The Iraq war, which was predicated on the existence of
weapons of mass destruction (WMD), has resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000
US troops and has cost taxpayers roughly half-a-trillion dollars.
The invasion of Iraq was conceived prior to 9/11, according
to Paul O'Neill, President Bush's former Treasury Secretary. Intelligence
gathered by US agencies that claimed Iraq possessed WMD was cooked to justify a
In his book, The Price of Loyalty, journalist Ron Suskind interviewed O'Neill who said that the Iraq
war was planned just days after the president was sworn into office.
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that
Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," O'Neill told
Suskind, adding that going after Saddam Hussein was a priority 10 days after
Bush's inauguration and eight months before Sept. 11.
"From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It
was about what we can do to change this regime," Suskind said. "Day
one, these things were laid and sealed."
As treasury secretary, O'Neill was a permanent member of the
National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting
that questions such as "Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were
O'Neill was fired from his post for disagreeing with Bush's
economic policies. In typical White House fashion, senior administration
officials have labeled O'Neill a "disgruntled employee," whose latest
remarks are "laughable" and have no basis in reality.
A little known article in the January 11, 2001, edition of
the New York Times, titled "Iraq Is Focal Point as Bush Meets with Joint
Chiefs," confirms that the administration was working on a plan to topple
Saddam Hussein's regime.
"George W. Bush, the nation's commander in chief to be,
went to the Pentagon today for a top-secret session with the Joint Chiefs of
Staff to review hot spots around the world where he might have to send American
forces into harm's way," the Times story says.
Bush was joined at the Pentagon meeting by Dick Cheney,
Colin L. Powell, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice.
The Times reported that "half of the 75-minute meeting
focused on a discussion about Iraq and the Persian Gulf, two participants said.
Iraq was the first topic briefed because 'it's the most visible and most risky
area Mr. Bush will confront after he takes office, one senior officer
"Iraqi policy is very much on his mind," one
senior Pentagon official told the Times. "Saddam was clearly a discussion
WMD cited for "bureaucratic reasons"
On September13, 2001, during a meeting at Camp David with
President Bush, Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials, Wolfowitz
said he discussed with President Bush the prospects of launching an attack
against Iraq, for no apparent reason other than a �gut feeling� Saddam Hussein
was involved in the attacks, and there was a debate �about what place if any
Iraq should have in a counter terrorist strategy.�
�On the surface of the debate it at least appeared to be
about not whether but when,� Wolfowitz said during a May 9, 2003 interview with
Vanity Fair, a transcript
of which is posted on the Department of Defense website. �There seemed to
be a kind of agreement that yes it should be, but the disagreement was whether
it should be in the immediate response or whether you should concentrate simply
on Afghanistan first . . ."the decision to highlight weapons of mass
destruction as the main justification for going to war in Iraq was taken for
bureaucratic reasons. . . ."
When the United Nations chose Hans Blix, the chief United
Nations weapons inspector, in January 2002 to lead a team of U.N. weapons
inspectors into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, Wolfowitz
contacted the CIA to produce a report on why Blix, as chief of the
International Atomic Energy Agency during the 1980s and 1990s, failed to detect
Iraqi nuclear activity, according to an April 15, 2002, report in the
The CIA report said Blix "had conducted inspections of
Iraq's declared nuclear power plants fully within the parameters he could
operate as chief of the Vienna-based agency between 1981 and 1997,"
according to the Post.
Wolfowitz, according to the Post, quoting a former State
Department official familiar with the report, "hit the ceiling"
because it failed to provide sufficient ammunition to undermine Blix and, by
association, the new U.N. weapons inspection program."
"The request for a CIA investigation underscored the
degree of concern by Wolfowitz and his civilian colleagues in the Pentagon that
new inspections � or protracted negotiations over them � could torpedo their
plans for military action to remove Hussein from power," the Post
Blix accused the Bush administration of launching a smear
campaign against him because he did not find evidence of WMD in Iraq and, he
said, he refused to pump up his reports to the U.N. about Iraq's WMD programs.
In a June 11 interview with the London Guardian newspaper,
Blix said "U.S. officials pressured him to use more damning language when
reporting on Iraq's alleged weapons programs."
"By and large my relations with the U.S. were good,''
Blix told the Guardian. "But toward the end the (Bush) administration
leaned on us.'"
The White House Iraq Group
The Bush administration needed a vehicle to market a war
with Iraq. In August 2002, Bush's former Chief of Staff Andrew Card formed the
White House Iraq Group (WHIG) to publicize the so-called threat posed by Saddam
Hussein. The WHIG was not only responsible for selling the Iraq war, but it
took great pains to discredit anyone who openly disagreed with the official Iraq
The group's members included Deputy White House Chief of
Staff Karl Rove, Bush's former advisor Karen Hughes, then Senior Advisor to the
Vice President Mary Matalin, former Deputy Director of Communications James
Wilkinson, Assistant to the President and Legislative Liaison Nicholas Calio,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley
and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to the vice president
and co-author of the administration's preemptive strike policy. Rice was later
appointed secretary of state; her deputy, Hadley, became national security
advisor. Wilkinson departed to become a spokesman for the military's central
command, and later for the Republican National Convention.
Rove chaired the group's meetings. Moreover, Rove's
"strategic communications" task force, operating inside the group,
was instrumental in writing and coordinating speeches by senior Bush
administration officials, highlighting in September 2002 that Iraq was a
nuclear threat, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal in October
Another member of WHIG, John Hannah, along with former
Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle, Under Secretary of Defense Douglas
Feith and Wolfowitz, were interviewed by FBI officials in 2004, according to a
report in the Washington Post, to determine if they were involved in leaking US
security secrets to Israel, former head of the Iraqi National Congress Ahmed
Chalabi, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
"A senior official who participated in its work called
it "an internal working group, like many formed for priority issues, to
make sure each part of the White House was fulfilling its
responsibilities," according to an August 10, 2003, Washington Post investigative
report on the group's inner workings.
"Formed in August 2002, the group, which included
Messrs. [Karl] Rove and [Lewis] Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling
the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003
invasion," the Journal reported.
During its very first meetings, Card's Iraq group ordered a
series of white papers showing Iraq's alleged arms violations. The first paper,
"A Grave and Gathering Danger: Saddam Hussein's Quest for Nuclear
Weapons," was never published. However, the paper was drafted with the
assistance of experts from the National Security Council and Cheney's office.
"In its later stages, the draft white paper coincided
with production of a National Intelligence Estimate and its unclassified
summary. But the WHIG, according to three officials who followed the white
paper's progress, wanted gripping images and stories not available in the
hedged and austere language of intelligence," according to the Washington
Judith Miller, aluminum tubes, and the mushroom
The group relied heavily on New York Times reporter Judith
Miller, who, after meeting with several of the organization's members in August
2002, wrote an explosive story that many critics of the war believe laid the
groundwork for military action against Iraq.
On Sunday, September 8, 2002, Miller wrote a story for the
Times, quoting anonymous officials who said aluminum tubes found in Iraq were
to be used as centrifuges. Her report said the "diameter, thickness and
other technical specifications" of the tubes -- precisely the grounds for
skepticism among nuclear enrichment experts -- showed that they were
"intended as components of centrifuges."
She closed her piece by quoting then-National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who said the United States would not sit by and wait
to find a smoking gun to prove its case, possibly in the form of a "a
mushroom cloud." After Miller's piece was published, administration
officials pursued their case on Sunday talk shows, using Miller's piece as evidence
that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear bomb, even though those officials were the
ones who supplied Miller with the story and were quoted anonymously.
Rice's comments on CNN's "Late Edition" reaffirmed
Miller's story Rice said that Saddam Hussein was "actively pursuing a
nuclear weapon" and that the tubes -- described repeatedly in US
intelligence reports as "dual-use" items -- were "only really
suited for nuclear weapons programs . . . centrifuge programs."
Cheney, on NBC's "Meet the Press," also mentioned
the aluminum tubes story in the Times and said "increasingly, we believe
the United States will become the target" of an Iraqi atomic bomb. Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on CBS's "Face the Nation," asked
viewers to "imagine a September 11th with weapons of mass
The Cincinnati speech
In October 2002, President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati
and spoke about the imminent threat Iraq posed to the U.S. because of the
country's alleged ties with al-Qaeda and its endless supply of chemical and
"Surveillance photos reveal that the (Iraqi) regime is
rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological
weapons," Bush said. "Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely
range of hundreds of miles -- far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel,
Turkey, and other nations -- in a region where more than 135,000 American
civilians and service members live and work. We've 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. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS
for missions targeting the United States. And, of course, sophisticated
delivery systems aren't required for a chemical or biological attack; all that
might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence
operative to deliver it."
Also in October 2002, then Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld ordered the military's regional commanders to rewrite all of their war
plans to capitalize on precision weapons, better intelligence, and speedier
deployment in the event the United States decided to invade Iraq.
The goal, Rumsfeld said, was to use fewer ground troops, a
move that caused dismay among some in the military who said concern for the
troops requires overwhelming numerical superiority to assure victory.
Those predictions have been borne out over the past five
Rumsfeld refused to listen to his military commanders,
saying that his plan would allow "the military to begin combat operations
on less notice and with far fewer troops than thought possible -- or thought
wise -- before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks," the New York Times
reported in its October 13, 2002, edition.
"Looking at what was overwhelming force a decade or two
decades ago, today you can have overwhelming force, conceivably, with lesser
numbers because the lethality is equal to or greater than before,"
Rumsfeld told the Times.
Rumsfeld said too many of the military plans on the shelves
of the regional war-fighting commanders were freighted with outdated
assumptions and military requirements, which have changed with the advent of
new weapons and doctrines.
It has been a mistake, he said, to measure the quantity of
forces required for a mission and "fail to look at lethality, where you
end up with precision-guided munitions, which can give you 10 times the
lethality that a dumb weapon might, as an example," according to the Times
Through a combination of pre-deployments, faster cargo ships
and a larger fleet of transport aircraft, the military would be able to deliver
"fewer troops but in a faster time that would allow you to have
concentrated power that would have the same effect as waiting longer with what
a bigger force might have," Rumsfeld said.
Critics in the military said there were several reasons to
deploy a force of overwhelming numbers before starting any offensive with Iraq.
Large numbers illustrate US resolve and can intimidate Iraqi forces into laying
down their arms or even turning against Hussein's government.
The new approach for how the US might go to war, Rumsfeld
said in a speech in 2002, reflects an assessment of the need after 9/11 to
refresh war plans continuously and to respond faster to threats from terrorists
and nations possessing biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.
Administration tries to silence experts
One of the most vocal opponent of the administration's
prewar Iraq intelligence was David Albright, a former United Nations weapons
inspector and the president and founder of the Institute for Science and
International Security (ISIS), a Washington, D.C.-based group that gathers
information for the public and the White House on nuclear weapons programs.
In a March 10, 2003, report posted on the ISIS website,
Albright accused the CIA of twisting the intelligence related to the aluminum
"The CIA has concluded that these tubes were
specifically manufactured for use in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium,"
Albright said. "Many in the expert community both inside and outside
government, however, do not agree with this conclusion. The vast majority of
gas centrifuge experts in this country and abroad who are knowledgeable about
this case reject the CIA's case and do not believe that the tubes are
specifically designed for gas centrifuges. In addition, International Atomic
Energy Agency inspectors have consistently expressed skepticism that the tubes
are for centrifuges."
"After months of investigation, the administration has
failed to prove its claim that the tubes are intended for use in an Iraqi gas
centrifuge program," Albright added. "Despite being presented with
evidence countering this claim, the administration persists in making misleading
comments about the significance of the tubes."
Albright said he took his concerns about the intelligence
information to White House officials, but was rebuffed and told to keep quiet.
"I first learned of this case a year and a half ago
when I was asked for information about past Iraqi procurements. My reaction at
the time was that the disagreement reflected the typical in-fighting between US
experts that often afflicts the intelligence community. I was frankly surprised
when the administration latched onto one side of this debate in September 2002.
I was told that this dispute had not been mediated by a competent, impartial
technical committee, as it should have been, according to accepted
practice," Albright said. "I became dismayed when a knowledgeable
government scientist told me that the administration could say anything it
wanted about the tubes while government scientists who disagreed were expected
to remain quiet."
Albright said the Department of Energy, which analyzed the
intelligence information on the aluminum tubes and rejected the CIA's
intelligence analysis, is the only government agency in the U.S. that can
provide expert opinions on gas centrifuges (what the CIA alleged the tubes were
being used for) and nuclear weapons programs.
"For over a year and a half, an analyst at the CIA has
been pushing the aluminum tube story, despite consistent disagreement by a wide
range of experts in the United States and abroad," Albright said.
"His opinion, however, obtained traction in the summer of 2002 with senior
members of the Bush Administration, including the President. The administration
was forced to admit publicly that dissenters exist, particularly at the
Department of Energy and its national laboratories."
But Albright said the White House launched an attack against
experts who spoke critically of the intelligence.
"Administration officials try to minimize the number
and significance of the dissenters or unfairly attack them," Albright
said. "For example, when Secretary Powell mentioned the dissent in his
Security Council speech, he said: "Other experts, and the Iraqis
themselves, argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a
conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher." Not surprisingly, an
effort by those at the Energy Department to change Powell's comments before his
appearance was rebuffed by the administration."
Powell remains loyal
The lack of evidence and public blunders by other
high-ranking officials in the Bush administration is endless.
Secretary of State Colin Powell made it clear in an op-ed
piece in the Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2003, two days before his famous
meeting at the U.N. where he presented "evidence" of an Iraqi weapons
program, which turned out to be the empty trailers the U.S. military found
earlier that month, that there was no "smoking gun"
"While there will be no 'smoking gun,' we will provide
evidence concerning the weapons programs that Iraq is working so hard to
hide," Powell said in his op-ed. "We will, in sum, offer a
straightforward, sober and compelling demonstration that Saddam is concealing
the evidence of his weapons of mass destruction, while preserving the weapons
However, Powell did no such thing. Instead, Powell held up a
small vial of powder at the U.N. meeting to illustrate how deadly just a small
vial of anthrax can be and then used that to couch his claims that Iraq's
alleged stockpile of anthrax would be much deadlier.
The same day, February 5, 2003, White House Press Secretary
Ari Fleischer dodged a dozen or so questions about the intelligence information
from sources in Iraq and from the CIA that showed, without any doubt, that Iraq
"I think the reason that we know Saddam Hussein
possesses chemical and biological weapons is from a wide variety of means.
That's how we know," Fleischer said.
The 16 words were false
Eleven days before President Bush's January 28, 2003, State
of the Union address in which he stated that the United States learned from
British intelligence that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from Africa,
the State Department told the CIA that the intelligence the uranium claims were
based upon were forgeries.
The revelation of the warning was contained in a closely
guarded State Department memo. The memo, released in April 2006 under a Freedom
of Information Act request, subsequently became the first piece of hard
evidence and the strongest to date that shows the Bush administration knowingly
manipulated and ignored intelligence information in their zeal to win public
support for invading Iraq.
On January 12, 2003, the State Department's Bureau of
Intelligence and Research (INR) "expressed concerns to the CIA that the
documents pertaining to the Iraq-Niger deal were forgeries," the memo
dated July 7, 2003, says.
Moreover, the memo said that the State Department's doubts
about the veracity of the uranium claims may have been expressed to the
intelligence community even earlier.
Those concerns, according to the memo, are the reasons that
former Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to cite the uranium claims when
he appeared before the United Nations on February 5, 2003, -- one week after
Bush's State of the Union address -- to try and win support for a possible
strike against Iraq.
"After considerable back and forth between the CIA, the
(State) Department, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association), and the
British, Secretary Powell's briefing to the U.N. Security Council did not
mention attempted Iraqi procurement of uranium due to CIA concerns raised
during the coordination regarding the veracity of the information on the
alleged Iraq-Niger agreement," the memo further states.
Iraq's interest in the yellowcake caught the attention of
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Association.
ElBaradei had read a copy of the National Intelligence Estimate and had
personally contacted the State Department and the National Security Council in
hopes of obtaining evidence so his agency could look into it.
Vice President Dick Cheney, who made the rounds on the cable
news shows in March 2003, tried to discredit ElBaradei's conclusion that the
documents were forged.
"I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong," Cheney
said. "[The IAEA] has consistently underestimated or missed what it was
Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more
valid this time than they've been in the past."
As it turns out, ElBaradei was correct, the declassified
State Department showed.
The declassified State Department memo was obtained by The
New York Sun under a Freedom of Information Act request the newspaper filed in
July 2005. The Sun's story, however, did not say anything about the State
Department's warnings more than a week before Bush's State of the Union address
about the bogus Niger documents.
The memo was drafted by Carl Ford, Jr., the former head of
the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, in response to
questions posed in June 2003 by I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice
President Dick Cheney's then chief of staff, about a February 2002 fact-finding
trip to Niger that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson undertook to investigate the
uranium claims on behalf of the CIA.
The ambassador emerges
A day after Bush's January 28, 2003, State of the Union
address, former ambassador Joseph Wilson said he reminded a friend at the State
Department that he had traveled to Niger in February 2002 to investigate
whether Iraq attempted to acquire yellowcake uranium from Niger, according to a
July 6, 2003, Op-Ed he published in the New York Times.
In his book, The Politics of Truth, Wilson's said his State Department
friend replied that "perhaps the president was speaking about one of the
other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or
Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn't know that in
December, a month before the president's address, the State Department had
published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case."
But Wilson was certain that the administration was trying to
sell a war that was based on phony intelligence. In March 2003, Wilson began to
publicly question the administration's use of the Niger claims without
disclosing his role in traveling to Niger in February 2002 to investigate it.
Wilson's criticism of the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence caught the
attention of Cheney, Libby and Hadley.
In an interview that took place two and a half weeks before
the start of the Iraq war, Wilson said the administration was more interested
in redrawing the map of the Middle East to pursue its own foreign policy
objectives than in dealing with the so-called terrorist threat.
"The underlying objective, as I see it -- the more I
look at this -- is less and less disarmament, and it really has little to do
with terrorism, because everybody knows that a war to invade and conquer and
occupy Iraq is going to spawn a new generation of terrorists," Wilson said
in a March 2, 2003, interview with CNN.
"So you look at what's underpinning this, and you go
back and you take a look at who's been influencing the process. And it's been
those who really believe that our objective must be far grander, and that is to
redraw the political map of the Middle East," Wilson added.
During the same CNN segment in which Wilson was interviewed,
former United Nations weapons inspector David Albright made similar comments
about the rationale for the Iraq war and added that he believed UN weapons
inspectors should be given more time to search the country for weapons of mass
A week later, Wilson was interviewed on CNN again. This was
the first time Wilson ridiculed the Bush administration's claim that Iraq had
tried to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger. "Well, this particular
case is outrageous. We know a lot about the uranium business in Niger, and for
something like this to go unchallenged by the US -- the US government -- is
just simply stupid. It would have taken a couple of phone calls. We have had an
embassy there since the early 1960s. All this stuff is open. It's a restricted
market of buyers and sellers," Wilson said in the March 8, 2003, CNN
interview. "For this to have gotten to the IAEA is on the face of it dumb,
but more to the point, it taints the whole rest of the case that the government
is trying to build against Iraq."
Less than two weeks later, on March 19, 2003, the US bombed
Leopold is the author of "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit
www.newsjunkiebook.com for a