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White House Iraq Group Must be Investigated
By U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)
Was the White House truthful with the American people and with Congress in making their case to go to war in Iraq? This is a critical question that demands a clear answer and it is long past time for the United States Congress to properly ask it and investigate the matter.
A group of top White House advisors, including Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the now-indicted former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, formed the White House Iraq Group(WHIG) in August 2002 with the task to make the case for going to war in Iraq and to convince Congress and the American public to support that policy.
It appears that the WHIG misled Congress and the American people about prewar intelligence. Americans must know whether their activities were an organized effort of deceit. Yet, this Congress has done nothing to examine this critically important matter.
In an effort to get Congress to exercise its oversight last week, we co-sponsored a resolution of inquiry calling for the White House to turn over to Congress all information involving the White House Iraq Group (WHIG). Congress has a clear role to play in this issue, as we received much of the potentially incorrect information being put out by the Bush Administration on Iraq. Unfortunately, last week the Republican-led House International Relations Committee killed this important resolution.
It is unacceptable for a House Committee to block key information that is so important. As Members of Congress, we have the right and the obligation to know what these officials knew about the validity of these claims. It's not enough to throw our hands up and say that the intelligence was faulty. We must take steps to gain all of the facts.
For example, we now know that it appears that the government knew that the aluminum tubes that Iraq had acquired from China were not suitable for nuclear weapons. Even so, the WHIG asserted those tubes could be used to further an Iraqi nuclear program. They also made the claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, despite warnings from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that the information was not reliable. Also, in February 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency submitted a report to the National Security Council that questioned the reliability of a captured top al Qaeda operative whom the Bush Administration had cited to make claims that terrorists had been trained to use chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. Nevertheless, between September 2002 and March 2003, top Bush Administration officials, including the President himself all cited this faulty intelligence in speeches and public appearances to gather support for the war. Were these deceptions purposely orchestrated by the WHIG? We must know the facts.
The activities of the WHIG are central to our understanding of how the White House used pre-war intelligence. The WHIG launched a public information campaign and media blitz citing so-called intelligence that we now know to be false. Unlike the National Intelligence Estimate of 2002, the WHIG's white papers took literary license with intelligence and vastly overstated Iraq's nuclear capabilities. These
white papers served as the basis for talking points for President Bush and his top officials. Iraq's nuclear threat was a highly prominent theme of these white papers.
The WHIG also organized a media blitz in September 2002 in which Bush and his top advisors appeared in numerous interviews and all provided gripping images about the possibility of nuclear attack by Iraq. This was a critical time where many important decisions were made, including what to demand of the United Nations in a September 12th address by President Bush and how to present intelligence to Congress.
Many in the Bush Administration and its supporters often have dismissed the need for an investigation by arguing that everybody thought Hussein had weapons of mass destruction - including the French and Germans. They seem to mistakenly believe that this assertion makes it irrelevant whether the Administration lied.
The gaping holes that have appeared in the Bush Administration's case for war have done deep and lasting damage to our standing in the world, and have undermined the confidence the American people have in their government as well. The claim that "we cannot allow the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud" appears to be the height of a deceitful policy to convince a questioning American public and Congress to go to war in Iraq. The credibility of not only the Bush Administration, but the credibility of the entire U.S.government, indeed Members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, is now at stake.
Congress can begin to repair this damage by getting to the bottom of the Administration's actions during the build up to the Iraq War. We have a responsibility to the American people, as does the Bush Administration, for telling the truth and letting all of the facts be known in this case.