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President Bush is Still Wrong on Iraq

A recent article by CJ Chivers in the New York Times has again awakened the ugly beast of political revisionist history. Chivers reports that the George W. Bush administration repressed reports of U.S. troops being harmed by decaying, Gulf War-era chemical munitions—rather counter-intuitive for an administration that expended great effort to convince Americans and the world Saddam Hussein had chemical and other unconventional weapons, but could not find traces of them.

This was not news to me. I served in Iraq in 2003 and again in 2005 as an expert in chemical warfare, among other things. We were briefed more than once that a smattering of rusted chemical munitions had been unearthed or even used—ineffectively, probably mistakenly—in IEDs. None of us took it as the “smoking gun” of Saddam’s “WMD”. Neither did the Bush administration.

However, the response to Chivers’ article by many political partisans has been Bush was right. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, it becomes necessary to rehash why and how the United States decided to go to war in Iraq—and why George W Bush is still wrong. For many, this will seem an unnecessary history lesson. But for others it is apparently necessary.

America did not invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein still had a few rusty chemical rounds from the 1990s laying around. It was because—it was claimed—Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and related programs posed a current, imminent threat to the United States. This is quite a different assertion from a couple rotting artillery shells.

The Bush administration said the U.S. possessed intelligence that Iraq possessed viable, usable, deadly unconventional weapons—nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and research and development programs and called for the use of military force to eliminate the  threat they posed.

Manufacturing Intelligence

Having made firm public commitments on Iraq throughout 2002, the Bush administration needed intelligence to support its policy and counter critics. Some involved with the Department of Defense’s Office of Special Plans (OSP) claim it was specifically created to connect Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, find evidence of unconventional weapons in Iraq, and show Iraq was a threat to America. A 2002 DoD memo regarding another office, the Policy Counter-Terror Evaluations Group (PCTEG), explained that it was devised to collate and provide “analysis and evaluation” of al Qaeda’s links to states and to other terrorist groups.

As the Iraq War began, rumors swirled around the purpose and prewar actions of the OSP and PCTEG. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and Deputy Undersecretary William Luti held a press conference in June 2003 in which they admitted the purpose of the PCTEG had been to pore over intelligence the U.S. Intelligence Community had collected on Iraq and draw conclusions from it. However, Feith strenuously denied in the same breath that its purpose and activity was intelligence analysis.

America did not invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein still had a few rusty chemical rounds from the 1990’s laying around. It was because—it was claimed—Saddam Hussein’s ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and related programs posed a current, imminent threat to the United States. This is quite a different assertion from a couple rotting artillery shells.

DoD Directive 5240.1 defines “intelligence activities” as “collection, production, and dissemination of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence.” PCTEG did not collect intelligence, but it clearly produced analyses and disseminated them to policymakers. Though the team only consisted of two dedicated staff—both U.S. Navy intelligence officers—it was assisted by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the OSP staff and its work was brought directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in August 2002, who ordered it brought to DCI George Tenet. Later in August, PCTEG members briefed their intelligence product directly to Tenet and other Intelligence Community experts. In September, they briefed it to Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Adviser.

The major conclusion of the PCTEG was that there were connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda. This was a conclusion the rest of the Intelligence Community had considered and rejected for lack of evidence. Therefore, part of the PCTEG presentation was devoted to criticizing how the intelligence community had thus far conducted its analyses on Iraq in an effort to explain why its intelligence product was superior and had picked up on information the intelligence community had missed.

Republican Senator Pat Roberts, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, requested the DoD Inspector General conduct an investigation into the matter. The report, delivered by the Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence in 2007, concluded that Feith’s office had indeed “developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments” which were “inconsistent with the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community, to senior decision-makers,” continuing that, “we believe the actions were inappropriate because a policy office was producing intelligence products and was not clearly conveying to senior decision-makers the variance with the consensus of the intelligence community.”

Sub-cabinet officials of the Bush administration involved in policymaking at Defense created their own intelligence analysis organization outside of the intelligence community and this organization presented intelligence estimates to policymakers, such as the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the Deputy National Security Advisor, that supported the administrations views on Iraq, but ran against the consensus and estimates of the Intelligence Community.

‘Politicizing’ the National Intelligence Estimate

In August 2002, the U.S. Senate pushed for a full National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to be produced on Iraq’s unconventional weapons. The NIE is the intelligence community’s premier product and, though it makes little sense given its prime importance to policymakers regarding major security decisions, DCI George Tenet had not yet bothered of his own initiative to order an NIE be produced on Iraq, despite being his clear responsibility to do so. He later admitted it was a serious error on his part. It took a formal request from Senator Bob Graham, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to push Tenet to finally develop an NIE.

NIEs take on average seven months to produce, though they have taken between as little as three months and up to three years. They should comprise the “collective wisdom” of the Intelligence Community, including its dissents and disagreements in analysis. However, the 2002 pre-war estimate, NIE 2002-16HCIraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destructionwas produced in just three weeks. Both secret and unclassified versions of the NIE were disseminated in October 2002. Most of the text of the unclassified “white paper” had already been prepared in July, months before the classified NIE was even officially requested. A senior CIA analyst called it, “The worst body of work in [CIA’s] long history.”

According to Senator Bob Graham, the unclassified version of the NIE, “Did not accurately represent the classified NIE we had received just days earlier” and insisted it was an effort by DCI Tenet to skew the public version toward the position the Bush administration had taken. The classified version made clear that the Intelligence Community considered that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat to America or his neighbors if “left alone.” But this clarity was lacking from the unclassified edition, which instead supported the White House version of the facts.

Then-Republican Senator Chuck Hagel agreed that the NIE had been “doctored” to support the Bush administration’s needs. CIA had been ordered by the White House to produce the unclassified white paper. Paul Pillar, then CIA National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for the Middle East, conceded, “In retrospect, we really shouldn’t have done that white paper [the unclassified NIE] at all. It was policy advocacy” and wished he had refused to cooperate in the creation of the document because it was absolutely misleading.

A week after the publication of the unclassified version of NIE 2002-16HC, Congress voted to grant President Bush wide latitude to use force against Iraq on 11 October 2002. Many members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, were convinced by the unclassified NIE. Senators Diane Feinstein, John Kerry and John Edwards, who voted for the war authorization, admitted they were convinced by a combination of the unclassified NIE and private intelligence briefings. Following another famously flawed misrepresentation of U.S. intelligence to the UN Security Council by Secretary of State Colin Powell, the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003.

No, Bush is Still Not Right

No evidence Saddam possessed viable WMD at or near the time of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq has ever been found. The intelligence analyses the Bush administration cited as showing Iraq possessed “WMD” and related programs and represented an imminent threat to the United States were inappropriately generated by sub-cabinet members of the Bush administration within the Department of Defense, reaching conclusions that the Intelligence Community had explored and rejected for lack of evidence. This dissent was not represented to policymakers. Such was the conclusion of the Department of Defense’s Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence.

Under the supervision of Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, an unclassified version of the NIE on Iraq was produced which differed significantly from the classified version, which concluded that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat to America. The unclassified version supported a different conclusion, leaving out all dissent, that there was sufficient intelligence to conclude Iraq posed an imminent threat to America. Provided with only the unclassified NIE, Congress voted one week later to authorize President Bush to go to war against Iraq.

President Bush and his administration cannot be proven right. Iraq did not possess viable unconventional weapons or programs when the U.S. invaded in 2003. The “intelligence” used to make the case for the Iraq War was faulty, misrepresented, and wrong. Nothing can ever change that, not even a New York Times article 11 years after the fact.

 

[Photo: Flickr CC: Beverly]

 

Chris Miller is an Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient following two tours in Iraq and has worked as a military contractor in the Middle East. His work currently focuses on strategic studies. His interests are CBRNe, military and veterans issues, the Cold War, and international security affairs.

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34 comments

  1. CER 30 October, 2014 at 12:36 Reply

    This article is a valid criticism. However, like many such pieces, it fails to comment on two significant points:
    1) The author proceeds from the assumption that nobody but the Bush administration ever believed Saddam had WMD capability, although it was the common assumption in the Clinton administration as well.
    2) The author, and many like him, fail to supply a true motive for President Bush’s decision to invade. If the WMD motive was known to be false, what was the real purpose? Stealing oil? If so where is it? To give Cheney’s buddies at KBR contracts? Where’s the evidence for that?

    • Just Another Taxpayer 30 October, 2014 at 17:36 Reply

      “2) The author, and many like him, fail to supply a true motive for President Bush’s decision to invade. If the WMD motive was known to be false, what was the real purpose? Stealing oil? If so where is it? ”

      I concur it is a well written article, but it is somewhat narrow in its scope concerning the climate of the area at the time.

      Looking at this in the context of world politics it had to be done and the Bush administration had to take the hit. America, despite its bloodlust at the time due to 9-11, would never have agreed to go to war with Iraq over oil; especially when it wasn’t to directly benefit the nation, but rather to deny the resource to other nations.

      There is a very good book on the political climate just prior to 9-11 and the events leading up to OIF. It outlines some things that most people refuse to accept and even in light of recent events will still refuse to accept.

      Russia is no one’s friend, in the 80’s and early 90’s the USA used economic strategies to break the USSR. Since that time Russia has rebuilt itself with natural resources, ironically (or perhaps not) at the expense of its citizens.

      Now they control the majority of natural gas going into Europe and can leverage this against USA allies. Prior to 9-11 an assassination attempt against Saddam was countered with the help of USA Intelligence. Ironically it is surmised the intent was to create a situation much like what is currently going on in the region (Ukraine, Syria, Iraq). This would have provided an opportunity for a “sympathetic” country to come in and “assist” the Kurds while providing “security” for the northern oil fields.

      IMHO I believe what occurred as a calculated risk; if a WMD program was found then great, if not then the off-going administration takes a hit and allows the USA to cleanse its conscience and say “we were misled”. When I deployed to Iraq I knew exactly why I was there; although evidence was found Saddam was funding a WMD program (however the directors we embezzling and never appeared to go beyond research into development), I never believed that was the primary reason for being there. It was simply an excuse the American public in its want for payback would willingly accept as a justifiable reason to go to war.

      There was so much more wrong with what was occurring when one looks at the involvement of other countries and their activities with Iraq at the time. It was bound to happen at some point and the American government provided a means by which it could be done and allows the American public to keep a clear conscience.

      Again this is just my two cents. Don’t take my word for anything I would encourage everyone to research the matter for themself.

  2. Anonymous 30 October, 2014 at 13:20 Reply

    CM’s article verifies a classified briefing we received at the NSA from a member of the NIC in 2005. He stated, unequivocally, that the NIC did not find any evidence that Saddam Hussein had a viable NBC capability and that Iraq did not have ties with Al Queda. When asked why then did the Administration, i.e. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld (and yes, Powell) state to the world otherwise, he shrugged his shoulders and said “You would have to ask them”. CM clears up the mystery of that with the mention of the unclassified NIE. We only heard that day about the findings of the classified version.

  3. DD 30 October, 2014 at 14:21 Reply

    First, let me speak to the authority the author claims to have based on deploying to Iraq twice in the capacity of a specialist in chemical warfare among other things (whatever the other things means). Having served in Iraq as well I can attest that what one sees, hears, or observes in One part of the country or at a specific time, Bahgdad in 2003 for instance, is not the same experience another has in a different province. And I am not sure what kind of chemical specialist the author was, but the military members of the chemical corps are normally at the unit level and with decontamination units, not sure what his visibility would have been theater wide, especially as a specialist. The bottom line is the radicalization of Islamic terror groups reached a breaking point on 9/11/2001 and the U.S. (Bush Administration) decided to do something about it. The invasion of Iraq was all about needing a rather large presence in the Middle East and the treaty broken by Iraq along with violating dozens of UN sanctions gave us that opportunity. Whether Bush or any of the worlds leaders actually knew that large stockpiles of WMD existed or not is irrelevant…the events of 9/11 demonstrated that the mere possibility that they existed warranted action. But I thank God that we had the right person in the office of President at the right time. Thank you George W.

    • Chris Miller 30 October, 2014 at 18:12 Reply

      The authority of this article is the references it cites in the hyperlinks (plus many additional references not cited which were read on background). It is an article based securely in academic principles of research. It is not based upon ‘the author’s qualifications’ or solely what he heard and saw in two tours in Iraq. It is based upon primary documents, peer-reviewed journal articles, and statements from officials directly involved. It is based in objective fact. However, I can assure you that the author’s qualifications are more than adequate to write on this matter from both an experiential and academic standpoint. And the term ‘specialist’ does not mean Specialist (E-4).

  4. Steve Austin 30 October, 2014 at 15:22 Reply

    This is so hypocritical. The revisionism is going the other way. I was there 3 times. We found uranium. We found mustard gas and anthrax labs.
    Ask the people that were there.

      • C Martel 30 October, 2014 at 16:19 Reply

        In fact we did. I was there and saw it. 550 Tons of yellowcake was transported to Canada. NBC (among others) reported that in 2008. Read the Iraqi Perspectives Project and you’ll see that the Iraqi generals thought they had both a nuclear and a chemical program. If they fooled their own leaders, how would Bush have known better?

  5. Anthony Samuelson 30 October, 2014 at 15:34 Reply

    This sounds a lot like the DNC banging the drum. This was part of their dialog 8 years ago. Since there are no strong Dem candidates for the next presidential election, they might be reving up the old machines. They had a lot of these low level “writers” dropping little articles like this all over the internet.
    Unfortunately, most voters are tired of the “It’s Bush’s fault” diatribe.

    Bottom line for the war in Iraq, the Saddam regime was funding terrorist organizations all over the world. His administration had issued bounties on the heads of US and Israeli soldiers to the tune of $15,000 and $10,000 US dollars. There is rock-solid conclusive evidence that he was putting massive resources into developing nuclear and chemical weapons and some evidence that he have made some progress. The talking point is to define the level of evidence needed to “support Bush.” If you want a smoking missile silo you might have trouble finding that level of evidence in and known nuclear country. Doesn’t mean it isn’t there e.g. North Korea, Israel, India, Iran, etc

    • Bruce 30 October, 2014 at 16:08 Reply

      Well, it sounds like you’re banging the RNC forgetfulness drum. The question at the time was whether Iraq’s WMD program was an imminent threat to the United States. This article provides multiple documentation that Bush administrations assertions of this were not true and the “truth” was wrongfully adjusted for public consumption.

      If it had been confirmed that an active WMD program was in place in Iraq when we invaded, it seems to me unlikely that the multiple inspection teams roaming the Iraq countryside would not have found it – and they did not. If they had, why did Bush not trumpet the fact to the American public? He did not.

      Bottom line: Bush’s adventure into Iraq killed and maimed more Americans than Al Qaida could have hoped to accomplish on their own. Americans continue to suffer from the wounds they received there and America will continue to bleed financially from the costs of their care until the day the last veteran dies – by one estimate as much as six trillion dollars. Bush deceived us: Saddam was not an imminent threat to the United States.

  6. Keith Townsley 30 October, 2014 at 16:17 Reply

    In 2006 while serving in Iraq, at least one sarin rocket exploded over us. We were acutely aware of the smell and were ordered not to touch the exploded fragments. In briefings I saw slides/photographs of dozens of sarin and mustard gas artillery shells. I later sent an email to Sen. McCain asking why (since it was common knowledge among the brass that they “WMDs” were there) why it wasn’t made public (released to the press). I never received a response from the senator.

    In retrospect, we “lost” when Obama pulled out without leaving the needed residual force of 20,000 troops. The fight against ISIS in Syria is mind boggling. Supporting the Kurds is noble. Maintaining a NATO alliance with Turkey is problematic. Since Islamists blindly believe they will prevail, defeating Islamists is only possible through overwhelming destruction (short of using nuclear weapons) not through surgical strikes. It is precisely the humanity of the West that is its biggest weakness.

    We can continue to blame Bush for the world’s ills or we can follow through with a new policy in the Middle East, supporting our friends, strengthening our borders and increasing petroleum production to end any dependence by us or our NATO allies on Arab oil.

    • Bruce 30 October, 2014 at 18:27 Reply

      According to the references I have seen. Sarin – at least in its pure state – is odorless. One reference said it had a weak fruity odor, though based on the vapor toxicity data I saw on-line, the smeller would likely have been killed in the smell test.

    • J 20 July, 2015 at 17:07 Reply

      *…or we can follow through with a new policy in the Middle East*

      Oh I very much agree. So, by ‘new policy’ I suggest complete military non-involvement. It’s the one thing we have NOT tried.

  7. Scott Blue 30 October, 2014 at 18:13 Reply

    It is one thing to try and discredit the US Intelligence agencies assessment of WMDs and quite another to discredit the assessments of the majority of Western Intelligence agencies all agreeing that there was evidence of Iraqi WMD development. Please explain how the US was responsible for coercing the Coalition States into agreeing with the US Intelligence Assessment. It is unprofessional and academically dishonest to rewrite history based on ones political bias.

    • Chris Miller 30 October, 2014 at 18:22 Reply

      It is academically dishonest of you to state that Western intelligence agencies agreed there was evidence. They did not. The state of knowledge in ‘Western Intelligence’ at the time between Saddam’s ejection of IAEA inspectors up to 2002 of Iraq’s unconventional weapons capability was that they did not know. Many made assessments/estimates that it was likely or there was a possibility Saddam had returned to and carried on with weapons development. But they all freely admitted they did not know with any certainty. They were guessing. So when they actually went to collect hard intelligence on Saddam’s WMD, they could find no evidence he had any. Don’t talk about academic or professional dishonesty unless you have your facts straight. Western intelligence agencies were willing to guess Saddam had WMD capabilities, but when they collected actual intelligence on the question, it showed clearly there was no evidence to support it. Get your facts straight. Don’t distort history.

    • Chris Miller 30 October, 2014 at 21:18 Reply

      And further, as the article states, U.S. intelligence stated clearly that it did not find evidence Saddam possessed WMD. However, this finding was never presented clearly and unequivocally to Congress. It was their own fault for not doing their jobs properly, but it was also a result of efforts by the Bush administration to cloud the issue. U.S. intelligence did what it was supposed to do. It was the policymakers that failed. This was not an ‘intelligence failure’; it was a ‘policy failure.’

    • J 20 July, 2015 at 17:08 Reply

      Please explain how the US was responsible for coercing the Coalition States into agreeing with the US Intelligence Assessment. *

      I mean, c’mon, we can’t be held responsible if other people actually *believe* our lies, can we?

  8. CER 31 October, 2014 at 14:25 Reply

    CM,
    My original question still stands. If you posit that the Bush Admin manufactured intelligence to support its invasion of Iraq, then what was the real motive if not WMD? The answer is crucial to your argument because you assert (or imply) that President Bush was dishonest in presenting the case for invasion, rather than simply mistaken about the WMD intelligence. So, what was the real motive and where is your evidence of it?

    Thanks.

    • Chris Miller 31 October, 2014 at 15:45 Reply

      CER, the purpose of intelligence is to speak the truth to power. It is an objective fact that the case as presented by the Bush administration was untrue. The “intelligence” they claimed to have was false, willful misrepresentation. What George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith’s (not to mention scores of other senior officials) motives were, I do not know. And it is in fact WHOLLY IRRELEVANT to my assertion. Motive does not matter. This is not Colombo.

      They said Saddam had WMD, but U.S. intelligence said he did not. So they made up their own intelligence and distorted existing estimates and presented a false picture to Congress. I don’t care what the motive was. It does not matter. If you want to know, ask them. The point is Saddam did not have WMD. U.S. intelligence knew that before the invasion. The war was pursued and authorized on false pretenses. I don’t know and don’t care what the motives were; the fact it was a lie is all that matters. The lie and the distortion of intelligence is enough to condemn the action.

  9. CER 3 November, 2014 at 14:46 Reply

    CM,
    I respectfully disagree. Motive/intent is relevant when you are alleging deceit instead of error. In order for the reader to accept your premise that Bush lied and did not simply choose the wrong intelligence to believe, you (as the author) must complete the argument by telling us why he lied. Otherwise, you are still at conjecture. If you believe Bush lied to get us into war, I encourage you to find out the reason and write that article. Looking forward to it.

    CER

    • Chris Miller 3 November, 2014 at 18:32 Reply

      We’ll have to agree to disagree. The findings of the Department of Defense’s Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence (linked in the article) lays out the fact that the administration improperly created its own intelligence analysis organs within DoD which picked up intelligence that had been roundly rejected and discredited by the rest of the intelligence community and repackaged it for its own purposes. In other words, it took rejected intelligence, rearranged it, and presented it as evidence, something it was not authorized to do. The report does not consider motive. Motive is immaterial. It does not matter why, simply the fact that it purposely repackaged and re-used rejected intel is enough to show they were willfully distributing false intelligence. It doesn’t matter why; it only matters that it happened. It is fact. My article is based upon the DoD’s own internal investigation. Anyone who attempts to explain motive can only base their argument on conjecture. I’m not concerned with conjecture, though you appear to be.

  10. Frank B 4 November, 2014 at 06:47 Reply

    It seems that no one knew for certain or not if Hussein had WMDs since Hans Blix was kicked out of the country before he was finished with his search. He stated it would take weeks, not months to conclude. Actually I forget, it may have been months, not years he stated. Nevertheless, the country is so vast that secret underground facilities could have existed and not be found. I lived in Saudi Arabia for 8 years associated with the military and know that they have vast, hidden underground storage caverns in the desert. Recall the late news that the Israelis did not know of the hundreds of tunnels they had to destroy. And whose intelligence is better then theirs?

  11. CER 4 November, 2014 at 15:13 Reply

    CM,
    We must indeed agree to disagree. How do you distinguish deceit from mistake except by one’s motive? For the sake of argument, I won’t take issue with your facts. However, I do take issue with your conclusion that he lied. Perhaps Bush did lie. But, to what end? The answer to that question is relevant to your conclusion, it seems to me.

    • Chris Miller 4 November, 2014 at 16:47 Reply

      It would be interesting to know why and his motives. I’m not disputing that. But no one besides GW Bush himself knows what his motives were. Anyone else is just guessing. In a court of law, if GW Bush had sold us a product using information he knew was false and knew that we were going to rely on it, then he would be guilty of fraudulent misrepresentation. His administration repackaged intelligence the IC had collected, evaluated, and rejected as unreliable. The OSP & PCTEG knew this when they did it. It’s the same if I tried to sell you a lemon car I know is a junker and made specific representations to you as to its quality and answered your questions falsely, understanding you would believe me. If GW Bush were a used car salesman, he’d be guilty of a crime. Instead, he’s a President and can get away with it by saying ‘we were fooled’. No, they did the fooling. Like Bush could never get right: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

  12. CER 5 November, 2014 at 13:31 Reply

    If Bush lies to sell me a lemon, I know his motive is money. Motive is the difference between murder and causing an accidental death.

    Analyzed differently: If wars are indeed started by honor, profit or fear, where does W’s action fit? If he lied to take us to war, what was his purpose in doing so? Being unable to reconcile W’s false statements in this broader context has made me hesitant to call him a rascal and a liar. Perhaps he lied but truly thought Saddam was a threat (fear). Perhaps his judgment was colored too much by 9-11. I need answers to these questions before I call him a scoundrel.

    My friend, I don’t think we are going to agree on this one.

    CER

    • Chris Miller 5 November, 2014 at 14:11 Reply

      We are not going to agree. Some crimes require a certain state of mind. Others do not. Bush clearly had some motive. I don’t think he just rolled some dice and ‘invade Iraq’ came up. But my point is that the evidence presented was a lie and they knew that. Bush was wrong on WMD. He and his administration knew it themselves when they presented the information. Bush had a motive. What it was I don’t know and it is immaterial to the fact that it was a lie that Iraq had live WMD & programs in 2002/3. Whatever the reason for the lie was, it is irrelevant. The fact that his administration willfully misled Congress and the American people is enough to call him a scoundrel (just like any politician who does the same). The only reason motive would matter to someone is if they are attempting to justify his actions after the fact. I’m not interested in justifying it afterwards. I agree that we won’t agree.

  13. Strategyman 26 November, 2014 at 16:13 Reply

    I recall a 1998 report from the House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism state that the international community was incapable of fully understanding the scope of WMD programs in Iraq. Since Intelligence on Iraq was somewhat conflicting prior to the invasion, leaders made decisions based on what they knew at that time, which included prior precedence with that regime. To pound home your point that Bush was completely wrong is just so easy after the fact. Only time and non-political historians will determine whether going into Iraq was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the real mistakes have been post invasion, but that is for other analysts to opine!

    • Chris Miller 26 November, 2014 at 16:24 Reply

      Real, hard intelligence on Iraq’s WMD (a term I hate) capabilities during the late 90s up to 9/11 was not conflicted–it was non-existent. Basically, the Clinton administration considered Saddam contained and spent little to no time on him and their estimates were based on reasonable conjecture that there was a real possibility that after ejecting IAEA inspectors Saddam had attempted to restart his WMD programs. But it was conjecture, not fact. They had no sources inside Baghdad. However, in 2001/2002 the intel community was asked to find current, actionable, hard intelligence on Iraq’s WMD, and they found none. They tried. They spoke to Iraqi scientists and they said there were programs on paper, but nothing in reality. The USIC kept feeding the lack of evidence back to the Bush administration. But they didn’t want to hear that. That’s why Vice President Cheney and I. Lewis Libby’s famous multiple grillings of analysts happened. That’s where the ‘absence of proof is not proof of absence’ idea from Team B and the 1970s came in. They said ‘you can’t find any proof of WMD, but we still assume it is there.’ That goes against practice. All of the intelligence in the 2001/2002 period that was at all credible said Iraq didn’t have continuing WMD programs. There was a bunch of junk, discredited information that said they might. But the administration refused to abandon the unsupported assumption that it did. It wasn’t based on information or intelligence–in was simply an assumption. We can’t go to war or base national security policy on unsupported assertions or assumptions. The decision to go to war in Iraq was not a case of making a solid decision based upon evidence available at the time; the decision was knowingly based upon shoddy, untrustworthy information that supported an assumption for which there was no evidence. It was wholly unnecessary and goes against all good practice in any type of security decision-making.

      • Strategyman 27 November, 2014 at 15:43 Reply

        Sorry Chris, but decision-makers do not have crystal balls to decide when or when not to take military action! You are basing many of your remarks on post invasion findings…easy to do. A great case in point is this current Administration’s decision to pull all the troops out of Iraq when it was on its way to some stability. Why would the President do that? That decision could have significant ramifications for the U.S. and its Allies. Administrations base their decisions on what “they” think is the best course of action, hopefully in the interests of National Security. You absolutely do not know whether going into Iraq was the wrong decision, and you are putting all your eggs into the WMD basket, which at that time was unknown even though you want to believe it was. All the intelligence assets out there even today would not have been able to determine unequivocally that Iraq did not pose a WMD or other threat to National Security.

        • Chris Miller 28 November, 2014 at 12:09 Reply

          Sorry, Strategyman, You are wrong. It was not a matter of ‘We didn’t know’ if Iraq had WMD. You are mischaracterizing the state of the intelligence in 2002. All of the intelligence showed Iraq did NOT have WMD. Only poorly-sourced, non-credible intelligence suggested any possibility they did. Your last sentence is a perfect example of what they did wrong. It was not the job to disprove Iraq did not have WMD, but rather to prove that they did. You can’t simply make an assertion based on no evidence and then say its up to someone else to disprove it. That makes no sense. Especially when the decision is to go to war.

  14. Stephen 7 January, 2015 at 18:42 Reply

    Is the United States of America and its allies that took part in the Iraq 2003 war terrorists? Why are they any better than Al Qaeda? Depending on which statistics you look at there were up to 2 million people injured and murdered during that war. Wouldn’t surprise me if Al Qaeda haven’t been responsible for so much human damage.

    When will humanity learn that violence doesn’t solve problems.

    It just creates new ones!

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