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Old March 6th 04, 03:23 PM
Jim
 
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Default ) OT ) Bush's "needless war"

Bush's "needless war"
Accusing the president of "pure, unadulterated fear-mongering," Sen.
Edward Kennedy delivers a scathing indictment of the administration's
case for invading Iraq.

Editor's note: Following are prepared remarks for a speech by Sen.
Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., delivered at the Council on Foreign Relations
in Washington on March 5.

- - - - - - - - - - - -


March 6, 2004 | Thank you, Glenn Kessler, for that generous
introduction. As you all know, Glenn does an outstanding job covering
diplomacy and foreign policy for The Washington Post.

It's a privilege to be here today with the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Council and its members have a distinguished record of notable
contributions to the national debate over the years. On the most
important foreign policy issues confronting our nation and the world,
the Council is at the forefront. Your views and analyses are more
important than ever today, as America tries to find its way in this
vastly transformed modern world.

The nation is engaged in a major ongoing debate about why America went
to war in Iraq, when Iraq was not an imminent threat, had no nuclear
weapons, no persuasive links to Al Qaeda, no connection to the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, and no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Over two centuries ago, John Adams spoke eloquently about the need to
let facts and evidence guide actions and policies. He said, "Facts are
stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or
the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and
evidence." Listen to those words again, and you can hear John Adams
speaking to us now about Iraq. "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever
may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions,
they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

Tragically, in making the decision to go to war in Iraq, the Bush
administration allowed its wishes, its inclinations, and its passions to
alter the state of facts and the evidence of the threat we faced from Iraq.

A month ago, in an address at Georgetown University, CIA Director George
Tenet discussed the strengths and flaws in the intelligence on Iraq.
Tenet testified to several Senate and House committees on these issues,
and next Tuesday, he will come before our Senate Armed Services
Committee. He will have an opportunity to explain why he waited until
last month to publicly state the facts and evidence on these fundamental
questions, and why he was so silent when it mattered most -- in the days
and months leading up to the war.

If he feels that the White House altered the facts, or misused the
intelligence, or ignored it and relied on dubious sources in the Iraqi
exile community, Tenet should say so, and say it plainly.

It is not sufficient for Tenet to say only, as he did last week to the
Senate Intelligence Committee, that we must be patient. When he was
appointed Director of Central Intelligence in 1997, Tenet said to
President Clinton, " ... I have believed that you ... and the vice
president must be provided with ... complete and objective intelligence.
.... We must always be straight and tell you the facts as we know them."
The American people and our men and women serving in Iraq deserve the
facts and they deserve answers now.

The rushed decision to invade Iraq cannot all be blamed on flawed
intelligence. If we view these events simply as an intelligence failure
-- rather than a larger failure of decision-making and leadership -- we
will learn the wrong lessons.

The more we find out, the clearer it becomes that any failure in the
intelligence itself is dwarfed by the administration's manipulation of
the intelligence in making the case for war. Specific warnings from the
intelligence community were consistently ignored as the administration
rushed toward war.

We now know that from the moment President Bush took office, Iraq was
given high priority as unfinished business from the first Bush
administration.

According to former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's account in Ron
Suskind's book, "The Price of Loyalty," Iraq was on the agenda at the
very first meeting of the National Security Council, just 10 days after
President Bush's inauguration in 2001. At that meeting, the president
quickly -- and wrongly -- concluded that the U.S. could not do much
about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said we should "pull out of
that situation," and then turned to a discussion of "how Iraq is
destabilizing the region."

Secretary O'Neill remembers, "Getting Hussein was now the
administration's focus. From the start, we were building the case
against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out and change Iraq
into a new country. And, if we did that, it would solve everything. It
was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of It -- the
president saying, 'Fine. Go find me a way to do this.'"

By the end of February 2001, the talk on Iraq was mostly about how --
and how quickly -- to get rid of Saddam Hussein. President Bush was
clearly frustrated with what the intelligence community was providing.
According to Secretary O'Neill, on May 16, 2001, he and the other
principals of the National Security Council met with the president to
discuss the Middle East. Tenet presented his intelligence report, and
told the president that it was still only speculation whether Saddam had
weapons of mass destruction, or was even starting a program to build
such weapons.

Secretary O'Neill says, "Everything Tenet sent up to Bush and [Vice
President Dick] Cheney about Iraq was very judicious and precisely
qualified. The president was clearly very interested in weapons or
weapons programs -- and frustrated about our weak intelligence
capability -- but Tenet was clearly being careful to say, here's the
little that we know and the great deal that we don't. That wouldn't
change, and I read those CIA reports for two years," said O'Neill.

Then came 9/11. In the months that followed, the war in Afghanistan and
the hunt for Osama bin Laden had obvious priority. Al Qaeda was clearly
the most imminent threat to our national security. In fact, in his
testimony to Congress in February 2001, one month after President Bush's
inauguration and seven months before 9/11, Tenet had said, "Osama bin
Laden and his global network of lieutenants and associates remain the
most immediate and serious threat." That testimony emphasized the clear
danger of bin Laden in light of the specific attacks in previous years
on American citizens and American institutions.

In February 2002, five months after 9/11, Tenet testified, "Last year, I
told you that Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network were the most
immediate and serious threat this country faced. This remains true
despite the progress we have made in Afghanistan and in disrupting the
network elsewhere."

Even during the buildup to the war in Iraq, in February 2003, Tenet
again testified, "The threat from al Qaeda remains. ... We place no
limitations on our expectations on what al Qaeda might do to survive.
.... Al Qaeda is living in the expectation of resuming the offensive."

In his testimony last week to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Tenet
repeated his earlier warnings. He said again that Al Qaeda is not
defeated and that "We are still at war. ... This is a learning
organization that remains committed to attacking the United States, its
friends and allies."

Tenet never used that kind of strong language to describe the threat
from Iraq. Yet despite all the clear and consistent warnings about Al
Qaeda, by the summer of 2002, President Bush was ready for war with
Iraq. The war in Afghanistan was no longer in the headlines or at the
center of attention. Bin Laden was hard to find, the economy was in
trouble, and so was the president's approval rating in the polls.

[White House political adviser] Karl Rove had tipped his hand earlier by
stating that the war on terrorism could bring political benefits as
well. The president's undeniable goal was to convince the American
people that war was necessary -- and necessary soon, because
soon-to-be-acquired nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein could
easily be handed off to terrorists.

This conclusion was not supported by the facts, but the intelligence
could be retrofitted to support it. Greg Thielmann, former director of
the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, put it
bluntly last July. He said, "Some of the fault lies with the performance
of the intelligence community, but most of it lies with the way senior
officials misused the information they were provided." He said, "They
surveyed the data, and picked out what they liked. The whole thing was
bizarre. The secretary of defense had this huge Defense Intelligence
Agency, and he went around it." Thielmann also said, "This
administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude, its top-down
use of intelligence: we know the answers; give us the intelligence to
support those answers. ... Going down the list of administration
deficiencies, or distortions, one has to talk about, first and foremost,
the nuclear threat being hyped," he said.

David Albright, the former weapons inspector with the International
Atomic Energy Agency, put it this way: "Leaders will use worst-case
assessments that point to nuclear weapons to generate political support
because they know people fear nuclear weapons so much."

Even though they make semantic denials, there is no doubt that senior
administration officials were suggesting the threat from Iraq was imminent.

At a roundtable discussion with European journalists last month,
Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld insisted, "I never said imminent threat." In
fact, Secretary Rumsfeld had told the House Armed Services Committee on
September 18, 2002, " ... Some have argued that the nuclear threat from
Iraq is not imminent -- that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from
having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain."

In February 2003, with war only weeks away, then Deputy Press Secretary
Scott McClellan was asked why NATO allies should support Turkey's
request for military assistance against Iraq. His clear response was,
"This is about an imminent threat."

In May 2003, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked whether we
went to war, "because we said WMD [weapons of mass destruction] were a
direct and imminent threat to the United States." Fleischer responded,
"Absolutely."

What else could National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice have been
suggesting, other than an imminent threat -- an extremely imminent
threat -- when she said on September 8, 2002, "We don't want the smoking
gun to be a mushroom cloud."

President Bush himself may not have used the word "imminent," but he
carefully chose strong and loaded words about the nature of the threat
-- words that the intelligence community never used -- to persuade and
prepare the nation to go to war against Iraq.

In the Rose Garden on October 2, 2002, as Congress was preparing to vote
on authorizing the war, the president said the Iraqi regime "is a threat
of unique urgency."

In a speech in Cincinnati on October 7, President Bush echoed
Condoleezza Rice's image of nuclear devastation: "Facing clear evidence
of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that
could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

At a political appearance in New Mexico on October 28, 2002, after
Congress had voted to authorize war, and a week before the election,
President Bush said Iraq is a "real and dangerous threat."

At a NATO summit on November 20, 2002, President Bush said Iraq posed a
"unique and urgent threat."

In Fort Hood, Texas, on January 3, 2003, President Bush called the Iraqi
regime a "grave threat."

Nuclear weapons. Mushroom cloud. Unique and urgent threat. Real and
dangerous threat. Grave threat. This was the administration's rallying
cry for war. But those were not the words of the intelligence community.
The community recognized that Saddam was a threat, but it never
suggested the threat was imminent, or immediate, or urgent.

In his speech last month at Georgetown, CIA Director Tenet stated that,
despite attempts to acquire a nuclear capability, Saddam was many years
away from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Tenet's precise words we "We
said Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon, and probably would have been
unable to make one until 2007 to 2009."

The acquisition of enough nuclear material is an extremely difficult
task for a country seeking nuclear weapons. Tenet bluntly stated that
the intelligence community had "detected no such acquisition" by Saddam.
The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate also outlined the
disagreement in the intelligence community over whether the notorious
aluminum tubes [Iraq had tried to import] were intended for nuclear
weapons or not.

Tenet clearly distanced himself from the administration's statements
about the urgency of the threat from Iraq in his speech at Georgetown.
But he stopped short of saying the administration distorted the
intelligence or relied on other sources to make the case for war. He
said he only gave the president the CIA's daily assessment of the
intelligence, and the rest he did not know.

Tenet needs to explain to Congress and the country why he waited until
last month -- nearly a year after the war started -- to set the record
straight. Intelligence analysts had long been frustrated about the way
intelligence was being misused to justify war. In February 2003, an
official described the feelings of some analysts in the intelligence
agencies to The New York Times, saying, "I think there is also a sense
of disappointment with the community's leadership that they are not
standing up for them at a time when the intelligence is obviously being
politicized."

Why wasn't CIA Director Tenet correcting the president and the vice
president and the secretary of defense a year ago, when it could have
made a difference, when it could have prevented a needless war, when it
could have saved so many lives?

It was Vice President Cheney who first laid out the trumped up argument
for war with Iraq to an unsuspecting public. In a speech on August 26,
2002, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he asserted, " ... We now know
that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. ... Many
of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly
soon." As we now know, the intelligence community was far from certain.
Yet the vice president had been convinced.

On September 8, 2002, Cheney was even more emphatic about Saddam. He
said, "[We] do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his
procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich
uranium to build a nuclear weapon." The intelligence community was
deeply divided about the aluminum tubes, but Cheney was absolutely certain.

Where was the CIA Director when the vice president was going nuclear
about Saddam going nuclear? Did Tenet fail to convince the policymakers
to cool their overheated rhetoric? Did he even try to convince them?

One month later, on the eve of the watershed vote by Congress to
authorize the war, President Bush said it even more vividly. He said,
"Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes ... which
are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. If the Iraqi regime is
able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a
little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in
less than a year. And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would
be crossed ... Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear
technology to terrorists."

In fact, as we now know, the intelligence community was far from unified
on Iraq's nuclear threat. The administration attempted to conceal that
fact by classifying the information and the dissents within the
intelligence community until after the war, even while making dramatic
and excessive public statements about the immediacy of the danger.

In a February 2004 article in the Atlantic Monthly, Ken Pollack, a
former CIA analyst who supported the war, said, " ... Time after time
senior administration officials discussed only the worst case and least
likely scenario, and failed to mention the intelligence community's most
likely scenario." In a January interview, Pollack added, "Only the
administration has access to all the information available to various
agencies of the U.S. government -- and withholding or downplaying some
of that information for its own purposes is a betrayal of that
responsibility."

In October 2002, the intelligence agencies jointly issued a National
Intelligence Estimate stating that "most agencies" believed that Iraq
had restarted its nuclear program after inspectors left in 1998, and
that, if left unchecked, Iraq "probably will have a nuclear weapon
during this decade." The State Department's intelligence bureau,
however, said the "available evidence" was inadequate to support that
judgment. It refused to predict when "Iraq could acquire a nuclear
device or weapon."

The National Intelligence Estimate cited a foreign government report
that, as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of nuclear
material to Iraq. The estimate also said, "Reports indicate that Iraq
has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic
of the Congo." The State Department's intelligence bureau, however,
responded that claims of Iraq seeking to purchase nuclear material from
Africa were "highly dubious." The CIA sent two memos to the White House
stressing strong doubts about those claims.

But the following January, the president included the claims about
Africa in his State of the Union Address, and conspicuously cited the
British government as the source of that intelligence.

Information about nuclear weapons was not the only intelligence
distorted by the administration. On the question of whether Iraq was
pursuing a chemical weapons program, the Defense Intelligence Agency
concluded in September 2002 that "there is no reliable information on
whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where
Iraq has -- or will -- establish its chemical warfare agent production
facilities."

That same month, however, Secretary Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed
Services Committee that Saddam has chemical-weapons stockpiles. He said
that "we do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological
weapons of mass destruction," that Saddam "has amassed large clandestine
stocks of chemical weapons," that "he has stockpiles of chemical and
biological weapons," and that Iraq has "active chemical, biological and
nuclear programs." He was wrong on all counts.

Yet the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate actually quantified
the size of the stockpiles, finding that "although we have little
specific information on Iraq's CW [chemical weapon] stockpile, Saddam
probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons and possibly as much as
500 metric tons of CW agents -- much of it added in the last year." In
his speech at the United Nations on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State
[Colin] Powell went further, calling the 100-500 metric ton stockpile a
"conservative estimate."

Secretary Rumsfeld made an even more explicit assertion in his March 30,
2003, interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." When asked
about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, he said, "We know where they
are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west,
south, and north somewhat."

The second major claim in the administration's case for war was the
linkage between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

Significantly here as well, the Intelligence Estimate did not find a
cooperative relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda. On the contrary,
it stated only that such a relationship might happen if Saddam were
"sufficiently desperate" -- in other words, if America went to war. But
the estimate placed "low confidence" that, even in desperation, Saddam
would give weapons of mass destruction to al Qaeda.

A year before the war began, senior al Qaeda leaders themselves had
rejected a link with Saddam. The New York Times reported last June that
a top al Qaeda planner and recruiter captured in March 2002 told his
questioners last year that "the idea of working with Mr. Hussein's
government had been discussed among al Qaeda leaders, but Osama bin
Laden had rejected such proposals." According to the Times, an al Qaeda
chief of operations had also told interrogators that the group did not
work with Saddam.

Mel Goodman, a CIA analyst for 20 years, put it bluntly: "Saddam Hussein
and bin Laden were enemies. Bin Laden considered and said that Saddam
was the socialist infidel. These were very different kinds of
individuals competing for power in their own way and Saddam Hussein made
very sure that al Qaeda couldn't function in Iraq."

In February 2003, investigators at the FBI told The New York Times they
were baffled by the administration's insistence on a solid link between
al Qaeda and Iraq. One investigator said, "We've been looking at this
hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's
there."

But President Bush was not deterred. He was relentless in using
America's fears after the devastating 9/11 tragedy. He drew a clear link
-- and drew it repeatedly -- between Al Qaeda and Saddam.

In a September 25, 2002, statement at the White House, President Bush
flatly declared, "You can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when
you talk about the war on terror."

In his State of the Union Address in January 2003, President Bush said,
"Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and
statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and
protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda," and that he could
provide "lethal viruses" to a "shadowy terrorist network."

Two weeks later, in his radio address to the nation, a month before the
war began, President Bush described the ties in detail, saying, "Saddam
Hussein has longstanding, direct, and continuing ties to terrorist
networks ... "

He said, "Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda have met at
least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and
document-forgery experts to work with al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided
al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. An al Qaeda
operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990s for help in
acquiring poisons and gases. We also know that Iraq is harboring a
terrorist network headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner. This
network runs a poison and explosive training camp in northeast Iraq, and
many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad."

In fact, there was no operational link and no clear and persuasive
pattern of ties between the Iraqi government and al Qaeda. That fact
should have been abundantly clear to the president. Iraq and al Qaeda
had diametrically opposing views of the world.

In the march to war, the president exaggerated the threat anyway. It was
not subtle. It was not nuanced. It was pure, unadulterated
fear-mongering, based on a devious strategy to convince the American
people that Saddam's ability to provide nuclear weapons to al Qaeda
justified immediate war.

Why would the administration go to such lengths to go to war? Was it
trying to change the subject from its failed economic policy, the
corporate scandals, and its failed effort to capture Osama bin Laden?
The only imminent threat was the November congressional election. The
politics of the election trumped the stubborn facts.

Early in the Bush administration, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill had
raised concerns about politics pervading the process in the White House.
Comparing the Bush administration and previous Republican
administrations, he said, referring to Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and
[adviser] Karen Hughes, "The biggest difference ... is that our group
was mostly about evidence and analysis -- and Karl, Dick, Karen, and the
gang seemed to be mostly about politics."

In the late winter and early spring of 2002, in the aftermath of the
Enron and other corporate scandals, as Ron Suskind, the author of the
O'Neill book wrote, " ... Rove told numerous administration officials
that the poll data was definitive: the scandals were hurting the
president, a cloud in an otherwise blue sky for the soaring,
post-Afghanistan Bush."

The evidence so far leads to only one conclusion. What happened was not
merely a failure of intelligence, but the result of manipulation and
distortion of the intelligence and selective use of unreliable
intelligence to justify a decision to go to war. The administration had
made up its mind, and would not let stubborn facts stand in the way.

Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, a recently retired Air Force intelligence
officer who served in the Pentagon during the buildup to the war, said,
"It wasn't intelligence -- it was propaganda ... they'd take a little
bit of intelligence, cherry pick it, make it sound much more exciting,
usually by taking it out of context, usually by juxtaposition of two
pieces of information that don't belong together."

As it now appears, the Iraqi expatriates who had close ties to the
Pentagon and were so eager for the war may well have been the source of
the hyped intelligence. They have even begun to brag about it.

The Pentagon's favorite Iraqi dissident, Ahmad Chalabi, is actually
proud of what happened. "We are heroes in error," Chalabi recently said.
"As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant
Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is
not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're
ready to fall on our swords, if he wants."

Our men and women in uniform are still paying with their lives for this
misguided war in Iraq. CIA Director Tenet could perform no greater
service to the armed forces, to the American people, and to our country,
than to set the record straight, and state unequivocally what is so
clearly the truth: the Bush Administration misrepresented the facts to
justify the war.

America went to war in Iraq because President Bush insisted that nuclear
weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein and his ties to Al Qaeda were too
dangerous to ignore. Congress never would have voted to authorize the
war if we had known the facts.

The Bush administration is obviously digging in its heels against any
further serious investigation of the reasons we went to war. The
administration's highest priority is to prevent any more additional
stubborn facts about this fateful issue from coming to light before the
election in November.

This debate will go on anyway in Congress and in communities across the
country. The most important decision any president makes is the decision
on war or peace. No president who misleads the country on the need for
war deserves to be reelected. A president who does so must be held
accountable. The last thing our nation needs is a sign on the desk in
the Oval Office in the White House that says, "The buck doesn't stop
here anymore." Thank you very much.