Bush's Case for War Crumbles
there anything at all left of the Bush administration's case for
going to war in Iraq or, for that matter, the way it has been fought?
answer seems increasingly doubtful given what appears to be an accelerating
cascade of news, leaks and admissions by senior administration officials
over the past several weeks.
what has been disclosed in just the last few days.
Monday, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign
Relations in New York that he had never seen any "strong, hard
evidence that links" ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
with the al-Qaeda terrorist network, which was one of the administration's
two major justifications for the war.
day later, the New York Times confirmed reports by Knight
Ridder newspapers about the existence of a Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) study on the Iraq-based Jordanian "arch-jihadi,"
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which had found no concrete evidence to support
the administration's pre-war insistence that Hussein's government
had given him safe haven or that he coordinates his actions in any
way with al-Qaeda.
Wednesday, Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in
Iraq, pounded the final nail in the coffin of the second most commonly
cited justification for the March 2003 invasion.
final report concluded not only that Hussein had no weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) at the time of the invasion, but that he made
no effort to reconstitute them after United Nations weapons inspectors
left the country in 1998.
the report, which was based on on-site inspections, interviews with
Iraqi scientists and tons of Iraqi documents, concluded that while
Hussein was hoping to rebuild a WMD program particularly
one of nuclear weapons his ability to do so had actually
deteriorated over the previous five years, in stark contrast to
the administration's warnings and Bush's current campaign rhetoric
that Hussein posed "a gathering threat" to the United
States and its allies.
Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin put it, the latest findings
mean that the administration had "created a worst-case scenario
on virtually no evidence."
that were not enough to throw the administration on the defensive,
consider what else has come out over the last week or so, as well
as the sources of the information.
Monday, the former U.S. viceroy in Baghdad, Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA) chief Paul Bremer was quoted as telling an insurance
group the administration "never had enough troops on the ground"
in Iraq, both during the invasion, to prevent looting, and over
the months that followed.
has been precisely the critique of quite a number of retired military
officers, many Democrats most especially, of course, presidential
candidate Senator John Kerry and a number of prominent Republican
senators, who themselves have become increasingly vocal about the
administration's performance in Iraq.
while White House officials tried hard to persuade reporters that
Bremer had never requested more troops, two "senior officials"
contacted by the New York Times on Tuesday admitted that
the CPA chief, who has been prominently mentioned as a possible
secretary of state in a second Bush term, had indeed pressed for
more forces, even before he went to Baghdad in June 2003.
Bremer story broke just one day after the Times ran an unusually
long investigative report on another specific and highly questionable
prewar administration allegation that 60,000 aluminum tubes
Baghdad tried to buy in early 2001 was firm evidence Hussein was
trying to build a nuclear weapon.
primarily on interviews with officials throughout the U.S. intelligence
community, the report found that nuclear engineering experts at
the Energy Department had shot down the notion which originated
with a junior CIA analyst who, according to the Times, "got
his facts wrong, even about the size of the tubes" within
24 hours of its being raised in 2001, and did so in four detailed
reports that followed.
from the now-discredited report that Iraq tried to buy uranium "yellowcake"
from Niger, as well as the testimony of a self-proclaimed Iraqi
nuclear scientist handled by the exiled Iraqi National Congress
(INC), the tubes were the only evidence for any nuclear program
at all, according to the Times report.
doubts within the intelligence agencies persisted, the administration,
particularly Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice, raised the specter of a "mushroom cloud"
as the only proof, and worked to keep both the public and the Congress
in the dark about the dissenting views in the Energy and State departments.
latest revelations come against a background as well of what has
become an escalating battle between the White House and CIA career
officers, who apparently are seriously concerned about the agency
being blamed for mistaken estimates in the lead-up to the war, especially
in the super-heated environment of a presidential campaign and amid
considerable politicking over a pending reorganization of the entire
U.S. intelligence community.
while Bush and Cheney last month were fending off charges by Kerry
and the Democrats that the situation in Iraq was increasingly chaotic
as a result of administration incompetence, CIA officials leaked
details of a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) delivered
to the White House in August that concluded the best-case scenario
in Iraq over the next 16 months was more of the instability and
violence that has prevailed since April.
likely, according to the leaked assessment, was that Iraq could
dissolve into civil war.
second document drafted two months before the invasion by the National
Intelligence Council, which is chaired by the CIA, predicted a number
of the challenges including a strong anti-American insurgency
and a surge in anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world
Washington would face as a result of war.
two leaks provoked an outraged response entitled "The CIA's
Insurgency," by editorial writers at the The Wall Street
Journal, which was one of the leading voices for war, as well
as from other neoconservative voices.
Pavitt, a career CIA officer who retired as head of the agency's
clandestine service in July, told the Times he had never
in his 31-year career seen such "viciousness and vindictiveness"
in the fight between the CIA and its political masters, but could
not resist a kicker of his own.
was nothing in the intelligence [produced by the CIA] that was a
'casus belli'" that would justify war with Iraq, he said, echoing
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service