(Cont'd) Sen. Kennedy Indictment of President G.W. Bush
Senator Edward M. Kennedy
(Cont'd) Sen. Kennedy Indictment of President G.W. Bush
Sat Mar 6 00:43:38 2004

(Cont'd) Sen. Kennedy Indictmend of President G.W. Bush

In a February 2004 article in the Atlantic Monthly, Ken Pollack, a former CIA analyst who supported the war, said, "...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." In a January interview, Pollack added, "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."

In October 2002, the intelligence agencies jointly issued a National Intelligence Estimate stating that "most agencies" believed that Iraq had restarted its nuclear program after inspectors left in 1998, and that, if left unchecked, Iraq "probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade." The State Department's intelligence bureau, however, said the "available evidence" was inadequate to support that judgment. It refused to predict when "Iraq could acquire a nuclear device or weapon."

The National Intelligence Estimate cited a foreign government report that, as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of nuclear material to Iraq. The estimate also said, "Reports indicate that Iraq has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo." The State Department's intelligence bureau, however, responded that claims of Iraq seeking to purchase nuclear material from Africa were "highly dubious." The CIA sent two memos to the White House stressing strong doubts about those claims.

But the following January, the president included the claims about Africa in his State of the Union Address, and conspicuously cited the British government as the source of that intelligence.

Information about nuclear weapons was not the only intelligence distorted by the administration. On the question of whether Iraq was pursuing a chemical weapons program, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded in September 2002 that "there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has--or will--establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities."

That same month, however, Secretary Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Saddam has chemical-weapons stockpiles. He said that "we do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction," that Saddam "has amassed large clandestine stocks of chemical weapons," that "he has stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons," and that Iraq has "active chemical, biological and nuclear programs." He was wrong on all counts.

Yet the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate actually quantified the size of the stockpiles, finding that "although we have little specific information on Iraq's CW [chemical weapon] stockpile, Saddam probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons and possibly as much as 500 metric tons of CW agents--much of it added in the last year." In his speech at the United Nations on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State [Colin] Powell went further, calling the 100-500 metric ton stockpile a "conservative estimate."

Secretary Rumsfeld made an even more explicit assertion in his March 30, 2003, interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." When asked about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, he said, "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat."

The second major claim in the administration's case for war was the linkage between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

Significantly here as well, the Intelligence Estimate did not find a cooperative relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda. On the contrary, it stated only that such a relationship might happen if Saddam were "sufficiently desperate"--in other words, if America went to war. But the estimate placed "low confidence" that, even in desperation, Saddam would give weapons of mass destruction to al Qaeda.

A year before the war began, senior al Qaeda leaders themselves had rejected a link with Saddam. The New York Times reported last June that a top al Qaeda planner and recruiter captured in March 2002 told his questioners last year that "the idea of working with Mr. Hussein's government had been discussed among al Qaeda leaders, but Osama bin Laden had rejected such proposals." According to the Times, an al Qaeda chief of operations had also told interrogators that the group did not work with Saddam.

Mel Goodman, a CIA analyst for 20 years, put it bluntly: "Saddam Hussein and bin Laden were enemies. Bin Laden considered and said that Saddam was the socialist infidel. These were very different kinds of individuals competing for power in their own way and Saddam Hussein made very sure that al Qaeda couldn't function in Iraq."

In February 2003, investigators at the FBI told The New York Times they were baffled by the administration's insistence on a solid link between al Qaeda and Iraq. One investigator said, "We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there."

But President Bush was not deterred. He was relentless in using America's fears after the devastating 9/11 tragedy. He drew a clear link--and drew it repeatedly--between Al Qaeda and Saddam.

In a September 25, 2002, statement at the White House, President Bush flatly declared, "You can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."

In his State of the Union Address in January 2003, President Bush said, "Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda," and that he could provide "lethal viruses" to a "shadowy terrorist network."

Two weeks later, in his radio address to the nation, a month before the war began, President Bush described the ties in detail, saying, "Saddam Hussein has longstanding, direct, and continuing ties to terrorist networks ..."

He said, "Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document-forgery experts to work with al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. An al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990s for help in acquiring poisons and gases. We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner. This network runs a poison and explosive training camp in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad."

In fact, there was no operational link and no clear and persuasive pattern of ties between the Iraqi government and al Qaeda. That fact should have been abundantly clear to the president. Iraq and al Qaeda had diametrically opposing views of the world.

In the march to war, the president exaggerated the threat anyway. It was not subtle. It was not nuanced. It was pure, unadulterated fear-mongering, based on a devious strategy to convince the American people that Saddam's ability to provide nuclear weapons to al Qaeda justified immediate war.

Why would the administration go to such lengths to go to war? Was it trying to change the subject from its failed economic policy, the corporate scandals, and its failed effort to capture Osama bin Laden? The only imminent threat was the November congressional election. The politics of the election trumped the stubborn facts.

Early in the Bush administration, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill had raised concerns about politics pervading the process in the White House. Comparing the Bush administration and previous Republican administrations, he said, referring to Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and [adviser] Karen Hughes, "The biggest difference ... is that our group was mostly about evidence and analysis--and Karl, Dick, Karen, and the gang seemed to be mostly about politics."

In the late winter and early spring of 2002, in the aftermath of the Enron and other corporate scandals, as Ron Suskind, the author of the O'Neill book wrote, "...Rove told numerous administration officials that the poll data was definitive: the scandals were hurting the president, a cloud in an otherwise blue sky for the soaring, post-Afghanistan Bush."

The evidence so far leads to only one conclusion. What happened was not merely a failure of intelligence, but the result of manipulation and distortion of the intelligence and selective use of unreliable intelligence to justify a decision to go to war. The administration had made up its mind, and would not let stubborn facts stand in the way.

Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, a recently retired Air Force intelligence officer who served in the Pentagon during the buildup to the war, said, "It wasn't intelligence--it was propaganda ... they'd take a little bit of intelligence, cherry pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, usually by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don't belong together."

As it now appears, the Iraqi expatriates who had close ties to the Pentagon and were so eager for the war may well have been the source of the hyped intelligence. They have even begun to brag about it.

The Pentagon's favorite Iraqi dissident, Ahmad Chalabi, is actually proud of what happened. "We are heroes in error," Chalabi recently said. "As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords, if he wants."

Our men and women in uniform are still paying with their lives for this misguided war in Iraq. CIA Director Tenet could perform no greater service to the armed forces, to the American people, and to our country, than to set the record straight, and state unequivocally what is so clearly the truth: the Bush Administration misrepresented the facts to justify the war.

America went to war in Iraq because President Bush insisted that nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein and his ties to Al Qaeda were too dangerous to ignore. Congress never would have voted to authorize the war if we had known the facts.

The Bush administration is obviously digging in its heels against any further serious investigation of the reasons we went to war. The administration's highest priority is to prevent any more additional stubborn facts about this fateful issue from coming to light before the election in November.

This debate will go on anyway in Congress and in communities across the country. The most important decision any president makes is the decision on war or peace. No president who misleads the country on the need for war deserves to be re-elected. A president who does so must be held accountable. The last thing our nation needs is a sign on the desk in the Oval Office in the White House that says, "The buck doesn't stop here any more."
Thank you very much.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy - senator@kennedy.senate.gov

Main Page -03/06/04

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