Distortions of intelligence on Iraq

August 1, 2003

 FROM: Churches for Middle East Peace's Email Network
 Corinne Whitlatch, Executive Director
RE: Distortions of intelligence on Iraq

This analysis, "Iraq: 16 Distortions, not 16 Words," from the Council for a Livable World is excellent and highly readable. The Council for a Livable World is one of Washington's foremost arms-control organizations.  If you want to sign onto the Council's petition urging the chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees to hold prompt, open and thorough hearings on intelligence on Iraq, here is the link   http://www.clw.org/iraqpetition/index.html

Iraq: 16 Distortions, not 16 Words -- Council for a Livable World,  July 31, 2003

"Intelligence doesn't necessarily mean something is true."   Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Before American and British troops invaded Iraq, Bush Administration officials made a series of speeches and statements in order to persuade the American people and Congress to go to war.  Many of the arguments and facts presented to build the case have proved wrong -- either misstatements, exaggerations or outright lies.   These distortions have continued since major combat operations were concluded.  While Administration officials have tried to narrow the dispute to a mere 16 words in the President's State of the Union address, there has been a widespread and consistent pattern of selectively choosing evidence in order to inflate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

As Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) told the Senate on July 15: "The uranium issue is not just about sixteen words. It is about the conscious decisions that were made, apparently by the NSC and concurred in by the CIA, to create a false impression. And it is not an isolated example. There is troubling evidence of other dubious statements and exaggerations by the intelligence community and administration officials."

A partial list of those statements follows.

1.  Iraq had direct ties to al Qaeda.
On September 27, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described the administration's search for hard evidence for a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda: "We ended up with five or six sentences that were bullet proof. We could say them, they are factual, they are exactly accurate. They demonstrate that there are in fact al Qaeda in Iraq."  On February 21, 2001, Deputy Defense Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, claimed, "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.  And an al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990s for help in acquiring poisons and gases."  There has been no proof to support any of these specific claims and counter-evidence to suggest that al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein did not trust each other.  Nonetheless, over 70% of Americans believe the charge.

2.  Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons programs.
Vice President Dick Cheney told NBC's meet the Press on March 16, 2003: "And we believe he [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."  President Bush was only slightly less categorical when he declared in an October 7, 2002 speech: "The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program."  The International Atomic Energy Agency found no evidence of a reconstituted nuclear program, let alone actual weapons.  The IAEA's presentation to the UN Security Council on January 27, 2003 concluded, "We have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s."  Nor has the U.S. found any evidence to support these claims since invading Iraq.

3.  The Administration never said that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.
On July 13, 2003, National Security Adviser Condelezza Rice claimed: "We have never said that we thought he [Saddam] had nuclear weapons.'' As noted above, the Vice President made precisely that claim.

4.  Iraq tried to purchase aluminum tubes to make nuclear weapons.
In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly on September 12, 2002, President Bush said, "Iraq has made several attempts to buy high strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon."  At his Februrary 5, 2003 speech to the U.N., Colin Powell claimed that "Most U.S experts think they [aluminum tubes] . . . are used to enrich uranium."  The International Atomic Energy Agency, after conducting an inquiry into the aluminum tubes issue, concluded they were not capable of uranium enrichment.

5.  Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Niger.
Much controversy has focused on the President's statement  in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was attempting to acquire African uranium:  "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."  This allegation has been repeatedly proven false, and based on forged documents.  The fact that this allegation was untrue was well known in the intelligence community before the State of the Union address.  CIA Director George Tenet admitted on July 11, 2003: "These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the President."  However, finger pointing among Administration officials has continued over who is responsible for this portion of the speech.

6.  The White House did not know that intelligence was disputed.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said on the June 8, 2003 Meet the Press, "We did not know at the time -- no one knew at the time, in our circles -- maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery."  However, according to a July 23, 2003 Washington Post article, "The CIA sent two memos to the White House in October voicing strong doubts about a claim President Bush made three months later in the State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material in Africa."  Moreover, Stephen Hadley, an N.S.C. analyst who reports directly to Rice, has stated that he knew that about these doubts.

7.  Iraq maintained stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons
In an August 26, 2002 speech to the VFW National Convention, Vice President Cheney said: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.''  In a March 17, 2003, address to the nation, President Bush argued: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."  Three months after the end of major combat operations, there has been no evidence found of weapons of mass destruction.

8.  The U.S. knew the quantities of Iraqi chemical weapons.
In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, President Bush stated: "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."  Secretary of State Colin  Powell declared in his February 5, 2003 speech before the UN that Iraq had "550 artillery shells with mustard, 30,000 empty munitions and enough precursors to increase his stockpile to as much as 500 tons of chemical agents."   These weapons have not been found, nor has any evidence which would support these charges.

9.  Saddam Hussein issued orders to use chemical weapons.
In a February 8, 2003 Weekly Radio Address, President Bush stated: "We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tell us he does not have."  Powell repeated the charge in his February 4, 2003 speech to the U.N.  However, no chemical weapons were used, nor found on the battlefields under the control of defeated Iraqi units.

10. The U.S. knew where Iraq had stored weapons of mass destruction.
In a March 30, 2003, interview on "ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulous", Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, "We know where they [weapons of mass destruction] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.'' On February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations Security Council: "We know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was disbursing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents to various locations, distributing them to various locations in western Iraq. Most of the launchers and warheads have been hidden in large groves of palm trees and were to be moved every one to four weeks to escape detection."  After months of futile searches, the U.S. has still found none of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

11. Since the war, the U.S. has found evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
In a May 29, 2003 interview on Polish television, President Bush triumphantly declared, "We found the weapons of mass destruction.  You know, we found biological laboratories.  You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons.  They're illegal.  They're against the United Nations resolutions and we've so far discovered two.  And we'll find more weapons as time goes on."  Scientists and observers who examined these trailers concluded that they could not be used to make biological weapons.

12. Iraq had drone planes capable of unleashing biological and chemical attacks.
In his January 28, 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush stated: "We have also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas."  No such aircraft has been found in Iraq.

13. Iraq had mobile biological warfare labs
On May 28, 2003, the CIA posted on its Web site a document it prepared with the Defense Intelligence Agency entitled, "Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants.'' This report concluded that the two trailers found in Iraq were for biological warfare agent production.  As stated above, scientists who examined the trailers concluded that they could not be used for biological weapons production.

14. Iraq has long-range ballistic missiles.
On February 9, 2003, President Bush said, "Let there be no doubt about it, [Saddam's] regime has dozens of ballistic missiles and is working to extend their range in violation of UN restrictions."  However, no long range missiles were used against allied troops, and they have not been discovered since the war ended.

15. The U.S. began the war because Saddam Hussein would not allow U.N. inspectors in.
Speaking to reporters at the Oval Office on July 14, 2003, President Bush said: "We gave him [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in and he wouldn't let them in" In fact, Hussein had let the inspectors in, and Bush demanded that the inspectors leave.

16. U.N. inspections failed.
Vice President Dick Cheney, quoted in the July 20, 2003 New York Times, stated: "Even as they were conducting the most intrusive system of arms control in history, the inspectors missed a great deal."  In his July 24, 2003 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, Cheney argued: "Twelve years of diplomacy, more than a dozen Security Council resolutions, hundreds of UN weapons inspectors, and even strikes against military targets in Iraq - all of these measures were tried to compel Saddam Hussein's compliance with the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire. All of these measures failed." However, the inspectors were very effective in eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.  From 1991 to 1998, UNSCOM, the U.N. inspection agency, destroyed 38,537 chemical munitions, 690 tons of chemical warfare agents, 3,275 tons of precursor chemicals, biological growth media, the Al Hakam biological warfare facility, 48 missiles, 50 warheads, 20 tons of missile fuel, 5 combat mobile launchers, 56 fixed launch sites and 75 components for 350mm and 1000mm guns.  (Appendix I, 13th Quarterly Report of UNMOVIC, May 30, 2003)

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