The Senate Intelligence [sic] Committee has finally
deemed it safe to release its report
on "whether public Statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq
by US Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement
of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information."
What "intelligence information"?
Well, recall that in the summer of 2002, President Bush ordered Director of
Central Intelligence George Tenet to prepare a National
Intelligence Estimate he could use to "justify" to Congress the
war of aggression against Iraq which, we now know – thanks to the Downing
Street Memos – he had already decided to launch.
By law, the constitutional
powers of the president to "introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities"
are limited, and can only be exercised "pursuant to; (a) a declaration of war,
(b) specific statutory authorization, or (c) a national emergency created by
attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed
So, DCI Tenet hurriedly prepared the "slam dunk" NIE on "Iraq's
Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction," which was central to gullible
Congresspersons passing, within days of its receipt, the "Authorization
for Use of Military Force Against Iraq" Resolution of 16 October, 2002.
Years later, the March 2005 report of the Commission
on Intelligence contained a scathing chapter on the ‘intelligence' Bush
used to obtain his Congressional "authorization."
"As war loomed, the U.S. intelligence community was charged with telling
policymakers what it knew about Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons
programs. The community's best assessments were set out in an October 2002 National
Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, a summation of the community's views."
"These assessments were all wrong."
[And in its first report, the Senate Intelligence Committee had come to similar
Now, that "specific statutory authorization" provided by Congress
It was contingent upon Bush first pursuing a "diplomatic" or "peaceful
solution" through the United Nations. If diplomacy "failed" to "disarm"
Saddam Hussein, Bush was then to seek a new Security Council resolution, authorizing
the use of "all necessary means," including force.
If – and only if – Bush could then get such a new Security Council resolution,
was he authorized to use our armed forces to enforce it.
But, by March, 2003 – as a result of months of totally intrusive inspections,
ordered by UN Security Council, and acceded to by Saddam Hussein – it was obvious
to everyone that Saddam was "disarmed" and did not pose an immediate
threat to us or to anyone else.
Nevertheless, on 18 March Bush notified Congress that no "further diplomatic
or other peaceful means will adequately protect the national security of the
United States from the continuing threat posed by Iraq."
That was a lie, of course, and by then, Congresspersons knew – or should have
known – that it was.
However, this just-issued Committee report focuses on five major Bush-Cheney
Administration policy speeches;
- VP Cheney, 26 August, 2002, VFW National Convention
- President Bush, 12 September, 2002, UN General Assembly
- President Bush, 7 October, 2002, Cincinnati, Ohio
- President Bush, 28 January, 2003, State of the Union Address
- Secretary of State Powell, 5 February, 2003, UN Security Council
The Committee essentially confines itself to reporting on the extent to which
those speeches accurately reflected the consensus – or lack of it – contained
within the classified NIE of October 2002.
But, surely, that is not the issue.
Even when Cheney gave that 26 August 2002 ‘kickoff' speech, declaring authoritatively
that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, the "best
intelligence" was to the contrary.
in 1998, Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic
Energy Agency, first reported to the UN Security Council that -
"there are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability
for the production of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance."
Furthermore, ElBaradei's inspectors has visited Iraq several months prior to
Cheney's speech to verify that their IAEA seals and locks were still intact,
and that no attempts had been made to "reconstitute" those capabilities.
So, how could Cheney make that outrageous claim in August? Well, quoth Cheney,
"ElBaradei is simply wrong."
Then, in November, 2002, Saddam Hussein acceded to a Security Council request
to allow the return of all UN inspectors.
The IAEA reported to the UN Security Council on 27
January 2003 that
"In the first eight weeks of inspections, the IAEA has visited all
sites identified by it or by States as significant. No evidence of ongoing prohibited
nuclear or nuclear-related activities at those locations has been detected to
date during these inspections … Nor have the inspections thus far revealed signs
of new nuclear facilities or direct support to any nuclear activity."
Then, on 7
March, 2003, ElBaradei formally reported to the Security Council that
"After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence
or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq."
Chairman Hans Blix made a similar, but somewhat less definitive, report on
his inspectors' searches for chemical and biological weapons.
Nevertheless, on March
17, 2003, Bush falsely told us;
"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that
the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons
And, the next day, Bush
notified Congress that he had "determined" that " reliance
by the United States on further diplomatic and peaceful means" will "not
adequately protect the United States against the continuing threat posed by
The day after that, Bush
announced that we and our "allies" had already begun the invasion of Iraq.
"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
So, the question for the Committee, then, ought not to
"Did Bush use – or misuse – that fatally flawed NIE to "build
public support" for his invasion and occupation of Iraq?"
"Did Bush deliberately and with malice aforethought launch an invasion
and occupation of Iraq knowing full well that under existing Congressional
Acts and Security Council Resolutions he had no authority to do so?"
In other words, is Bush a "criminal" under both US and International