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Editors’ note: In the interest of relative brevity we’ve stinted on citing and quoting sources in some of the items below. You can find links to news stories that elaborate on each of these items at Perry’s online Bush Wars column.
1) The administration was not bent on war with Iraq from 9/11 onward.
Throughout the year leading up to war, the White House publicly maintained that the U.S. took weapons inspections seriously, that diplomacy would get its chance, that Saddam had the opportunity to prevent a U.S. invasion. The most pungent and concise evidence to the contrary comes from the president’s own mouth. According to Time’s March 31 road-to-war story, Bush popped in on national security adviser Condi Rice one day in March 2002, interrupting a meeting on UN sanctions against Iraq. Getting a whiff of the subject matter, W peremptorily waved his hand and told her, “Fuck Saddam. We’re taking him out.” Clare Short, Tony Blair’s former secretary for international development, recently lent further credence to the anecdote. She told the London Guardian that Bush and Blair made a secret pact a few months afterward, in the summer of 2002, to invade Iraq in either February or March of this year.
Last fall CBS News obtained meeting notes taken by a Rumsfeld aide at 2:40 on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. The notes indicate that Rumsfeld wanted the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Usama bin Laden]…. Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
Rumsfeld’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz, the Bushmen’s leading intellectual light, has long been rabid on the subject of Iraq. He reportedly told Vanity Fair writer Sam Tanenhaus off the record that he believes Saddam was connected not only to bin Laden and 9/11, but the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The Bush administration’s foreign policy plan was not based on September 11, or terrorism; those events only brought to the forefront a radical plan for U.S. control of the post-Cold War world that had been taking shape since the closing days of the first Bush presidency. Back then a small claque of planners, led by Wolfowitz, generated a draft document known as Defense Planning Guidance, which envisioned a U.S. that took advantage of its lone-superpower status to consolidate American control of the world both militarily and economically, to the point where no other nation could ever reasonably hope to challenge the U.S. Toward that end it envisioned what we now call “preemptive” wars waged to reset the geopolitical table.
After a copy of DPG was leaked to the New York Times, subsequent drafts were rendered a little less frank, but the basic idea never changed. In 1997 Wolfowitz and his true believers–Richard Perle, William Kristol, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld–formed an organization called Project for the New American Century to carry their cause forward. And though they all flocked around the Bush administration from the start, W never really embraced their plan until the events of September 11 left him casting around for a foreign policy plan.
2) The invasion of Iraq was based on a reasonable belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to the U.S., a belief supported by available intelligence evidence.
Paul Wolfowitz admitted to Vanity Fair that weapons of mass destruction were not really the main reason for invading Iraq: “The decision to highlight weapons of mass destruction as the main justification for going to war in Iraq was taken for bureaucratic reasons…. [T]here were many other important factors as well.” Right. But they did not come under the heading of self-defense.
We now know how the Bushmen gathered their prewar intelligence: They set out to patch together their case for invading Iraq and ignored everything that contradicted it. In the end, this required that Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. set aside the findings of analysts from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (the Pentagon’s own spy bureau) and stake their claim largely on the basis of isolated, anecdotal testimony from handpicked Iraqi defectors. (See #5, Ahmed Chalabi.) But the administration did not just listen to the defectors; it promoted their claims in the press as a means of enlisting public opinion. The only reason so many Americans thought there was a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda in the first place was that the Bushmen trotted out Iraqi defectors making these sorts of claims to every major media outlet that would listen.
Here is the verdict of Gregory Thielman, the recently retired head of the State Department’s intelligence office: “I believe the Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq. This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude–we know the answers, give us the intelligence to support those answers.” Elsewhere he has been quoted as saying, “The principal reasons that Americans did not understand the nature of the Iraqi threat in my view was the failure of senior administration officials to speak honestly about what the intelligence showed.”
3) Saddam tried to buy uranium in Niger.
Lies and distortions tend to beget more lies and distortions, and here is W’s most notorious case in point: Once the administration decided to issue a damage-controlling (they hoped) mea culpa in the matter of African uranium, they were obliged to couch it in another, more perilous lie: that the administration, and quite likely Bush himself, thought the uranium claim was true when he made it. But former acting ambassador to Iraq Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on July 6 that exploded the claim. Wilson, who traveled to Niger in 2002 to investigate the uranium claims at the behest of the CIA and Dick Cheney’s office and found them to be groundless, describes what followed this way: “Although I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in U.S. government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador’s report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a CIA report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.”
4) The aluminum tubes were proof of a nuclear program.
The very next sentence of Bush’s State of the Union address was just as egregious a lie as the uranium claim, though a bit cagier in its formulation. “Our intelligence sources tell us that [Saddam] has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.” This is altogether false in its implication (that this is the likeliest use for these materials) and may be untrue in its literal sense as well. As the London Independent summed it up recently, “The U.S. persistently alleged that Baghdad tried to buy high-strength aluminum tubes whose only use could be in gas centrifuges, needed to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Equally persistently, the International Atomic Energy Agency said the tubes were being used for artillery rockets. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, told the UN Security Council in January that the tubes were not even suitable for centrifuges.”
5) Iraq’s WMDs were sent to Syria for hiding.
Or Iran, or…. “They shipped them out!” was a rallying cry for the administration in the first few nervous weeks of finding no WMDs, but not a bit of supporting evidence has emerged.
6) The CIA was primarily responsible for any prewar intelligence errors or distortions regarding Iraq.
Don’t be misled by the news that CIA director George Tenet has taken the fall for Bush’s falsehoods in the State of the Uranium address. As the journalist Robert Dreyfuss wrote shortly before the war, “Even as it prepares for war against Iraq, the Pentagon is already engaged on a second front: its war against the Central Intelligence Agency. The Pentagon is bringing relentless pressure to bear on the agency to produce intelligence reports more supportive of war with Iraq. … Morale inside the U.S. national-security apparatus is said to be low, with career staffers feeling intimidated and pressured to justify the push for war.”
In short, Tenet fell on his sword when he vetted Bush’s State of the Union yarns. And now he has had to get up and fall on it again.
7) An International Atomic Energy Agency report indicated that Iraq could be as little as six months from making nuclear weapons.
Alas: The claim had to be retracted when the IAEA pointed out that no such report existed.
8) Saddam was involved with bin Laden and al Qaeda in the plotting of 9/11.
One of the most audacious and well-traveled of the Bushmen’s fibs, this one hangs by two of the slenderest evidentiary threads imaginable: first, anecdotal testimony by isolated, handpicked Iraqi defectors that there was an al Qaeda training camp in Iraq, a claim CIA analysts did not corroborate and that postwar U.S. military inspectors conceded did not exist; and second, old intelligence accounts of a 1991 meeting in Baghdad between a bin Laden emissary and officers from Saddam’s intelligence service, which did not lead to any subsequent contact that U.S. or UK spies have ever managed to turn up. According to former State Department intelligence chief Gregory Thielman, the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies well in advance of the war was that “there was no significant pattern of cooperation between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist operation.”
9) The U.S. wants democracy in Iraq and the Middle East.
Democracy is the last thing the U.S. can afford in Iraq, as anyone who has paid attention to the state of Arab popular sentiment already realizes. Representative government in Iraq would mean the rapid expulsion of U.S. interests. Rather, the U.S. wants westernized, secular leadership regimes that will stay in pocket and work to neutralize the politically ambitious anti-Western religious sects popping up everywhere. If a little brutality and graft are required to do the job, it has never troubled the U.S. in the past. Ironically, these standards describe someone more or less like Saddam Hussein. Judging from the state of civil affairs in Iraq now, the Bush administration will no doubt be looking for a strongman again, if and when they are finally compelled to install anyone at all.
10) Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress are a homegrown Iraqi political force, not a U.S.-sponsored front.
Chalabi is a more important bit player in the Iraq war than most people realize, and not because he was the U.S.’s failed choice to lead a post-Saddam government. It was Chalabi and his INC that funneled compliant defectors to the Bush administration, where they attested to everything the Bushmen wanted to believe about Saddam and Iraq (meaning, mainly, al Qaeda connections and WMD programs). The administration proceeded to take their dubious word over that of the combined intelligence of the CIA and DIA, which indicated that Saddam was not in the business of sponsoring foreign terrorism and posed no imminent threat to anyone.
Naturally Chalabi is despised nowadays round the halls of Langley, but it wasn’t always so. The CIA built the Iraqi National Congress and installed Chalabi at the helm back in the days following Gulf War I, when the thought was to topple Saddam by whipping up and sponsoring an internal opposition. It didn’t work; from the start Iraqis have disliked and distrusted Chalabi. Moreover, his erratic and duplicitous ways have alienated practically everyone in the U.S. foreign policy establishment as well–except for Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense, and therefore the White House.
Click here to read about the other 30 Bush lies on this list, with further links.
STEVE PERRY is the editor of the excellent Minneapolis weekly City Pages and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. His Bush War’s column is one of the few blogs worth reading. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org