. Pundits as diverse as Al Franken, Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, David Remnick, Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, and Fareed Zakaria all wrote or spoke passionately about the need to remove the genocidal Saddam Hussein. All voiced their humanitarian concerns about finally stopping Saddam’s genocidal wars against the helpless. The New York Times estimated that 1 million had died violently because of Saddam’s governance. And all would soon damn those with whom they once agreed.
No liberal supporters of the war ever alleged that the Bush administration had concocted WMD evidence ex nihilo in Iraq — and for four understandable reasons: one, the Clinton administration and the United Nations had already made the case about Saddam Hussein’s dangerous possession of WMD stockpiles; two, the CIA had briefed congressional leaders in September and October 2002 on WMD independently and autonomously from its White House briefings (a “slam-dunk case”), as CIA Director George Tenet, a Clinton appointee, later reiterated; three, WMD were only a small concern, at least in the congressional authorization for war, which for the most part dealt with Iraq’s support for terrorism in the post–9/11 climate, violation of the U.N. mandates, and serial genocidal violence directed at Iraq’s own people and neighboring countries; and, four, the invasion was initially successful and its results seemed to have justified it.
The WMD issue was largely a postbellum mechanism of blaming conspiracies rather than anyone’s own judgment when violence flared. Did the disappearance of WMD stocks really nullify all 23 congressional writs?
Support for the invasion reached its apex not before the war but directly at its conclusion, when polls in April 2003 revealed approval ratings between 70 and 90 percent, owing to Saddam’s sudden downfall, the relatively rapid end to the fighting, and the avoidance of catastrophic American casualties.
In late April 2003, initial worry about the absence of WMD stockpiles was soon noted — after all, the 2004 presidential primaries were less than a year away — but largely dismissed, given that Congress had sanctioned the war on a variety of grounds that had nothing to do with WMD, and it was not clear where or how known stockpiles had mysteriously disappeared, after their prior demonstrable use by Saddam. (Did Clinton get them all in his 1998 Desert Fox campaign? Did Saddam himself stealthily destroy them? Did he send out false intelligence about them to create deterrence? Or were they moved to Syria — where WMD turned up later during the Obama “red-line” controversy?)
Only as the postwar violence spiked in June and July 2003 did the fallback position arise of having been cajoled by “bogus” intelligence and thus having been “misled” into going along with the “Bush and Cheney” agenda. Had the occupation gone as well as the initial war, missing WMD would have been noted in the context of there having been roughly 20 other writs for going into Iraq.
A veritable circus of opportunistic protestations followed as violence continued. Barack Obama — who had opposed the war in 2003 but, as an Illinois state senator, was not in a position to vote against it — predicated his 2008 presidential candidacy on pulling out all troops. As a senator in 2007, he opposed the surge. He predicted that it would not only fail, but also make things worse.
When the surge made things far better, Obama dropped most mentions of Iraq from his campaign website. He certainly never referred to his confessions during his Senate campaign of 2004 that he then had had no major disagreements with Bush’s policies during the postwar occupation (e.g., “There’s not much of a difference between my position on Iraq and George Bush’s position at this stage”). Nor did he recall that, also in 2004, he confessed to having no idea whether he would have voted for the war. (“I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don’t know.”) Obama seemed to suggest that the Senate had its own intelligence avenues apparently separate from the Bush–Chaney nexus.
The surge engineered by General David Petraeus worked so well that Iraq was not much of an issue in the 2008 general election. President-elect Barack Obama entered office with a quiet Iraq. For example, about 60 American soldiers died in 2010 in combat-related operations in Iraq — or roughly 4 percent of all U.S. military deaths that year (1,485), the vast majority of these due to non-combat causes (motor-vehicle and training accidents, non-combat violence, suicide, drugs, illness, etc.). Although Obama had once stated that Iraq was the unwise war (in comparison to the wise Afghan war that he supported during the 2008 campaign), the relative post-surge quiet had changed somewhat, for a third time, popular attitudes about the war. Indeed, Afghanistan by 2010 was the problematic conflict, Iraq the apparently successful occupation.
No wonder, then, that Vice President Joe Biden in February 2010 claimed that Iraq was so successful that it might well become one of the administration’s “greatest achievements.” Obama himself was eager, given the apparent calm, to pull out all U.S. peacekeepers before the 2012 election. A mostly quiet Iraq, contrasted with the escalating violence in Afghanistan and the turmoil of the Arab Spring, apparently made that withdrawal possible — so much so that Obama declared: “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”
Suddenly the Iraq War was no longer “Bush’s war.” Instead, it was referred to in terms of “we” — and was seen as a far preferable scenario to the violence in either Afghanistan or the newly bombed Libya.
Predictably, the departure of several thousand U.S. peacekeepers from Iraq allowed the Shiite partisan Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to renege on his promises of equitable treatment for all Iraqi factions. Iran sensed the void and sent in Shiite operatives. The extremism of the Arab Spring finally reached Iraq. ISIS was the new Islamic terrorist hydra head that replaced the al-Qaeda head, which had been lopped off in Iraq during the surge.
Iraq went from “self-reliant” to being the nexus of Middle East unrest. All President Obama’s euphemisms for ISIS violence did not mask the reality of the disintegration of Iraq. WMD mysteriously reappeared as a national-security issue, but now in Assad’s Syria — and to such a degree that an anguished President Obama (“We have been very clear to the Assad regime . . . that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”) himself threatened to bomb Assad if he dared re-employ WMD (Assad did, and we did not bomb him). No one asked how or where Assad had gained access to such plentiful chemical-weapon stocks — other than the administration’s later insistence that Syria’s use of chlorine gas did not really constitute WMD usage.
The truth is that, before Bush entered office, most Americans had been convinced by the Clinton administration and the Congress that Saddam Hussein was a danger that had to be addressed. Bush sent in troops because Clinton’s prior bombing, Saddam’s violations of U.N. resolutions, and over a decade of porous no-fly zones had left Americans fearing that Saddam was uncontainable. The invasion was brilliantly conducted, and polls and politics both revealed consensus on that point. Yet securing Iraq was poorly managed from summer 2003 until autumn 2007. And polls, two elections, and political reinventions certainly illustrated that fact as well.
It is legitimate to change opinions about a war or to rue a flawed occupation. But it is not ethical to deny prior positions or invent reasons why what once seemed prudent later seemed reckless.
Finally, Korea offers some bases for comparison and elucidation. Harry Truman sent in U.S. troop reinforcements in August 1950, in an optional war to stop Communist aggression and recreate deterrence in the region. He acted with the approval of the American public (near 80 percent approval), with U.N. sanction, and, at least in budgetary terms, with agreement from the U.S. Congress.
However, poor planning, ill-preparedness due to the rapid disarmament after World War II, the megalomania of General Douglas MacArthur, the November invasion by the Chinese Red Army, nuclear saber-rattling by the Soviet Union, and soaring U.S. casualties (by summer 1953 reaching over 36,000 deaths and over 130,000 wounded and missing) made the war a bloody quagmire and roundly detested — with over 50 percent disapproval. Even the genius of General Matthew Ridgway, who saved South Korea from ruin in a brilliant 100-day campaign in late 1950 and early 1951, could not regain solid public support for the intervention.
The Korean War may have saved millions of Koreans from a Stalinist nightmare, but it ruined the Truman administration (Truman left office in January 1953 with a 23 percent approval rating, far worse than George W. Bush’s departing 33 percent). Popular anger ensured the election of Republican Dwight David Eisenhower.
But despite all the opportunistic campaign rhetoric, the newly elected President Eisenhower more or less followed Truman’s policies. By July 1953 he had achieved an armistice. And by keeping sizable U.S. deployments of peacekeepers in place, he also ensured what would become a long evolution to democracy in South Korea and the country’s current dynamic economy. Had Eisenhower, in Obama-like worry over his 1956 reelection bid, yanked out all U.S. peacekeepers in December 1955, and blamed the resulting debacle on his Democratic predecessor (“Truman’s War”), while writing off the North Korean aggressors as jayvees, we can imagine a quick North Korean absorption of the South, with the sort of death and chaos we are now seeing in Iraq.
Korea today would be unified under the unhinged Kim Jong-un regime, with twice its present resources. Samsung and Kia would be pipedreams, and we would still be arguing over Truman’s folly, the futility of nation-building, the loss of Korea, and the needless sacrifice of 36,000 American lives. No one knows what effects a rapid U.S. flight in 1954 or 1955, the implosion of South Korea, and a Chinese–North Korean victory would have had on the larger course of the ongoing Cold War in Asia, especially in relationship to neighboring Japan and Taiwan. But we can imagine that the South China Sea in 1956 might have resembled something akin to the mess of the current Eastern Mediterranean.
We can surely argue about Iraq, but we must not airbrush away facts. The mystery of the current Iraq fantasy is not that a prevaricating Donald Trump misrepresents the war in the fashion of Democratic senators and liberal pundits who once eagerly supported it, but that his Republican opponents so easily let him do it.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.
November 23, 2005
Among the many distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral and/or unnecessary war in Iraq by telling a series of lies that have now been definitively exposed.
What makes this charge so special is the amazing success it has enjoyed in getting itself established as a self-evident truth even though it has been refuted and discredited over and over again by evidence and argument alike. In this it resembles nothing so much as those animated cartoon characters who, after being flattened, blown up, or pushed over a cliff, always spring back to life with their bodies perfectly intact. Perhaps, like those cartoon characters, this allegation simply cannot be killed off, no matter what.
Nevertheless, I want to take one more shot at exposing it for the lie that it itself really is. Although doing so will require going over ground that I and many others have covered before, I hope that revisiting this well-trodden terrain may also serve to refresh memories that have grown dim, to clarify thoughts that have grown confused, and to revive outrage that has grown commensurately dulled.
The main “lie” that George W. Bush is accused of telling us is that Saddam Hussein possessed an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, or WMD as they have invariably come to be called. From this followed the subsidiary “lie” that Iraq under Saddam’s regime posed a two-edged mortal threat. On the one hand, we were informed, there was a distinct (or even “imminent”) possibility that Saddam himself would use these weapons against us and/or our allies; and on the other hand, there was the still more dangerous possibility that he would supply them to terrorists like those who had already attacked us on 9/11 and to whom he was linked.
This entire scenario of purported deceit has been given a new lease on life by the indictment in late October of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, then chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby stands accused of making false statements to the FBI and of committing perjury in testifying before a grand jury that had been convened to find out who in the Bush administration had “outed” Valerie Plame, a CIA agent married to the retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, IV. The supposed purpose of leaking this classified information to the press was to retaliate against Wilson for having “debunked” (in his words) “the lies that led to war.”
Now, as it happens, Libby was not charged with having outed Plame but only with having lied about when and from whom he first learned that she worked for the CIA. Moreover, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who brought the indictment against him, made a point of emphasizing that
[t]his indictment is not about the war. This indictment is not about the propriety of the war. And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel.
This is simply an indictment that says, in a national-security investigation about the compromise of a CIA officer’s identity that may have taken place in the context of a very heated debate over the war, whether some person—a person, Mr. Libby—lied or not.
No matter. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, spoke for a host of other opponents of the war in insisting that
[t]his case is bigger than the leak of classified information. It is about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the President.
Yet even stipulating—which I do only for the sake of argument—that no weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq in the period leading up to the invasion, it defies all reason to think that Bush was lying when he asserted that they did. To lie means to say something one knows to be false. But it is as close to certainty as we can get that Bush believed in the truth of what he was saying about WMD in Iraq.
How indeed could it have been otherwise? George Tenet, his own CIA director, assured him that the case was “a slam dunk.” This phrase would later become notorious, but in using it, Tenet had the backing of all fifteen agencies involved in gathering intelligence for the United States. In the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2002, where their collective views were summarized, one of the conclusions offered with “high confidence” was that
Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.
The intelligence agencies of Britain, Germany, Russia, China, Israel, and—yes—France all agreed with this judgment. And even Hans Blix—who headed the UN team of inspectors trying to determine whether Saddam had complied with the demands of the Security Council that he get rid of the weapons of mass destruction he was known to have had in the past—lent further credibility to the case in a report he issued only a few months before the invasion:
The discovery of a number of 122-mm chemical rocket warheads in a bunker at a storage depot 170 km southwest of Baghdad was much publicized. This was a relatively new bunker, and therefore the rockets must have been moved there in the past few years, at a time when Iraq should not have had such munitions. . . . They could also be the tip of a submerged iceberg. The discovery of a few rockets does not resolve but rather points to the issue of several thousands of chemical rockets that are unaccounted for.
Blix now claims that he was only being “cautious” here, but if, as he now also adds, the Bush administration “misled itself” in interpreting the evidence before it, he at the very least lent it a helping hand.
So, once again, did the British, the French, and the Germans, all of whom signed on in advance to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s reading of the satellite photos he presented to the UN in the period leading up to the invasion. Powell himself and his chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, now feel that this speech was the low point of his tenure as Secretary of State. But Wilkerson (in the process of a vicious attack on the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense for getting us into Iraq) is forced to acknowledge that the Bush administration did not lack for company in interpreting the available evidence as it did:
I can’t tell you why the French, the Germans, the Brits, and us thought that most of the material, if not all of it, that we presented at the UN on 5 February 2003 was the truth. I can’t. I’ve wrestled with it. [But] when you see a satellite photograph of all the signs of the chemical-weapons ASP—Ammunition Supply Point—with chemical weapons, and you match all those signs with your matrix on what should show a chemical ASP, and they’re there, you have to conclude that it’s a chemical ASP, especially when you see the next satellite photograph which shows the UN inspectors wheeling in their white vehicles with black markings on them to that same ASP, and everything is changed, everything is clean. . . . But George [Tenet] was convinced, John McLaughlin [Tenet’s deputy] was convinced, that what we were presented [for Powell’s UN speech] was accurate.
Going on to shoot down a widespread impression, Wilkerson informs us that even the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) was convinced:
People say, well, INR dissented. That’s a bunch of bull. INR dissented that the nuclear program was up and running. That’s all INR dissented on. They were right there with the chems and the bios.
In explaining its dissent on Iraq’s nuclear program, the INR had, as stated in the NIE of 2002, expressed doubt about
Iraq’s efforts to acquire aluminum tubes [which are] central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program. . . . INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors . . . in Iraq’s nuclear-weapons program.
But, according to Wilkerson,
The French came in in the middle of my deliberations at the CIA and said, we have just spun aluminum tubes, and by God, we did it to this RPM, et cetera, et cetera, and it was all, you know, proof positive that the aluminum tubes were not for mortar casings or artillery casings, they were for centrifuges. Otherwise, why would you have such exquisite instruments?
In short, and whether or not it included the secret heart of Hans Blix, “the consensus of the intelligence community,” as Wilkerson puts it, “was overwhelming” in the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq that Saddam definitely had an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and that he was also in all probability well on the way to rebuilding the nuclear capability that the Israelis had damaged by bombing the Osirak reactor in 1981.
Additional confirmation of this latter point comes from Kenneth Pollack, who served in the National Security Council under Clinton. “In the late spring of 2002,” Pollack has written,
I participated in a Washington meeting about Iraqi WMD. Those present included nearly twenty former inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the force established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of WMD in Iraq. One of the senior people put a question to the group: did anyone in the room doubt that Iraq was currently operating a secret centrifuge plant? No one did. Three people added that they believed Iraq was also operating a secret calutron plant (a facility for separating uranium isotopes).
No wonder, then, that another conclusion the NIE of 2002 reached with “high confidence” was that
Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.1
But the consensus on which Bush relied was not born in his own administration. In fact, it was first fully formed in the Clinton administration. Here is Clinton himself, speaking in 1998:
If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction program.
Here is his Secretary of State Madeline Albright, also speaking in 1998:
Iraq is a long way from [the USA], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.
Here is Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, who chimed in at the same time with this flat-out assertion about Saddam:
He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.
Finally, Clinton’s Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, was so sure Saddam had stockpiles of WMD that he remained “absolutely convinced” of it even after our failure to find them in the wake of the invasion in March 2003.
Nor did leading Democrats in Congress entertain any doubts on this score. A few months after Clinton and his people made the statements I have just quoted, a group of Democratic Senators, including such liberals as Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, and John Kerry, urged the President
to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.
Nancy Pelosi, the future leader of the Democrats in the House, and then a member of the House Intelligence Committee, added her voice to the chorus:
Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons-of-mass-destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.
This Democratic drumbeat continued and even intensified when Bush succeeded Clinton in 2001, and it featured many who would later pretend to have been deceived by the Bush White House. In a letter to the new President, a number of Senators led by Bob Graham declared:
There is no doubt that . . . Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical, and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf war status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.
Senator Carl Levin also reaffirmed for Bush’s benefit what he had told Clinton some years earlier:
Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations, and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton agreed, speaking in October 2002:
In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical- and biological-weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaeda members.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agreed as well:
There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. . . . We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.
Even more striking were the sentiments of Bush’s opponents in his two campaigns for the presidency. Thus Al Gore in September 2002:
We know that [Saddam] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.
And here is Gore again, in that same year:
Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.
Now to John Kerry, also speaking in 2002:
I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force—if necessary—to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.
Perhaps most startling of all, given the rhetoric that they would later employ against Bush after the invasion of Iraq, are statements made by Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, also in 2002:
Kennedy: We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.
Byrd: The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical- and biological-warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons.2
Liberal politicians like these were seconded by the mainstream media, in whose columns a very different tune would later be sung. For example, throughout the last two years of the Clinton administration, editorials in the New York Times repeatedly insisted that
without further outside intervention, Iraq should be able to rebuild weapons and missile plants within a year [and] future military attacks may be required to diminish the arsenal again.
The Times was also skeptical of negotiations, pointing out that it was
hard to negotiate with a tyrant who has no intention of honoring his commitments and who sees nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons as his country’s salvation.
So, too, the Washington Post, which greeted the inauguration of George W. Bush in January 2001 with the admonition that
[o]f all the booby traps left behind by the Clinton administration, none is more dangerous—or more urgent—than the situation in Iraq. Over the last year, Mr. Clinton and his team quietly avoided dealing with, or calling attention to, the almost complete unraveling of a decade’s efforts to isolate the regime of Saddam Hussein and prevent it from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction. That leaves President Bush to confront a dismaying panorama in the Persian Gulf [where] intelligence photos . . . show the reconstruction of factories long suspected of producing chemical and biological weapons.3
All this should surely suffice to prove far beyond any even unreasonable doubt that Bush was telling what he believed to be the truth about Saddam’s stockpile of WMD. It also disposes of the fallback charge that Bush lied by exaggerating or hyping the intelligence presented to him. Why on earth would he have done so when the intelligence itself was so compelling that it convinced everyone who had direct access to it, and when hardly anyone in the world believed that Saddam had, as he claimed, complied with the sixteen resolutions of the Security Council demanding that he get rid of his weapons of mass destruction?
Another fallback charge is that Bush, operating mainly through Cheney, somehow forced the CIA into telling him what he wanted to hear. Yet in its report of 2004, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, while criticizing the CIA for relying on what in hindsight looked like weak or faulty intelligence, stated that it
did not find any evidence that administration officials attempted to coerce, influence, or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities.
The March 2005 report of the equally bipartisan Robb-Silberman commission, which investigated intelligence failures on Iraq, reached the same conclusion, finding
no evidence of political pressure to influence the intelligence community’s pre-war assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs. . . . [A]nalysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments.
Still, even many who believed that Saddam did possess WMD, and was ruthless enough to use them, accused Bush of telling a different sort of lie by characterizing the risk as “imminent.” But this, too, is false: Bush consistently rejected imminence as a justification for war.4 Thus, in the State of the Union address he delivered only three months after 9/11, Bush declared that he would “not wait on events while dangers gather” and that he would “not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer.” Then, in a speech at West Point six months later, he reiterated the same point: “If we wait for threats to materialize, we will have waited too long.” And as if that were not clear enough, he went out of his way in his State of the Union address in 2003 (that is, three months before the invasion), to bring up the word “imminent” itself precisely in order to repudiate it:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
What of the related charge that it was still another “lie” to suggest, as Bush and his people did, that a connection could be traced between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorists who had attacked us on 9/11? This charge was also rejected by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Contrary to how its findings were summarized in the mainstream media, the committee’s report explicitly concluded that al Qaeda did in fact have a cooperative, if informal, relationship with Iraqi agents working under Saddam. The report of the bipartisan 9/11 commission came to the same conclusion, as did a comparably independent British investigation conducted by Lord Butler, which pointed to “meetings . . . between senior Iraqi representatives and senior al-Qaeda operatives.”5
Which brings us to Joseph C. Wilson, IV and what to my mind wins the palm for the most disgraceful instance of all.
The story begins with the notorious sixteen words inserted—after, be it noted, much vetting by the CIA and the State Department—into Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
This is the “lie” Wilson bragged of having “debunked” after being sent by the CIA to Niger in 2002 to check out the intelligence it had received to that effect. Wilson would later angrily deny that his wife had recommended him for this mission, and would do his best to spread the impression that choosing him had been the Vice President’s idea. But Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, through whom Wilson first planted this impression, was eventually forced to admit that “Cheney apparently didn’t know that Wilson had been dispatched.” (By the time Kristof grudgingly issued this retraction, Wilson himself, in characteristically shameless fashion, was denying that he had ever “said the Vice President sent me or ordered me sent.”) And as for his wife’s supposed non-role in his mission, here is what Valerie Plame Wilson wrote in a memo to her boss at the CIA:
My husband has good relations with the PM [the prime minister of Niger] and the former minister of mines . . . , both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.
More than a year after his return, with the help of Kristof, and also Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, and then through an op-ed piece in the Times under his own name, Wilson succeeded, probably beyond his wildest dreams, in setting off a political firestorm.
In response, the White House, no doubt hoping to prevent his allegation about the sixteen words from becoming a proxy for the charge that (in Wilson’s latest iteration of it) “lies and disinformation [were] used to justify the invasion of Iraq,” eventually acknowledged that the President’s statement “did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address.” As might have been expected, however, this panicky response served to make things worse rather than better. And yet it was totally unnecessary—for the maddeningly simple reason that every single one of the sixteen words at issue was true.
That is, British intelligence had assured the CIA that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy enriched uranium from the African country of Niger. Furthermore—and notwithstanding the endlessly repeated assertion that this assurance has now been discredited—Britain’s independent Butler commission concluded that it was “well-founded.” The relevant passage is worth quoting at length:
a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.
b. The British government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.
c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium, and the British government did not claim this.
As if that were not enough to settle the matter, Wilson himself, far from challenging the British report when he was “debriefed” on his return from Niger (although challenging it is what he now never stops doing6), actually strengthened the CIA’s belief in its accuracy. From the Senate Intelligence Committee report:
He [the CIA reports officer] said he judged that the most important fact in the report [by Wilson] was that Niger officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Niger prime minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium.
The report on [Wilson’s] trip to Niger . . . did not change any analysts’ assessments of the Iraq-Niger uranium deal. For most analysts, the information in the report lent more credibility to the original CIA reports on the uranium deal.
This passage goes on to note that the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research—which (as we have already seen) did not believe that Saddam Hussein was trying to develop nuclear weapons—found support in Wilson’s report for its “assessment that Niger was unlikely to be willing or able to sell uranium to Iraq.” But if so, this, as the Butler report quoted above points out, would not mean that Iraq had not tried to buy it—which was the only claim made by British intelligence and then by Bush in the famous sixteen words.
The liar here, then, was not Bush but Wilson. And Wilson also lied when he told the Washington Post that he had unmasked as forgeries certain documents given to American intelligence (by whom it is not yet clear) that supposedly contained additional evidence of Saddam’s efforts to buy uranium from Niger. The documents did indeed turn out to be forgeries; but, according to the Butler report,
[t]he forged documents were not available to the British government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine [that assessment].7
More damning yet to Wilson, the Senate Intelligence Committee discovered that he had never laid eyes on the documents in question:
[Wilson] also told committee staff that he was the source of a Washington Post article . . . which said, “among the envoy’s conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because ‘the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.’” Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the “dates were wrong and the names were wrong” when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports.
To top all this off, just as Cheney had nothing to do with the choice of Wilson for the mission to Niger, neither was it true that, as Wilson “confirmed” for a credulous New Republic reporter, “the CIA circulated [his] report to the Vice President’s office,” thereby supposedly proving that Cheney and his staff “knew the Niger story was a flatout lie.” Yet—the mind reels—if Cheney had actually been briefed on Wilson’s oral report to the CIA (which he was not), he would, like the CIA itself, have been more inclined to believe that Saddam had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger.
So much for the author of the best-selling and much acclaimed book whose title alone—The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity—has set a new record for chutzpah.
But there is worse. In his press conference on the indictment against Libby, Patrick Fitzgerald insisted that lying to federal investigators is a serious crime both because it is itself against the law and because, by sending them on endless wild-goose chases, it constitutes the even more serious crime of obstruction of justice. By those standards, Wilson—who has repeatedly made false statements about every aspect of his mission to Niger, including whose idea it was to send him and what he told the CIA upon his return; who was then shown up by the Senate Intelligence Committee as having lied about the forged documents; and whose mendacity has sent the whole country into a wild-goose chase after allegations that, the more they are refuted, the more they keep being repeated—is himself an excellent candidate for criminal prosecution.
And so long as we are hunting for liars in this area, let me suggest that we begin with the Democrats now proclaiming that they were duped, and that we then broaden out to all those who in their desperation to delegitimize the larger policy being tested in Iraq—the policy of making the Middle East safe for America by making it safe for democracy—have consistently used distortion, misrepresentation, and selective perception to vilify as immoral a bold and noble enterprise and to brand as an ignominious defeat what is proving itself more and more every day to be a victory of American arms and a vindication of American ideals.
NORMAN PODHORETZ is the editor-at-large of COMMENTARY and the author of ten books. The most recent, The Norman Podhoretz Reader, edited by Thomas L. Jeffers, appeared in 2004. His essays on the Bush Doctrine and Iraq, including “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win” (September 2004) and “The War Against World War IV” (February 2005), can be found by clicking here.
1 Hard as it is to believe, let alone to reconcile with his general position, Joseph C. Wilson, IV, in a speech he delivered three months after the invasion at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, offhandedly made the following remark: “I remain of the view that we will find biological and chemical weapons and we may well find something that indicates that Saddam’s regime maintained an interest in nuclear weapons.”
2 Fuller versions of these and similar statements can be found at http://www.theconversationcafe.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-3134.htmland. Another source is http://www.rightwingnews.com/quotes/demsonwmds.php.
3 These and numerous other such quotations were assembled by Robert Kagan in a piece published in the Washington Post on October 25, 2005.
4 Whereas both John Edwards, later to become John Kerry’s running mate in 2004, and Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, actually did use the word in describing the threat posed by Saddam.
5 In early November, the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who last year gave their unanimous assent to its report, were suddenly mounting a last-ditch effort to take it back on this issue (and others). But to judge from the material they had already begun leaking by November 7, when this article was going to press, the newest “Bush lied” case is as empty and dishonest as the one they themselves previously rejected.
6 Here is how he put it in a piece in the Los Angeles Times written in late October of this year to celebrate the indictment of Libby: “I knew that the statement in Bush’s speech . . . was not true. I knew it was false from my own investigative trip to Africa. . . . And I knew that the White House knew it.”
7 More extensive citations of the relevant passages from the Butler report can be found in postings by Daniel McKivergan at http://www.worldwidestandard.com. I have also drawn throughout on materials cited by the invaluable Stephen F. Hayes in the Weekly Standard.
Throughout the Bush years, liberals repeated “Bush lied, people died” like a mantra. That slander wasn’t true then and it’s not anymore true now that it has resurfaced. There are many legitimate criticisms of the way the Bush Administration conducted the war in Iraq and even more of the way Obama threw away all the blood and treasure we spent there for the sake of politics, but you have to be malicious or just an imbecile at this point to accuse Bush of lying about WMDs.
To begin with, numerous foreign intelligence agencies also believed that Saddam Hussein had an active WMD program. The « intelligence agencies of Germany, Israel, Russia, Britain, China and France« all believed Saddam had WMDs. CIA Director George Tenet also rather famously said that it was a “slam dunk” that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Incidentally, it’s hard to fault the CIA for their conclusions when even, “In private conversations that were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, Iraqi officials spoke as if Saddam continued to possess WMD. Even Iraqi generals believed he did. In the fall of 2002, the Iraqi military conducted exercises in chemical protective gear – but not because they thought the U.S.-led coalition was going to use chemical weapons.”
Additionally, many prominent Democrats who had access to the same intelligence that George Bush did came to the same conclusion and said so publicly. If George W. Bush lied, then by default you have to also believe that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, Robert Byrd, Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders also lied. Some of them, like Hillary Clinton, even alleged that Saddam was working on nuclear weapons.
“In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.” — Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002
Even Bernie Sanders, who opposed the war from the beginning, publicly said he believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Speaker, the front page of The Washington Post today reported that all relevant U.S. intelligence agencies now say, despite what we have heard from the White House, that « Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States. » Even more importantly, our intelligence agencies say that should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he might at that point launch a chemical or biological counterattack. In other words, there is more danger of an attack on the United States if we launch a precipitous invasion.
You can’t blame Bernie and Hillary too much for thinking Iraq had WMDs because privately, even former weapons UN inspectors were saying the same thing.
Additional confirmation of this latter point comes from Kenneth Pollack, who served in the National Security Council under Clinton. “In the late spring of 2002,” Pollack has written,
I participated in a Washington meeting about Iraqi WMD. Those present included nearly twenty former inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the force established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of WMD in Iraq. One of the senior people put a question to the group: did anyone in the room doubt that Iraq was currently operating a secret centrifuge plant? No one did.
Furthermore, as even the New York Times has been forced to admit, large numbers of pre-Gulf War WMDs have actually been found in Iraq.
From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.
In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
One of the reasons Saddam Hussein went to such great lengths to hide what he was doing was because he did have thousands of old WMDS stockpiled. However, that wasn’t all there was to it. Even though the ultimate conclusion of the Iraqi Survey Group was that Saddam didn’t have an active WMD program, his hands were far from clean on the WMD front.
…When Saddam had asked a senior military official in either 2001 or 2002 how long it would take to produce new chemical agent and weapons, he told ISG that after he consulted with CW experts in OMI he responded it would take six months for mustard.
Another senior Iraqi chemical weapons expert in responding to a request in mid-2002 from Uday Husayn for CW for the Fedayeen Saddam estimated that it would take two months to produce mustard and two years for Sarin.”
— “…(O)ne scientist confirmed that the production line…..could be switched to produce anthrax in one week if the seed stock were available.”
…With regard to Iraq’s nuclear program, the testimony we have obtained from Iraqi scientists and senior government officials should clear up any doubts about whether Saddam still wanted to obtain nuclear weapons.
They have told ISG that Saddam… remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear weapons. These officials assert that Saddam would have resumed nuclear weapons development at some future point. Some indicated a resumption after Iraq was free of sanctions.”
“1. Saddam, at least as judged by those scientists and other insiders who worked in his military-industrial programs, had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Even those senior officials we have interviewed who claim no direct knowledge of any on-going prohibited activities readily acknowledge that Saddam intended to resume these programs whenever the external restrictions were removed. Several of these officials acknowledge receiving inquiries since 2000 from Saddam or his sons about how long it would take to either restart CW production or make available chemical weapons.”
The Duelfer report also noted that Saddam had every intention of making more WMDs.
“(S)ources indicate that M16 was planning to produce several CW agents including sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, and Sarin.”
In other words, it is true that no stockpiles of new WMDS were found and the people in the best position to know didn’t conclude the weapons were moved to Syria. However, had Saddam Hussein not been taken out, he would have still had stockpiles of old WMDs available and he had every intention of making more.
Given all of that, it’s no surprise that everyone from the head of the CIA to Bernie Sanders to the British thought that Saddam had WMDs; yet George W. Bush is the one who is accused of deliberately sending American soldiers to their deaths over a lie.
No honest person can read all of this and STILL repeat the disgusting smear that George W. Bush lied about WMDs to get us into war in Iraq.
Would you vote for Carly Fiorina in the 2016 presidential election?
Voir de plus:
Bush: Mubarak Informed US that Iraq Had Biological Weapons
November 10, 2010
Former U.S. President George W. Bush says Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak informed the U.S. that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He also spoke of other people who had influence on his decision to invade Iraq.
The revelation comes in Bush’s memoirs, Decision Points, in which he highlighted mistakes made during the Iraq war campaign, and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in the country.
« President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had told [general] Tommy Franks that Iraq had biological weapons and was certain to use them on our troops, » Bush revealed in his newly-released book.
The former president said Mubarak « refused to make the allegation in public for fear of inciting the Arab street. »
So far, the Egyptian government has issued no reaction to Bush’s claim.
Bush explained that the « intelligence from a Middle Eastern leader who knew [former Iraqi president] Saddam [Hussein] well had an impact on my thinking. »
« Just as there were risks to actions, there were risks to inaction as well, » he wrote in Decision Points.
Bush says the diplomatic process drifted along, the pressure for action had been mounting. He says in early 2003, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told him the uncertainty was hurting the economy. There was also concern among America’s Middle East allies.
« Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s longtime ambassador to Washington and a friend of mine since dad’s presidency, came to the Oval Office and told me our allies in the Middle East wanted a decision, » Bush explained.
Another person who had a deep impact on his war decision was holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Elie Wiesel.
« There was passion in his 74-year-old eyes when he compared Saddam Hussein’s brutality to the Nazi genocide, » the former president remembered.
« Mr. President, » Wiesel said, « You have a moral obligation to act against evil, » Bush wrote.
He also wrote about his reaction when WMDs were not found.
« No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons [of mass destruction]. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do, » Bush said.
The former chief of state admits the fight in Iraq was more difficult than expected, but he believes the consequence of the American occupation was a chance for democracy to take root on the Persian Gulf.
In his book, Bush revisits other controversial war decisions and defends them vigorously. He says the war on Afghanistan [launched in October 2001 following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in America) was necessary to uproot al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Bush wrote: « History can debate the decisions I made, the policies I chose, and the tools I left behind. But there can be no debate about one fact: After the nightmare of September 11, America went seven and a half years without another successful terrorist attack on our soil. If I had to summarize my most meaningful accomplishment as president in one sentence, that would be it. »
The former president closes his memoirs by saying he’s comfortable knowing that history’s verdict on his presidency will come after he’s gone.
« Whatever the verdict on my presidency, I’m comfortable with the fact that I won’t be around to hear it. That’s a decision point only history will reach, » Bush wrote.
Decision Points was released in bookstores on November 9.
Voir de même:
Woodward: Tenet told Bush WMD case a ‘slam dunk’
Says Bush didn’t solicit Rumsfeld, Powell on going to war
April 19, 2004
WASHINGTON (CNN) — About two weeks before deciding to invade Iraq, President Bush was told by CIA Director George Tenet there was a « slam dunk case » that dictator Saddam Hussein had unconventional weapons, according to a new book by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward.
That declaration was « very important » in his decision making, according to « Plan of Attack, » which is being excerpted this week in The Post.
Bush also made his decision to go to war without consulting Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or Secretary of State Colin Powell, Woodward’s book says.
Powell was not even told until after the Saudi ambassador was allowed to review top-secret war plans in an effort to enlist his country’s support for the invasion, according to Woodward, who has written or co-written several best-selling books on Washington politics, including « All the President’s Men » with Carl Bernstein.
The book also reports that in the summer of 2002, $700 million was diverted from a congressional appropriation for the war in Afghanistan to develop a war plan for Iraq.
Woodward suggests the diversion may have been illegal, and that Congress was deliberately kept in the dark about what had been done.
Woodward talked about his book Sunday on CBS’s « 60 Minutes. »
The book is based on interviews with 75 people involved in planning for the war, including Bush, the only source who spoke for attribution.
Woodward quotes Bush as saying he did not feel the need to ask his principal advisers, including Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell, whether they thought he ought to go to war because « I could tell what they thought. »
But he said he did discuss his thinking with Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser.
« I didn’t need to ask them their opinion about Saddam Hussein. If you were sitting where I sit, you could be pretty clear. I think we’ve got an environment where people feel free to express themselves, » Bush is quoted as saying.
In the book, Woodward reports that on November 21, 2001 — about three months after the September 11 attacks and shortly after the Taliban regime crumbled in Afghanistan — Bush took Rumsfeld aside, ordered him to develop a war plan for Iraq and told him to keep it secret.
‘The best we’ve got?’
As the war planning progressed, on December 21, 2002, Tenet and his top deputy, John McLaughlin, went to the White House to brief Bush and Cheney on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Woodward reports.
The president, unimpressed by the presentation of satellite photographs and intercepts, pressed Tenet and McLaughlin, saying their information would not « convince Joe Public » and asking Tenet, « This is the best we’ve got? » Woodward reports.
According to Woodward, Tenet reassured the president that « it’s a slam dunk case » that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
In his CBS interview, Woodward said he « asked the president about this, and he said it was very important to have the CIA director, ‘slam-dunk’ is as I interpreted it, a sure thing, guaranteed. »
About two weeks later, shortly after New Year’s Day 2003, Bush — frustrated with unfruitful U.N. weapons inspections — made up his mind to go to war after consulting with Rice, according to Woodward.
She urged him to act on his stated threat to take military action if Saddam did not provide a full accounting of his weapons of mass destruction, Woodward reports.
« If you’re going to carry out coercive diplomacy, you have to live with that decision, » Rice is quoted as telling Bush.
On « Face The Nation » Sunday, Rice insisted that Bush’s conversation with her in January did not amount to a decision to go to war, which she said wasn’t made until March when military strikes were ordered.
« Part of the relationship between a national security adviser and a president is that the president, in a sense, kind of thinks out loud, if I could put it that way, » she said.
Questions about Hans Blix
Woodward also reports that U.S. officials were skeptical about the weapons inspections because they were receiving intelligence information indicating that chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix was not reporting everything he had uncovered and was not doing everything he said he was doing.
Some of the president’s top advisers thought Blix was a liar, according to the book.
Shortly after the meeting with Rice, Bush told Rumsfeld, « Look, we’re going to have to do this, I’m afraid, » according to the book.
Subsequently, on January 11, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers met in Cheney’s office with Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
At that meeting, Myers showed Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador, a map labeled « top secret noforn, » meaning that it was not to be seen by any foreign national, Woodward told CBS.
The map outlined the U.S. battle plan for Iraq, which was to begin with an air attack, followed by land invasions moving north from Kuwait and south from Turkey, according to the book.
Myers said Sunday on CNN’s « Late Edition » that though he had not read Woodward’s book, he was familiar with the account of the meeting, and it was « basically correct. »
« At that time, we were looking for support of our allies and partners in the region. Saudi Arabia’s been a strategic partner in the region over a very long time, » he said.
Two days after the meeting with Bandar, on January 13, Bush met with Powell in the Oval Office to inform his chief diplomat that he had decided to go to war.
« You know you’re going to be owning this place? » Powell is reported as telling Bush, cautioning him that the United States would be assuming the responsibility for the postwar situation.
Bush told Powell that he understood the ramifications, Woodward said.
Despite his reservations about the policy, Powell told the president he would support him, deciding that it would be « an unthinkable act of disloyalty » to both Bush and U.S. troops to walk away at that point, according to Woodward.
In her interview with « Face The Nation, » Rice disputed the suggestion that Powell was kept less in the loop than the Saudi ambassador.
She said again that the decision to go to war did not take place until March, well after Bush had informed Powell of his intentions and after his U.N. presentation.
« The secretary of state was privy to all of the conversations with the president, all of the briefings for the president, » she said.
« It’s just not the proper impression that somehow Prince Bandar was in the know in a way that Secretary Powell was not. »
How could we have been so far off in our estimates of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs? A leading Iraq expert and intelligence analyst in the Clinton Administration—whose book The Threatening Storm proved deeply influential in the run-up to the war—gives a detailed account of how and why we erred
Kenneth M. Pollack January/February 2004
Let’s start with one truth: last March, when the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq, the American public and much of the rest of the world believed that after Saddam Hussein’s regime sank, a vast flotsam of weapons of mass destruction would bob to the surface. That, of course, has not been the case. In the words of David Kay, the principal adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), an organization created late last spring to search for prohibited weaponry, « I think all of us who entered Iraq expected the job of actually discovering deployed weapons to be easier than it has turned out to be. » Many people are now asking very reasonable questions about why they were misled.
Democrats have typically accused the Bush Administration of exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq in order to justify an unnecessary war. Republicans have typically claimed that the fault lay with the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community, which they say overestimated the threat from Iraq—a claim that carries the unlikely implication that Bush’s team might not have opted for war if it had understood that Saddam was not as dangerous as he seemed.
Both sides appear to be at least partly right. The intelligence community did overestimate the scope and progress of Iraq’s WMD programs, although not to the extent that many people believe. The Administration stretched those estimates to make a case not only for going to war but for doing so at once, rather than taking the time to build regional and international support for military action.
This issue has some personal relevance for me. I began my career as a Persian Gulf military analyst at the CIA, where I saw an earlier generation of technical analysts mistakenly conclude that Saddam Hussein was much further away from having a nuclear weapon than the post-Gulf War inspections revealed. I later moved on to the National Security Council, where I served two tours, in 1995-1996 and 1999-2001. During the latter stint the intelligence community convinced me and the rest of the Clinton Administration that Saddam had reconstituted his WMD programs following the withdrawal of the UN inspectors, in 1998, and was only a matter of years away from having a nuclear weapon. In 2002 I wrote a book called Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, in which I argued that because all our other options had failed, the United States would ultimately have to go to war to remove Saddam before he acquired a functioning nuclear weapon. Thus it was with more than a little interest that I pondered the question of why we didn’t find in Iraq what we were so certain we would.
What We Thought We Knew
The U.S. intelligence community’s belief that Saddam was aggressively pursuing weapons of mass destruction pre-dated Bush’s inauguration, and therefore cannot be attributed to political pressure. It was first advanced at the end of the 1990s, at a time when President Bill Clinton was trying to facilitate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and was hardly seeking assessments that the threat from Iraq was growing.
In congressional testimony in March of 2002 Robert Einhorn, Clinton’s assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, summed up the intelligence community’s conclusions about Iraq at the end of the Clinton Administration:
« How close is the peril of Iraqi WMD? Today, or at most within a few months, Iraq could launch missile attacks with chemical or biological weapons against its neighbors (albeit attacks that would be ragged, inaccurate, and limited in size). Within four or five years it could have the capability to threaten most of the Middle East and parts of Europe with missiles armed with nuclear weapons containing fissile material produced indigenously—and to threaten U.S. territory with such weapons delivered by nonconventional means, such as commercial shipping containers. If it managed to get its hands on sufficient quantities of already produced fissile material, these threats could arrive much sooner. »
In October of 2002 the National Intelligence Council, the highest analytical body in the U.S. intelligence community, issued a classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD, representing the consensus of the intelligence community. Although after the war some complained that the NIE had been a rush job, and that the NIC should have been more careful in its choice of language, in fact the report accurately reflected what intelligence analysts had been telling Clinton Administration officials like me for years in verbal briefings.
A declassified version of the 2002 NIE was released to the public in July of last year. Its principal conclusions:
« Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade. » (The classified version of the NIE gave an estimate of five to seven years.)
« Since inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological weapons; most analysts assess [that] Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. »
« If Baghdad acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year … Without such material from abroad, Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until the last half of the decade. »
« Baghdad has begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard, sarin, cyclosarin, and VX … Saddam probably has stocked a few hundred metric tons of CW agents. »
« All key aspects—R&D, production, and weaponization—of Iraq’s offensive BW [biological warfare] program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf war … Baghdad has established a large-scale, redundant, and concealed BW agent production capability, which includes mobile facilities; these facilities can evade detection, are highly survivable, and can exceed the production rates Iraq had prior to the Gulf war. »
U.S. government analysts were not alone in these views. In the late spring of 2002 I participated in a Washington meeting about Iraqi WMD. Those present included nearly twenty former inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the force established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of WMD in Iraq. One of the senior people put a question to the group: Did anyone in the room doubt that Iraq was currently operating a secret centrifuge plant? No one did. Three people added that they believed Iraq was also operating a secret calutron plant (a facility for separating uranium isotopes).
Other nations’ intelligence services were similarly aligned with U.S. views. Somewhat remarkably, given how adamantly Germany would oppose the war, the German Federal Intelligence Service held the bleakest view of all, arguing that Iraq might be able to build a nuclear weapon within three years. Israel, Russia, Britain, China, and even France held positions similar to that of the United States; France’s President Jacques Chirac told Time magazine last February, « There is a problem—the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq. The international community is right … in having decided Iraq should be disarmed. » In sum, no one doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
What We Think We Know Now
But it appears that Iraq may not have had any actual weapons of mass destruction. A number of caveats are in order. We do not yet have a complete picture of Iraq’s WMD programs. Initial U.S. efforts to seek out WMD caches were badly lacking: an American artillery unit that had too few people for the task and virtually no plan of action had been hastily assigned the mission. Not surprisingly, its efforts garnered little useful information. According to Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter who was embedded with the unit, by mid-June—nearly two months after the end of major combat operations—the United States had interviewed only thirteen out of hundreds of Iraqi scientists. Documents relating to the programs are known to have been destroyed. Much of Iraq is yet to be explored; as David Kay, of the Iraq Survey Group, which took over the search for WMD in June, told Congress, only ten of Iraq’s 130 major ammunition dumps had been thoroughly checked as of early October (the time of his testimony). Now that Saddam Hussein is in custody, it is possible that new information may be forthcoming, or that closemouthed Iraqis will offer fresh details.
Nevertheless, the preliminary findings of the ISG will probably not change dramatically, at least not in their broad contours. Kay summarized those findings in his October testimony.
Iraq had preserved some of its technological nuclear capability from before the Gulf War. However, no evidence suggested that Saddam had undertaken any significant steps after 1998 toward reconstituting the program to build nuclear weapons or to produce fissile material.
Little evidence surfaced that Iraq had continued to produce chemical weapons; only a minimal amount of clandestine research had been done on them. For instance, the production line at the Fallujah II facility (the plant that intelligence officers believed was Iraq’s principal site for making chlorine, an ingredient in some chemical-warfare agents) turned out to be in derelict condition and had not operated since the Gulf War. Nevertheless, Iraqi officials seemed to believe that they could convert existing civilian pharmaceutical plants to chemical-weapons production, and that Saddam was interested in their ability to do so.
Iraq made determined efforts to retain some capabilities for biological warfare. It maintained an undeclared network of laboratories and other facilities within the apparatus of its security services, and as Kay put it, « this clandestine capability was suitable for preserving BW expertise, BW-capable facilities, and continuing R&D—all key elements for maintaining a capability for resuming BW production. » To disguise its biological-warfare programs Baghdad had scientists working on overt projects that were closely related to proscribed activities.
Iraq seemed to have been most aggressive in pursuing proscribed missiles. In Kay’s words, « detainees and cooperative sources indicate that beginning in 2000 Saddam ordered the development of ballistic missiles with ranges of at least [240 miles] and up to [620 miles] and that measures to conceal these projects from [UN inspectors] were initiated in late 2002, ahead of the arrival of inspectors. » The Iraqis were also working on clustering liquid-fueled rocket engines in order to produce a longer-range missile, and were trying to convert certain surface-to-air missiles into surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 150 miles. Most troubling of all, the ISG uncovered evidence that from 1999 to 2002 Iraq had negotiated with North Korea to buy technology for No Dong missiles, which have a range of 800 miles.
Overall, these findings suggest that Iraq did retain prohibited WMD programs, but that those programs were not so extensive, advanced, or threatening as the National Intelligence Estimate maintained.
More-cautious analysts had argued that the NIE’s assessment that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons was unlikely, because such munitions deteriorate rapidly and can be quickly produced in bulk if production lines and precursor agents are available (making stockpiles unnecessary as well as inefficient). These analysts instead believed that Iraq had a « just-in-time » production capability—that it could churn out these weapons as needed, using hidden or dual-use facilities. But not even this more conservative scenario was borne out by the ISG’s investigations. Sources told the group that Saddam and his son Uday had each, on separate occasions in 2001 and 2002, asked officials associated with Iraq’s chemical-warfare program how long it would take to produce chemical agents and weapons. One official reportedly told Saddam that it would take six months to produce mustard gas (among the easiest such agents to manufacture); another told Uday that it would take two months to produce mustard gas and two years to produce sarin (a simple nerve agent). The questions do not suggest the presence of large stockpiles. The answers do not support a just-in-time capability.
The ISG’s findings to date are most damning in the nuclear arena—as it happens, the segment of Iraq’s WMD program in which the initial findings are most likely to be correct, because nuclear-weapons production is extremely difficult to conceal. The perceived nuclear threat was always the most disturbing one. The U.S. intelligence community’s belief toward the end of the Clinton Administration that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program and was close to acquiring nuclear weapons led me and other Administration officials to support the idea of a full-scale invasion of Iraq, albeit not right away. The NIE’s judgment to the same effect was the real linchpin of the Bush Administration’s case for an invasion.
What we have found in Iraq since the invasion belies that judgment. Saddam did retain basic elements for a nuclear-weapons program and the desire to acquire such weapons at some point, but the program itself was dormant. Saddam had not ordered its resumption (although some reports suggest that he considered doing so in 2002). In all probability Iraq was considerably further from having a nuclear weapon than the five to seven years estimated in the classified version of the NIE.
The View From Baghdad
Figuring out why we overestimated Iraq’s WMD capabilities involves figuring out what the Iraqis, especially Saddam Hussein, were thinking and doing throughout the 1990s. The story starts right after the Gulf War. An Iraqi document that fell into the inspectors’ hands revealed that in April of 1991 a high-level Iraqi committee had ordered many of the country’s WMD activities to be hidden from UN inspectors, even though compliance with the inspections was a condition for the lifting of economic sanctions imposed after the invasion of Kuwait. The document was a report from a nuclear-weapons plant describing how it carried out this order. According to UNSCOM’s final report, « The facility was instructed to remove evidence of the true activities at the facility, evacuate documents to hide sites, make physical alterations to the site to hide its true purpose, develop cover stories, and conduct mock inspections to prepare for UN inspectors. »
A great deal of other information substantiates the idea that Saddam at first decided to try to keep a considerable portion of his WMD programs intact and hidden. His efforts probably included retaining some munitions, but mainly concerned production and research elements. In other words, Saddam did initially try to maintain a « just-in-time » capability. However, it became increasingly clear how difficult this would be. In the summer of 1991 inspectors tracked down and destroyed Saddam’s calutrons. Their discoveries may have convinced him that he would have to put his WMD programs on hold until after the sanctions were lifted—something he reportedly thought would happen within a matter of months.
But the inspectors proved more tenacious and the international community more steadfast than the Iraqis had expected. Accordingly, from June of 1991 to May of 1992 Iraq unilaterally destroyed parts of its WMD programs (as we know from subsequent Iraqi admissions). This action appears to have served two purposes: It got rid of unnecessary munitions and secondary equipment that the inspectors might have found, which would have constituted proof of Iraqi noncompliance. And it helped Baghdad conceal more-important elements of the programs, because the regime could point to the unilateral destructions as evidence of cooperation and could claim that even more material had been destroyed. (Since the fall of Baghdad scientists have told the ISG that key equipment was in fact diverted from these destructions and hidden.)
In 1995 matters changed. That August, Hussein Kamel, Saddam’s son-in-law and the head of Iraq’s WMD programs, defected to Jordan, prompting a panicked Baghdad to hurriedly turn over hundreds of thousands of pages of new documentation to the United Nations. According to the former chief UN weapons inspector Rolf Ekeus, Kamel’s statements and the Iraqi documents squared with what UNSCOM had been finding: although all actual weapons had been eliminated, either by the UN or in the earlier destructions, Iraq had preserved production and R&D programs. Although the Iraqis tried to withhold any highly incriminating documents from the UN (and, ridiculously, claimed that Kamel had been running the programs on his own, without anyone else’s knowledge), in their rush they overlooked several containing crucial information about previously concealed aspects of the nuclear and biological programs.
Other secrets were laid bare that same year. A U.S.-UN sting operation caught the Iraqis trying to smuggle 115 missile gyroscopes through Jordan. (UN inspectors later found other gyroscopes hidden at the bottom of the Tigris River.) Iraq was forced to admit to the existence of a facility to build Scud-missile engines, and to destroy a hidden plant for manufacturing modified Scud missiles. It was also forced to admit to having made much greater progress on its nuclear program before the Gulf War than it had previously acknowledged. Most important, it was forced to admit that a very large biological-weapons plant at al-Hakim, whose existence had been concealed from UN inspectors, had produced 500,000 liters of biological agents in 1989 and 1990, and that it was still functional in 1995. Three years after this confession Lieutenant General Amer al-Saadi, Saddam’s principal liaison with the UN, told inspectors that Iraq would offer no excuse or defense for having denied the existence of its biological-weapons program. He stated matter-of-factly that Iraq had made a political decision to conceal it.
Either late in 1995 or at some point in 1996 Saddam probably recognized that trying to retain his just-in-time capability had become counterproductive. The inspectors kept finding pieces of the programs, and each discovery pushed the lifting of the sanctions further into the future. It’s important to keep in mind several other events of this period. Saddam’s internal position was very shaky. He had faced disturbances in several of his most loyal Sunni tribes. In addition to Kamel, a number of high-ranking officials had defected to the West, including Saddam’s chief of military intelligence, Wafic Samarai. Coup plots abounded. In 1995 the Kurds smashed two Iraqi infantry brigades at Irbil, humiliating the Iraqi army. In 1996 Iraqi intelligence uncovered a CIA-backed coup attempt whose participants had penetrated some of Saddam’s most sensitive intelligence services. Iraq’s economy was suffocating under the sanctions, and inflation was rampant. Given this precarious situation, Saddam probably decided to scale back his WMD programs (with the likely exception of work on proscribed missiles, which could be concealed by Iraq’s permitted missile program) by destroying additional equipment, keeping the bare minimum needed to rebuild them at some point, in order to reduce the risk of further discoveries. This would have meant giving up the idea of just-in-time production capabilities and limiting his efforts to hiding documents and only key pieces of equipment. In short, Saddam switched from trying to hang on to the maximum production and research assets of his WMD programs to trying to keep only the minimum necessary to reconstitute the programs at some point after the sanctions had been lifted.
What Was Saddam Thinking?
Having decided to give up so much of his WMD capability, why didn’t Saddam change his behavior toward the UN inspectors and demonstrate a spirit of candor and cooperation? Even after 1996 the Iraqis took a confrontational posture toward UNSCOM, fighting to prevent inspectors from going where they wanted to go and seeing what they wanted to see. The governments of the world inferred from this defiance that Saddam was still not complying with the UN resolutions, and the sanctions therefore stayed in place.
The first and most obvious answer is that Saddam still had some things to hide, and was fearful of their discovery. Although he did unquestionably have some things to hide, this answer is not entirely satisfying. Iraq was able to conceal the minimized remnants of its WMD programs so well that UNSCOM found little incriminating evidence in 1997 and 1998. This early success should have given Saddam the confidence to begin to cooperate more fully with the UN resolutions. But throughout the period leading up to the war Saddam remained as obstinate as ever.
An alternative explanation, offered by Iraq’s former UN ambassador, Tariq Aziz, and other officials captured after last year’s war, goes like this: Saddam was pretending to have WMD in order to enhance his prestige among the other Arab nations. This explanation doesn’t ring completely true either. It is certainly the case that Saddam garnered a great deal of admiration from Arabs of many countries by appearing to have such weapons, and that he aspired to dominate the Arab world. But this theory assumes that he was willing to incur severe penalties for the UN’s belief that he still had WMD without reaping any tangible benefits from actually having them. If prestige had been more important to him than the lifting of the sanctions, it would have been more logical and more in keeping with his character to simply retain all his WMD capabilities.
Saddam’s behavior may have been driven by completely different considerations. Saddam has always evinced much greater concern for his internal position than for his external status. He has made any number of highly foolish foreign-policy decisions—for example, invading Kuwait and then deciding to stick around and fight the U.S.-led coalition—in response to domestic problems that he feared threatened his grip on power. The same forces may have been at work here; after all, ever since the Iran-Iraq war WMD had been an important element of Saddam’s strength within Iraq. He used them against the Kurds in the late 1980s, and during the revolts that broke out after the Gulf War, he sent signals that he might use them against both the Kurds and the Shiites. He may have feared that if his internal adversaries realized that he no longer had the capability to use these weapons, they would try to move against him. In a similar vein, Saddam’s standing among the Sunni elites who constituted his power base was linked to a great extent to his having made Iraq a regional power—which the elites saw as a product of Iraq’s unconventional arsenal. Thus openly giving up his WMD could also have jeopardized his position with crucial supporters.
Furthermore, Saddam may have felt trapped by his initial reckoning that he could fool the UN inspectors and that the sanctions would be short-lived. Because of this mistaken calculation he had subjected Iraq to terrible hardships. Suddenly cooperating with the inspectors would have meant admitting to both his opponents and his supporters that his course of action had been a mistake and that, having now given up most of his WMD programs, he had devastated Iraqi society for no reason.
This suggests that in 1995-1996 Saddam took one of his famous gambles—gambles that almost never worked out for him. He chose not to « come clean » and cooperate with the UN for fear that this would make him look weak to both his domestic enemies and his domestic allies, either of whom might then have moved against him. But he would try to greatly diminish the chances that UNSCOM would find more evidence of his continuing noncompliance by reducing his WMD programs to the bare minimum, in hopes that the absence of evidence would lead to the lifting of sanctions—something he desperately sought in 1996.
In other respects Saddam’s fortunes began to rise in 1996. Although the CIA-backed coup attempt may have signified internal weakness, the fact that Saddam snuffed it out, as he had many previous attempts, signified strength. Also, to avenge the Iraqi army’s 1995 defeat at Irbil, Saddam manipulated infighting among the Kurds so as to allow his Republican Guards to drive into the city, smash the Kurd defenders, and arrest several hundred CIA-backed rebels. As the historian Amatzia Baram has persuasively argued in his book Building Toward Crisis (1998), these successes made Saddam feel secure enough to swallow his pride and accept UN Resolution 986, the oil-for-food program, which he had previously rejected as an infringement on Iraqi sovereignty. Oil-for-food turned out to be an enormous boon for the Iraqi economy, and commodity prices fell quickly, stabilizing the dinar.
The oil-for-food program itself gave Saddam clout to apply toward the lifting of the sanctions. Under Resolution 986 Iraq could choose to whom it would sell its oil and from whom it would buy its food and medicine. Baghdad could therefore reward cooperative states with contracts. Not surprisingly, France and Russia regularly topped the list of Iraq’s oil-for-food partners. In addition, Iraq could set the prices—and since Saddam did not really care whether he was importing enough food and medicine for his people’s needs, he could sell oil on the cheap and buy food and medicine at inflated prices as additional payoff to friendly governments. He made it clear that he wanted his trading partners to ignore Iraqi smuggling and try to get the sanctions lifted.
By 1997 the international environment had changed markedly, in ways that probably convinced Saddam that he didn’t need to cooperate with the inspectors. The same international outcry—against the suffering inflicted by the Iraq sanctions—that prompted the United States to craft the oil-for-food deal was creating momentum for lifting the sanctions completely. At that point it was reasonable for Saddam to believe that in the not too distant future the sanctions either would be lifted or would be so undermined as to be effectively meaningless, and that he would never have to reveal the remaining elements of his WMD programs. Only in 2002, when the Bush Administration suddenly focused its attention on Iraq, would Saddam have had any reason to change this view. And then, according to a variety of Iraqi sources, he simply refused to believe that the Americans were serious and would actually invade.
Another explanation should be posited. This is the notion that Saddam did not order the program scaled down, but Iraqi scientists ensured that it did not progress and deceived Saddam into believing that it was much further along than it in fact was. Numerous Iraqi scientists have claimed that although Saddam ordered them to produce particular things for the WMD programs, they dragged their feet or found other ways to avoid delivering them. There is most likely a germ of truth to these stories: prevarication on the part of some Iraqi scientists may have helped to account for the modest state of Iraq’s WMD programs in 2003. But they probably form only a part of the explanation. Many of the accounts of scientists’ quietly thwarting Saddam are undoubtedly self-serving, concocted in the aftermath of his defeat. As we have heard time and again from Iraqi defectors, those who did not meet Saddam’s demands risked torture and murder for themselves and their families. We have consistently found that in Saddam’s Iraq very few people took that risk.
One last element may also have been at work all along: the possibility that Saddam genuinely feared that the inspections were a cover for a CIA campaign to overthrow or assassinate him. The Iraqis repeatedly cited this fear in denying UNSCOM access to certain « sensitive » sites—particularly palaces—that were associated with Saddam personally. The rest of the world assumed that it was merely an excuse to keep inspectors out of places that contained evidence of WMD programs. However, the Iraqis may have been telling the truth on this point (and the initial debriefing of Saddam lends some credence to this scenario). After all, as various sources have now disclosed, the United States did run a covert-action campaign against Saddam, starting in 1991, and U.S. intelligence did use UNSCOM operations (without UNSCOM’s knowledge) to gather intelligence for that campaign.
The Perils of Prediction
Everyone outside Iraq missed the 1995-1996 shift in Saddam’s strategy—that is, to scale back his WMD programs to minimize the odds of further discoveries—and assumed that Iraq’s earlier behavior was continuing more or less in a straight line. This misperception took on considerable weight in the following years.
Context is crucial to understanding any intelligence assessment. No matter how objective the analyst may be, he or she begins with a set of basic assumptions that create a broad perspective on an issue; this helps the analyst to sort through evidence.
The context for the 2002 NIE assessment of Iraq’s WMD programs began to take shape before the Gulf War. Prior to 1991 the intelligence communities in the United States and elsewhere believed that Iraq was at least five, and probably closer to ten, years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Of course, after the war we learned that in 1991 Iraq had been only six to twenty-four months away from having a workable nuclear weapon. This revelation stunned the analysts responsible for following the Iraqi nuclear program. The lessons they took from it were that Iraq was determined to acquire nuclear weapons and would go to any lengths to do so; that in pursuit of this goal Iraq was willing to use technology that Westerners considered crude and obsolete; that the Iraqis were superb at concealment and deception; and that inspections were inherently flawed—after all, there had been inspectors in Iraq prior to 1990, and they had been completely fooled.
These lessons were strongly reinforced by the revelation of Iraq’s attempts in the first four years after the war to preserve significant parts of its WMD programs. By about 1994 UNSCOM believed, incorrectly, that it had largely disarmed Iraq; its members were privately discussing switching its operations from active inspections to passive monitoring. Many intelligence analysts in the United States, Britain, and Israel disagreed with UNSCOM’s assessment, but they were hard-pressed to substantiate their suspicions—until Hussein Kamel’s defection, in 1995, and subsequent Iraqi admissions regarding the extent of deception. These developments came as a profound shock to the UN inspectors, who resolved that Iraq could never again be trusted. Thus, just when Iraq was in all likelihood giving up efforts to maintain its just-in-time production capability, the rest of the world became hardened in its conviction that Saddam would never abandon or even reduce his efforts to acquire WMD.
Another important contribution to the context is the continuation of Saddam’s hostility toward the inspectors. If anything, the Iraqis became even less accommodating over time. By 1998 they were physically harassing the inspectors—on one occasion firing two rocket-propelled grenades into an UNSCOM building in Baghdad, on another grabbing the controls of an UNSCOM helicopter in flight and nearly causing it to crash. Western intelligence agencies understandably took these actions to mean that nothing in Saddam’s weaponry plans had changed.
In December of 1998 the inspectors withdrew from the country. Their decision to do so came after Iraq announced, in August of that year, that it would no longer cooperate with them at all, and after repeated crises demonstrated that Baghdad’s announcement was not just bluster.
The end of the UN inspections appears in retrospect to have been a much greater problem than anyone recognized at the time. The inspectors had been the best source of information on Iraq and its WMD programs. UNSCOM had a large and highly capable cadre of weapons specialists who focused exclusively on Iraq. Many Western intelligence agencies, faced with other issues that demanded their resources, increasingly relied on UNSCOM’s data and assessments and did little to bolster their own (meager) capabilities in Iraq. And UNSCOM had something that American intelligence did not—physical access to Iraq. Without an embassy there it was very hard for U.S. case officers to penetrate the country.
The end of the inspections eliminated the single best means of vetting what information intelligence agencies could gather independently about Iraq. These agencies usually shared (in some form) new information or analyses about the WMD programs with UNSCOM. If a defector claimed that biological-weapons material was stored at a given site, inspectors would look for it. If satellite imagery indicated unusual activity at a particular location, inspectors would try to confirm it. Although Iraq’s counterintelligence efforts were formidable (UNSCOM estimated that only six of its roughly 250 inspections actually caught the Iraqis by surprise), UNSCOM was usually able to gauge, if only broadly, whether a source or a deduction was correct.
When the inspectors suddenly left, the various intelligence agencies were caught psychologically and organizationally off balance. Desperate for information on Iraq, they began to trust sources that they would previously have had UNSCOM vet. If a defector came out of Iraq after 1998, the CIA had to gauge his credibility by comparing his account with those of other defectors—who might be unreliable or just unproven—or by checking it against whatever they could glean from satellites and other indirect sources. With so little to go on, intelligence agencies believed many reports that now seem deeply suspect.
In the absence of hard evidence, the intelligence analysts tended to fall back on the underlying assumptions they had begun with. Those assumptions included the belief that Saddam was determined to preserve his extant WMD capabilities and acquire new ones. And now there were no weapons inspectors to hinder him. The inspectors had also been a moderating influence on Western intelligence agencies; the information they provided, and the mere fact of their presence in Iraq, helped those agencies stick to reasonable suppositions and keep unsubstantiated fears at bay. After 1998 many analysts increasingly entertained worst-case scenarios—scenarios that gradually became mainstream estimates.
Another element that contributed to faulty assessments before the 2003 invasion was Iraqi rhetoric. Imagine that you were a CIA analyst in June of 2000 and heard Saddam make the following statement: « If the world tells us to abandon all our weapons and keep only swords, we will do that. We will destroy all the weapons, if they destroy their weapons. But if they keep a rifle and then tell me that I have the right to possess only a sword, then we would say no. As long as the rifle has become a means to defend our country against anybody who may have designs against it, then we will try our best to acquire the rifle. » It would be very difficult not to interpret Saddam’s remarks as an announcement that he intended to reconstitute his WMD programs.
The final element in the context for our pre-invasion analysis involved discrepancies between how much WMD material went into Iraq and how much Iraq could prove it had destroyed. Before the Gulf War (and to a certain extent afterward) Baghdad imported enormous quantities of equipment and raw materials for WMD. The UN inspectors, with remarkable diligence, obtained virtually all the import figures, either from the Iraqis or from their suppliers. They then asked the Iraqis to either produce the materials or account for their destruction. In many cases the Iraqis could not. The difference between what they had imported and what they could account for was seen as important evidence of an ambitious clandestine WMD program. These are the numbers—of bombs, of liters of precursor chemicals, and so on—that the world regularly heard Bush Administration officials intone during the run-up to the 2003 war.
In hindsight there are legitimate reasons to question these numbers. According to David Kay, a number of Iraqi sources have told the ISG that some of the material that was unaccounted for was diverted from the unilateral destructions that took place from 1991 to 1996. However, it is not clear whether or not any of that material was destroyed later. And it is likely that some of the discrepancies between UNSCOM and Iraqi figures are no more than the result of sloppiness. Saddam’s Iraq was not exactly an efficient state, and many of his chief lieutenants were semi-literate thugs with no understanding of esoteric technical matters and little regard for how things should be done—their only concern was that Saddam’s demands be met.
The Politics of Persuasion
The intelligence community’s overestimation of Iraq’s WMD capability is only part of the story of why we went to war last year. The other part involves how the Bush Administration handled the intelligence. Throughout the spring and fall of 2002 and well into 2003 I received numerous complaints from friends and colleagues in the intelligence community, and from people in the policy community, about precisely that. According to them, many Administration officials reacted strongly, negatively, and aggressively when presented with information or analysis that contradicted what they already believed about Iraq. Many of these officials believed that Saddam Hussein was the source of virtually all the problems in the Middle East and was an imminent danger to the United States because of his perceived possession of weapons of mass destruction and support of terrorism. Many also believed that CIA analysts tended to be left-leaning cultural relativists who consistently downplayed threats to the United States. They believed that the Agency, not the Administration, was biased, and that they were acting simply to correct that bias.
Intelligence officers who presented analyses that were at odds with the pre-existing views of senior Administration officials were subjected to barrages of questions and requests for additional information. They were asked to justify their work sentence by sentence: « Why did you rely on this source and not this other piece of information? » « How does this conclusion square with this other point? » « Please explain the history of Iraq’s association with the organization you mention in this sentence. » Reportedly, the worst fights were those over sources. The Administration gave greatest credence to accounts that presented the most lurid picture of Iraqi activities. In many cases intelligence analysts were distrustful of those sources, or knew unequivocally that they were wrong. But when they said so, they were not heeded; instead they were beset with further questions about their own sources.
On many occasions Administration officials’ requests for additional information struck the analysts as being made merely to distract them from their primary mission. Some officials asked for extensive historical analyses—a hugely time-consuming undertaking, for which most intelligence analysts are not trained. Requests were constantly made for detailed analyses of newspaper articles that conformed to the views of Administration officials—pieces by conservative newspaper columnists such as Jim Hoagland, William Safire, and George F. Will. These columnists may be highly intelligent men, but they have no claim to superior insight into the workings of Iraq, or to any independent intelligence-collection capabilities.
Of course, no policymaker should accept intelligence estimates unquestioningly. While I was at the NSC, I regularly challenged analysts as to why they believed what they did. I asked for additional material and required them to do significant additional work. Any official who does less is derelict in his or her duty. However, at a certain point curiosity and diligence become a form of pressure. If your employer asks you every so often about your health and seems to take an appropriate interest in the answer, you probably feel that he or she is kind and considerate. If your employer asks you about your health every ten minutes, in highly detailed, probing questions, you may have a more nervous reaction.
As Seymour Hersh, among others, has reported, Bush Administration officials also took some actions that arguably crossed the line between rigorous oversight of the intelligence community and an attempt to manipulate intelligence. They set up their own shop in the Pentagon, called the Office of Special Plans, in order to sift through the information on Iraq themselves. To a great extent OSP personnel « cherry-picked » the intelligence they passed on, selecting reports that supported the Administration’s pre-existing position and ignoring all the rest.
Most problematic of all, the OSP often chose to believe reports that trained intelligence officers considered unreliable or downright false. In particular it gave great credence to reports from the Iraqi National Congress, whose leader was the Administration-backed Ahmed Chalabi. It is true that the intelligence community believed some of the material that came from the INC—but not most of it. (In retrospect, of course, it seems that even the intelligence professionals gave INC reporting more credence than it deserved.) One of the reasons the OSP generally believed Chalabi and the INC was that they were telling it what it wanted to hear—giving the OSP, in a kind of vicious circle, further incentive to trust these sources over differing, and ultimately more reliable, ones. Thus intelligence analysts spent huge amounts of time fighting bad information and trying to persuade Administration officials not to make policy decisions based on it. From my own experience I know that it is hard enough to figure out what the reliable evidence indicates—and vast battles are fought over that. To have to also fight over what is clearly bad information is a Sisyphean task.
The Bush officials who created the OSP gave its reports directly to those in the highest levels of government, often passing raw, unverified intelligence straight to the Cabinet level as gospel. Senior Administration officials made public statements based on these reports—reports that the larger intelligence community knew to be erroneous (for instance, that there was hard and fast evidence linking Iraq to al-Qaeda). Another problem arising from the machinations of the OSP is that whenever the principals of the National Security Council met with the President and his staff, two completely different versions of reality were on the table. The CIA, the State Department, and the uniformed military services would present one version, consistent with the perspective of intelligence and foreign-policy professionals, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of the Vice President would present another, based on the perspective of the OSP. These views were too far apart to allow for compromise. As a result, the Administration found it difficult, if not impossible, to make certain important decisions. And it made some that were fatally flawed, including many relating to postwar planning, when the OSP’s view—that Saddam’s regime simultaneously was very threatening and could easily be replaced by a new government—prevailed.
For the most part, the problems discussed so far have more to do with the methods of Administration officials than with their motives, which were often misguided and dangerous, but were essentially well-intentioned. The one action for which I cannot hold Administration officials blameless is their distortion of intelligence estimates when making the public case for going to war.
As best I can tell, these officials were guilty not of lying but of creative omission. They discussed only those elements of intelligence estimates that served their cause. This was particularly apparent in regard to the time frame for Iraq’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon—the issue that most alarmed the American public and the rest of the world. Remember that the NIE said that Iraq was likely to have a nuclear weapon in five to seven years if it had to produce the fissile material indigenously, and that it might have one in less than a year if it could obtain the material from a foreign source. The intelligence community considered it highly unlikely that Iraq would be able to obtain weapons-grade material from a foreign source; it had been trying to do so for twenty-five years with no luck. However, time after time senior Administration officials discussed only the worst-case, and least likely, scenario, and failed to mention the intelligence community’s most likely scenario. Some examples:
In a radio address on September 14, 2002, President Bush warned, « Today Saddam Hussein has the scientists and infrastructure for a nuclear-weapons program, and has illicitly sought to purchase the equipment needed to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should his regime acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. »
On October 7, 2002, the President told a group in Cincinnati, « If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. »
On November 1, 2002, Undersecretary of State John Bolton told the Second Global Conference on Nuclear, Bio/Chem Terrorism, « We estimate that once Iraq acquires fissile material—whether from a foreign source or by securing the materials to build an indigenous fissile-material capability—it could fabricate a nuclear weapon within one year. »
Vice President Cheney said on NBC’s Meet the Press on September 14, 2003, « The judgment in the NIE was that if Saddam could acquire fissile material, weapons-grade material, that he would have a nuclear weapon within a few months to a year. That was the judgment of the intelligence community of the United States, and they had a high degree of confidence in it. »
None of these statements in itself was untrue. However, each told only a part of the story—the most sensational part. These statements all implied that the U.S. intelligence community believed that Saddam would have a nuclear weapon within a year unless the United States acted at once.
Some defenders of the Administration have reportedly countered that all it did was make the best possible case for war, playing a role similar to that of a defense attorney who is charged with presenting the best possible case for a client (even if the client is guilty). That is a false analogy. A defense attorney is responsible for presenting only one side of a dispute. The President is responsible for serving the entire nation. Only the Administration has access to all the information available to various agencies of the U.S. government—and withholding or downplaying some of that information for its own purposes is a betrayal of that responsibility.
What Is to Be Done?
What we have learned about Iraq’s WMD programs since the fall of Baghdad leads me to conclude that the case for war with Iraq was considerably weaker than I believed beforehand. Because of the consensus among American and foreign intelligence agencies, outside experts, and former UN weapons inspectors, I had been convinced that Iraq was only years away from having a nuclear weapon—probably only four or five years, as Robert Einhorn had testified. That estimate was clearly off, possibly by quite a bit. My reluctant conviction that war was our only option (although not at the time or in the manner in which the Bush Administration pursued it) was not entirely based on the nuclear threat, but that threat was the most important factor in it.
The war was not all bad. I do not believe that it was a strategic mistake, although the appalling handling of postwar planning was. There is no question that Saddam Hussein was a force for real instability in the Persian Gulf, and that his removal from power was a tremendous improvement. There is also no question that he was pure evil, and that he headed one of the most despicable regimes of the past fifty years. I am grateful that the United States no longer has to contend with the malign influence of Saddam’s Iraq in this economically irreplaceable and increasingly fragile part of the world; nor can I begrudge the Iraqi people one day of their freedom. What’s more, we should not forget that containment was failing. The shameful performance of the United Nations Security Council members (particularly France and Germany) in 2002-2003 was final proof that containment would not have lasted much longer; Saddam would eventually have reconstituted his WMD programs, although further in the future than we had thought. That said, the case for war—and for war sooner rather than later—was certainly less compelling than it appeared at the time. At the very least we should recognize that the Administration’s rush to war was reckless even on the basis of what we thought we knew in March of 2003. It appears even more reckless in light of what we know today.
The problems that led to our mistaken beliefs about the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction must be addressed immediately. Unfortunately, to some extent the problems are contradictory, and therefore the solutions may work against one another. For example, a remedy used in the past to address influence from the executive branch on the intelligence process has been to increase oversight of intelligence operations and analysis by Congress. However, in this instance increasing congressional oversight could have exacerbated another problem: the failure of the intelligence community to sufficiently challenge its own assumptions about Saddam’s strategy. The more that intelligence agencies must report to both Congress and the White House, the more they fear becoming a political football, and the more they will tone down their estimates, stick to mainstream judgments, and avoid taking controversial positions. Arguing that Iraq had minimized its WMD holdings after 1996 would have been a very controversial position indeed.
Some of the problems that led to our misunderstanding of Iraq’s WMD may be insoluble, at least by bureaucratic changes. The forms of pressure exerted on the intelligence community by the Bush Administration were perfectly legal; it would probably be impossible to regulate against them. Moreover, doing so could preclude useful and necessary questioning of intelligence analysts by Administration officials. Still, some fixes do suggest themselves.
In the future we as a nation must be willing to devote enough resources to intelligence so that we will always be able to sustain a large, aggressive program to collect all manner of information and a sophisticated analysis program on all high-priority issues. In retrospect, our over-reliance on UNSCOM inspectors lulled us into a false sense of security; this in turn contributed to our inflated estimates of Iraq’s WMD progress after 1998. Even though Iraq was a difficult environment for any intelligence service to operate in, and the CIA did devote substantial assets to it at all times, it would have made some difference if the Agency could have devoted still greater resources to it, even when that seemed redundant with UNSCOM’s missions.
Our failings in the WMD experience also argue for a more powerful and independent director of central intelligence. The DCI currently serves at the pleasure of the President, and although he is the nominal head of the entire intelligence community, in reality he does not have much authority over most of the intelligence agencies, whose budgets and personnel come largely from the Department of Defense. The United States could make the DCI position similar to that of the director of the FBI: the President would nominate a candidate who would then need to be confirmed by Congress, and who would serve a fixed term. And the DCI could be made the true head of intelligence, with control over the budgets and personnel of all the intelligence agencies. Many of the intelligence agencies that currently report to the Secretary of Defense, including the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, to name just two, should instead report to the DCI. These changes would put the DCI in a stronger position to resist pressure from the executive branch (or Congress) and to protect his people from the same.
Strengthening the DCI and increasing his independence might make for smarter, bolder analysis. The less intelligence analysts have to worry that the DCI is going to take heat for unpopular if accurate judgments, the more willing they will be to make them. This is not a slur against DCI George Tenet, who I think handled the difficulties of his situation extraordinarily well. But it is a recognition that DCIs must not be put in the position that Tenet was forced into.
Another step worth considering is forbidding the CIA or anyone else in government from making any intelligence estimates public for five or ten years. As someone firmly committed to the concept of open government, who believes that the CIA has benefited from its efforts in the past decade to be more open to the public, I dislike the idea of greater secrecy. However, when intelligence estimates become public, they have a huge impact on the course of foreign-policy debates, and administrations therefore find themselves with a great incentive to make sure the Agency’s estimates support the Administration’s preferred policy. If such estimates were not made public, an administration would have little reason to try to influence them. The government could still produce white papers, but they should come from the State Department—the agency that is, after all, officially charged with public diplomacy.
Finally, the U.S. government must admit to the world that it was wrong about Iraq’s WMD and show that it is taking far-reaching action to correct the problems that led to this error. Iraq is not going to be the last foreign-policy challenge in which we must make choices based on ambiguous evidence. When the United States confronts future challenges, the exaggerated estimates of Iraq’s WMD will loom like an ugly shadow over the diplomatic discussions. Fairly or not, no foreigner trusts U.S. intelligence to get it right anymore, or trusts the Bush Administration to tell the truth. The only way that we can regain the world’s trust is to demonstrate that we understand our mistakes and have changed our ways.
« France Is Not a Pacifist Country »
James Graff and Bruce Crumley
Feb. 16, 2003
On the question of Iraq, America’s oldest ally has turned into one of its principal adversaries, as Paris and Washington disagree about whether United Nations inspectors should be given more time to do their job. The French President doesn’t feel isolated. In fact, he told TIME in an exclusive interview in the Elysee Palace, he’s ready to offer some « friendly advice » to President Bush on how the American Chief Executive might honorably back away from the brink of war. Excerpts:Do last week’s U.N. inspectors’ reports mark a turning point in the debate over Iraq? In the preceding two days, I received phone calls from several heads of state, both members and nonmembers of the Security Council, and I came to the conclusion that a majority of world leaders share our determination to search for a peaceful solution to disarming Iraq.
If there is a war, what do you see as the consequences for the Middle East? The consequences of war would be considerable in human terms. In political terms, it would destabilize the entire region. It’s very difficult to explain that one is going to spend colossal sums of money to wage war when there may be another solution yet is unable to provide adequate aid to the developing world.
Why do you think fallout from a war would be so much graver than Tony Blair and George Bush seem to? I simply don’t analyze the situation as they do. Among the negative fallout would be inevitably a strong reaction from Arab and Islamic public opinion. It may not be justified, and it may be, but it’s a fact. A war of this kind cannot help giving a big lift to terrorism. It would create a large number of little bin Ladens. Muslims and Christians have a lot to say to one another, but war isn’t going to facilitate that dialogue. I’m against the clash of civilizations; that plays into the hands of extremists. There is a problem—the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq. The international community is right to be disturbed by this situation, and it’s right in having decided Iraq should be disarmed. The inspections began, and naturally it is a long and difficult job. We have to give the inspectors time to do it. And probably—and this is France’s view—we have to reinforce their capacities, especially those of aerial surveillance. For the moment, nothing allows us to say inspections don’t work.
Isn’t France ducking its military responsibilities to its oldest ally? France is not a pacifist country. We currently have more troops in the Balkans than the Americans. France is obviously not anti-American. It’s a true friend of the United States and always has been. It is not France’s role to support dictatorial regimes in Iraq or anywhere else. Nor do we have any differences over the goal of eliminating Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. For that matter, if Saddam Hussein would only vanish, it would without a doubt be the biggest favor he could do for his people and for the world. But we think this goal can be reached without starting a war.
But you seem willing to put the onus on inspectors to find arms rather than on Saddam to declare what he’s got. Are there nuclear arms in Iraq? I don’t think so. Are there other weapons of mass destruction? That’s probable. We have to find and destroy them. In its current situation, does Iraq—controlled and inspected as it is—pose a clear and present danger to the region? I don’t believe so. Given that, I prefer to continue along the path laid out by the Security Council. Then we’ll see.
What evidence would justify war? It’s up to the inspectors to decide. We gave them our confidence. They were given a mission, and we trust them. If we have to give them greater means, we’ll do so. It’s up to them to come before the Security Council and say, « We won. It’s over. There are no more weapons of mass destruction, » or « It’s impossible for us to fulfill our mission. We’re coming up against Iraqi ill will and impediments. » At that point, the Security Council would have to discuss this report and decide what to do. In that case, France would naturally exclude no option.
But without Iraqi cooperation, even 300 inspectors can’t do the job. That’s correct, no doubt. But it’s up to the inspectors to say so. I’m betting that we can get Iraq to cooperate more. If I’m wrong, there will still be time to draw other conclusions. When a regime like Saddam’s finds itself caught between certain death and abandoning its arms, I think it will make the right choice. But I can’t be certain.
If the Americans were to bring a resolution for war before the U.N., would France use its veto? In my view, there’s no reason for a new resolution. We are in the framework of (U.N. Security Council Resolution) 1441, and let’s go on with it. I don’t see what any new resolution would add.
Some charge you are motivated by anti-Americanism. I’ve known the U.S. for a long time. I visit often, I’ve studied there, worked as a forklift operator for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis and as a soda jerk at Howard Johnson’s. I’ve hitchhiked across the whole United States; I even worked as a journalist and wrote a story for the New Orleans Times-Picayune on the front page. I know the U.S. perhaps better than most French people, and I really like the United States. I’ve made many excellent friends there, I feel good there. I love junk food, and I always come home with a few extra pounds. I’ve always worked and supported transatlantic solidarity. When I hear people say that I’m anti-American, I’m sad—not angry, but really sad.
Do you think America’s role as the sole superpower is a problem? Any community with only one dominant power is always a dangerous one and provokes reactions. That’s why I favor a multipolar world, in which Europe obviously has its place. Anyway, the world will not be unipolar. Over the next 50 years, China will become a global power, and the world won’t be the same. So it’s time to start organizing. Transatlantic solidarity will remain the basis of the world order, in which Europe has its role to play.
Haven’t tensions over Iraq poisoned transatlantic relationships? I repeat: Iraq must be disarmed, and for that it must cooperate more than it does now. If we disarm Iraq, the goal set by the Americans will have been fulfilled. And if we do that, there can be no doubt that it will bex due in large part to the presence of American forces on the spot. If there hadn’t been U.S. soldiers present, Saddam might not have agreed to play the game. If we go through with the inspections, the Americans will have won, since it would essentially be thanks to the pressure they exercised that Iraq was disarmed.
Don’t you think it would be extremely difficult politically for President Bush to pull back from war? I’m not so sure about that. He would have two advantages if he brought his soldiers back. I’m talking about a situation, obviously, where the inspectors say now there’s nothing left, and that will take a certain number of weeks. If Iraq doesn’t cooperate and the inspectors say this isn’t working, it could be war. If Iraq is stripped of its weapons of mass destruction and that’s been verified by the inspectors, then Mr. Bush can say two things: first, « Thanks to my intervention, Iraq has been disarmed, » and second, « I achieved all that without spilling any blood. » In the life of a statesman, that counts—no blood spilled.
Yet Washington may well go to war despite your plan. That will be their responsibility. But if they were to ask me for my friendly advice, I would counsel against it.