Even before the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, intelligence analysts in both the United States and Britain questioned the public rationale used by President George W. Bush to justify the war, expressing fear the intel community was shaping their reports to fit the President’s pre-determined, and erroneous, conclusions.
As Walter Pincus reports in Sunday’s Washington Post, “on Jan. 24, 2003, four days before President Bush delivered his State of the Union address presenting the case for war against Iraq, the National Security Council staff put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or programs.
“The person receiving the request, Robert Walpole, then the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, would later tell investigators that ‘the NSC believed the nuclear case was weak,’ according to a 500-page report released last year by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
“It has been clear since the September report of the Iraq Survey Group — a CIA-sponsored weapons search in Iraq — that the United States would not find the weapons of mass destruction cited by Bush as the rationale for going to war against Iraq. But as the Walpole episode suggests, it appears that even before the war many senior intelligence officials in the government had doubts about the case being trumpeted in public by the president and his senior advisers.
“The question of prewar intelligence has been thrust back into the public eye with the disclosure of a secret British memo showing that, eight months before the March 2003 start of the war, a senior British intelligence official reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that U.S. intelligence was being shaped to support a policy of invading Iraq.
“Moreover, a close reading of the recent 600-page report by the president’s commission on intelligence, and the previous report by the Senate panel, shows that as war approached, many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein’s alleged weapons programs.”
Such reports continue to raise questions about the honesty of the President, says Robert Perry on ConsortiumNews.Com:
“More than two years and 1,600 dead U.S. soldiers later, George W. Bush’s defenders concede Iraq may not have had weapons of mass destruction, but the defenders still get their backs up when someone accuses Bush of lying. A mistake maybe, but a lie never!
“That defense is anchored in their assessment of Bush’s fundamental decency as a born-again Christian who would never knowingly mislead the American people, especially on something as important as sending U.S. soldiers off to war.
“Which is why it’s important to look at Bush’s assertions about his supposed desire to avert the war through good-faith diplomacy in late 2002 and early 2003. Since the entire world watched those events unfold, the known facts can be matched against the more recent words of Bush and his senior advisers.
“If Bush has lied about that pre-war history as a way to justify his actions – especially after the WMD rationale collapsed – it follows that he shouldn’t be trusted on much of anything about the war. That’s especially true when contemporaneous records contradict his version of the facts.”
The infamous Downing Street Memo, which documents how intelligence was altered to fit the story that both Bush and Blair sold their governments to justify the war is being called The Smoking Gun that some believe could bring down the Bush White House.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution puts it bluntly:
“In the summer and fall of 2002, President Bush repeatedly and solemnly pledged to the American people that he hoped war against Iraq would never be necessary.
“He hoped that Saddam Hussein would allow U.N. inspectors to return to Iraq, the president told us, so war could be avoided. He hoped further that those inspections would prove that Saddam had indeed given up his weapons of mass destruction, so we would not have to send American boys and girls off to fight and die.
“It was all a charade. Saddam allowed the inspectors to return; they found no sign of WMD or WMD programs — yet war came anyway.
‘Early this month, a top-secret British memo was published in a London newspaper. The document’s legitimacy has not been questioned. It recounts a top-secret discussion in July 2002 among British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his closest aides.
‘The memo reveals in frank, clear language what the highest-ranking British leaders were being told at the time by their counterparts in Washington.
‘The American people were being told that war would be avoided at all costs, that it would come only if Saddam gave us no choice. British leaders were being told that the decision had already been made, that ‘Bush had made up his mind to take military action.'”
Douglas Jehl, writing in The New York Times, says the memo is energizing critics of the Bush administration:
“More than two weeks after its publication in London, a previously secret British government memorandum that reported in July 2002 that President Bush had decided to ‘remove Saddam, through military action’ is still creating a stir among administration critics. They are portraying it as evidence that Mr. Bush was intent on war with Iraq earlier than the White House has acknowledged.
“Eighty-nine House Democrats wrote to the White House to ask whether the memorandum, first disclosed by The Sunday Times on May 1, accurately reported the administration’s thinking at the time, eight months before the American-led invasion. The letter, drafted by Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said the British memorandum of July 23, 2002, if accurate, ‘raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own administration.’
“It has long been known that American military planning for the Iraq war began as early as Nov. 21, 2001, after President Bush directed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to begin a review of what would be required to oust Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader. By July 2002, the war planning was sufficiently advanced that newspaper accounts that month reported details of some of what was being considered.”
David Michael Green, a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York, says the renewed controversy is just more proof that the Bush administration “lies for a living.”
“As the drumbeat grows louder, the White House finally decided to comment on the Downing Street Memo,” Green writes for Common Dreams.
“But only in typical Bush administration fashion. Which means rhetorical games, little lies, and big ones hidden in the context of what is said and not said.
“So, for example, when White House spokesman Scott McClellan finally responded to questions put to him over the last week about the memo, he of course said that he hadn’t read it. That’s really rich. It’s a bombshell, they know it’s a bombshell, he’s getting peppered with questions about it every day, various media around the country are picking up the story, and it was a huge factor in the British election on May 5th, splashed all over the media there. And we’re supposed to believe that the White House press secretary hasn’t read a two page memo?”