FUMO REMARKS ON BUSH
IGNORING INTELLIGENCE THAT IRAQ HAD NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION,
June 20, 2006
It has been more than three years since the United States invaded Iraq, and more than three years since George W. Bush announced the “end of major combat operations.” It has also been about three years since the people of this nation began to realize that we were not going to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Claims that Saddam Hussein possessed biological, chemical and nuclear weapons were the George W. Bush main argument for going to war. Since then, he and his administration’s apologists have told us repeatedly that those claims were not lies to the Congress and the American people, but rather “failures of intelligence.”
In recent months, however, some people who are in a position to know have come forward and said that the Bush administration had accurate intelligence, but simply chose to ignore it. Evidence has also come forth that there were even people within the administration who had doubts about the WMD claims well in advance of the war, and expressed those doubts to George Bush.
I have briefly referred to weapons of mass destruction claims on this floor over the past year, but today I am going to address the subject in a little more detail, because of the information that has come to light in recent months. When you compile all this evidence in one place, it becomes clear that that Bush most likely lied about WMDs.
Two months ago, 60 Minutes interviewed the CIA’s former head of covert operations in Europe, Tyler Drumheller. He is a 26-year veteran of the CIA who retired last year.
Drumheller told of several instances in which the Bush administration disregarded good intelligence showing that Saddam’s Hussein did not have WMDs. The first story Drumheller told involved the case of Iraq trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger to build a nuclear weapon.
Drumheller said that when Italian intelligence services first acquired information about the yellowcake rumor in late 2001, the CIA was immediately skeptical. So they sent Joseph Wilson to check it out, and Wilson concluded -- accurately, as it turns out -- that the story could not have been true. The rumor was scheduled to be included in a speech that Bush was scheduled to give in Cincinnati, but when Wilson’s report came back, the administration was warned to take it out.
But that was not the end of it. In October 2002, a CIA operative was given documents supposedly proving that the story of Saddam trying to buy yellowcake was true after all. Drumheller said the CIA station chief in Rome told him he thought the documents were fakes, and when the documents arrived in Washington, the State Department analyzed them and quickly concluded the same thing. The National Intelligence Council then did a final assessment and reported to the White House in January of 2003 that the rumor was baseless. Just a few weeks later, however, Bush included the yellowcake story among his reasons for invading Iraq in his State of the Union address.
Another Drumheller story showed how Bush simply rejected clear evidence that Saddam did not have WMDs.
Shortly after Wilson had first debunked the yellowcake story, the CIA had succeeded in getting Iraq’s foreign minister to reveal internal secrets. Drumheller was in charge of the operation. Drumheller pointed out to 60 Minutes that this was someone in Saddam’s inner circle, and they took steps to satisfy themselves that he could be trusted. At first, the White House was excited to have this source.
But their attitude changed when the foreign minister told the CIA that Iraq had no active program to develop weapons of mass destruction. Drumheller said he expected the administration to press for more information. He was surprised when they did not.
Said Drumheller: “The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they’re no longer interested. We said, ‘What about the intel?’ And they said, ‘This isn’t about intel any more. This is about regime change.’ “
Drumheller also said: “The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.”
So here we had an important member of Saddam’s inner circles, a man the CIA trusted, telling us outright, -- no WMDs. But Bush disregarded the information during his pre-war propaganda effort.
Confirmation of such Bush conduct also comes from another source in England. David Manning, who was British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief foreign policy advisor during the time leading up the Iraq invasion, wrote a memo about discussions between Bush and Blair in late January of 2003, about six weeks before the war started. In the memo, Manning said that during this closed-door meeting, Bush made clear to Blair that he would invade Iraq, whether the United Nations weapons inspectors found WMDs or not.
At the time, the inspection team led by Hans Blix had no success finding any weapons of mass destruction. In his memo, Manning said Bush and Blair both expressed doubts to each other that WMDs would be found. Yet at a news conference when the closed-door meeting ended, Bush said to reporters: “Saddam Hussein is not disarming. He is a danger to the world. He must disarm. And that’s why I have constantly said, and the prime minister has constantly said, this issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months.”
Publicly, he said just the opposite of what he actually knew was the truth.
That was because, from the very day of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Bush and his team viewed that event as an excuse to invade Iraq. Before 9-11, some of the highest ranking members of the Bush administration had declared that Iraq did not have chemical, nuclear or biological weapons. Just after Bush took office, his new secretary of state declared flat out that Saddam Hussein did not have WMDs. This is what Colin Powell said during a visit to Cairo, Eygpt on February 24, 2001, when answering a question about the effectiveness of U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq: “We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. [Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq.”
No wonder that Powell, when he was handed a draft of a speech he was supposed to give to the U.N., became angry at the inadequate sourcing of the so-called intelligence. At one point, according to a story in U.S. News and World Report, he threw the pages in the air and yelled, “I’m not reading this. This is bullshit.”
But eventually, like the good soldier that he is, Powell went to the U.N. with a redrafted speech and tried to make the case for war, even though he though he suspected that the Bush administration was “cherry picking” only the intelligence it wanted to believe, no matter how dubious it was. Most other nations, rightfully, didn’t buy it.
One group who did, however, was the supposedly liberal American news media. They swallowed the Bush administration spin whole and helped Bush make the case for war. Following are some of the words and phrases that various press outlets used to describe the information, of which Powell himself was skeptical:
· "a massive array of evidence,"
· "a detailed and persuasive case,"
· "a powerful case,"
· "a sober, factual case,"
· "an overwhelming case,"
· "a smoking fusillade...a persuasive case for anyone who is still persuadable,"
· "an accumulation of painstakingly gathered and analyzed evidence,"
· "only the most gullible and wishful thinking souls can now deny that Iraq is harboring and hiding weapons of mass destruction."
· "The skeptics asked for proof; they now have it."
· "Powell's evidence, is overwhelming,"
· "If there was any doubt that Hussein...needs to be...stripped of his chemical and biological capabilities, Powell put it to rest."
We now know that this was actually an ironclad case of the news media being gullible, reporting lies as fact, without doing any independent research.
Last fall, in an interview with ABC-TV, Colin Powell said that although he is glad Saddam is no longer in power, his presentation to the U.N. before the Iraq invasion was “a blot” on his record.
If George Bush thought it was important to remove Saddam Hussein from power, then it is his right to believe it. But he had an obligation to use facts, not lies and distortions, to convince the American people to support that policy.
Most likely, he didn’t tell the truth because he knew that the American public and the Congress would not want to invade a country that possessed no chemical, biological or nuclear threat, had no connection to 9-11, and at that time had no links to al Qaeda.
But invade he did, and last week our list of American combat fatalities rose above 2,500. We have now lost 2,504. Another 18,356 have been wounded. Among them are these two Pennsylvania soldiers, whom I ask you to honor now:
Private First Class Stephen P. Snowberger III, 18, of Lopez, Pa., died in Baghdad on May 11, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat patrol operations. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 10th Mountain Division.,
Lance Corporal Adam C. Conboy, 21, of Philadelphia, Pa., died May 12, in a non-hostile incident in Al Anbar province. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.
Thank you, Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo