Thursday, March 02, 2006
Thu Mar 02, 2006 at 11:40:06 AM PDT
[front-paged at Booman Tribune]
Let's pretend for a moment that George W. Bush is not our President. Instead, let's posit some hypothetical President in his stead. How would a mature person go about determining whether a country like Iraq might pose an imminent threat to the security of America?
I suppose he would call a meeting and ask his intelligence chiefs to do an assessment of the country's intentions and capabilities. And then, I suppose, he would call another meeting or ask for a report to be drawn up that would present the conclusions of our various intelligence agencies.
Well, as Murray Wass reports, that is exactly what Bush did. He just decided to ignore their assessments and do the one thing that they said might turn Iraq into a threat. And, oh yeah, he repeatedly lied to the American people, too.
The second classified report, delivered to Bush in early January 2003, was also a summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, this one focusing on whether Saddam would launch an unprovoked attack on the United States, either directly, or indirectly by working with terrorists.
The report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack the United States -- except if "ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime" or if he intended to "extract revenge" for such an assault, according to records and sources.
The single dissent in the report again came from State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, known as INR, which believed that the Iraqi leader was "unlikely to conduct clandestine attacks against the U.S. homeland even if [his] regime's demise is imminent" as the result of a U.S. invasion.
On at least four earlier occasions, beginning in the spring of 2002, according to the same records and sources, the president was informed during his morning intelligence briefing that U.S. intelligence agencies believed it was unlikely that Saddam was an imminent threat to the United States.
However, in the months leading up to the war, Bush, Cheney, and Cabinet members repeatedly asserted that Saddam was likely to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or to provide such weapons to Al Qaeda or another terrorist group.
I don't think we even need to complicate things by going deeper into this. The plain facts are that the intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that Iraq posed no threat to the homeland. They also unanimously agreed that Saddam Hussein had no role in 9/11 and that he had no working relationship with al-Qaeda. The Bush administration and sympathetic reporters told the American people the opposite. And then they launched an attack on Iraq which the intelligence agencies had said was the only thing they could conceive of that might lead Iraq to attack America.
Is that keeping us safe?
In some ways this is old news. What makes it new is Murray Waas has gained access to some of the most sensitive documents of the government: Presidential intelligence summaries. And they show that the President was well informed on both the view that Iraq posed no threat and that there was strong dissent over whether the famous aluminium tubes were thought to be for uranium enrichment. Until now, the administration has either denied knowledge of these facts or has sought to spin them.
The summaries stated that both the Energy and State departments dissented on the aluminum tubes question. This is the first evidence that Bush was aware of the intense debate within the government during the time that he, Cheney, and members of the Cabinet were citing the procurement of the tubes as evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program.
In his address to the U.N. General Assembly on September 12, 2002, the president asserted, "Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon."
On October 7, 2002, less than a week after Bush was given the summary, he said in a speech in Cincinnati: "Evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his 'nuclear mujahedeen' -- his nuclear holy warriors.... Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."
On numerous other occasions, Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and then-U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte cited Iraq's procurement of aluminum tubes without disclosing that the intelligence community was split as to their end use. The fact that the president was informed of the dissents by Energy and State is also significant because Rice and other administration officials have said that Bush did not know about those dissenting views when he made claims about the purported uses for the tubes.
On July 11, 2003, aboard Air Force One during a presidential trip to Africa, Rice was asked about the National Intelligence Estimate and whether the president knew of the dissenting views among intelligence agencies regarding Iraq's procurement of the aluminum tubes.
Months earlier, disagreement existed within the administration over how to characterize the aluminum tubes in a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell gave to the U.N. on February 5, 2003. Breaking ranks with others in the administration, Powell decided to refer to the internal debate among government agencies over Iraq's intended use of the tubes.
Asked about this by a reporter on Air Force One, Rice said: "I'm saying that when we put [Powell's speech] together... the secretary decided that he would caveat the aluminum tubes, which he did.... The secretary also has an intelligence arm that happened to hold that view."
Rice added, "Now, if there were any doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president, or to me."
Yes. Except that they were...and now we have proof.
the one-page summary, several senior government officials said in interviews, was written specifically for Bush, was handed to the president by then-CIA Director George Tenet, and was read in Tenet's presence.
In addition, Rice, Cheney, and dozens of other high-level Bush administration policy makers received a highly classified intelligence assessment, known as a Senior Executive Memorandum, on the aluminum tubes issue. Circulated on January 10, 2003, the memo was titled "Questions on Why Iraq Is Procuring Aluminum Tubes and What the IAEA Has Found to Date."
The paper included discussion regarding the fact that the INR, Energy, and the United Nations atomic energy watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, all believed that Iraq was using the aluminum tubes for conventional weapons programs.
This is what 'fixing the facts around the policy' looks like. And, I might add, that half the intelligence the Bush administration relied on, rather than ignoring, was absolute crap. So, they fed bad intelligence into the system through people like Ahmed Chalabi and the Niger forgerist, and when they still didn't get the casus belli they needed for war, they just lied about or distorted what the intelligence services had advised them.
Add it all up, and add up all the death, injury, misery, ill-will, and expense that resulted from Bush's decision to go to war. How could anyone not call for his impeachment?