Truth or Lie, Bush Used it To Support Illegitimate War
"The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy."
This is what former top CIA official Tyler Drumheller said today on CBS' 60 Minutes regarding the Bush administration's tactics. Ed Bradley spoke to Drumheller as well as former ambassador Joseph Wilson about the Niger uranium issues that surfaced in the months before the lead up to the Iraq invasion.
It all started much earlier than many would expect. Only one month after 9/11, the Bush administration received information from Italian intelligence sources that Saddam Hussein had purchased 500 tons of "yellow-cake uranium" from Niger, of course with the intention of using it to build a nuclear weapon. Drumheller says that most people at the CIA doubted the report, and questioned its authenticity. They didn't give it much attention.
VP Dick Cheney, however, insisted that this claim be investigated, so former ambassador Joseph Wilson was sent to Niger in February 2002 to do just that.
Wilson spent eight days in Niger looking for signs of a secret deal to send yellowcake to Iraq. He spoke to government officials who would have known about such a transaction. No one did. There had been a meeting between Iraqis and Nigerians in 1999, but Wilson was told uranium had never been discussed. He also found no evidence that Iraq had even been interested in buying uranium.Wilson adds that he came back confident that the Italian intelligence had been false and that there was no basis to the Niger uranium deal. He relayed this information to the CIA, and then director George Tenet used the results of the investigation to convice Bush's speech writers to remove any references to the story because "it was overblown" and "the evidence was weak." Although the Niger story was removed from a speech Bush was scheduled to give in Cincinnati, it would soon reappear in much more high profile address by the president.
At the same time, the CIA had made another breakthrough: Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, had agreed to reveal Iraq's military secrets to the agency, ratting out his long time boss, Saddam Hussein. The administration was excited to hear that such a high level source had decided to speak out. What he told them, however, would be even a bigger shock.
"He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program," says Drumheller.Once again, the Bush administration clearly heard from a high-level source that there were no WMD in Iraq. They had been planning to take Sabri's account seriously had he revealed something more in their interest. Now, they claimed that his information "could not be corroborated."
"So in the fall of 2002, before going to war, we had it on good authority from a source within Saddam's inner circle that he didn't have an active program for weapons of mass destruction?" Bradley asked.
"Yes," Drumheller replied. He says there was no doubt in his mind at all.
"It directly contradicts, though, what the president and his staff were telling us," Bradley remarked.
"The policy was set," Drumheller says. "The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."
The Niger story resurfaced when an Italian spy claimed he had documents to prove the purchase of uranium by the Iraqis. He tried to sell them to an Italian reporter, but after close inspection, she doubted their authenticity. Elisabeta Burba says they were "bad forgeries", and handed them over to the US embassy in Rome in late 2002.
Drumheller says the CIA station chief in Rome, who worked for him, told him he didn't believe it. "He said, 'It's not true. It's not; this isn't real,'" Drumheller recalls.Still, in January 2003, the National Intelligence Council conducted yet another investigation of the Niger story and concluded that it was baseless. This should've been the end of the story, until...
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," the president said.In his 2003 State of the Union Address, just weeks after the final investigation, President Bush insisted on using the Niger story to support his bid for an invasion of Iraq. Even after many analysts and experts had agreed the story was baseless and there was no evidence to support it, the president used it in one of the most important statements to his people. He knowingly used false information to support a war he had planned to conduct regardless of the nuclear ambitions of Saddam Hussein. He knowingly lied to the American people.
If this isn't a good reason to impeach this president, then please turn your tv on and wait for a report about the civil war in Iraq. If that still isn't enough, I don't know what is. Maybe we should just send a stripper with some cigars to the White House. That'll do it.
[technorati tags: Iraq, war, failures, US, Bush, lies, Iraq, WMD, Niger]