Originally published March 2011.
A large body of information shows that the Bush Administration misrepresented most of the ‘evidence’ used to justify invading Iraq. Documents obtained under the FOIA reveal that neo-conservatives and Bush were planning the invasion years before 9-11.
In April of 2003, 148,000 American troops, 45,000 British troops, and small contingents from Australia and Poland mounted a massive military invasion of Iraq. To justify the war, the Bush Administration made repeated, urgent claims of Saddam Hussein’s capabilities to spread terror and his intentions to do so. America’s allies Canada, France, Germany, and Italy doubted the claims and refused to participate, and they were right. All of the major claims the Bush Administration made against Iraq were later proven to be false, and the administration made them with that knowledge. Additionally, recently released documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and available at George Washington University’s National Security Archives reveal that President Bush was obsessed with invading Iraq and began making plans to invade from day one of his administration. Records also show that Bush was heavily influenced by neo-conservatives who had been planning for the U.S. to invade Iraq for over a decade.
The claimed al Qaeda connection
The Bush Administration repeatedly accused Saddam Hussein of conspiring with al Qaeda, and indirectly, responsibility for 9-11. Making this connection was powerful because it leveraged deep American anger over 9/11. President Bush, The New York Times, 9/25/2002: ‘You can’t distinguish between al-Qaida and Saddam.’
Vice President Cheney: USA Today, 1/22/2004: ‘There’s overwhelming evidence there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government. I am very confident that there was an established relationship there.’
Vice President Cheney: Washington Post, 9/14/2003: ‘There was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda.’
President Bush: Seattle PI, 9/17/2003: ‘There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties.’
President Bush to the UN: The New York Times, 9/23/2003: ‘The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction.’ And: ‘Iraq [is] the central front in the war on terror.’
Fact: There was no al Qaeda connection
The Europeans doubted the Iraq–al Qaeda connection before the invasion and resented American pressure to say otherwise. Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2002: ‘We have found no evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda,’ said a top European investigator. ‘If there were such links, we would have found them. But we have found no serious connections whatsoever.’
Following the invasion in April of 2003: The New York Times, 6/27/2003: ‘The chairman of the monitoring group appointed by the United Nations Security Council to track Al Qaeda told reporters that his team had found no evidence linking Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.’
There never was solid evidence of a link: The New York Times, 1/9/2004 ‘Sec. of State Colin Powell conceded Thursday that despite his assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no ‘smoking gun’ proof of a link between the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and terrorists of al-Qaeda. ‘I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection,’ Powell said.’
Huffington Post, March 14, 2006: ‘Three former Bush Administration officials who worked on intelligence and national security issues said the prewar evidence tying Al Qaeda was tenuous, exaggerated and often at odds with the conclusions of key intelligence agencies.’ (author’s emphasis)
The Guardian, 3, 13, 2008: ‘A US military study officially acknowledged for the first time yesterday that Saddam Hussein had no direct ties to al-Qaida, undercutting the Bush Administration’s central case for war with Iraq.’
Bush Admin claims of Iraqi nuclear, biological and chemical weapons
Preceding the war, the Bush Administration worked feverishly to generate fear and justify the coming invasion. From March 24 of 2002 through July of 2003, on at least 17 separate occasions, the administration claimed to the world that Iraq was busy developing nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. But there were early, stark contradictions. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on February 24, 2001 that Saddam Hussein ‘has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.’ And on September 18, 2002, six months before the invasion, CIA Director George Tenet briefed George Bush on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not possess any weapons of mass destruction.
Facts would not derail the Bush Administration
Vice President Cheney: CNN, 3/24/2002: ‘[Saddam] is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time.’
Vice President Cheney: Bush White house Archives, 8/26/2002: ‘Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.’ Dick Cheney had a penchant for making the most outlandish, baseless claims. And American bought them.
National Security Advisor Rice: CNN, 9/8/2002: ‘We know that he has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought — maybe six months from a crude nuclear device. The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.’
National Security Adviser Rice: The Telegraph, 9/10/2002: ‘We do know that [Saddam] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon.’
On September 18, 2002, the CIA director George Tenet briefed George Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not possess any weapons of mass destruction. The Guardian, Turning truth into lies.
By this time, based on statements from European intelligence agencies and information from his own Director of the CIA George Tenet, and Sec. of State Colin Powell, President Bush must have known that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. But the Administration’s claims only grew more urgent. Either the intelligence agencies of the entire Western World, including the CIA, were incompetent, or the White house was lying. According to UN inspectors, no hard evidence was ever found to contradict Tenet’s briefing to the White house. In fact, there was never any solid, substantiated evidence to support any of the following claims.
President Bush: Washington Post, 9/26/2002: ‘The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons… And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes.’
President Bush: The Guardian, 10/7/2002: ‘Evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program…Iraq could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.’
Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld: Harper’s Magazine, 1/20/2003: ‘His regime has large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons — including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas; anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox — and he has an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons.’
President Bush: BBC, 1/28/2003: ‘The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.’ In this State of the Union message of January, 2003, President Bush claimed that Iraq had purchased large quantities of yellow cake uranium from Niger (which after extensive processing using high-technology equipment and knowledge that Iraq never had, could eventually be used to build a nuclear bomb). However, the CIA had warned President Bush a full ten months before this speech that the evidence of the uranium purchase was fraudulent. The only conclusion one can draw is that President Bush knowingly made false statements in his State of the Union message to take the America to war.
President Bush: Washington Post, 1/28/2003: ‘Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.’
Colin Powell: Harper’s Magazine, 2/5/2003: ‘There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more…Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets.’
Colin Powell before the U.N. Security Council: The New York Times. 2/8/2003: ‘Iraq has at least seven mobile factories for the production of biological agents – equipment mounted on trucks and rails to evade discovery.’ This famously absurd claim came from “Curveball”, an Iraqi defector who has since confessed that he lied to German intelligence about mobile bio-weapons labs. German intelligence had already determined that Curveball was a liar and his stories were fabrications, and shared this conclusion with the CIA before Powell’s speech to the U.N. But again, the Bush Administration used evidence that it must have already known was false.
VP Cheney: CNN, 3/16/2003: ‘We believe Saddam has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.’ This claim and others like it were simply ludicrous. A nuclear weapons program takes at least a decade to develop to the point of having an explosive device and the effort is detectable in the form of construction programs, truly illegal acquisitions from existing nuclear powers, the purchase of advanced processing equipment, and telltale emissions from these sites. Iraq was under tight scrutiny for a decade and any such program would have been discovered.
After months of lies and manufactured hysteria, Bush takes America to war
President Bush declares war, 3/19/2003: ‘The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.’
The following three claims reveal obsessive attachment to the lies, because no WMDs were ever found and the truth could well be damning -if the nation has the courage.
Sec of Defense Rumsfeld: U.S. Dept of Defense, 3/30/2003: ‘We know where the WMDs are.’
Colin Powell: PBS, 5/4/2003: ‘I’m absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We’re just getting it now.’
What can one say? President Bush: Bush White house Archives, 5/29/2003: ‘We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories.’ Of course, this never happened.
National Security Adviser Rice: Washington Post 7/11/2003: ‘Iraqis were actively trying to pursue a nuclear weapons program.’
But the White house knew there were no WMDs
Colin Powell: CBS News, 9/26/2003: Secretary of State Colin Powell stated on 2/24/01, two years before the war began, that Saddam Hussein ‘has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.’
The Guardian, Turning truth into lies. ‘On September 18, 2002, the CIA director George Tenet briefed George Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not possess any weapons of mass destruction.’
CBS News, 7/8/2003: ‘White House Admits WMD Error. Withdraws Claim That Iraq Tried To Buy Uranium From Africa.’ Of course this admission came well after the invasion. The intelligence community warned that the documents Bush planned to cite as evidence of the yellow cake uranium purchase were forgeries, but he used them regardless to support the lie.
Huffington Post. The International Atomic Energy Agency denounced documents purportedly proving yellow cake uranium purchases as forgeries before the invasion, but President Bush ignored the IAEA and America went to war. In the face of worldwide protests and contradicting evidence, Americans trusted their President and sent their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, to fight an illegal war.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), led by Hans Blix, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, led by Mohamed ElBaradei, scoured Iraq for WMD. These teams were forced out out the American-led invasion. But this is what they had to say:
CBS News, 9/8/2003: ‘UN International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei reiterated that his experts uncovered no signs of a nuclear weapons program before they withdrew from Iraq just before the war began in March.’
After the invasion, another team of inspectors called the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) was sent into Iraq to find the elusive WMD. David Kay, a weapons inspector after the first Gulf War, headed the ISQ. According to David Kay, Washington Post, 10/3/2003: ‘We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile biological weapons production effort. Technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers.’
David Kay’s above statement regarding mobile bio-weapons labs confirmed what many people suspected when this absurd claim was made: Could anyone actually cram a complex, dangerous biological weapons laboratory, a lab that would need highly-sophisticated and delicate equipment, extremely pure supplies, isolation control areas, etc, into a trailer that was expected to then travel over Iraq’s desert roads? Absurd.
Weapons Inspector David Kay, Washington Post, 10/3/2003 ‘We have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.’ And: ‘Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled chemical weapons program after 1991… Iraq’s large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new chemical weapon munitions was reduced – if not entirely destroyed – during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections.’
Bush’s own CIA: Salon, 9/6/2007: ‘Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.’ ‘Two former CIA officers say the president squelched top-secret intelligence and a briefing by George Tenet, months before invading Iraq.’
The Final Report by the Iraq Survey Group: The Duelfer Report, the final word on Iraq’s non-existent WMD program concluded that Iraq ceased all WMD efforts in 1991. The report told us what we already knew. Americans had been conned by their own president.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Bush planned well before 9-11 to invade Iraq
The most recent and most damning information comes largely from the U.S. government itself. Under the Freedom of Information Act, George Washington University has obtained and compiled a trove of information showing long-term planning and efforts by neo-conservatives during the 1990s and later by the Bush Administration to remove Saddam Hussein from power and seize Iraqi oil fields. A detailed Timeline and three part history show that George W. Bush was committed well before 9-11 to invading Iraq and worked obsessively to make it happen. The National Security Archives are a vital study of a successful conspiracy by a group of neo-conservatives and later the Bush Administration to decide years in advance to invade another country, fabricate the needed justification, manipulate news coverage and public perception of a national disaster (9-11), and throw the country into a highly-destructive, costly, long-term and illegal war. And the 9-11 disaster was irresistible for Bush because it provided the needed pretext.
Absurd claims about the war’s cost
Vice President Cheney claimed that the war would take ‘weeks, rather than months’. This claim was fantastic for its absurdness. A nation cannot possibly move half way around the world 140,000 soldiers and countless tanks, helicopters, armored personal carriers, resupply vehicles, food, fuel, munitions, naval air and support units, invade a country, subdue all military resistance, presumably install a new government, and depart in a matter of weeks. Dick Cheney seemed to relish making the most fantastic and truly absurd statements.
Secretary Rumsfeld low-balled the cost of the war to between $50 billion to $60 billion – to remove Hussein, restore order and install a new government. Contrary to their fantastically erroneous estimations, the war and ensuing occupation has gone on for over eight years. The direct cost of the war approaches $1 trillion and consequential costs resulting from the war will consume a staggering $2 trillion, with the final price tag of $3 trillion, or nearly 40 times more than the Bush Administration’s estimation. This may be the war that bankrupts America. See The Three Trillion Dollar War.
The human cost
More than anything else, the human cost is what matters, and it has been an epic nightmare. Over 6,000 coalition soldiers have died in Iraq. The American toll includes over 4,439 dead soldiers with 32,000 injured and permanently maimed. (See U.S. Dept. of Defense and CNN). Some Americans have been conditioned by our history to think that unless tens of thousands of our sons and daughters perish, the toll is ‘low’ and somehow acceptable. Over the last century, on average, America has engaged in a massively destructive, massively expensive war about once every ten years, and because these wars last several years, we are more often at war than not.
Iraqi dead and maimed
Many Americans seem oblivious to the toll the war has taken on the Iraqi people, and that toll has been truly brutal. Estimates of Iraqi civilian and combatant deaths range from an unlikely low of 100,000 to nearly 800,000 deaths from all causes related to the invasion and the ensuing civil war.
See Iraq, the Human Cost, a site managed by MIT.
In January of 2008, the World Health Organization put the Iraqi death toll at over 150,000, while the respected British journal, The Lancet placed the Iraqi death toll at between 425,000 and 800,000. (See Congressional Research Service.)
Higher estimations include all deaths from sectarian violence, conflict-related accidental deaths and murders by security contractors. Even if the number is “only” 150,000 that is 150,000 dead mothers, dead fathers, dead brothers, dead sisters, and dead children. Historically, the number injured in armed conflict and other disasters ranges from 3 to 10 times higher than the number of deaths. With 150,000 deaths as a baseline, this means that from at least 450,000 to possibly 1 million or more Iraqis were seriously injured and likely crippled from this war. The actual numbers may be far higher.
Iraqi widows and orphans
Add to this the hundreds of thousands of women made widows by the American invasion of Iraq. Estimates of their numbers vary widely and due to the two gulf wars Iraq has suffered, range as high as a million. But in Iraq the widows are everywhere, and most live in abject poverty. Most are also mothers and these helpless families suffer from a lack of services, malnutrition, and violence. See CNN: ‘”Women are the forgotten victims of Iraq,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs’
Then, of course, there are the orphans. These are the utterly innocent child victims, most of whom, by the way, will grow up one day. Note that the term ‘orphan’ applies in Arabic to any child whose father only or both parents have died. This tragedy has been all but ignored by the Western news media. The actual number of children orphaned by the second gulf war is not well established and estimates vary. However on January 21, 2008 the Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs estimated that there were 500,000 orphans living on the streets without any home or family. These numbers result from two gulf wars and the ensuing civil war.
Iraq’s homeless now number in the millions
In a country of 27 million citizens, fully 7.5% of the population, two million people became refugees, fleeing the war’s carnage to neighboring countries. Since 2008, 100,000 refugees have attempted to return, but conditions are nearly as bad as when they left, with their previous homes often confiscated. These refugee’s lives are in shambles, relatives lost, homes lost, possessions lost, jobs lost.
A U.S. Government Accounting Office report of 12-2-2010, put the number of internally displaced Iraqis at at least 1.6 million. These are people whose homes have been destroyed, or who have been evicted by force and are now homeless in their own land. This brings the total number of persons who were forced to flee their homes by this war to a stunning 3.6 million or more, an epic human disaster by any measure, and the tragedy continues to this day.
It must be said that much of the toll on the Iraqi civilian population was due to the sectarian violence and civil war that erupted between Shia and Sunni populations, and reprisals for years of oppression under Saddam Hussein. However Bush ignored warnings from experts that an invasion of Iraq could ignite a bloody civil war, and the carnage that unfolded in Iraq is a direct result of the invasion. By invading Iraq, George W. Bush and Tony Blair brought on an human tragedy of historic dimensions.
America needs to face a terrible truth: The Bush Administration perpetrated a massive conspiracy to deceive and manipulate America and the world in order to illegally invade Iraq. This was not an accident. This was not some perfect storm of ignorance and incompetence. This was intentional, organized, and premeditated well before the 9-11 disaster. Even after all of the Bush Administration claims were proven to be false, other than Colin Powell’s weak statements, we have heard no regrets. There is no precedent in American history for an abuse of power with such scope and far-reaching impact on so many innocent victims. No truth was left sacred and no lie beyond the bounds. If this were a natural disaster, the world would be responding with aid. But this a man-made disaster and the true cost of the invasion of Iraq will be paid out for several decades.
The American public’s trust in their president is vital. George W. Bush demolished that trust. ‘Sempre Fi’ is the supreme commitment that Americans hold in the highest regard, and to perish for the country is a sacrifice unbounded. The President has a responsibility to honor those lives he is in charge of and never break that trust. The Bush Administration flagrantly violated that trust from the start. In its obsession to invade Iraq, the Bush Administration fabricated a pile of lies and cynically used American anger over 9-11 to throw the country into war. The Iraq war is searing testimony to President Bush’s unlimited arrogance and willingness to violate the law.
Unless we Americans act to hold the Bush Administration accountable, Bush’s disgrace becomes our own, and we invite a future abuse of power of equivalent or greater magnitude. What will history say of our failure to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute? Does our collective failure to act not indict us all?
A side note: In the lead up to the war and its early prosecution, Fox News, the mouthpiece of the Republican Party, blared the Bush Administration’s dire warnings to the nation and the world. Yet, while I searched and verified links to all the articles above, I could not find a single hit to a Fox News web page. Using the search function at Foxnews.com, I finally found three articles still claiming the presence of WMD in Iraq. Other news organizations’ sites are rich with information, but except for speeches to the U.N and the State of the Union, Fox News has apparently purged from its servers most articles containing Bush Administration claims and statements countering those claims. History appears to be in revision at Fox News.