Wednesday :: Jun 11, 2003

Wednesday Morning "Bush Lied About WMDs" Update

by Steve

Several items on the Iraq/WMD front this morning are of interest. First, Hans Blix lashed out at both the Bush Administration and Saddam Hussein in one of his last interviews before he heads into retirement.

Speaking exclusively to the Guardian from his 31st floor office at the UN in New York, Mr. Blix said: "I have my detractors in Washington. There are bastards who spread things around, of course, who planted nasty things in the media. Not that I cared very much.

In a wide-ranging interview Mr. Blix, who retires in three weeks' time, accused:

The Bush administration of leaning on his inspectors to produce more damning language in their reports;

"Some elements" of the Pentagon of being behind a smear campaign against him; and

Washington of regarding the UN as an "alien power" which they hoped would sink into the East River.

Asked if he believed he had been the target of a deliberate smear campaign he said: "Yes, I probably was at a lower level."

Before he had even flown to Iraq to relaunch the sensitive weapons inspections after a four-year hiatus last November, senior US defence department officials were excoriating the septuagenarian as the worst possible choice for the post.
A lot of the sniping "surely came" from the Pentagon, said Mr. Blix, who has since won plaudits for his handling of the unenviable brief of divining whether Iraq had disarmed.

Staff attached to the UN monitoring and inspection commission, headed by the Swede for the past three years, openly say there is no love lost between hawks in the Bush administration and their mission.

Mr. Blix, a former foreign minister, prefers to remain sanguine. "By and large my relations with the US were good," he said, reiterating his belief that the Iraqi regime would likely never have complied with any of the UN resolutions around disarmament had it not been for the presence of 200,000 US troops in the region.

"But towards the end the [Bush] administration leaned on us," he conceded, hoping the inspectors would employ more damning language in their reports to swing votes on the UN Security Council.

He said Washington's disappointment at not getting UN backing for an attack was "one reason why you find skepticism towards inspectors".

Similarly it would be much more "credible" if a team of international inspectors were sent into Iraq instead of the 1,300-strong US-appointed group now conducting the search for weapons of mass destruction, he said.

Some bitterness from Blix is understandable, as is some “I told you so” at the continuing failure to find an imminent WMD capability.

Secondly, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the CIA is trying to distance itself from Bush’s claims of a Hussein/Al Queda link. Since the Administration has adopted this “hide behind the Intel guys” defense, we can expect more and more efforts from the CIA to set the record straight.

The debunking of the Bush administration's pre-war certainties on Iraq gathered pace yesterday when it emerged that the CIA knew for months that a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida was highly unlikely. As President George Bush was forced for the second time in days to defend the decision to go to war, a new set of leaks from CIA officials suggested a tendency in the White House to suppress or ignore intelligence findings which did not shore up the case for war. The interrogation reports of two senior al-Qaida members, both in US custody, showed that the CIA had reason to doubt the allegations of a connection between Saddam's regime and the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Such assertions, promoted vigorously by the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, were used as an additional justification for war, after the central argument that Iraq's arsenal of banned weapons posed an imminent danger.
The charge of a link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam was contentious even at the time, and yesterday's report in the New York Times that the two al-Qaida members, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, dismissed the idea deepened the impression that Americans had been deliberately misled to support the decision for war.

In recent days that impression has become sufficiently widespread to put officials on the defensive.

Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March last year, told his CIA interrogators that Bin Laden had considered and then rejected the idea of working with Saddam because he did not want to be in the Iraqi leader's debt.
His information was supported on the eve of war after Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan on March 1. Mohammed, who had been al-Qaida's chief of operations, told the CIA the group did not work with Saddam.

While the CIA shared its interrogation record of Zubaydah with other intelligence agencies, it did not release its conclusions to the public.
That omission could prove extremely damaging to the administration because it suggests that officials ignored intelligence that did not fit with their plans for Iraq.

"This gets to the serious question of to what extent did they try to align the facts with the conclusions that they wanted," an intelligence official told the New York Times.

"Things pointing in one direction were given a lot of weight, and other things were discounted."

Of note is the “intelligence official” that gave the damning assessment to the NY Times. This indicates that at least one person on the inside has already started the CYA effort and probably won’t stop talking, now that a pipeline to the NYT has been set up for use whenever Tenet sees fit.

Third, as of this morning, the GOP is doing its expected best to squash a formal Intelligence Committee investigation into the misuse of intelligence data for political purposes. Senator Pat Roberts is starting the cover-up by asserting that it is premature for a formal investigation at this point, even though Carl Levin, Jay Rockefeller, and now John McCain are supportive. There are rumors already this morning that the GOP’s resistance on this is about to break.

Fourth, Terry Neal in the Washington Post this morning makes the obvious observation that the WMD story will become a campaign issue next year. Yet he goes on to state falsely that the Democrats will have a hard time making an argument on this because most of the current candidates supported the war. However, Democrats assumed when they voted that the reasons Bush gave, namely an imminent threat, were backed up by the intelligence data. As such, if I were advising a Democratic candidate right now, I would have no problem making that argument, that I supported the war for the reasons given, assuming we weren’t being lied to about a purported imminent threat.

Lastly, Tony Blair is going to try and ride out the storm in England by shunning the Parliamentary inquiry into the WMD lies. This may be a big mistake.

Steve :: 9:31 AM :: Comments (23) :: Digg It!