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Behind the Bush
I am from a farming community near Fresno, California. It's so small that it's not even an incorporated town. The post office is a window in the drugstore. I have lived here the majority of my life, and love it here because the people are very warm and friendly. I have a passion for social justice that probably came partly from seeing Mexican farm workers toiling in vineyards. My grandfather, a farmer, always treated his farm workers like family and they loved him. However, there were farmers who did not and the contrast was quite apparent to me, even as a child. I love to write, and that's why I got a degree in journalism. I am also passionate about the environment and taking care of it.

In this article Gina-Marie discusses Misleading the Nation about Iraq.


Misleading the Nation about Iraq

 article about Misleading the Nation about Iraq

This article belongs to Behind the Bush column.


In his 2003 State of the Union address Bush made many claims concerning Iraq, namely Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and supported terrorist networks (including al-Qaeda). The previous year Bush made the assertion during a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio that surveillance photos showed Saddam Hussein's regime were rebuilding factories where it had once produced WMDs. In the same speech he asserted Iraq possessed "ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles -- far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, and other nations." He also asserted the administration had intelligence that Iraq had a "growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas." He asserted Iraq and al-Qaeda "have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq."


 


During the run-up to the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq Bush and Cheney made numerous statements about Iraq that later proved to be false. Tim Russert from NBC's Meet the Press interviewed Cheney on March 16, 2003. When Russert asked him what Saddam Hussein could do "to stop war" Cheney answered, "I'm not sure now…that anyone would believe him… We know he's out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons… that he has a long-standing relationship with…the al-Qaeda organization." Russert responded by mentioning that the International Atomic Energy Agency disputed White House claims that Iraq had a nuclear program. Cheney answered, "I disagree…and you will find the CIA…and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree." A day later Bush declared in an address to the nation that Iraq "has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda."


 


A March 18 letter from Bush to the Congress declared using "armed forces against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries" taking actions necessary against terrorists "including those nations, organizations or person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."


 


The day of the invasion President Bush declared, "The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder."


 


As late as March 6, 2003 Bush claimed, "I've not made up our mind about military action." However, two days later he said, "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force."


 


A week later Bush began to speak about invading Iraq with more certainty, "Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it."


 


The Lies of Colin Powell


 


Colin Powell, then the Secretary of State, appeared before the UN Security Council in February 2003. During his presentation Powell linked Iraq to al-Qaeda, declaring there was a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network," and al-Qaeda could acquire "expertise on weapons of mass destruction" from Iraq. He alleged that Iraq tried to purchase aluminum tubes from "eleven different countries" citing that American experts thought the tubes were "intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium." Powell claimed Iraq had a stockpile of "between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons." He displayed images of supposed chemical bunkers in Iraq which he said stored "chemical munitions."


 


According to Powell, Iraq had been developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for "more than a decade," and said there was "ample evidence that Iraq has dedicated much effort to developing and testing spray devices that could be adapted for UAVs."


 


Lawrence Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, spoke to CNN about pre-war intelligence gathering. He said, "I wish I had not been involved in it. I look back on it, and I still say it was the lowest point in my life." Concerning Powell's address to the United Nations on February 3, 2003, Wilkerson said the former Secretary of State "came through the door" with papers in his hands, and told him, "This is what I've got to present at the United Nations according to the White House, and you need to look at it." Wilkerson described the document as "anything but an intelligence document."


 


David Kay, the CIA's chief weapons inspector in Iraq after Hussein's fall, declared that Powell was not informed one of the sources he had been given about the supposed mobile bioweapons labs was "flagged by the Defense Intelligence Agency." Wilkerson told the PBS show Frontline that George Tenet, former CIA director, "actually did call the Secretary, and said, 'I'm really sorry to have to tell you. We don't believe there were any mobile labs for making biological weapons.'" Tenet called three or four times, according to Wilkerson.


 


During the run-up to the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq Bush and Cheney made numerous statements about Iraq that later proved to be false. Tim Russert from NBC's Meet the Press interviewed Cheney on March 16, 2003. When Russert asked him what Saddam Hussein could do "to stop war" Cheney answered, "I'm not sure now…that anyone would believe him… We know he's out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons… that he has a long-standing relationship with…the al-Qaeda organization." Russert responded by mentioning that the International Atomic Energy Agency disputed White House claims that Iraq had a nuclear program. Cheney answered, "I disagree…and you will find the CIA…and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree." A day later Bush declared in an address to the nation that Iraq "has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda."


 


Intelligence community's assessments


 



Charles Duelfer, the man the Bush administration chose to complete the investigation of Iraq's weapon's programs, wrote in a report released in 2004 that Iraq's ability to produce nuclear weapons had "progressively decayed" since 1991, and no "concerted efforts to restart the program" had been discovered by inspectors. In October 2004 Duelfer told a Senate panel, "We were almost all wrong [on Iraq]." Duelfer's report concluded that Saddam Hussein "aspired to develop a nuclear capability, but "The former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions."[i]


Clarke cited Duelfer in his book, calling him the "leading American expert" on Iraq's capability of WMDs. Clarke claims Duelfer was "ignored before the invasion and for months after and only asked by the Administration to go to Iraq to lead the investigation in 2004.[ii]


Greg Thielmann, the top intelligence official at the U.S. State Department until resigning shortly before the invasion of Iraq, told Frontline the way Bush administration officials were discussing Iraq diverged from "the kind of qualified and fairly carefully structured intelligence that they were being provided." At the time, Theilmann considered the stories that Iraq was attempting to purchase uranium from Niger "bad intelligence…it was something that made no sense, in terms of the structure of the country that was allegedly planning to provide the uranium." [iii] Thielmann said weapons intelligence experts and African experts "were all of one accord that this was a bad story." He informed Powell the intelligence about Niger was not reputable.


Thielmann also told Frontline he believed the bogus claims about Iraq trying to restart its nuclear weapons program were inserted by "someone on the policy side of the State Department or from the NSC," but not from anyone "cleared by the Intelligence Bureau." He believes the Bush administration "already had their conclusion to start out with" and picked the intelligence information provided to them "to use whatever pieces of it that fit their overall interpretation." Furthermore, he claims the Bush administration were "dropping qualifiers and distorting some of the information that we provided to make it seem more alarmist and more dangerous than the information that we were giving them."[iv]


Scott Ritter debunked Bush administration claims


Scott Ritter was the UN's top weapons inspector in Iraq until 1998 when he resigned because he thought President Clinton was too easy on Saddam. He wrote a number of editorials published in various American newspapers. In a July 20, 2002 piece for the Boston Globe he cited his experience as a weapons inspector, insisting that a "90-95 percent level of verified disarmament." He further stated that all chemical weapons Iraq produced before 1990 "would have degraded within five years" except for mustard gas. The same goes for biological weapons which "would have neutralized through natural process within three years of manufacture." Monitoring of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons from 1994 to 1998 did not produce "any evidence of retained proscribed activity" by Iraq to reproduce chemical and biological weapons.[v]


Ritter had strong words concerning the Bush administrations statements about Iraq's WMD capability:


In direct contrast to these findings, the Bush administration provides only speculation, failing to detail any factually based information to bolster its claims concerning Iraq's continued possession of or ongoing efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. To date no one has held the Bush administration accountable for its unwillingness - or inability - to provide such evidence.[vi]


Scott Ritter debunked the claims of Colin Powell in a September 8, 2003 piece published on the website of Tri Valley Cares, an organization devoted to nuclear disarmament. The basis for the drawings of a biological weapons mobile lab was an "Iraqi defector whose credibility was certified not by the quality or accuracy of the provided data, but rather the political environment of post-Sept. 11."[vii]


During an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian Ritter stated that there was not "evidence that Iraq retains either the capability or material. In fact, a considerable amount of evidence suggests Iraq doesn't retain the necessary material."[viii] The magazine In These Times interviewed Ritter in September 2002. When asked what his "main objections" to the invasion of Iraq he stated, "We are not at risk from weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein—there's no evidence."[ix]


Last year Ritter had a piece published by the independent news website Common Dreams titled, "Not Everyone Got it Wrong on Iraq's Weapons." In the piece he blasted the Bush administration for ignoring "our advice and the body of factual data we used…instead relied on rumor, speculation, exaggeration, and falsification to mislead the American people and their elected representatives into supporting a war that is rapidly turning into a quagmire. We knew the truth about Iraq's WMD. Sadly, no one listened."[x]


Next week:  Eight leaked British government documents called the Downing Street Documents reveal the Bush administration's desire to invade Iraq regardless.








[i] Priest, Dana and Pincus, Walter. "U.S. 'Almost All Wrong' on Weapons," The Washington Post.


October 7, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12115-2004Oct6.html.



[ii] Clarke.



[iii] Frontline. "Truth, War, & Consequences," http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/truth/interviews/thielmann.html, August 12, 2003.



[iv] Ibid.



[v] Ritter, Scott. "Is Iraq a True Threat to the US?" Boston Globe. July 20, 2002,  


http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0721-02.htm.



[vi] Ibid.



[vii] Ritter, Scott. "Weapons of Mass Destruction in Our Midst America can be its own worst enemy." http://www.trivalleycares.org/ritter-biolab.asp, September 8, 2003.



[viii]  "Even if Iraq managed to hide these weapons, what they are now hiding is harmless goo," The Guardian, September 19, 2002,


http://www.traprockpeace.org/guardian091902.html.



[ix] Healy, Thomas. "Resisting Regime Change," In These Times. http://www.inthesetimes.com/issue/26/23/news4.shtml, September 13, 2002.



[x] Ritter, Scott. "Not Everyone Got it Wrong on Iraq's Weapons," Common Dreams. http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0206-06.htm, April 02, 2006.





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