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The Iraq War Truth Room

Popular video created by video artist Billy Vegas during Bush administration, with archival footage  of Iraq War statements (some strong language)

Prelude to Iraq War     

     In December of 2001, three months after the 9/11 attacks, the Saudi national deemed responsible for the attacks escaped from Afghanistan into Pakistan on horseback with a small number of men.   The top CIA commander on the ground, Gary Berntsen, had urgently requested 800 U.S. troops to block bin Laden's escape from the cave complex at Tora Bora, but the request was denied.  CIA Deputy Counter Terrorism Director Hank Crumpton  asked General Tommy Franks to  send in reinforcements from the 1200 Marines who were stationed 80 miles away, in Kandahar, but that request was also denied.   Osama bin Laden finally bribed the Northern Alliance warlords  charged with blocking his escape, whom Berntsen had begged his superiors not to trust.  

image gary berntsen
Gary Berntsen

       Both George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later repeated General Franks' claim that the U.S was not sure bin Laden was trapped at Tora Bora.  Both Bush and Cheney said in interviews: "We don't know if bin Laden was at Tora Bora."  But Berntsen's contradiction is blunt.   “I knew exactly where he was” he told MSNBC in 2005.  He told Newsweek:  "He was there."  CIA field commander Gary Schroen, who was pulled out of retirement by the Bush administration to lay the groundwork for the assault on the Taliban 2 days after 9/11, is equally blunt in his concurrence with Berntsen, saying: "I have no doubt that he [bin Laden] was there [in Tora Bora]." 

       Commander Schroen later also criticized the attack on Iraq.  When asked on Meet the Press: "Do you believe that Iraq is a distraction, a preoccupation, and it is really limiting our ability to capture Osama bin Laden and secure Afghanistan?"  -- Schroen  answered :

"I absolutely do.  Afghanistan gets a distant second on all aspects, whether it's going to be military or aid that's going to be given to the country.  Afghanistan is--the elections were successful.  There is a beginning of democracy there.  It's very fragile.  The--but I think the entire population wants peace."

       In that interview, Schroen said "the attack on Iraq has caused, really, a sort of insurgent rebirth.  I mean, there are a lot of more terrorists out there now."

       In a 2008 60 Minutes report with "Dalton Fury" (name disguised,) the commander of a Delta Force team with orders to kill bin Laden, Fury  told 60 Minutes that his men at one point had a firm fix on the cave in which bin Laden was hiding, and that he had relayed to his superiors an audacious plan to "get a drop on bin Laden from behind."   Fury's plan was to come over the top of the steep mountain "with oxygen" in order to take bin Laden's position by surprise, but he says the plan was nixed.  Fury stated: "Whether that was Central Command all the way up to the president of the United States, I'm not sure."

      Fury then made a second request, to drop hundreds of landmines on the paths leading to Pakistan, since reliable troops to seal the passages had been denied.  The request for landmines was also denied, and when asked why, Fury said he had "no idea."  When the 60 Minutes reporter asked Fury "How often does Delta come up with a tactical plan that's disapproved by higher headquarters?" -- Fury answered: "In my experience, in my five years at Delta, never before."  The next day, forced into a difficult frontal assault on bin Laden's position, another remarkable thing happened.  As Fury began his assault, his Afghan allies drew weapons on the American team and forced them into 12 hours of negotiation at a critical moment.  It was during this time that Fury believes bin Laden made his escape. 

     The Tora Bora cave complex was well-known to both the Taliban and the CIA.  During the Afghan war against the Russian occupation in the '80s, Tora Bora was a key stronghold, and the CIA helped map and reinforce the tunnel system.  Soon after the NATO bombing campaign began, and the resultant rapid collapse of the Taliban regime, it was expected that bin Laden would retreat to Tora Bora.  On November 10, 2001, as American bombs fell on the city, bin Laden gave his last public speech at the Institute for Islamis Studies in Jalalabad.  Then his convoy of several hundred cars departed for Tora Bora.  

      A CIA videotape not released until 2006 shows bin Laden's party headed toward Pakistan after the Battle of Tora Bora, or already in Pakistan.  Ismail Khan, now the governor of Herat Province in Afghanistan and a key Northern  Alliance warlord who was involved in the pursuit of bin Laden, told Newsweek that he had been restrained by the West from closing in on bin Laden, in order to allow a different ethnic faction to take over the fight:

"we could have captured all the Taliban and the al-Qaeda groups. We could have arrested Osama bin Laden with all of his supporters."

       One of Khan's men, Haji Mohammed Zaman, told the assembled press at Tora Bora in 2001: "If America wants to capture Osama, why aren't they trying?" A top aide to Zaman said: "I don't think the United States wants to capture Osama. We know where he is, we tell them and they do nothing. So they are not as serious as they say they are."      

      Two months later, George Bush decided to pull most of the special ops troops out of Afghanistan, in order to prepare for war in Iraq.  Flynt L. Leverett, an expert on the Middle East at the National Security Council, told the Washington Post:

"I was appalled when I learned about it.  I don't know of anyone who thought it was a good idea. It's very likely that bin Laden would be dead or in American custody if we hadn't done that."

      Bin Laden was left to reconstitute his forces, which would have a devastating effect in Afghanistan and in the region years later.  Soon, according to administration insiders, the policy became to link Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with 9/11, in order to justify the invasion of Iraq.  Richard Clarke, the Bush administration's chief of counter-terrorism,  said that Bush "in a very intimidating way left us -- me and my staff -- with the clear indication that he wanted us to come back with the word that there was an Iraqi hand behind 9/11." 

      David J. Dunford, a Middle East specialist for the State Department who was put in charge of the Iraq Foreign Ministry after the invasion, said that "you could feel there was a drive to go to war no matter what the facts."


U.S. Alliance with Iraq in the '80s

       The U.S.  had allied itself with Saddam in the Eighties with full knowledge of his use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War, an eight year conflict in which nearly a half-million Iranians and Iraqis died.   Washington sided with Iraq as a counter-balance to Iran after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when anti-American sentiment in the Middle East was on the rise.   For nearly 30 years the U.S. government had supported the Shah of Iran, and it supported royal families in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, UAE  and  other countries.  These governments were hated by radical Islamists for keeping their people in poverty, even as the elites enriched themselves and kept oil prices down for the West.   

       Saddam was a secular pro-western dictator who was a natural enemy of Iran.  When Saddam attacked the new theocracy with the encouragement and assistance of the U.S., it was decided by President Reagan that the U.S. "would do whatever was necessary to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran." Iran had its roots in the proud Persian Empire, was culturally distinct from the Arab nations, and spoke an entirely different language, Farsi.  Among the American policymakers who had engaged with Saddam during the Reagan administration was George W. Bush's first Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

     Although the U.S. had allied with Saddam with full knowledge of the dictator's possession and use of chemical and biochemical weapons in the war with Iran, Saddam was soon to be recast as the villian extraordinaire whom the world could not tolerate. Rumsfeld,  now a leading advocate of "regime change" in Iraq, was Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East during the time of warm U.S. relations with Saddam.  Then, during the 90's, Rumsfeld became a founding member of the think tank Project for a New American Century, which argued for an American policy of military force against Iraq, but which stated in a key 2000 document entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses" that, "absent a new Pearl Harbor," it would be difficult to generate public support for this goal.  Other members of The Project for a New American Century who joined the Bush administration after the 2000 election were Vice President Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage (Deputy Secretary of State,) I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (Chief of Staff to the Vice President,) Richard Perle (Chairman of the Board, Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee,) and Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Secretary of Defense.)    On September 11, 2001, a "new Pearl Harbor" took place.

rumsfeld handshake with saddam
Photo of Donald Rumsfeld with Saddam on December 20, 1983.  The Dujail massacre for which Saddam was eventually hanged had taken place the previous year, in the summer of 1982.

The Invasion and Occupation of Iraq   

       Few issues in American political discourse have generated as much heated and sustained controvery as the reasons the Bush administration gave for invading and occupying Iraq, or its motivations for doing so.   The arguments the Bush administration gave to justify the invasion included Saddam's alleged capacity and intention to attack western targets, including the U.S., with chemical,  biological, or nuclear weapons, called "weapons of mass destruction," "WMD."

       According to CIA reports and the Iraq Survey Group, Saddam believed that chemical and biological weapons had saved his regime a number of times.  In the Iran-Iraq War, nerve gas of the kind used in World War I broke the "human wave" attacks of the numerically superior Iranians. During the first Gulf War in 1991, Saddam believed that it was the West's belief that he had WMD which prevented NATO from driving all the way to Baghdad, rather than contenting itself with ejecting him from Kuwait, which he claimed was "slant drilling" his oil on the Iraq-Kuwait border.   

       There is little to argue in the contention that Saddam, at least before the First Gulf War, possessed programs to deveop chemical, biological, and perhaps nuclear weapons, especially as during the 80's the U.S. knew and looked the other way as he used some of them.   Many countries have, or are suspected of possessing WMD.  The questions for national security are:

Countries Known or Suspected of Having WMD

China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, U.S., Yugoslavia

       All indications, from the testimony of WMD inspectors before the war and, of course, from the failure to find major weapons caches or weapons-grade material since the American invasion, are that Saddam had destroyed his weapons programs after the first Gulf War.  Ironically, it may have been Saddam's paranoia and belief in WMD as a deterrent which caused him to play cat-and-mouse during the 12-year inspection regime.  If the United States believed he had some sort of WMD capacity, it would be less likely to attack.  Apart from a number of highly-degraded sarin shells dating from before the first Gulf War, and about 500 tons of uranium yellowcake which Saddam had already declared to weapons inspectors and which was under UN guard, no active weapons programs or weapons-grade material were found.  Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the top military spokeman in Iraq when a sarin shell was found in an IED and detonated by a munitions team, said the insurgents  did not know it was a sarin shell,and that it was "virtually ineffective as a chemical weapon."

       In his presentation before the UN on March 7, 2003, on the eve of war, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix reported that "at this juncture we are able to perform professional, no-notice inspections all over Iraq and to increase aerial surveillance."   Blix said "after a period of somewhat reluctant cooperation there's been an acceleration of initiatives from the Iraqi side" which "can be seen as active, even proactive."   Finally, Blix reported that in a matter of "months" he could "resolve the key remaining disarmament tasks,"  and that a "sustained inspection and monitoring system is to remain in place after verified disarmament to give confidence and to strike an alarm if signs were seen of the revival of any proscribed weapons programs." 

       Watching his main rationale for war melt away, this is when George Bush changed his requirement for the avoidance of war.   Previously, he said that Saddam must merely give up his weapons of mass destruction, and that "If he [Hussein] were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, that in itself will signal that the regime has changed."  But on March 17, 2003, three days before war, Bush said that only Saddam's departure would avoid war, that "Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict." 

      In 2008, Bush would claim on national television and without being challenged by ABC's Charles Gibson that he had to attack Iraq because "Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in to determine whether or not the U.N. resolutions were being upheld."  .   He said this despite the fact that Saddam had actually invited UN weapons inspectors back into the country in November of 2007, the same inspectors Bush ordered to leave Iraq on March  17, 2003, in order to begin the bombardment. 

The great masses of the people in the very bottom of their hearts tend to be corrupted rather than consciously and purposely evil, and that, therefore, in view of the primitive simplicity of their minds they more easily fall a victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big. Such a falsehood will never enter their heads and they will not be able to believe in the possibility of such monstrous effrontery and infamous misrepresentation in others; yes, even when enlightened on the subject, they will long doubt and waver, and continue to accept at least one of these causes as true. Therefore, something of even the most insolent lie will always remain and stick — a fact which all the great lie-virtuosi and lying-clubs in this world know only too well and also make the most treacherous use of.

           - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

Naturally the common people don't want war...But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along...That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

- Hermann Goering

  The Bush Impeachment Museum is dedicated to rationale discourse in American politics, and a belief that the  truth must eventually emerge no matter how long it has been distorted and abused.  The Museum invites public commentary on any of its exhibits, and in many exhibits, offers online discussion forums.  Mere ad hominen attacks will be allowed to stand, in the interest of free speech, but will be used as instruction on this weakest, and cheapest form of rebuttal.  Democracy, in the end, depends on the ability of a population to think clearly and critically.  As for a verdict, that is something only History can return.

"I am reminded of George Orwell's reference to the streamlined men who think in slogans and talk in bullets."

               - Dr. Ron Paul, Republican presidential candidate 2006

"I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think."        
                                    - Socrates

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Frequently-Cited Justifications for the Iraq War (click for debunk and/or full context)


Congress Was Looking at the Same Intelligence Before it Voted for War

      This is an argument frequently used by defenders of the Bush administration against charges that the Iraq War was started on false pretenses. The argument was critical.  If it is true, then the decision to make war, even if it was a flawed decision, was made in a democratic context in accordance with one of the Constitution's most clearly-stated principles: that the power to declare war is an exclusive power of Congress.  If Congress did not see the same intelligence, then it was possible that the crime of lying to Congress, over a matter of the gravest of consequence, had been committed.

     Historical research and scholarship are ongoing, but the record shows that the intelligence viewed by the Bush administration on the eve of war, and the version of that intelligence that the administration gave to Congress, were not the same. 

Presentation of Discredited Evidence on WMD

        The Bush adminstration has never denied that some evidence it presented to make the case for war had been known by the administration to be highly unreliable or flatly false at the time.  Among this:

- Documents known to be forgeries which were used to prove that Saddam was trying to obtain uranium from Niger to build nuclear weapons.  Based on these forgeries, Condaleeza Rice on September 8, 2002, told CNN: "There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."  Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld then began repeating this line in speeches across the country.  The Niger documents did not even have national emblem drawn correctly.  Not only were the documents forgeries, they were crude ones.

- A discredited  informant with ties to the exiled Iraqi National Congress leader Mohammed Chalabi, code-named "Curveball," was used to support Colin Powell's famous claim in a UN speech that Saddam had bio-weapons laboratories.  Curveball claimed he was at one of the laboratories at the time of an accident which killed a number of workers.  But U.S. intelligence, and the Bush administration knew he was in Virginia and Florida during that time from cellphone records and a bank ATM photo. 

The 2002 National Intelligence Estimate vs, The "White Paper" on Saddam's Intentions

      The 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was the key document given by the U.S. intelligence community to the Bush  administration, to ascertain the threat posed by Saddam Hussein on the eve of the vote on the Iraq War Resolution.  In a summary section entitled "Key Judgements," the report stated two key conclusions.  The conclusions were:

       The 2002 NIE represented the deliberation and concensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. 

       In the 2002 NIE which was given to Congress, days before the vote, the first conclusion, that Saddam likely possessed WMD, was rendered in detail.  The second key conclusion, that Saddam would not use these weapons out of fear of the consequences, was deleted. 

What the Bush Administration Saw and What Congress Saw: The Intelligence

2002 national intelligence estimate, deleted passage
Version of 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) the administration was looking at, words on page 8 which were deleted from version given to Congress (PDF) 

2002 White Paper given to congress
"White Paper," Version of 2002 NIE given to Congress days before the vote on the Iraq War Resolution (PDF)

       While George Bush was painting a picture of Saddam as a "madman" who cared little for even his own safety, a jihadi ready to blow himself up and the world along with him, U.S. intelligence considered Saddam a conventional dictator with a strong survival instinct and a "fear" that using WMD against the U.S., or giving them to someone who would, would seal his fate.  The considered opinion of U.S. intelligence that Saddam was "drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks...fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington a stronger case for making war" was completely eliminated from the report given to Congress, and replaced in public utterances by  the conclusion that an attack could come at any moment:

       In addition to the alteration of the 2002 NIE, many former administration officials directly responsible for U.S. intelligence-gathering have stepped forward to say that the administration placed enormous pressure on intelligence agencies to find evidence, however flimsy, which would justify a decision to go to war. These officials included Paul Pillar, John Brennan, Richard Kerr, and Richard Clarke (see WHISTLEBLOWERS.)

Iraq and 9/11

       The Iraq War Resolution from Congress which granted the president the authorization to use force against Iraq was conditional upon the president certifying, in writing, that an attack on Iraq was "consistent" with "necessary actions against international terrorist[s]" who "planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."  This condition was required in the section entitled "Presidential Determination" of the Iraq War Resolution.  Bush made this link between Iraq and 9/11, in writing, in a letter to Congress dated March 21, 2003. 

Later, George Bush publicly denied that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks.

The Requirement for a Certified Link Between Saddam and 9/11, and the President's Certification

iraq war resolution
Condition in the Iraq War Resolution requiring that the president certify, in writing, that attacking Iraq was "consistent" with "necessary actions against international terrorist[s]" who "planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacksthat occurred on September 11, 2001."
presidential determination
President's letter to Congress certifying that Iraq was linked with those who "planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacksthat occurred on September 11, 2001."

       In addition to the link between Saddam and 9/11, made in writing to Congress, further links made between Iraq, Saddam, and 9/11 were made repeatedly throughout the year preceding the war vote:

- "Al Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn't, but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world. - Bush, September 25, 2002

- "We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade," "Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases," - Bush in a speech to the nation on October 7, 2002, days before the vote on the Iraq War Resolution.

-"We know he's got ties with Al Qaeda," - Bush on November 1, 2002.

       In 2006, after it became clear that Saddam and bin Laden actually hated each other, as Saddam was a secular modernist in whose country women were educated and became doctors, and bin Laden was a transnational fundamentalist who could become a threat to Saddam's regime, George Bush finally admitted that Iraq was not "responsible" for 9/11.  Pressure mounted on the administration to justify earlier claims that Al Qaeda and Saddam were working "in concert," and that Al Qaeda was an "extension" of Saddam.  The  report from the 9/11 Commission found no relation, and neither did the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence whose final report was issued in 2005.

In September 2006 Bush said in a speech:

"I am often asked why we are in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress, and the United Nations saw the threat - and after 9/11, Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take."

     In August of 2006, when Ken Herman of Cox News interrupted Bush to ask what Saddam had to do with 9/11, Bush said "nothing."
BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

COX: What did Iraq have to do with it?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

COX: The attack on the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. Except it’s part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

        In 3 years, George Bush went from Saddam and Al Qaeda working "in concert," to Saddam having "nothing" to do with 9/11; from Al Qaeda being an "extension" of Saddam, to Saddam having no responsibility for Al Qaeda.  For surely there could be no doubt that when Bush said Saddam was not "responsible" for 9/11, he meant not responsible in any way.  For the entire Bush doctrine after 9/11 was that "no distinction would be made" between those who assisted terrorists, and the terrorists themselves."  If Saddam had played even a supporting role in the 9/11 attacks, that would constitute some responsibility. 


The Whistleblowers 

John Brennan
Deputy Executive Director, CIA, 2001-2003:  "Some of the neocons that you refer to were determined to make sure that the intelligence was going to support the ultimate decision. Looking back on it now, as we put pieces together, it probably is apparent to some, including Paul, that it was much more politicized than in fact we realized. It wasn't a secret, though, at that time that there were certain people who were strong advocates of going to war, almost irrespective of what the intelligence was."

David J. Dunford
Middle East specialist for the State Department who was put in charge of the Iraq Foreign Ministry right after the invasion, said that prewar in the Bush administration, "you could feel there was a drive to go to war no matter what the facts."

Richard Kerr
A former deputy director of the CIA, said that in 2003 there was significant pressure on the intelligence community to find evidence that supported a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the [Bush] administration's "hammering" on Iraq intelligence was harder than any he had seen in his thirty-two years at the agency.

Paul Pillar
In an article in the journal Foreign Affairs on February 10, 2006, retired CIA agent Paul Pillar, who oversaw CIA intelligence assessments about Iraq from 2000 to 2005, said "Intelligence was misused publicly [i.e., to the American public] to justify decisions that had already been made." He wrote that as a result of political pressure, CIA analysts began to "sugarcoat" their conclusions regarding the threat posed by Iraqi weapons and about ties between Hussein and Al Qaeda.


Reader-Companion to Vincent Bugliosi's book "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder"

The 16 U.S. intelligence agencies which collaborate to arrive at the National Intelligence Estimate are: