Feingold On the Bush-Cheney Iraq Propaganda Campaign

"Even the deeply flawed October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) did not support the claims made by the President and the Vice President regarding an Iraqi nuclear program. That NIE assessed that Iraq did not have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one, and that without sufficient fissile material acquired from abroad, Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until 2007 or 2009. Yet the President made the following statements: '[Saddam] possesses the world's most dangerous weapons' (March 22, 2002); '[w]e don't know whether or not [Saddam] has a nuclear weapon' (December 31, 2002); and, of course, '[f]acing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud' (October 7, 2002). Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney insisted that assessments related to Iraq's nuclear program that were disputed within the Intelligence Community were known 'with absolute certainty' (September 8, 2002) and through 'irrefutable evidence' (September 20, 2002). And, on the eve of war, after the IAEA had reported that its inspectors had found 'no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq,' the Vice President asserted, '[w]e believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons' (March 16, 2003).

"Administration officials' claims of a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda were even more outlandish. Before the war, the Central Intelligence Agency assessed that 'Saddam has viewed Islamic extremists operating inside Iraq as a threat,' that 'Saddam Hussein and Usama bin Laden are far from being natural partners,' and that assessments about Iraqi links to al Qaeda rested on 'a body of fragmented, conflicting reporting from sources of varying reliability.' Moreover, the Intelligence Community consistently assessed that Saddam's use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States rested on his being 'sufficiently desperate' in the face of a U. S. attack and his possible desire for a 'last chance at vengeance.' Yet the President not only repeatedly suggested an operational relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, but asserted that Saddam would provide weapons of mass destruction to al Qaeda for an unprovoked attack against the United States: 'you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror' (September 25, 2002); '[e]ach passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX - nerve gas - or some day a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally' (September 26, 2002); '[Saddam] is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army' (October 14, 2002); '[Saddam] is a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda. . . . [A] true threat facing our country is that an al Qaeda-type network trained and armed by Saddam could attack America and not leave one fingerprint' (November 7, 2002); and '[t]he danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other' (March 17, 2003)."

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