Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, was so eager to see the
United States launch a preemptive strike against Iraq in early 2002,
that he ordered the CIA to investigate the past work of Hans Blix,
the chief United Nations weapons inspector, who, in February 2002,
was asked to lead a team of U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq to search
for weapons of mass destruction.
The unusual move by Wolfowitz underscores the steps the Bush administration
was willing to take a year before the U.S. invaded Iraq to manipulate
and/or exaggerate intelligence information to support its claims that
Iraq posed an immediate threat to the United States and that the only
solution to quell the problem was the use of military force.
U.S. military forces in Iraq have yet to find any evidence of WMD.
Some U.S. lawmakers have accused the Bush administration of distorting
intelligence information, which claimed Iraq possessed tons of chemical
and biological agents, to justify the attack to overthrow Iraq's President
Saddam Hussein. Although the Bush administration continues to deny
the accusations, evidence, such as the secret report Wolfowitz asked
the CIA in January 2002 to produce on Blix, prove that the administration
had already decided that removing Saddam from power would require
military force and it would do so regardless of the position of the
Earlier this month, Blix accused the Bush administration of launching
a smear campaign against him because he could not find evidence of
WMD in Iraq and, he said, he refused to pump up his reports to the
U.N. about Iraq's WMD programs, which would have given the U.S. the
evidence it needed to get a majority of U.N. member countries to support
a war against Iraq. Instead, Blix said the U.N. inspectors should
be allowed more time to conduct searches in Iraq for WMD.
In a June 11 interview with the London Guardian newspaper,
"U.S. officials pressured him to use more damning language when
reporting on Iraq's alleged weapons programs."
"By and large my relations with the U.S. were good," Blix
told the Guardian. "But toward the end the (Bush) administration
leaned on us.'"
Tensions between Blix and the hawks in the Bush administration, such
as Wolfowitz, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President
Dick Cheney, go back at least two years, when President Bush, at the
urging of Secretary of State Colin Powell, said he wanted the U.N.
to resurrect U.N. arms inspections for Iraq.
The move angered some in the administration, such as Wolfowitz, who,
according to an April 15 report in the Washington Post, wanted
to see military action against Iraq sooner rather than later.
When the U.N. said privately in January 2002 that Blix would lead
an inspections team into Iraq, Wolfowitz contacted the CIA to produce
a report on why Blix, as chief of the International Atomic Energy
Agency during the 1980s and 1990s, failed to detect Iraqi nuclear
But, according to the Washington Post's April 15, 2002 story,
the CIA report said Blix "had conducted inspections of Iraq's
declared nuclear power plants fully within the parameters he could
operate as chief of the Vienna-based agency between 1981 and 1997."
Wolfowitz, according to the Post, quoting a former State Department
official familiar with the report, "hit the ceiling" because
it failed to provide sufficient ammunition to undermine Blix and,
by association, the new U.N. weapons inspection program."
"The request for a CIA investigation underscored the degree of
concern by Wolfowitz and his civilian colleagues in the Pentagon that
new inspections – or protracted negotiations over them – could torpedo
their plans for military action to remove Hussein from power,"
the Post reported.
Soon after the CIA issued its report, the administration began exaggerating
intelligence information of Iraq's weapons programs and, in some cases,
forcing intelligence officials to "cook" up information
to support a war, according to a Nov. 19, 2002 story in the Guardian.
For example, last August, Cheney said Iraq would have nuclear weapons
"fairly soon" in direct contradiction of CIA reports that
said it would take at least five more years.
Rumsfeld, in public comments last year, accused Saddam Hussein of
providing sanctuary to al-Qaida operatives fleeing Afghanistan
although they had actually traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan, which is outside
Saddam's control, the Guardian reported.
On Feb. 12, 2002, a week or so after the CIA issued its report to
Wolfowitz on Blix, reporters questioned Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld
about the accuracy of the Bush administration's claim that Iraq was
harboring al-Qaida terrorists and the countries alleged stockpile
of WMD, which some news reports said was not true.
Rumsfeld's response to the reporters' questions about the accuracy
of the information proves that the Defense Secretary cares little
about providing the public with thoughtful, intelligent analysis.
"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting
to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things
we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to
say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also
unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know," Rumsfeld
But on Wednesday, Rumsfeld and Gen Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint
Chiefs of Staff, radically changed their stance on the accuracy of
such intelligence The officials said at a news conference that intelligence
information the U.S. gathered leading up to the war in Iraq that concluded
the country possessed WMD may have been wrong.
"Intelligence doesn't necessarily mean something is true,"
Myers said "It's just – it's intelligence. You know, it's your
best estimate of the situation. It doesn't mean it's a fact. I mean,
that's not what intelligence is. It's not – they're – and so you make
Leopold is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires.
He is currently finishing a book on the California energy crisis.