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Why Bush's Case For Iraq Was Different (And False)
From AmericanProgressAction.org (11/7/05):
Going beyond the argument that Iraq possessed weapons of mass
destruction, the Bush administration made a unique case on two specific
fronts to justify the war: the supposed connections to al Qaeda and the
Iraqi nuclear threat. The administration argued that the evidence in
these two areas amounted to a "grave and gathering threat"
in a "post-September 11th world."
On the eve of the Iraq war, Bush
said, "The danger is clear: Using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions
and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our
country, or any other." The imagery was clear: terrorists, such as
those that attacked on 9/11, could do far greater damage with nuclear
weapons, and the Iraqi regime was helping to make that scenario a
reality. In fact, the evidence behind the supposed Iraq/al Qaeda
connection and the evidence on the nuclear threat have turned out to be
the weakest links in the case for war.
FALSE CLAIM -- IRAQ WAS TRAINING AL QAEDA:
The New York Times reported this weekend that the Bush administration
was warned in February 2002 that its evidence for the claim that Iraq
was providing weapons training to al Qaeda was based on the tales of a non-credible witness. The
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reported at the time that the
detained al Qaeda terrorist "could not name any Iraqis involved, any
chemical or biological material used or where the training occurred. As
a result, 'it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers.'"
Yet, despite this knowledge, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell used
the evidence in his U.N. presentation, and the administration repeated the claim over the next two years.
In fact, even after the al Qaeda source recanted his earlier claims of
an Iraq/al Qaeda link in January 2004, Vice President Cheney was still repeating it months later.
FALSE CLAIM -- BUSH AND CHENEY LINKED IRAQ TO AL QAEDA AND 9/11:
In a letter to Congress on March 21, 2003, Bush justified the Iraq war
by arguing he was going after al Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist network.
Bush wrote, "I have also determined that the use of armed force against
Iraq is consistent with" the need to take action against "persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." Later, Cheney said it was "not surprising" that the American public was making a connection between 9/11 and Iraq.
FALSE CLAIM -- WHITE HOUSE HAD REASON TO KNOW AL QAEDA LINK WAS FALSE:
Every piece of evidence offered by the administration to justify the
link has been rejected, as the 9-11 Commission made clear. The claims that bin Laden and Iraq had joined forces at a meeting in Sudan has been debunked. The claim that Zarqawi was evidence of an Iraq/al Qaeda link has been debunked. The 9-11 Commission debunked
the claim that 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with Iraq intelligence
officials. And a claim that a high-ranking al Qaeda member was an
officer in Saddam Hussein's private militia was also debunked.
There is evidence suggesting the White House knew all this prior to the
invasion. Former White House counterterrorism director Paul Kurtz
"wrote in a memo to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that no 'compelling case' existed for Iraq’s involvement in the attacks
and that links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government were
weak." Similarly, another former counterterrorism adviser, Richard
Clarke, informed the White House that no "compelling case" could be found for an al Qaeda link.
FALSE CLAIM -- NUCLEAR THREAT:
Bush argued in his 2003 State of the Union
that Iraq was close to developing a nuclear weapon. He offered two
pieces of evidence: 1) "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant
quantities of uranium from Africa," and 2) Iraq "has attempted to
purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons
production." On the first count, it has been well documented that the administration was warned at least three times not to claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. The administration was also warned that its reliance on a Niger document was misplaced and that it should not rely on British intelligence.
On the second count, Condoleezza Rice claimed the aluminum tubes were
"only really suited for nuclear weapons programs" despite the fact that
she had previously been informed that "the government's foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons."
The day before Bush's 2003 State of the Union, the International Atomic
Energy Agency concluded the tubes "would not be suitable" for a nuclear
program. The Department of Energy also published a dissenting view of the use of the aluminum tubes in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.