Senate report strikes at heart of Iraq war's justification

Friday, July 9th 2004, 3:35 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ After hundreds of American soldiers have died and billions of U.S. dollars have been spent, a Senate panel is saying the justification for the war in Iraq was wrong.

``In the end, what the president and the Congress used to send the country to war was information that was provided by the intelligence community, and that information was flawed,'' said Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

Roberts said the war might have still been justified on humanitarian grounds. But Congress never debated going to war to stop Saddam Hussein's brutality. The debate was over Saddam's chemical and biological weapons, his ability to deliver them, his nuclear ambitions and his ties to terrorism.

The Bush administration told the American public _ and the world _ that Saddam had to be stopped before he used his weapons of mass destruction or before they fell into terrorists' hands.

``The facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce weapons of mass destruction,'' Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, just weeks before the war.

Powell's speech was the culmination of months of warnings by top administration officials on the dangers posed by Saddam _ warnings the panel is now rejecting.

Some examples:

_President Bush said on Oct. 7, 2002, that ``Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more.''

The Senate report said intelligence findings ``that `Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons' overstated both what was known and what intelligence analysts judged about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons holdings.''

_Bush said then: ``We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.''

The report said intelligence ``that Iraq was developing a UAV `probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents' also overstated what the intelligence reporting indicated about the mission of Iraq's small UAVs.''

_Vice President Dick Cheney on Aug. 26, 2002, said that Iraqi officials ``continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago.''

The Senate report said: ``The assessment that 'Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear program' was not supported by the intelligence provided to the committee.''

_Bush told the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002: ``Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon.''

The Senate report found: ``Information available to the intelligence community indicated that these tubes were intended to be used for an Iraqi conventional rocket program and not a nuclear program.''

_Powell told the United Nations, ``One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq's biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents.''

The Senate report said ``Intelligence reports did indicate that Iraq may have had a mobile biological weapons program, but most of the reporting was from a single human intelligence source to whom the intelligence community never had direct access.''

For the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the intelligence mistakes rank ``among the most devastating losses and intelligence failures in the history of the nation,'' making the United States ``more vulnerable today than ever before.''

Rockefeller said, ``We in Congress would not have authorized that war ... if we knew what we know now.''