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Iraq On Weapons Of Mass Destruction

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Guest Silent Activist

LAW I read your article on Iraq Weapons on Mass Destruction hidden in John

Kerry's Voting record. I wish you had put this piece as its own topic. If you

do not mind I am going to republish it here and then I am going to expand on it.


To win the war on terrorism, America must be strong.  I think everyone would agree with that statement. And America must be smart.  I think everyone would agree with that statement as well. The greatest threat we face is the possibility Al Qaeda or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon.


If this is going to be the deciding factor in the upcoming elections. The bantering on both sides needs to stop and the facts need to be straight forward.


The reason why I chose to post here on these discussion boards is I found some information on both candidates that I did not know. Therefore I will share some of I have found as well.


I am affiliated with no political party. I am just an American Citizen that spends to much time surfing the web and watching CNN. if you have any questions please feel free to post them here on this message board. Human and American for Truth I will be looking for both of your responses before the election.


Iraq on Weapons of Mass Destruction


The main issue for the war in Iraq was the threat from Saddam’s WMD. All other matters were at most, a minor afterthought.


11 September 2001 The progress Baghdad had made toward escaping sanctions changed following 11 September 2001. Saddam did not immediately understand this.


Reflecting Saddam’s ill-formed understanding of the United States, Baghdad fully grasped neither the effect of the attacks on the United States nor their implications for Iraq’s position in the United Nations. The seriousness of the change in the international atmosphere and Iraq’s diplomatic position became clear to Saddam only after President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union speech. He saw a seriousness he had not earlier recognized. Still, he tried to bargain with the Security Council rather than outright accept new inspections. The dithering cost him.


Washington was building a huge and expensive military force around Iraq. Efforts to secure access and support for potential military action were pursued. In the Security Council a new, tougher resolution was passed (UNSCR 1441). Momentum was building that would be increasingly hard to deflect. Belatedly, following the speech by President Bush at the UN General Assembly in September 2002, Saddam fi nally agreed to unconditional acceptance of the UNMOVIC weapons inspectors.


The work of UNMOVIC inspectors on the ground was pursued energetically and in a charged political environment. Iraq was surrounded by a large and expensive, military force. Sustaining such a force for any length of time would be impossible. It was not a stable situation, and Saddam realized his position far too late. [Charles Duelfer Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence]


The debate that began in 2002 was not over weapons, but over  war. The issue was whether Iraq’s capabilities and its failure to cooperate fully with UN inspections by adequately accounting for its activities posed such a severe threat as to require military invasion and occupation in early 2003.


Bush Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq’s WMD and ballistic missile programs, beyond the intelligence failures by:

  • Treating nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons as a single “WMD threat.”
  • Insisting without evidence—yet treating as a given truth—that Saddam
  • Routinely dropping caveats, probabilities, and expressions of uncertainty present
  • Misrepresenting inspectors’ fi ndings in ways that turned threats from minor to

Considering all the costs and benefits, there were at least two options clearly preferable to a war undertaken without international support: allowing the UNMOVIC/IAEA inspections to continue until obstructed or completed, or imposing a tougher program of “coercive inspections” backed by a specially designed international force.


Chief weapons inspector Charles Duelfer found that “At the time of the American invasion…Iraq did not possess chemical and biological weapons, was not seeking to reconstitute its nuclear program, and was not making any active effort to gain those abilities.” [New York Times, 10/7/04]


During 2002 and 2003, public government statements (including fact sheets from the State Department and the White House) increased steadily in the alarm they expressed over the extent of these programs and began to assert that the Hussein regime had operational ties to Al Qaeda terrorists. Some public statements went far beyond the NIE. For example, the NIE says “Most agencies assess that Baghdad started reconstituting its nuclear weapons program” (emphasis added), whereas Vice President Cheney said in August 2002, “We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons…Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.


“[W]e now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. . . Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.” (Vice President Cheney, Remarks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention, August 26, 2002)


The British Government’s dossier of September 2002 contained the claim based on an intelligence report that some chemical and biological weapons could be deployed by Iraq within 45 minutes of an order to use them. Much public attention has been given to the Prime Minister’s statement that he was not aware until after the war that this report should have been interpreted as referring to battlefield weapons.


Attention has also focused on the alleged scepticism of the then US Director of Central Intelligence, Mr George Tenet, about the report, which he is quoted in Mr Bob Woodward’s book, “Plan of Attack3”, as calling the “they-can-attack-in-45-minutes ***Oh SH#T*”.


The intelligence report itself was vague and ambiguous. The time period given was the sort of period which a military expert would expect; in fact it is somewhat longer than a well organised military unit might aspire to. For those who interpreted it as referring to battlefield munitions, therefore, its significance was that it appeared to confirm that Iraq had both forward-deployed chemical and biological munitions and the necessary command and control arrangements in place to use them, rather than the period of time within which they could be deployed.


“[W]e do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.” (Vice President Cheney, NBC “Meet the Press,” September 8, 2002)


Iraqi detainees were a major source of information. Many WMD-associated figures have been detained at Camp Cropper where the so-called high-value detainees are incarcerated. Analysts questioned them repeatedly about aspects of the program and Regime decision making. Their answers form a large part of the data ISG has used in this report, but must be considered for what they are. These individuals have had long experience living under a severe Regime that imposed harsh consequences for revealing state secrets and have no way of knowing what will happen to them when they get out. Certainly there are strong Regime supporters among the Camp Cropper population. The word inevitably circulates among them who is cooperative and who is not. Once released, such detainees may fear for their lives from Regime supporters.


It has been reported that some official statements relied on unverified claims from Iraqi defectors, rather than information gathered by UN inspectionsor intelligence professionals. Several of the defectors provided by the Iraqi National Congress headed by Ahmad Chalabi were judged to be not credible after the war began. An assessment by the DIA concluded that most of the information given by Iraqi defectors. was of little or no value, with much of it invented or exaggerated.


Lacking hard evidence on Iraqi programs, government officials say they had to develop an outline of a threat picture, then accumulate “bits and pieces” of information that fi lled in that picture. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice explained on June 8 that the White House did not have one, single assessment, but rather formed a “judgment.” The judgment was “not about a data point here or a data point there, but about what Saddam Hussein was doing. That he had weapons of mass destruction. That was the judgment.” This, she said, was a picture

they developed when they “connected a lot of dots from multiple sources.


Some official statements misrepresented the findings of UN inspections. For example, President Bush said, "The regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and is capable of killing millions."


“The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. . .Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly-enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.” (President Bush, Address on Iraq, October 7, 2002)


On July 22, Deputy National Security Advisor Steven Hadley said that he deleted a reference to Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium in Africa from President Bush’s October 7 Cincinnati speech based on a telephone call from Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and two CIA memos sent to himself—one of which was also sent to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Hadley said that this second memo detailed some weakness in the evidence, the fact that the effort was not particularly significant to Iraq’s nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already had a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. The memorandum also stated that the CIA had been telling Congress that the Africa story was one of two issues where we differed with the British intelligence


". . . based on what we now know, we had opportunities here to avoid this problem. We didn’t take them . . . having been taken out of Cincinnati, it should have been taken out of the State of the Union."


Saddam assembled senior officials in December 2002 and directed them to cooperate completely with inspectors, according to a former senior officer. Saddam stated that the UN would submit a report on 27 January 2003, and that this report would indicate that Iraq was cooperating fully. He stated that all Iraqi organizations should open themselves entirely to UNMOVIC inspectors. The Republican Guard should make all records and even battle plans available to inspectors, if they requested. The Guard was to be prepared to have

an “open house” day or night for the UNMOVIC inspectors. Husam Amin met with military leaders again on 20 January 2003 and conveyed the same directives. During this timeframe Russia and France were also encouraging Saddam to accept UN resolutions and and to allow inspections without hindering them.


In January 2003, Iraq’s National Assembly passed a law banning WMD, a measure that had been required under paragraph 23 of the Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Plan approved under UNSCR 715—and one Iraq had refused to pass despite UN requests since 1991.


On 14 February 2003, Saddam issued a presidential directive prohibiting private sector companies and individuals from importing or producing biological,

chemical, and nuclear weapons or material, according to documentary evidence. The directive did not mention government organizations.


ISG has not found evidence that Saddam Husayn possessed WMD stocks in 2003


U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in March 2003 that U.S. officials knew the location of Iraq’s WMD: “We know where they are.”


British Government became aware that the US (and other states) had received from a journalistic source a number of documents alleged to cover the Iraqi procurement of uranium from Niger. Those documents were passed to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which in its update report to the United Nations Security Council in March 2003 determined that the papers were forgeries:


The investigation was centred on documents provided by a number of States that pointed to an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of uranium to Iraq between 1999 and 2001. The IAEA has discussed these reports with the Governments of Iraq and Niger,both of which have denied that any such activity took place. For its part,Iraq has provided the IAEA with a comprehensive explanation of its relations with Niger,and has described a visit by an Iraqi official to a number of African countries,including Niger, in February 1999,which Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports. The IAEA was able to review correspondence coming from various bodies of the Government of Niger,and to compare the form, format, contents and signatures of that correspondence with those of the alleged procurement-related documentation. Based on thorough analysis,the IAEA has concluded,with the concurrence of outside experts,that these documents,which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger,are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded.

[international Atomic Energy Agency GOV/INF/2003/10 Annex of 7 March 2003]


There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminium tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover,even had Iraq pursued such a plan,it would have

encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminium tubes in question. [international Atomic Energy Agency, ‘The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq:An Update’, 7 March 2003]


Operation Iraqi Freedom


Q What can he, the President possibly accomplish with the people from Spain and Britain that he cannot -- face-to-face, that he can't do over the phone? These people are already with you. What is the purpose of this trip?


DR. RICE: These are the co-sponsors of the resolution at the United Nations. They have been co-sponsors from the very beginning. Face-to-face is sometimes the best way to do diplomacy, and the three believe that it was time to get together. And they're very grateful that they are going to be hosted by the Portuguese.


This is an opportunity to assess where we are. It is an opportunity to think about the ways in which the United Nations security process can come to a conclusion because it is time to bring it to a conclusion. They will look at all of the possibilities. And I will tell you everybody has been on the phones and will be on the phones this weekend. But it is time to come to a conclusion that says to Saddam Hussein, it is time for you to disarm or be disarmed; it is time for you to finally comply with Resolution 1441, which is one final chance to disarm.


Resolution 1441 wasn't one last final chance to be inspected, or one final chance to make a little bit of progress. It was one final chance to disarm. And they will chart a way forward, but the moment of truth is coming here, and it's time for the co-sponsors to get together and discuss it. (Remarks by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Outside Arab Television Studio, March 14, 2003)


THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This weekend marks a bitter anniversary for the people of Iraq. Fifteen years ago, Saddam Hussein's regime ordered a chemical weapons attack on a village in Iraq called Halabja. With that single order, the regime killed thousands of Iraq's Kurdish citizens. Whole families died while trying to flee clouds of nerve and mustard agents descending from the sky. Many who managed to survive still suffer from cancer, blindness, respiratory diseases, miscarriages, and severe birth defects among their children.


The chemical attack on Halabja -- just one of 40 targeted at Iraq's own people -- provided a glimpse of the crimes Saddam Hussein is willing to commit, and the kind of threat he now presents to the entire world. He is among history's cruelest dictators, and he is arming himself with the world's most terrible weapons.


Recognizing this threat, the United Nations Security Council demanded that Saddam Hussein give up all his weapons of mass destruction as a condition for ending the Gulf War 12 years ago. The Security Council has repeated this demand numerous times and warned that Iraq faces serious consequences if it fails to comply. Iraq has responded with defiance, delay and deception.


The United States, Great Britain and Spain continue to work with fellow members of the U.N. Security Council to confront this common danger. We have seen far too many instances in the past decade -- from Bosnia, to Rwanda, to Kosovo -- where the failure of the Security Council to act decisively has led to tragedy. And we must recognize that some threats are so grave -- and their potential consequences so terrible -- that they must be removed, even if it requires military force. (President Bush, Radio Address, March 15, 2003)


THE PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger. (President Bush, Address to the Nation on War with Iraq, March 17, 2003)


“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” (President Bush, Address to the Nation on War with Iraq, March 17, 2003)


General Amir al-Saadi, one of Iraq’s top scientists and liaison to UNSCOM and UNMOVIC, in an interview just prior to his surrender to U.S. authorities on April 12, said that Iraq did not have illicit WMD programs: “Nothing, nothing. . . I’m saying this for posterity, for history, not for defending the regime . . . Time will bear me out. . . There will be no difference after the war is over . . . I was knowledgeable about those programs, those past programs, and I was telling the truth.” Since entering into U.S. custody, he has not spoken in public.


“We did not know at the time—no one knew at the time in our circles—maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery. Of course it was

information that was mistaken.” (National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, NBC “Meet the Press,” June 8, 2003)


On July 9, 2004, Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, told reporters that intelligence used to support the invasion of Iraq was based on assessments that were "unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence."


Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the leading Democrat on the 18-member panel, said that "bad information" was used to bolster the case for war.


"We in Congress would not have authorized that war with 75 votes if we knew what we know now," the West Virginia Democrat said.


Roberts listed several points emphasized in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that were "overstated or "not supported by the raw intelligence reporting."


Among these were that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program, had chemical and biological weapons, and was developing an unmanned aerial vehicle, probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents.


He also said the intelligence community failed to "accurately or adequately explain the uncertainties behind the judgments in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate to policymakers."


Rockefeller said that the "intelligence failures" will haunt America's national security "for generations to come."


"Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower," he said. "We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before."


GOP lawmakers on the panel successfully blocked Democratic efforts to finish the second part of the report -- how the Bush administration used the information from the intelligence community -- until after the November elections.


In the interview, Mr. Annan was repeatedly asked whether the war was illegal. Yes," he finally said, "I have indicated it is not in conformity with the UN Charter, from our point of view, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal." "Since the war he has been emphasizing the need for nations on the Security Council and the UN membership as a whole to pull together, saying it is in everyone's interest that stability be restored to Iraq," the spokesman said. "So once the invasion took place, he did not look back, he looked forward." [september 16, 2004]


On October 8, 2004 a senior member of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet has apologised for using inaccurate intelligence to justify launching the invasion of Iraq. Trade and Industry Minister Patricia Hewitt said she was speaking for the Prime Minister and the whole cabinet.


Iraq and Al Quaeda


Fragmentary and uncorroborated” intelligence reports suggested that in 1998 there were contacts between Al Qaida and Iraqi intelligence. Those reports described Al Qaida seeking toxic chemicals as well as other conventional terrorist equipment. Some accounts suggested that Iraqi chemical experts may have


been in Afghanistan during 2000. But in November 2001, the JIC concluded that: . . . there is no evidence that these contacts led to practical co-operation; we judge it unlikely because of mutual mistrust. [JIC, 28 November 2001]


“[T]here clearly are contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq . . . there clearly is testimony that some of the contacts have been important contacts and that there’s a relationship here.” (National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, PBS “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” September 25, 2002)


In November 2003, the former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter was reported to have told journalists that, in the late-1990s, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) ran “Operation Mass Appeal” – an alleged disinformation campaign to disseminate “single source data of dubious quality” about Iraq, in order to “shake up public opinion”.


Mr Ritter was quoted as follows:

"I was brought into the operation in 1997 because at the UN . . . Isatonabody of data which was not actionable,but was sufficiently sexy that if it could appear in the press could make Iraq look like in a bad way. I was approached by MI6 to provide that data,I met with the Mass Appeal operatives both in New York and London on several occasions. This data was provided and this data did find its way into the international media. It was intelligence data that dealt with Iraq’s efforts to procure WMDs,wi th Iraq’s efforts to conceal WMDs. It was all single source data of dubious quality,which lacked veracity. They took this information and peddled it off to the media,internationally and domestically, allowing inaccurate intelligence data to appear on the front pages. The government,both here in the UK and the US,would feed off these media reports, continuing the perception that Iraq was a nation ruled by a leader with an addiction to WMDs. [bBC News, 12 November 2003]


“Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists,

including members of Al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own. Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans—this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none

we have ever known.” (President Bush, State of the Union, January 28, 2003)


“Saddam Hussein has longstanding, direct and continuing ties to terrorist networks. Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with Al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided Al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. And an Al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990s for help in acquiring poisons and gases. We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior Al Qaeda terrorist planner.

This network runs a poison and explosive training camp in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad.” (President Bush, Radio Address, February 8, 2003)


The New York Times reported in June that two of the highest-ranking leaders of Al Qaeda in custody, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, both told interrogators that Iraq and Al Qaeda did not carry out operations together.


The UN Monitoring Group on Al Qaeda released a draft report in June that found no link between Iraq and the terrorist group. The committee’s chief investigator said, “Nothing has come to our notice that would indicate links. . .


The president and the vice president, however, continue to assert the links by implication. Vice President Dick Cheney said in October: “Saddam Hussein had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. He cultivated ties to terror—hosting the Abu Nidal organization, supporting terrorists, and making payments to the families of suicide bombers in Israel. He also had an established relationship with Al Qaeda, providing training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons, gases, making conventional bombs.


The president presented this possibility as the ultimate danger and the centerpiece of his case for war. The most strongly worded of many such warnings came in the 2003 State of the Union speech: “Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans—this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.” In fact, however, there was no positive evidence to support the claim that Iraq would have transferred WMD or agents to terrorist groups and much evidence to counter it. Bin Laden and Saddam were known to detest and fear each other, the one for his radical religious beliefs and the other for his aggressively secular rule and persecution of Islamists. Bin Laden labeled the Iraqi ruler an infi del and an apostate, had offered to go to battle against him after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and had frequently called for his overthrow.119 The fact

that they were strategic adversaries does not rule out a tactical alliance based on a common antagonism to the United States. However, although there have been

periodic meetings between Iraqi and Al Qaeda agents, and visits by Al Qaeda agents to Baghdad, the most intensive searching over the last two years has produced no solid evidence of a cooperative relationship between Saddam’s government and Al Qaeda.


The 9-11 Commission found that Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks on America and that no “Collaborative Operational Relationship” existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda. [9-11 Commission Final Report, 7/22/04]


Here is an excerpt from Thursday, October 6, 2004 Vice-Presidential Debate:


SENATOR EDWARDS: Yes. Mr. Vice President, there is no connection between the attacks of September 11th and Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 Commission has said it, your own Secretary of State has said it. And you've gone around the country suggesting that there is some connection. There's not. And, in fact, the CIA is now about to report that the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein is tenuous, at best. And, in fact, the Secretary of Defense said yesterday that he knows of no hard evidence of the connection. We need to be straight with the American people.


VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: The Senator has got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11. But there's clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror. And the point is that that's the place where you're most likely to see the terrorists come together with weapons of mass destruction, the deadly technologies that Saddam Hussein had developed and used over the years.


VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Gwen, the story that appeared today about this report is one I asked for. I ask an awful lot of questions. That's part of my job as Vice President. A CIA spokesman was quoted in that story as saying they'd not yet reached the bottom line and there's still debate over this question of the relationship between Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein. The report also points out that at one point some of Zarqawi's people were arrested, Saddam personally intervened to have them released, supposedly at the request of Zarqawi.


But let's look at what we know about Mr. Zarqawi. We know he was running a terrorist camp, training terrorists in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. We know that when we went into Afghanistan that he then migrated to Baghdad. He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Kurmal, where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use. We know he's still in Baghdad today. He is responsible for most of the major car bombings that have killed or maimed thousands of people. He's the one you will see on the evening news beheading hostages. He is, without question, a bad guy. He is, without question, a terrorist. He was, in fact, in Baghdad before the war, and he's in Baghdad now after the war. The fact of the matter is that this is exactly the kind of track record we've seen over the years. We have to deal with Zarqawi by taking him out, and that's exactly what we'll do.


Here is an excerpt from Thursday, October 14, 2004 Presidential Debate:


SENATOR KERRY:  Yes.  When the President had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of him, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, and Osama bin Laden escaped.  Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught, dead or alive, this President was asked, where is Osama bin Laden?  He said, I don't know, I don't really think about him very much, I'm not that concerned.  We need a President who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.


MODERATOR:  Mr. President.


PRESIDENT BUSH:  Gosh, I don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden.  That's kind of one of those exaggerations.  Of course, we're worried about Osama bin Laden.  We're on the hunt after Osama bin Laden.  We're using every asset at our disposal to get Osama bin Laden.


The Iraq Cleanup


Last February, Secretary Rumsfeld claimed that more than 210,000 Iraqis were in uniform. Two weeks ago, he admitted that claim was off by more than 50 percent. Iraq, he said, now has 95,000 trained security forces. Neither number bears any relationship to the facts. By the administration's own minimal standards, just 5,000 soldiers have been fully trained. And of the 32,000 police now in uniform, not one has completed a 24-week field-training program.


Our soldiers (some of whom are my good friends) are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever widening war-zone.  In March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times.  In August, they attacked 2,700 times – a 400% increase. 


Falluja…Ramadi… Samarra … even parts of Baghdad – are now “no go zones”… breeding grounds for terrorists who are free to plot and launch attacks against our soldiers. The radical Shi’a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, who’s accused of complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in the suburbs of Baghdad.


Violence against Iraqis… from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation … is on the rise.  


Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.


Residents of Baghdad are suffering electricity blackouts lasting up to 14 hours a day. 


Raw sewage fills the streets, rising above the hubcaps of our Humvees.  Children wade through garbage on their way to school.


Unemployment is over 50 percent.  Insurgents are able to find plenty of people willing to take $150 for tossing grenades at passing U.S. convoys.


Yes, there has been some progress, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our soldiers and civilians in Iraq.  Schools, shops and hospitals have been opened.  In parts of Iraq, normalcy actually prevails. 


But most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives.  So they’re sitting on the fence… instead of siding with us against the insurgents.


Here is an excerpt from Thursday, October 6, 2004 Vice-Presidential Debate:


SENATOR EDWARDS: Well, let's start with what we know. What we know is that the President and the Vice President have not done the work to build the coalition that we need -- so dramatically different than the first Gulf War. We know that they haven't done it, and we know they can't do it. They didn't, by the way, just reject the allies going to lead up to the war; they also rejected them in the effort to do the reconstruction in Iraq. And that has consequences.


What we believe is, as part of our entire plan for Iraq -- and we have a plan for Iraq. They have a plan for Iraq, too, more of the same. We have a plan for success, and that plan includes speeding up the training of a military. We have less than half of the staff that we need there to complete that training. Second, make sure that the reconstruction is sped up in a way that the Iraqis see some tangible benefit for what's happening.


And by the way, if we need to, we can take Iraqis out of Iraq to train them. It is not secure enough. It's so dangerous on the ground that they can't be trained there, we can take them out of Iraq for purposes of training. We should do whatever has to be done to train the Iraqis and to speed up that process.


That works in conjunction with making sure the elections take place on time. Right now the United Nations, which is responsible for the elections in January, has about 35 people there. Now, that's compared with a much smaller country, like East Timor, where they had over 200 people on the ground. You need more than 35 people to hold an election in Cleveland, much less in Iraq. And we -- and they keep saying the election is on schedule, this is going to happen. The reality is we need a new President with credibility with the rest of the world, and who has a real plan for success.


Success breeds contribution, breeds joining the coalition. Not only that, I want to go back to what the Vice President said. He attacks us about the troops? They sent 40,000 American troops into Iraq without the body armor they needed. They sent them without the armored vehicles they needed. While they were on the ground fighting, they lobbied the Congress to cut their combat pay. This is the height of hypocrisy.


MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds.


VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, Gwen, it's hard to know where to start, there's so many inaccuracies there.


The fact of the matter is the troops wouldn't have what they have today if you guys had had your way. When you talk about internationalizing the effort, they don't have a plan, basically -- it's an echo. You made the comment that the Gulf War coalition in '91 was far stronger than this. No, we had 34 countries then, we've got 30 today. We've got troops beside us.


It's hard, after John Kerry referred to our allies as a "coalition of the coerced and the bribed" to go out and persuade people to send troops and to participate in this process. You end up with a situation in which


-- talk about demeaning, in effect, you demean the sacrifice of our allies when you say it's wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, oh, by the way, send troops. It makes no sense at all. It's totally inconsistent. There isn't a plan there.


Our most important ally in the war on terror in Iraq, specifically, is Prime Minister Allawi. He came recently and addressed a joint session of Congress that I presided over, with the Speaker of the House, and John Kerry rushed out immediately after his speech was over with -- where he came and he thanked America for our contributions and our sacrifice and pledged to hold his election in January -- went out and demeaned him, criticized him, challenged his credibility. That is not the way to win friends and allies. You're never going to add to the coalition with that kind of attitude.


MODERATOR: Senator Edwards, 30 seconds.


SENATOR EDWARDS: Thank you. The Vice President suggests that we have the same number of countries involved now that we had in the first Gulf War. The first Gulf War cost the American people $5 billion. And regardless of what the Vice President says, we're at $200 billion and counting. Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President -- the coalition casualties -- are American casualties. Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being borne by American taxpayers. It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.


MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President.


VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Classic example, he won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of our Iraqi allies. It's their country, they're in the fight, they're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job, and for you to demean their sacrifice, that strikes me as --




VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: -- beyond the pale. It is, indeed. You suggested that somehow --




VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: -- they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future. We'll win when they take on responsibility for governance, which they're doing; and when they take on responsibility for their own security, which they increasingly are doing.


Who is Mr. Zarqawi?


He may not be quite the prolific terrorist mastermind that the Bush administration claims. Just as little is known about the Iraq insurgency, there is little known about his organization, the Tawhid and Jihad movement. Estimates vary on the size of his group, anywhere from 50 to 100 "foreign fighters" and former Saddam Hussein loyalists to as many as 1,000.


Bush said that “Zarqawi’s the best evidence of a connection [from Saddam] to Al Qaeda affiliates and al Qaeda.” However, a new CIA report says “there is no conclusive evidence that [saddam’s] regime harbored” Zarqawi. Donald Rumsfeld admitted that he had “not seen any strong, hard evidence that links [saddam and Al Qaeda].” [bush Remarks, 6/15/04, Miami Herald, 10/5/04; Rumsfeld Remarks To The Council On Foreign Relations, 10/4/04]


  Many intelligence officials in Europe doubt that the man jailed 13 years ago for sexual assault in Jordan possesses the organizational skills or manpower muscle to launch even a small percentage of the nearly 100 insurgents' attacks that occur across Iraq daily.


    In fact, in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Zarqawi was virtually unknown to anyone other than Jordanian intelligence officials, who saw him as a dangerous militant with a strong desire to turn Jordan into an Islamic state.


    Mr. Zarqawi was literally introduced to the world in February 2003 when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the United Nations that Mr. Zarqawi was a "collaborator and associate" of Mr. bin Laden's. Mr. Powell also described him as a Qaeda chemical weapons expert who had relocated to Baghdad with Saddam Hussein's blessing and organized a cell of 20 operatives there.



911 A Day America Will Always Remember


The chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 stated publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented.


The civilian and military defenders of the nation's airspace-FAA and NORAD-were unprepared for the attacks launched against them. Given that lack of preparedness, they attempted and failed to improvise an effective homeland defense against an unprecedented challenge.


The world now associates the bin Laden name with Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect be hind the terror atrocities of Sept. 11. As President George W. Bush leads an intense international manhunt for Osama, few Americans realize that Osama's eldest brother, Salem, was one of Bush's first business partners.


In the 1980s, young Muslims from around the world went to Afghanistan to join as volunteers in a jihad (or holy struggle) against the Soviet Union. A wealthy Saudi, Usama Bin Ladin, was one of them. Following the defeat of the Soviets in the late 1980s, Bin Ladin and others formed al Qaeda to mobilize jihads elsewhere.  [911 Commission Final Report]


Bin Ladin stresses grievances against the United States widely shared in the Muslim world. He inveighed against the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, which is the home of Islam's holiest sites, and against other U.S. policies in the Middle East. [911 Commission Final Report]


The day began with the 19 hijackers getting through a security checkpoint system that they had evidently analyzed and knew how to defeat. Their success rate in penetrating the system was 19 for 19.They took over the four flights, taking advantage of air crews and cockpits that were not prepared for the contingency of a suicide hijacking [911 Commission Final Report]


George W. Bush's father was meeting with Osama bin Laden's brother, Shafig bin Laden, in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Washington, on the morning of 9/11. They were on Carlyle Group business just a few miles from where hijackers supposedly acting on behalf of Osama bin Laden would fly a plane into the Pentagon.


Chief financier of the hijackers, Pakistan's Chief Spy General Mahmoud Ahmad, was meeting with Bush administration officials the week before 9/11. He also met with Bob Graham and Porter Goss on the morning of the attacks, who would later go on to head the first 9/11 investigative committee.


President George Bush, on August 6th of 2001, was told in his briefing that America was going to be attacked by al Qaeda and they may use airplanes.


Tora Bora


The Afgan war like no other. In an evolutionary leap powered by Information Age technology, US ground soldiers were mainly employed as observers, liaisons, and spotters for air power - not as direct combatants sent to occupy a foreign land. The success of the US was dazzling, save for the fight for Tora Bora, which may have been this unconventional war's most crucial battle. For the US, Tora Bora wasn't about capturing caverns or destroying fortifications - it was about taking the world's most wanted terrorist "dead or alive." [March 04, 2002 Christian Science Monitor]


As the US intensified its airstrikes on Tora Bora, US and Afghan helicopters started to arrive with supplies for the Afghans. Also - as was its pattern elsewhere in Afghanistan - the US began enlisting local warlords. Two - Hazret Ali and Haji Zaman Ghamsharik - would become notorious in the battle for Tora Bora.  [March 04, 2002 Christian Science Monitor]


Both Mr. Ali and Mr. Ghamsharik say they were first approached by plain-clothed US officers in the middle of November and asked to take part in an attack on the Tora Bora base.  [March 04, 2002 Christian Science Monitor]


"We looked at the entire spectrum of options that we had available to us and decided that the use of small liaison elements were the most appropriate," says Army Col. Rick Thomas in a phone interview from US Central Command Headquarters in Tampa, Fla  [March 04, 2002 Christian Science Monitor]


As a counterbalance to Ali, the US chose another powerful regional warlord, Ghamsharik, whom they had lured back from exile in Dijon, France, in late September. Known to many as a ruthless player in the regional smuggling business, Ghamsharik was given a rousing party on his return, including a 1,000-gun salute. He became the Jalalabad commander of the Eastern Shura. But he still didn't have the support of his own Afghan tribesmen (Khugani). Many of them, in fact, were proud to admit that they worked for Al Qaeda inside the Tora Bora base as well as in several nearby bases. [March 04, 2002 Christian Science Monitor]


From the start, Ghamsharik was clearly uncomfortable with the power-sharing arrangement. Ali's men were Pashay - no relation to Ghamsharik's own Pashtun followers. He called his rival Ali "a peasant," and said he could not be trusted.


The rift between the two men would seriously hinder US efforts to capture Al Qaeda's leadership. Although backed by the United States, the Jalalabad warlords would have to determine by themselves - while sometimes arguing fiercely - how best to go after Tora Bora's defenders.


And on Nov 29, Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC's "Primetime Live" that, according to the reports that were coming in, bin Laden was in Tora Bora."I think he was equipped to go to ground there," Mr. Cheney said. "He's got what he believes to be a fairly secure facility. He's got caves underground; it's an area he's familiar with."


Meanwhile, in the weeks following bin Laden's arrival at the Tora Bora caves, morale slipped under the constant air assault. One group of Yemeni fighters, squirreled away in a cave they had been assigned to by the Al Qaeda chief, had not seen bin Laden since entering on Nov. 13.


But they say bin Laden joined them on Nov. 26, the 11th day of Ramadan, a warm glass of green tea in his hand. Instead of inspiring the elite fighters, he was now reduced, they say, to repeating the same "holy war" diatribe.


Around him that day sat three of his most loyal fighters, including Abu Baker, a square-faced man with a rough-hewn scruff on his chin."[bin Laden] said, 'hold your positions firm and be ready for martyrdom,' " Baker told Afghan intelligence officers when he was captured in mid-December. "He said, 'I'll be visiting you again, very soon.' " Then, as quickly as he had come, Baker says, bin Laden vanished into the pine forests.


Between two and four days later, somewhere between Nov. 28 to Nov. 30 - according to detailed interviews with Arabs and Afghans in eastern Afghanistan afterward - the world's most-wanted man escaped the world's most-powerful military machine, walking - with four of his loyalists - in the direction of Pakistan.


On Dec. 11, in the village of Upper Pachir - located a few miles northeast of the main complex of caves where Al Qaeda fighters were holed up - a Saudi financier and Al Qaeda operative, Abu Jaffar, was interviewed by the Monitor. Fleeing the Tora Bora redoubt, Mr. Jaffar said that bin Laden had left the cave complexes roughly 10 days earlier, heading for the Parachinar area of Pakistan.


Pir Baksh Bardiwal, the intelligence chief for the Eastern Shura, which controls eastern Afghanistan, says he was astounded that Pentagon planners didn't consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them.


"The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it," he said, leaning back in his swivel chair with a short list of the Al Qaeda fighters who were later taken prisoner. "And there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters, had the Americans acted decisively. Al Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet."


Meanwhile, back in Jalalabad, the Afghan warlords enlisted by the US to attack Tora Bora were also cutting deals to help the Al Qaeda fighters escape.


In the shoddy lobby of the Spin Ghar Hotel in downtown Jalalabad on Dec. 3, Haji Hayat Ullah - a member of the Eastern Shura who, according to both Afghan and Pakistani sources had long ties to bin Laden - asked for the "safe passage" for three of his Arab friends.


After a 20-minute discussion with Commander Ali, which was overheard by the Monitor in the empty hotel lobby, a deal was struck for the safe passage of the three Al Qaeda members.


The battle was joined, but anything approaching a "siege" of Tora Bora never materialized. Ghamsharik says today that he offered the US military the use his forces in a "siege of Tora Bora," but that the US opted in favor of his rival, Hazret Ali.


Indeed, Mr. Ali paid a lieutenant named Ilyas Khel to block the main escape routes into Pakistan. Mr. Khel had come to him three weeks earlier from the ranks of Taliban commander Awol Gul.


"I paid him 300,000 Pakistani rupees [$5,000] and gave him a satellite phone to keep us informed," says Mohammed Musa, an Ali deputy, who says Ali had firmly "trusted" Khel.


"Our problem was that the Arabs had paid him more, and so Ilyas Khel just showed the Arabs the way out of the country into Pakistan," Mr. Musa adds.


A common view among those interviewed outside the U.S. Central Command is that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war's operational commander, misjudged the interests of putative Afghan allies and let pass the best chance to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader. Without professing second thoughts about Tora Bora, Franks has changed his approach fundamentally in subsequent battles, using Americans on the ground as first-line combat units. [April 17, 2002 Washington Post]


With the collapse of the Afghan cordon around Tora Bora, and the decision to hold back U.S. troops from the Army's 10th Mountain Division, Pakistan stepped in. The government of President Pervez Musharraf moved thousands of troops to his border with Afghanistan and intercepted about 300 of the estimated 1,000 al Qaeda fighters who escaped Tora Bora. U.S. officials said close to half of the detainees now held at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were turned over by the Pakistani government. [April 17, 2002 Washington Post]


BUSH: “And [Osama Bin Laden is] just – he’s a person who has now been marginalized. His network is -- his host government has been destroyed. He’s the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match…So I don’t know where he is. Nor -- you know, I just don’t spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you. I…I truly am not that concerned about him.”  [bush Remarks, 3/13/02]


Here is an excerpt from Thursday, October 8, 2004 Presidential Debate:


SENATOR KERRY: Ladies and gentlemen, the right war was Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan. That was the right place, and the right time was Tora Bora, when we had him cornered in the mountains. Now, everyone in the world knows that there were no weapons of mass destruction. That was the reason Congress gave him the authority to use force -- not after excuse to get rid of the regime.


PRESIDENT BUSH: Of course, we're going to find Osama bin Laden. We've already got 75 percent of his people, and we're on the hunt for him. But this is a global conflict that requires firm resolve.


The President said twice that "75 percent" of al Qaeda leaders have been "brought to justice." But as The Associated Press reported Oct. 1, Bush was referring to the deaths or arrests of 75 percent of bin Laden's network at the time of the September 11 attacks -- not those who are running the terrorist organization today. The AP also reported that the CIA said earlier in the year two-thirds of those leaders are gone; at his acceptance speech in September, Bush increased his count to three-fourths based on unreleased intelligence data. [October 1, 2004 FactCheck.org]


Furthermore, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies reported May 25 that the occupation of Iraq has helped al Qaeda recruit more members. The institute quoted "conservative" intelligence estimates as saying that al Qaeda has 18,000 potential operatives and is present in more than 60 countries.

[October 1, 2004 FactCheck.org]


Osama bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, thanked the presidential candidates for the "great ideas shared during the debates." [Al-Jazeera TV, 1/10/2004]


On the tape, still under analysis by the CIA, Mr. al-Zawahiri notes that the presidential debate remarks were a "terrific brainstorming session for our associates who seek targets of opportunity to advance the cause of our peaceful religion."


Mr. Zawahiri said he appreciated the "virtual invitation" implied in the following statements::

-- "The president hasn't put one nickel - not one nickel - into the effort to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway systems."

-- "95 percent of the containers that come into the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected."

-- "Civilians get onto aircraft and their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo hold is not X-rayed.

-- "And there's an enormous undone job to protect the loose nuclear materials in the world that are able to get to terrorists."

-- "The president, also unfortunately, gave in to the chemical industry, which didn't want to do some of the things necessary to strengthen our chemical plant exposure."


No president can promise that a catastrophic attack like that of 9/11 will not happen again. But the American people are entitled to expect that officials will have realistic objectives, clear guidance, and effective organization. They are entitled to see standards for performance so they can judge, with the help of their elected representatives, whether the objectives are being met.


If I had lost a loved one fighting in Iraq or currently had a soldier over there, I would be enraged over the Downing Street Memo. Even without that link, I am fuming about this formerly “extremely sensitive” and now public memorandum.

In case you’re unaware, the Downing Street Memo is the recently leaked minutes from a 2002 British government meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his senior national security team. It pertains to their intelligence analysts’ concerns over President Bush’s determination to topple Saddam Hussein — despite “wobbly evidence” that Iraq posed a serious threat to its neighbors or to the United States.

Penned by top Blair aide Matthew Rycroft almost one year before we gave Iraq the shock and awe no one will ever forget, the top-secret memo spoke of how that cause for war would have to be scripted — because a desire for regime change was just not a good enough reason to send in the troops.






From: Matthew Rycroft

Date: 23 July 2002

S 195 /02


cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell




Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.


This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.


John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.


C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.


CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.


The two broad US options were:


a. Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).


b. Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.


The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:


(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.


(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.


(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.


The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.


The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.


The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.


The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.


On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.


For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.


The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.


John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.


The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.




a. We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.


b. The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.


c. CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.


d. The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.


He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.


e. John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.


f. We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.


(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)

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Guest Crystal Patterson

“The contents of the Downing Street Minutes confirm that the Bush Administration was determined to go to war in Iraq, regardless of whether there was any credible justification for doing so. The Administration distorted and misrepresented the intelligence in its attempt to link Saddam Hussein with the terrorists of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, and with weapons of mass destruction that Iraq did not have.


In addition, the Downing Street Minutes also confirm what has long been obvious – that the timing of the war was linked to the 2002 Congressional elections, and that the Administration’s planning for post-war Iraq was incompetent in all its aspects. The current continuing crisis is a direct result of that incompetence.


Many of you have worked hard for the American people, the media and those in government to speak out about the Downing Street Minutes and the Iraq war. You can join me in speaking out as well.


The policy of “shoot first, ask questions later” took us into an unjustified war, and without a clear concept of what “winning the war” actually means.


President Bush constantly talks about the “progress” that is being made in Iraq against the insurgency, but he’s looking for good news with a microscope. All anyone can see is “Mission Mis-accomplished” and the continuing losses of American lives, the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the torture scandal, and the ominous decline in our nation’s moral authority in the world community.


We know the Administration had been planning to invade Iraq for many months before the invasion actually began. We know the Administration twisted the intelligence to make the facts fit their plan. We know that the Administration never really intended to give the U.N. weapons inspectors a reasonable chance to succeed. The Downing Street Minutes demonstrate that the Administration knew their case for war was paper thin, and that in order to go into war with the support of our allies, we had to demonstrate some willingness to go along with the UN inspection process. But the Administration continued to misuse its intelligence, distort the facts and pay only lip-service to the UN’s role in disarming Iraq.


We never should have gone to war for ideological reasons driven by politics and based on manipulated intelligence. The Downing Street Minutes provide even more proof that this is exactly what happened on Iraq. The Administration’s dishonesty, lack of candor, and lack of planning have brought us to where we are today, with American soldiers dying, Iraqi civilians living in constant fear, and with no clearer picture of our strategy for victory in Iraq than when we started. ”



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Guest David Swanson

Bush and Blair answered a question about the Downing Street Minutes. At a press conference in Washington, the Prime Minister and President both answered a question as to the accuracy of the statement in the Downing Street Minutes that in July 2002 they were fixing the facts to suit their determined policy to go to war.


Blair said that was false, while seeming to acknowledge (and certainly not disputing) the authenticity of the minutes. Then he asserted that the meeting recorded in the minutes had taken place prior to approaching the United Nations.


Yes, that is part of the problem. It was also prior to approaching the US Congress or the public. Blair did not say the minutes were an inaccurate recording of the meeting, but said that he had not been fixing facts around policy.


Bush also seemed to acknowledge (and certainly did not dispute) that these were the minutes of a meeting that occured in the time and place recorded. He claimed that he and Blair had been trying to find a peaceful solution, and he parroted Blair's remark about the UN meeting coming later.


Neither Bush nor Blair presented any evidence to call into doubt the minutes or to demonstrate that they, Bush and Blair, had not at that time decided on war and decided to lie about the reasons for it.


AfterDowningStreet.org, a coalition of veterans groups, peace groups, and public interest organizations around the country, renewed its call today for a full congressional investigation into whether the President has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war, in light of the new evidence revealed by the Downing Street Minutes.




QUESTION: On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street Memo from July, 2002, says “Intelligence and facts remain fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military actions.”


Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?


BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily.


No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations.


Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me.


And the fact is, we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November, 2002, United Nations resolution to give a final change to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law.


He didn’t do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action.


But, all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict.


As it happened, we weren’t able to do that because, as I think was very clear, there was no way that Saddam Hussein was ever going to change the way that he worked or the way that he acted.


BUSH: Well, you know, I read, kind of, the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I’m not sure who they dropped it out is, but I’m not suggesting that you all dropped it out there.




And somebody said, Well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There’s nothing farther from the truth.


My conversations with the prime minister was how could we do this peacefully, what could we do.


And this meeting, evidently it took place in London, happened before we even went to the United Nations – or I went to the United Nations.


And so it’s – look, both of us didn’t want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. That’s the last option.


The consequences of committing the military are very difficult. You know, one of the hardest things I do as the president is to try to comfort families who’ve lost a loved one in combat.


It’s the last option that the president must have, and it’s the last option I know my friend had as well.


And so we worked hard to see if we could figure how to do this peacefully, to put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, so the world speaks. And he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.


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Guest Steve J

Could it maybe be that the memo IS accurate, and what you're engaged in now is one more layer of deceit?


I tell ya, future generations will shake their heads and wonder why the heck we all seemed to be somnolent while all this patent garbage was being passed off as truth.



Well, we can contact members of the House Judiciary Committee:


CHAIRMAN F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (202) 225-5101

RANKING MINORITY MEMBER John Conyers, Jr. (202) 225-5126



Henry J. Hyde (202) 225-4561

Howard Coble (202) 225-3065

Lamar S. Smith (202) 225-4236

Elton Gallegly (202) 225-5811

Bob Goodlatte (202) 225-5431

Steve Chabot (202) 225-2216

Daniel Lungren (202) 225-5716

William L. Jenkins (202) 225-6356

Chris Cannon (202) 225-7751

Spencer Bachus 202 225-4921

Robert Inglis 202-225-6030

John N. Hostettler (202) 225-4636

Mark Green (202) 225-5665

Ric Keller (202) 225-2176

Darrell Issa 202-225-3906

Jeff Flake (202) 225-2635

Mike Pence (202) 225-3021

J. Randy Forbes (202) 225-6365

Steve King (202) 225-4426

Tom Feeney (202) 225-2706

Trent Franks 202-225-4576

Louie Gohmert (202) 225-3035



Howard L. Berman (202) 225-4695

Rick Boucher (202) 225-3861

Jerrold Nadler 202-225-5635

Robert C. Scott (202) 225-8351

Melvin L. Watt (202) 225-1510

Zoe Lofgren (202) 225-3072

Sheila Jackson Lee (202) 225-3816

Maxine Waters (202) 225-2201

Martin T. Meehan (202) 225-3411

William D. Delahunt (202) 225-3111

Robert Wexler (202) 225-3001

Anthony Weiner (202) 225-6616

Adam Schiff (202) 225-4176

Linda T. Sanchez (202) 225-6676

Adam Smith 202-225-8901

Chris Van Hollen (202) 225-5341

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Guest Rep. John Conyers

We have reached a point where all but the most delusional enthusiasts of the Iraq war have now acknowledged that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion and likely for over a decade preceding the war. Fox News and the President were slow to acknowledge this fact, but now have.


Unfortunately, it seems this rare consensus has lulled many into failing to ask the follow-up question: why were the President and other high-ranking administration officials so definitive in their statements that Iraq possessed WMD? This question is not of a merely historical significance: we deserve to know whether these statements were the result of a "massive intelligence failure" as some have contended or a deliberate deception of the Congress and the American people.


Essentially, the question boils down to what lawyers call "mens rea". Before a defendant can be convicted of a crime the judge or jury must find not only that the defendant committed the wrongful act but also did so with a state of mind indicating culpability. In the case of a fraud, the jury must find that there was intent to deceive. In the case of Iraq, the weight of evidence continues to accumulate indicating that the American people and Congress may well have been the victims of a deliberate deception.


On page A26 of the Sunday, May 22 edition of the Washington Post, under the headline "Prewar Findings Worried Analysts," we learned that four days before the President made the now retracted claim that Iraq was trying to buy "significant quantities" of uranium from Africa, the National Security Council thought this case was so weak that it put out a frantic call for new intelligence.


In the same article, we learned that before an Oct. 7, 2002 Presidential speech in which the President claimed there was a potential threat to the U.S. by Iraq through unmanned aircraft "that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons," and a contemporaneous claim to Congress by Vice President Cheney and then-CIA Director George Tenet that this was the "smoking gun" justifying the war, " the CIA was still uncertain whether the [source of the information] was lying."


On page A1 of the Saturday, May 28 edition of the Washington Post, under the headline "Analysts Behind Iraq Intelligence Were Rewarded", we learned that the analysts who pushed the now discredited claim that Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes was for the purpose of furthering a nuclear weapons program, have been richly rewarded for this conspicuous failure, receiving job performance rewards in each of the three years since this grave error.


The same article quotes "some current and former officials" as generally stating "the episode shows how the administration has failed to hold people accountable for mistakes on prewar intelligence."


Early this morning on the Associated Press wire, under the headline "Bolton Said to Orchestrate Unlawful Firing," we learn that the President's nominee to be Ambassador to the United Nations once again exercised his unique diplomatic talents, flying "to Europe in 2002 to confront the head of a global arms-control agency and demand he resign, then orchestrated the firing of the unwilling diplomat in a move a U.N. tribunal has since judged unlawful, according to officials involved." The diplomat’s sin? He was "trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad. That might have helped defuse the crisis over alleged Iraqi weapons and undermined a U.S. rationale for war."


Thus, absent any contradictory evidence, in the past two weeks alone (leaving out the reports of the last three years), we have a pretty clear pattern. This Administration had a cover story, namely that a clear and present danger to the United States was posed by Iraq's WMD, for something they knew they wanted to do: go to war with Iraq. Those who brought forward the weight of evidence disputing these claims were first ignored and later punished. Those who assisted in the cover story were rewarded.

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Newshounds.us reported that Kevin Zeese said that we need an inquiry in order to find out more. He thinks there is enough evidence at this point for a resolution of inquiry, a prelude to impeachment. He said only one congressperson is needed to make the resolution. He also said that we are starting to see Republicans like Walter Jones, from North Carolina, who coined the term "freedom fries" in the capital cafeteria, now saying Bush misled us into war. See photo below.


I contacted Congressman Walter B. Jones office about the Kevin Zeese statement. I was told the story was innacurate. Congressman Jones is NOT calling on or supporting any efforts to impeach President Bush. In fact he was on his steering committee last election and supports the President.


The Congressman's primary concerns about Iraq have to do with our men and women in uniform and their families. He represents a military district that includes Camp Lejeune, where many of the Marines were stationed before Iraq. Because of that military connection, he has been seeing the families of those who have lost a loved one up close and personal. He has signed over 1,200 letters to the families of those who have lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan, and as more letters pile up he cannot help but hope for an end to the losses.


Despite some of the freedom fries, political talk that's out there, Congressman Jones statements stems from his concern for our men and women in uniform. Like many others, the intelligence failure on WMD is a great concern for him. Again, he does not blame the President for his decision on the war, because he made a judgment call based upon the same faulty intel that he himself used in deciding how to cast his vote.


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"send me ....a Whopper,Mac,and Drink".....that is all sadaam wanted when he called contact in kuiwait. he wanted some imperialist fast food; WMD?


I have to admit, that jumping on the bandwagon of “full disclosure or bust” has been comforting as a citizen in our great democracy. Looking forward to the latest breaking news story from CNN, or my local news affiliates has been a comfort for myself and I am sure others who see freedom of the press as a benchmark, even as important as the new color coded threat levels streaming across the base of our television screens assuring us that someone “is minding democracy” and providing for the common defense. We are far too busy in our quest to get our 40 hours in, to pay for all this utopian bliss. Several, seemingly unconnected events have now made me feel more safe and secure that our great nation still stands firm..(1) Donald Trump says “the tower project stinks to high heaven and he has a better deal”, (2) Michael Jackson has aquired some mysterious illness and in hospital ahead of the jury sitting down to do real jury stuff and not “waving” back to mike from the courthouse upper windows, (3) Homeland Security has to get rid of that crappy artwork and gold toilets, especially after big bad Johnny insisted that the male warrior statues put on long skirts so that visiting ladies to his throne room stay focused , he being the big dog, (4) Deepthroat is a trusted member of AARP.

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We are far too busy in our quest to get our 40 hours in, to pay for all this utopian bliss.

Sun you are right on the mark.


As of this post, the United States has spent over $175 Billion Dollars on this war on terrorism in Iraq. All I want to know is what do we get out of this war. More taxes. More Debt. All I care about is my pocket book.


I want lower gas prices, so I can drive from Washington to New York for less than

$100 Dollars a trip. While I pay over $2.40 for a gallon of gas the Iraqis pay only $.05 cents. Go figure????

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Guest David Swanson

On Thursday June 16, 2005, at 1:00 p.m. in the Wasserman Room at 430 S Capitol St. SE, Washington, D.C., Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and other Congress Members will hold a hearing on the Downing Street Minutes and related evidence of efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.


The hearings are being held at the Democratic National Committee because the Republicans controlling the House Judiciary Committee refused to permit the ranking Democratic Member to use a room on the Hill. http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheH...Dome/index.html Nonetheless, Republicans are welcome to attend.


Later on the same day at 5:00 p.m. ET in Lafayette Square Park, in front of the White House, a large rally will support Congressman Conyers who plans to deliver to the White House a letter addressed to President Bush and signed by over 500,000 Americans and at least 94 Congress Members. The letter asks the President to respond to questions raised by the Downing Street Minutes.


Among those speaking at the hearings will be: Joe Wilson, Former Ambassador and WMD Expert; Ray McGovern, 27-year CIA analyst who prepared regular Presidential briefings during the Reagan administration; Cindy Sheehan, mother of fallen American soldier; John Bonifaz, renowned constitutional lawyer and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org.


Among those speaking at the rally will be: Congressman Conyers and various other Congress Members, Cindy Sheehan of Gold Star Families for Peace, John Bonifaz of AfterDowningStreet.org, Ray McGovern former CIA analyst, Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of Progressive Democrats of America, Stephen Cleghorn of Military Families Speak Out, Kevin Zeese, Director of Democracy Rising.

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"All war is based on deception." -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Long before this memo surfaced, it had become obvious that the US Government, aided by that of Great Britain, was lying to create the public support for a war in Iraq.


First off is Tony Blair's "Dodgy Dossier" http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/blair.doc a document released by the Prime Minister that made many of the claims used to support the push for war. The dossier soon collapsed when it was revealed that much of it had been plagiarized from a 12-year old student thesis paper! The contents of the dossier, however much they seemed to create a good case for invasion, were obsolete and outdated.


This use of material that could not possibly be relevant at the time is clear proof of a deliberate attempt to deceive.


Then there was the claim about the "Mobile biological weapons laboratories". Proffered in the absence of any real laboratories in the wake of the invasion, photos of these trailers were shown on all the US Mainstream Media, with the claim they while seeming to lack anything suggesting biological processing, these were part of a much larger assembly of multiple trailers that churned out biological weapons of mass destruction.


This claim fell apart when it was revealed that these trailers were nothing more than hydrogen gas generators used to inflate weather balloons. This fact was already known to both the US and UK, as a British company manufactured the units and sold them to Iraq.


Our third piece of evidence consists of documents which President Bush referenced as in his 2003 State of the Union Speech. According to Bush, these documents proved that Iraq was buying tons of uranium oxide, called "Yellow Cake" from Niger. Since Israel had bombed Iraq's nuclear power plant years before, it was claimed that the only reason Saddam would have for buying uranium oxide was to build bombs.


This hoax fell apart fast when it was pointed out that Iraq has a great deal of uranium ore inside their own borders and no need to import any from Niger or anywhere else. The I.A.E.A. then blew the cover off the fraud by announcing that the documents Bush had used were not only forgeries, but too obvious to believe that anyone in the Bush administration did not know they were forgeries!


Along with forged "Yellow Cake" documents and balloon inflators posing as bioweapons labs, the US was shown a steady barrage of spy photos taken from high flying aircraft and spacecraft. On the photos were circles and arrows and labels pointing to various fuzzy white blobs and identifying them as laboratories and storage areas for Saddam's massive weapons of mass destruction program. Nothing in the photos actually suggested what the blobby shapes were and inspections which followed the invasion, all of them turned out to be rather benign. One purported biological weapons lab turned out to be a bakery, and a claimed nuclear facility turned out to be a commercial mushroom farm. Not a single one of the photographed targets proved to be what the labels claimed that they were.


In the end, the real proof that we were lied to about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. That means that every single piece of paper that purported to prove that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was by default a fraud, a hoax, and a lie. There could be no evidence that supported the theory that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction because Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. In a way, the existance of any faked documents about Iraq's WMDs is actually an admission of guilt. If one is taking the time to create fake documents, the implication is that the faker is already aware that there are no genuine documents.


What the US Government had, ALL that they had, were copied student papers, forged "Yellow Cake" documents, balloon inflators posing as bioweapons labs, and photos with misleading labels on them. And somewhere along the line, someone decided to put those misleading labels on those photos, to pretend that balloon inflators are portable bioweapons labs, and to pass off 12-year old stolen student papers as contemporary analysis.


And THAT shows an intention to deceive.


Lawyers call this "Mens Rea", which means "Guilty Mind". TV lawyer shows call it "Malice of forethought". This means that not only did the Bush Administration lie to the people and to the US Congress, but knew they were doing something something illegal at the time that they did it.


All the talk about "Intelligence failure" is just another lie. There was no failure. Indeed the FBI agents who erroneously claimed that missile tubes were parts for a uranium centrifuge http://perspectives.com/forums/forum71/44107.html received bonuses, while the Pentagon smeared Hans Blix http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2980332.stm and John Bolton orchestrated the firing http://www.btcnews.com/btcnews/index.php?p=966 of Jose Bustani, the director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, because Bustani was trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad.


The President of the United States and his Neocon associates lied to the people of the United States to send them off on a war of conquest.


Defenders of the government will point to the cases listed at the top of the page as proof that lying to the people is a normal part of the leader's job and we should all get used to it. And because "Everybody does it" that we should not single out the present administration. But this is madness. We do not catch all the murderers, yet when we catch a murderer, we deal with them as harshly as possible, in order to deter more murderers.


Right now, we have the criminals at hand. and, while other leaders in history have lied to start wars, for the first time in history, the lie stands exposed while the war started with the lies still rages on, to the death and detriment of our young men and women in uniform. We cannot in good moral conscience ignore this lie, this crime, lest we encourage future leaders to continue to lie to use to send our kids off to pointless wars. Lying to start a war is more than an impeachable offence; it the highest possible crime a government can commit against their own people. Lying to start a war is not only missapropriation of the nation's military and the nation's money under false pretenses, but it is outright murder committed on a massive scale. Lying to start a war is a betrayal of the trust each and every person who serves in the military places in their civilian leadership. By lying to start a war, the Bsuh administration has told the military fatalities and their families that they have no right to know why they were sent to their deaths. It's none of their business.


Our nation is founded on the principle of rule with the consent of the governed. Because We The People do not consent to be lied to, a government that lies rules without the consent of the governed, and ruling with the consent of the governed is slavery.


You should be more than angry. You should be in a rage. You should be in a rage no less than that of the families of those young men and women who have been killed and maimed in this war started with a lie.You need to be in a rage and you need to act on that rage because even as I type these words, the same government that lied about Iraq's nuclear weapons is telling the exact same lies about Iran's nuclear capabilities. The writing is on the wall; having gotten away with lying to start the war in Iraq, the US Government will lie to start a war in Iran, and after that another, and after that another, and another and another and another because as long as you remain silent, and as long as you remain inactive, the liars have no reason to stop.


As long as you remain inactive, the liars have no reason to stop.




It is time to fire the liars.


"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is

for good men to do nothing" .

--Edmund Burke

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Guest Friends of John Kerry

On Saturday, May 28 Washington Post Staff Writer, Walter Pincus, wrote an inciteful article on how President Bush's Iraqi intelligence analysts, Norris and Campos, had received received performance awards, lump-sum cash payments, in fiscal 2002, 2003 and 2004.


Norris and Campos were the once who claimed that aluminum tubes sought by the Baghdad government were most likely meant for a nuclear weapons. The claim was later found completely inaccurate.



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  • 3 weeks later...

Most American media have focused on the allegations from the Downing Street memo that the Bush administration was going to "fix" the intelligence in order to justify the war against Iraq. Now the reporter who broke the original story says they have missed a more substantial allegation to arise from the same set of leaked documents.


Michael Smith, defense writer for the Sunday Times of London wrote this past Sunday that "The American general who commanded allied air forces during the Iraq war appears to have admitted in a briefing to American and British officers that coalition aircraft waged a secret air war against Iraq from the middle of 2002, nine months before the invasion began." (This bombing capaign is referred to in the Downing Street memo.)


Addressing a briefing on lessons learned from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 "carefully selected targets" before the war officially started. The nine months of allied raids "laid the foundations" for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.


If those raids exceeded the need to maintain security in the no-fly zones of southern and northern Iraq, they would leave President George W. Bush and Tony Blair vulnerable to allegations that they had acted illegally.


Writing in the Los Angeles Times last week on how he received the series of documents from two sources in the government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Smith (who originally strongly supported the war in Iraq) wrote that at first he did not consider the now famous "Downing Street Memo" the most important of the documents he received. Instead, he felt it was a separate briefing paper which showed that the Blair government would support military action, but they had to find way to do that legally.


The Downing Street plan, according to the leaked briefing paper, was to use the United Nations to trap Saddam Hussein into giving them a reason to attack. The US and the British would do this by prodding "the UN Security Council to give the Iraqi leader an ultimatum to let in the weapons inspectors." It was hoped that Hussein would find this unacceptable, giving them a "legal justification for war."


But if that didn't work, the US was already working on "Plan B," and the information on that was in the Downing Street memo.

It quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that "the US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime." This we now realize was Plan B [and apparently confirmed by Gen. Moseley's comments mentioned above]. Put simply, US aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict. The number of bombs dropped on Iraq in March and April of 2002 was almost zero. But from May to August, that increased to 10 tons a month.

But these initial "spikes of activity" didn't have the desired effect. The Iraqis didn't retaliate. They didn't provide the excuse Bush and Blair needed. So at the end of August, the allies dramatically intensified the bombing into what was effectively the initial air war. The number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq by allied aircraft shot up to 54.6 tons in September alone, with the increased rates continuing into 2003.


In other words, Bush and Blair began their war not in March 2003, as everyone believed, but at the end of August 2002, six weeks before Congress approved military action against Iraq.

And in another story on June 19th for the Times, Smith reported that another of the leaked documents, a paper on British Foreign Office legal advice, showed that the increased bombing campaign was "illegal" under international law, despite US claims to the contrary.

" ... the leaked Foreign Office legal advice, which was also appended to the Cabinet Office briefing paper for the July [2002] meeting [where the contents of the Downing Street memo wer recorded], made it clear allied aircraft were legally entitled to patrol the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq only to deter attacks by Saddam’s forces on the Kurdish and Shia populations.


The allies had no power to use military force to put pressure of any kind on the regime.

Smith also writes that since Congress did not authorize military action against Iraq until Oct. 11, 2002, "the revelations indicate Bush may also have acted illegally."


In an interview with RawStory.com (an alternative news source that covers stories under-reported by the mainstream media), John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org, a military defense analysis group, said his organization had raised questions about the increase in bombing in August of 2002. "The group saw the strikes as a means by which the US could degrade Iraqi defensive capabilities, and as a precursor to a declared war."

"It was no big secret at the time," [said Mr. Pike]. "It was apparent to us at the time that they were doing it and why they were doing it, and that was part of the reason why we were convinced that a decision to go to war had already been made, because the war had already started." Pike says the allied forces used their position in the 'No-Fly- Zone' to engage in pre-emptive action long before war was formally declared.


"They, I think, had decided to take advantage of Southern Watch and Northern Watch to go ahead and take the air defense system apart and attack any other targets that they felt needed to be preemptively destroyed," Pike asserted. "They explicitly altered the rules of engagement, because initially the rules of engagement had been that they would shoot back if [someone] shot at them. Then they said that if they were shot at, they would shoot at whatever they wanted to."

The conservative commentary blog, RedState.org, however, offers another explanation for the increased bombing – that the US and Britain were trying to force Hussein into complying with coalition requests for him to readmit weapons inspectors. And besides, the site argues, "what if Blair and Bush were trying to goad Hussein into putting a noose around his neck?"

Do you consider that, perhaps, Bush and Blair had determined that Hussein needed to go, once and for all? Perhaps they had good reason to believe that this leopard was not going to change his spots, and wasn't going to stop menacing the neighborhood. Then, maybe Blair and Bush looked around, saw the irresoluteness of the UN, saw the military weakness and political spinelessness of the other major nations on Earth (the nations of "Old Europe", for instance), and determined that, if someone is going to have to fight Hussein – that someone is US! Best fight him now, as opposed to fighting him a few years from now, after UN sanctions have collapsed and he's had a chance to upgun. The Wall Street Journal reports on how the blogosphere has kept the story of the Downing Street Memo alive despite efforts by Blair and Bush, who have not denied the authenticity of the original document, to put it to rest. On Thursday, Blair admitted that he has been "astonished" by the coverage that the memo had received in the US and Britain.


Finally, in an ironic footnote to the incident, RawStory.com reported that the number of bombs dropped on Iraq actually declined after the start of the war in March, 2003.

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Guest Maybe He did Lie

Maybe Bush and the administration did lie.

We will never officially know but my opinion is even if we did find WMD, people would still try to find reasons to say he was lying.


All politicans lie but sometimes I think you need to support you country no matter the decision. My hope to you people who are so against the war is that you still support our troops over there because you still know it wasnt thier choice to go over there.

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Guest Muqtedar Khan

Washington DC is rapidly becoming the scandal capital of the world. They seem to be unending, starting with the weapons of mass destruction intelligence fiasco, the Halliburton story, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Quran desecration, Amnesty and the "gulag" episode and now the expose of the CIA's diversification into international kidnapping. What next, a revelation that the CIA's kidnapping wing has merged with Abu Sayaf's gang to expand its kidnapping activities into the Far East?

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  • 1 month later...
Guest Travis Thomas

Not only has the administration recklessly endangered the lives of the hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers who have toured in Iraq, but now it comes out that Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, threatened the life of a covert CIA operative. After ambassador Joseph Wilson proved as fabricated administration claims of uranium purchases by Iraq from Niger, Rove leaked to Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper and Libby to The New York Times reporter Judith Miller that Wilson's wife Valarie Plame was a CIA agent.


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Guest bling bling

It is certainly reasonable to argue that Cheney had more reason to strike out at Wilson than anyone else in the administration when the former ambassador revealed the truth in a New York Times opinion piece that appeared in the summer of 2003.

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Guest Reid Cherlin

The text of Congressman Nadler’s letter to Deputy Attorney General McCallum follows:


October 20, 2005


Acting Deputy Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

Room 4111

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530


Dear Deputy Attorney General McCallum:


I urge you to use the powers granted to you, under the regulations promulgated by the Department of Justice in June of 1999, to expand the framework of the investigation currently being conducted by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.


It is now clear that the key reason cited by the Bush Administration – the imminent acquisition by Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction – to persuade Congress and the American people of the necessity of invading Iraq was not true. There is new and mounting and evidence, stemming in part from the current investigation, that members of the Bush Administration may have deliberately, and, therefore, illegally, misled Congress. Since Special Counsel Fitzgerald is already investigating the CIA leak, it seems appropriate that he be empowered to expand his investigation to examine whether the leak itself was part of a broader conspiracy knowingly to mislead Congress into authorizing a war.



As a member of the Judiciary Committee who opposed the extension of the independent counsel law, I do not take this matter lightly. I believe these types of investigations should be reserved for only the most serious of alleged crimes, but I have to believe that lying to Congress in order to obtain its support for a war meets that test.


Some of the evidence that members of the Bush Administration may have deliberately, and, therefore, illegally, misled Congress is as follows:


1) We now know that during the summer of 2002, at a time when the White House maintains that no decision had been made about going to war, the Bush Administration created the “White House Iraq Group” whose sole purpose appears to have been to market and sell a decision to go to war to Congress. It appears that this group specifically sought to deceive Congress about the intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction. (New York Daily News, Oct. 19, 2005.)



2) We now know from the so-called “Downing Street Memo,” that it appeared to senior members of the British Government who had conferred with senior Administration officials, that “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” (Emphasis added.)



3) We now know that President Bush included in his State of the Union Address in January of 2003 an already discredited reference to Iraq seeking uranium from Niger.



4) We now know from Special Counsel Fitzgerald’s investigation itself that there was an orchestrated campaign to smear and discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who attempted to tell the truth about some of the faulty “evidence” used by the White House to make its case for war. Although Mr. Fitzgerald’s investigation has yet to determine whether a crime was committed by any Administration official(s) in leaking the identity of Wilson's wife as a covert CIA operative, it is abundantly clear that the White House Iraq Group was engaged in an effort to discredit revelations of the falsity of the Administration’s justifications for the war, and to intimidate and punish those who would reveal the truth. According to sources quoted by the New York Daily News, this group of White House officials was “so determined . . . to win its argument that it morphed into a virtual hit squad that took aim at critics who questioned its claims.” (New York Daily News, October 19, 2005.)



5) We now know that top Administration officials, including Vice President Cheney’s


Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, misrepresented to the media the scope and nature of what the U.S. intelligence community knew and didn’t know about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs before the war. (Newsweek.com, Oct. 19, 2005.) Manufacturing of media complicity, if achieved through a deliberate plan to provide false information, would have played a key role in misleading Congress. And indeed, we need to know more about the relationship between Administration officials and certain media outlets in view of details emerging from this investigation regarding the special access to Administration officials and, perhaps, to potentially classified information afforded to Judith Miller of The New York Times, which led to clearly erroneous stories supporting the Administration’s false claims regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.


With this growing body of evidence that the White House may have deliberately misled Congress into authorizing war, a broader independent investigation is clearly necessary.


Special Counsel Fitzgerald has done a great service to the nation thus far by investigating the CIA leak, but real questions remain. Was the CIA leak incident an effort to enforce discipline as part of a much broader criminal conspiracy by members of the Bush Administration to deceive Congress about a matter of war and peace? Who was involved? Were any of their actions criminal?


These questions go to the core of the functioning of democratic self-government in the United States. Honest, if mistaken, reliance on faulty intelligence to convince Congress to authorize a war is bad enough. But, if, as mounting evidence is tending to show, Administration officials deliberately deceived Congress and the American people, this would constitute a criminal conspiracy against the entire country.


It is self-evident that the Administration cannot investigate itself in this matter. I therefore urge you to expand the Special Counsel’s investigation to include these matters crucial to our national security and national integrity.


I look forward to your response.



Jerrold Nadler

Member of Congress

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Guest Intelligent

Do you want to understand what is really going on. Read this:


On and off the record, other former CIA officials say that despite the pressure, dissent against the White House was rife within the agency. The strongest opposition centered in the CIA’s Near East Division, few of whose officials supported the idea of war with Iraq. They clashed often with WINPAC, the CIA division focused on weapons proliferation and the part of the agency most responsible for the heavily skewed conclusions about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. “The Near East Division people didn’t buy into what the Bush administration wanted to do in regard to Iraq, but much of WINPAC did,” says Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer who left the agency in 1989 and then served four years as deputy director of the State Department’s office of counterterrorism. “Bush, and the White House, favored WINPAC over [the Near East Division]. There were people in the agency who tried to speak out or disagree … who got fired, got transferred, got outed, or criticized. Others decided to play ball.”


More information here:



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Guest Consortiumnews

The Downing Street Memo minutes revealed that at CIA headquarters on July 20, 2002, Tenet informed his British counterpart that President Bush had decided to attack Iraq for regime change; that the war would be justified by the “conjunction” of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism; and that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”


So we did not really need Scott McClellan’s recent revelations to understand that the intelligence was “fixed,” even though our country’s fawning corporate media (FCM) made a Herculean effort to suppress this key evidence – in part by ignoring and disparaging the Downing Street Memos when they surfaced three years ago.


Among the saddest aspects of this whole affair, at least for those who have been in the intelligence profession, is that no one within the U.S. intelligence establishment saw fit to go public and disclose the deception that was being used to “justify” a war of aggression. No one.


The only seasoned officials with the courage to speak out were three Foreign Service Officers – Brady Kiesling, Ann Wright and John H. Brown – each of whom resigned before the war since it was clear to them, even without access to the most sensitive intelligence, that the war could not be justified.


As for intelligence officials outside the United States, there were several profiles in courage.


Katharine Gun, a translator in the British equivalent of our National Security Agency, did successfully leak a very damaging Jan. 31, 2003, memorandum from NSA revealing that the U.S. and U.K. were pulling out all stops to sell the war, even intercepting messages to UN delegations in New York and elsewhere.


It was all part of a last-ditch attempt to pressure non-aligned members of the UN Security Council into acquiescing to the U.S./U.K. desire to strike Iraq. Gun thought she might succeed in slowing or even stopping an attack on Iraq, if the world learned the lengths to which Bush and Blair were going to have their war.


Gun’s explosive document, carried by the London Observer on March 2, 2003 – just two and a half weeks before the attack on Iraq – was suppressed or trivialized by the FCM (fawning corporate media) in the United States.


(Gun, who acknowledged leaking the document, was fired and charged under the Official Secrets Act. But the case collapsed when the British government balked at providing evidence that might have disclosed some government law experts had concluded that the Iraq invasion was illegal. Gun is now a member of VIPS/West.)


And after the war began, Danish Army Intelligence Major Frank Grevil gave the Danish media documents showing that Danish intelligence had reported to its government that the U.S. public rationale for war was not supported by authentic intelligence.


Grevil (another VIPS member) was sentenced to four months in prison for his efforts to tell the truth.


Until he quit nine days before the attack on Iraq, Andrew Wilkie was a senior analyst in Australia’s premier intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments (ONA).


Of all the Australian, British and American all-source intelligence analysts with direct knowledge of how intelligence was abused in the run-up to the war – Wilkie was the only one to resign in protest and speak truth to power.


Those who dismiss such efforts as an exercise in futility should know that on Oct. 7, 2003, the Australian Senate, in a rare move, censured then-Prime Minister Howard for misleading the public in justifying sending Australian troops off to war.


The Senate statement of censure noted that Howard had produced no evidence to justify his claims in March 2003 that Iraq had stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, and castigated him for suppressing Australian intelligence warnings that war with Iraq would increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks.


One senator accused Howard of “unprecedented deceit.”


Ask the American FCM why they ignored that story.


Thanks to Wilkie’s courage and determination , many Australians were able to come to an early understanding that the reasons adduced for war on Iraq were cooked in Washington and served up by Australian leaders all too willing to give unquestioning support to the Bush administration.


Those Australian leaders are now being held accountable.


VIPS invited Andrew Wilkie to Washington in July 2003 to speak at a briefing arranged by Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, in the House Rayburn Building. There were 14 TV cameras in that room, but not one minute of TV coverage that afternoon or evening.


After his presentation, we strongly encouraged Wilkie to keep throwing light on this dark chapter of history; he was pleased to join VIPS/East.


We expressed our hope that U.S. intelligence analysts who also watched the deceit close-up would soon join him in speaking out. With a wan smile, Wilkie shook his head and pointed to the cost – including the character assassination to which he had already been subjected at the hands of his government.


One VIPS Testifies


On Aug. 22, 2003, Wilkie had an opportunity not yet afforded any VIPS of the American, British or Danish chapters. He laid out his case before parliament in Canberra, testifying that the attack on Iraq had little to do with WMD or terrorism. One particularly telling part of his testimony:


“Please remember the Government was also receiving detailed assessments on the U.S. in which it was made very clear the U.S. was intent on invading Iraq for more important reasons than WMD and terrorism. Hence all this talk about WMD and terrorism was hollow. Much more likely is the proposition the Government deliberately exaggerated the Iraq WMD threat so as to stay in step with the U.S.”


In the wake of Wilkie’s testimony, Australian pundits became more critical of the Howard government and its persistent refusal to acknowledge that, as one journalist put it, they were “conned by master manipulators masquerading as purveyors of objective intelligence.”


Sounds a little like Scott McClellan, no? But, thanks to the FCM, most Americans hear it for the first time only five years later.


The candor of Wilkie’s Aug. 22, 2003 testimony to the Australian parliament helps to dispel the myths and canards still wafting around about – among other things – how “the entire world” believed Saddam Hussein was a dangerous threat.


Accordingly, we include some of the more telling Wilkie excerpts below. (Emphasis added in bold.)


Opening Remarks to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD)


22 August 2003


Andrew Wilkie


“Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to appear before the Committee.


You would be well aware that I resigned from the Office of National Assessments, before the Iraq war, because I assessed that invading Iraq would not be the most sensible and ethical way to resolve the Iraq issue. I chose resignation, specifically, because compromise or seeking to create change from within ONA were not realistic options.


At the time I resigned I put on the public record three fundamental concerns. Firstly, that Iraq did not pose a serious enough security threat to justify a war. Secondly, that too many things could go wrong. And, thirdly, that war was still totally unnecessary because options short of war were yet to be exhausted.


My first concern is especially relevant today. It was based on my assessment that Iraq’s conventional armed forces were weak, that Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction programme was disjointed and contained, and that there was no hard evidence of any active cooperation between Iraq and al Qaida.


Now the government has claimed repeatedly I was not close enough to the Iraq issue to know what I’m talking about. Such statements have misled the public and have been exceptionally hurtful to me.


I was a Senior Analyst with a top secret positive vet security clearance. I’d been awarded a Superior rating in my last performance appraisal, and not long before I resigned I’d been informed by the Deputy Director-General that thought was being given to my being promoted.


Because of my military background (I had been a regular army infantry Lieutenant Colonel), I was required to be familiar with war-related issues…and was on standby to cover Iraq once the war began…


Now, in fairness to Australian and Allied intelligence agencies, Iraq was a tough target. From time to time there were shortages of human intelligence on the country. At other times the preponderance of anti-Saddam sources desperate for US intervention ensured a flood of disinformation. Collecting technical intelligence was equally challenging.


A problem for Australian agencies was their reliance on Allies. We had virtually no influence on foreign intelligence collection planning, and the raw intelligence seldom arrived with adequate notes on sources or reliability. More problematic was the way in which Australia’s tiny agencies needed to rely on the sometimes weak and skewed views contained in the assessments prepared in Washington.


A few problems were inevitable. For instance, intelligence gaps were sometimes back-filled with the disinformation. Worst-case sometimes took primacy over most-likely. The threat was sometimes overestimated as a result of the fairy tales coming out of the US. And sometimes Government pressure, as well as politically correct intelligence officers themselves, resulted in its own bias.


But, overall, Australian agencies did, I believe, an acceptable job reporting on the existence of, the capacity and willingness to use, and immediacy of the threat, posed by Iraq. Assessments were okay, not least because they were always heavily qualified to reflect the ambiguous intelligence picture.


How then to explain the big gap between the Government’s pre-war claims about Iraq possessing a massive arsenal of WMD and cooperating actively with al Qaida and the reality that no arsenal of weapons or evidence of substantive links have yet been found?


Well, most often the Government deliberately skewed the truth by taking the ambiguity out of the issue. Key intelligence assessment qualifications like ‘probably’, ‘could’ and ‘uncorroborated evidence suggests’ were frequently dropped. Much more useful words like ‘massive’ and ‘mammoth’ were included, even though such words had not been offered to the government by the intelligence agencies. Before we knew it, the Government had created a mythical Iraq, one where every factory was up to no good and weaponisation was continuing apace.


Equally misleading was the way in which the Government misrepresented the truth. For example, when the Government spoke of Iraq having form (being up to no good), it cited pre-1991 Gulf War examples, like the use of chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds. Mind you, the Government needed to be creative, because 12 years of sanctions, inspections and air strikes had virtually disarmed modern Iraq….


The Government even went so far as to fabricate the truth. The claims about Iraq cooperating actively with al Qaida were obviously nonsense. As was the Government’s reference to Iraq seeking uranium in Africa, despite the fact that ONA, the Department of Defence, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, all knew the Niger story was fraudulent. This was critical information. It beggars belief that ONA knew it was discredited but didn’t advise the Prime Minister, Defence knew but didn’t tell the Defence Minister, and Foreign Affairs knew but didn’t tell the Foreign Minister. …


In closing, I wish to make it clear that I do not apologise for, or withdraw from, my accusation that the Howard government misled the Australian public over Iraq, both through its own public statements, as well as through its endorsement of Allied statements.


The government lied every time it said or implied that I was not senior enough or appropriately placed in ONA to know what I was talking about. And the government lied every time it skewed, misrepresented, used selectively and fabricated the Iraq story.


But these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. For instance, the government lied when the Prime Minister’s Office told the media I was mentally unstable. The government lied when it associated Iraq with the Bali bombing. And the government lied every time it linked Iraq to the War on Terror.


The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister in particular have a lot to answer for. After all, they were the chief cheerleaders for the invasion of another country, without UN endorsement, for reasons that have now been discredited. …”

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Guest Fed Up
Do you want to understand what is really going on. Read this:


On and off the record, other former CIA officials say that despite the pressure, dissent against the White House was rife within the agency. The strongest opposition centered in the CIA’s Near East Division, few of whose officials supported the idea of war with Iraq. They clashed often with WINPAC, the CIA division focused on weapons proliferation and the part of the agency most responsible for the heavily skewed conclusions about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. “The Near East Division people didn’t buy into what the Bush administration wanted to do in regard to Iraq, but much of WINPAC did,” says Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer who left the agency in 1989 and then served four years as deputy director of the State Department’s office of counterterrorism. “Bush, and the White House, favored WINPAC over [the Near East Division]. There were people in the agency who tried to speak out or disagree … who got fired, got transferred, got outed, or criticized. Others decided to play ball.”


More information here:




God I Love the Internet. I look for a rebuttal on a comment that was made. I search Google land at From the Desk of Patrick J. Fitzgerald blog




It then takes me back here. I am going to sit down and read this political section when I have the time. I want to add a quote from Larry C. Johnson


It was the policymakers, not the analysts, who made the decision to go to war and who oversold the October estimate to a gullible public.


Go here and read:




The Weapons Intelligence Non Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) is an Intelligence Community office that provides assessments to "all kinds of foreign weapons threats" [1]. Among its tasks, WINPAC analyzes intelligence related to dual-use technology and export controls.


WINPAC was created in 2001 in an effort to bring together experts on foreign weapons into one center. WINPAC was preceded by the Nonproliferation Center (NPC), a CIA office established in 1992 to improve support for non-proliferation policy. NPC was one of seven 'Centers' established in the 1990s to centralize expertise as a way to better analyse 'transnational threats.


In the first term of the George W. Bush administration, the head of WINPAC was Alan Foley. According to the authors of the book The Italian Letter, Foley addressed his WINPAC subordinates in December 2002 to tell them, "If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so."


February 5, 2003: CIA Official Tells Former Colleague Allegations in Powell’s Speech Are Not Backed by Evidence Alan Foley, director of the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), tells a former colleague that the allegations being made by Powell in his speech (see February 5, 2003) to the UN Security Council are not backed by evidence. The former colleague tells reporter James Risen, “I talked to Foley on the day of Powell’s UN speech, and he said, we just don’t have it. It’s not very good.”


Read excerpts from the Book Here


June 21, 2002: CIA Prepares Report on Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links Under Pressure from Administration The CIA issues a classified report titled, “Iraq and al-Qaeda: A Murky Relationship.”


According to its cover note, the report “purposely aggressive in seeking to draw connections” between Iraq and Osama bin Laden’s organization. The document, which was prepared in response to pressure from the White House and vice president’s office, is heavily criticized by analysts within the agency. Analysts in the Near East and South Asia division complain that the report inflates “sporadic, wary contacts” between two independent actors into a so-called “relationship.” A complaint is filed with the CIA’s ombudsman for politicization. After interviewing 24 analysts, the ombudsman concludes that the report was crafted under pressure from the administration, later telling Senate investigators that “about a half-dozen [analysts] mentioned ‘pressure’ from the administration; several others did not use that word, but spoke in a context that implied it.” Despite being “purposely aggressive,” the report does not satisfy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, an adamant hawk who strongly believes Iraq is working closely with Islamic militant groups. In a memo to Donald Rumsfeld, he says that the report should be read “for content only—and CIA’s interpretation should be ignored.”


US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 359



The problem is that many CIA officers, especially those in the Near East division, simply do not support the administration’s plan to invade Iraq. So one of the meeting’s objectives is to get everyone on board. The IOG official explains: “We kept saying that the president has decided we are going to war, and if you don’t like it, quit.” During the meeting, the officials say that the agency is interested in developing a plan for sabotage that will undermine the Iraqi regime. The chief of the IOG describes a plan to prevent the shipment of goods to Saddam Hussein and his family with the hope that it might cause Hussein to become paranoid and distrustful of those around him. One young station chief suggests sinking a ferry that imports these goods into Iraq from neighboring Arab countries. An IOG official present at the meeting will later tell Risen that this plan is dismissed because the vessel also transports passengers. But two station chiefs tell Risen that they left the meeting with the impression that IOG officials were open to the plan. Risen also reports in his book that another plan for sabotage was to equip “low-level Iraqi agents with special spring-loaded darts that they could use to destroy the windshields of cars owned by members of the Iraqi regime. Large supplies of the darts were later delivered to forward CIA stations, but nothing was ever done with them.”


(Summer 2006): Nine US Officials Say They Believe Forged Niger Documents Were Part of Covert Operation Investigative journalist Craig Unger reports that nine US officials believe “the Niger documents were part of a covert operation to deliberately mislead the American public.” The officials are 30-year CIA veteran Milt Bearden; Colonel W. Patrick Lang, a former DIA defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, South Asia, and terrorism; Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; Melvin Goodman, a former division chief and senior analyst at the CIA and the State Department; Ray McGovern, a veteran CIA analyst; Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who served in the Pentagon’s Near East and South Asia division in 2002 and 2003; Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA officer who was deputy director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism from 1989 to 1993; former CIA official Philip Giraldi; and Vincent Cannistraro, the former chief of operations of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center.



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Guest Psyop

It is interesting that Vanity Fair pulled this story off the Internet.


The War They Wanted, The Lies They Needed

The Bush administration invaded Iraq claiming Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger. As much of Washington knew, and the world soon learned, the charge was false. Worse, it appears to have been the cornerstone of a highly successful "black propaganda" campaign with links to the White House





It's a crisp, clear winter morning in Rome. In the neighborhood between the Vatican and the Olympic Stadium, a phalanx of motor scooters is parked outside a graffiti-scarred 10-story apartment building. No. 10 Via Antonio Baiamonte is home to scores of middle-class families, and to the embassy for the Republic of Niger, the impoverished West African nation that was once a French colony.


Though it may be unprepossessing, the Niger Embassy is the site of one of the great mysteries of our times. On January 2, 2001, an embassy official returned there after New Year's Day and discovered that the offices had been robbed. Little of value was missing—a wristwatch, perfume, worthless documents, embassy stationery, and some official stamps bearing the seal of the Republic of Niger. Nevertheless, the consequences of the robbery were so great that the Watergate break-in pales by comparison.


A few months after the robbery, Western intelligence analysts began hearing that Saddam Hussein had sought yellowcake—a concentrated form of uranium which, if enriched, can be used in nuclear weapons—from Niger. Next came a dossier purporting to document the attempted purchase of hundreds of tons of uranium by Iraq. Information from the dossier and, later, the papers themselves made their way from Italian intelligence to, at various times, the C.I.A., other Western intelligence agencies, the U.S. Embassy in Rome, the State Department, and the White House, as well as several media outlets. Finally, in his January 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush told the world, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."


Two months later, the United States invaded Iraq, starting a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and has irrevocably de-stabilized the strategically vital Middle East. Since then, the world has learned not just that Bush's 16-word casus belli was apparently based on the Niger documents but also that the documents were forged.


In Italy, a source with intimate knowledge of the Niger affair has warned me that powerful people are watching. Phones may be tapped. Jobs are in jeopardy, and people are scared.


On the sixth floor at Via Baiamonte, a receptionist finally comes to the door of the nondescript embassy office. She is of medium height, has dark-brown hair, wears a handsome blue suit, and appears to be in her 50s. She declines to give her full name. A look of concern and fear crosses her face. "Don't believe what you read in the papers," she cautions in French. "Ce n'est pas la vérité." It is not the truth.


But who was behind the forgeries? Italian intelligence? American operatives? The woman tilts her head toward one of the closed doors to indicate that there are people there who can hear. She can't talk. "C'est interdit," she says. It is forbidden.


"A Classic Psy-Ops Campaign"


For more than two years it has been widely reported that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of intelligence failures. But in fact it is far more likely that the Iraq war started because of an extraordinary intelligence success—specifically, an astoundingly effective campaign of disinformation, or black propaganda, which led the White House, the Pentagon, Britain's M.I.6 intelligence service, and thousands of outlets in the American media to promote the falsehood that Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program posed a grave risk to the United States.


The Bush administration made other false charges about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.)—that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes suitable for centrifuges, that Saddam was in league with al-Qaeda, that he had mobile weapons labs, and so forth. But the Niger claim, unlike other allegations, can't be dismissed as an innocent error or blamed on ambiguous data. "This wasn't an accident," says Milt Bearden, a 30-year C.I.A. veteran who was a station chief in Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, and Germany, and the head of the Soviet–East European division. "This wasn't 15 monkeys in a room with typewriters."


In recent months, it has emerged that the forged Niger documents went through the hands of the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare), or operatives close to it, and that neoconservative policymakers helped bring them to the attention of the White House. Even after information in the Niger documents was repeatedly rejected by the C.I.A. and the State Department, hawkish neocons managed to circumvent seasoned intelligence analysts and insert the Niger claims into Bush's State of the Union address.


By the time the U.S. invaded Iraq, in March 2003, this apparent black-propaganda operation had helped convince more than 90 percent of the American people that a brutal dictator was developing W.M.D.—and had led us into war.


To trace the path of the documents from their fabrication to their inclusion in Bush's infamous speech, Vanity Fair has interviewed a number of former intelligence and military analysts who have served in the C.I.A., the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.), and the Pentagon. Some of them refer to the Niger documents as "a disinformation operation," others as "black propaganda," "black ops," or "a classic psy-ops [psychological-operations] campaign." But whatever term they use, at least nine of these officials believe that the Niger documents were part of a covert operation to deliberately mislead the American public.


The officials are Bearden; Colonel W. Patrick Lang, who served as the D.I.A.'s defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, South Asia, and terrorism; Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; Melvin Goodman, a former division chief and senior analyst at the C.I.A. and the State Department; Ray McGovern, a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years; Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who served in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia division in 2002 and 2003; Larry C. Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who was deputy director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism from 1989 to 1993; former C.I.A. official Philip Giraldi; and Vincent Cannistraro, the former chief of operations of the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorism Center.


In addition, Vanity Fair has found at least 14 instances prior to the 2003 State of the Union in which analysts at the C.I.A., the State Department, or other government agencies who had examined the Niger documents or reports about them raised serious doubts about their legitimacy—only to be rebuffed by Bush-administration officials who wanted to use the material. "They were just relentless," says Wilkerson, who later prepared Colin Powell's presentation before the United Nations General Assembly. "You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique—ruthless relentlessness."


All of which flies in the face of a campaign by senior Republicans including Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to blame the C.I.A. for the faulty pre-war intelligence on W.M.D. Indeed, the accounts put forth by Wilkerson and his colleagues strongly suggest that the C.I.A. is under siege not because it was wrong but because it was right. Agency analysts were not serving the White House's agenda.


What followed was not just the catastrophic foreign-policy blunder in Iraq but also an ongoing battle for the future of U.S. intelligence. Top officials have been leaving the C.I.A. in droves—including Porter Goss, who mysteriously resigned in May, just 18 months after he had been handpicked by Bush to be the director of Central Intelligence. Whatever the reason for his sudden departure, anyone at the top of the C.I.A., Goss's replacement included, ultimately must worry about serving two masters: a White House that desperately wants intelligence it can use to remake the Middle East and a spy agency that is acutely sensitive to having its intelligence politicized.


Cui Bono?


Unraveling a disinformation campaign is no easy task. It means entering a kingdom of shadows peopled by would-be Machiavellis who are practiced in the art of deception. "In the world of fabrication, you don't just drop something and let someone pick it up," says Bearden. "Your first goal is to make sure it doesn't find its way back to you, so you do several things. You may start out with a document that is a forgery, that is a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, which makes it hard to track down. You go through cutouts so that the person who puts it out doesn't know where it came from. And you build in subtle, nuanced errors so you can say, 'We would never misspell that.' If it's very cleverly done, it's a chess game, not checkers."


Reporters who have entered this labyrinth often emerge so perplexed that they choose not to write about it. "The chances of being manipulated are very high," says Claudio Gatti, a New York–based investigative reporter at Il Sole, the Italian business daily. "That's why I decided to stay out of it."


Despite such obstacles, a handful of independent journalists and bloggers on both sides of the Atlantic have been pursuing the story. "Most of the people you are dealing with are professional liars, which really leaves you with your work cut out for you as a reporter," says Joshua Micah Marshall, who has written about the documents on his blog, Talking Points Memo.


So far, no one has figured out all the answers. There is even disagreement about why the documents were fabricated. In a story by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, a source suggested that retired and embittered C.I.A. operatives had intentionally put together a lousy forgery in hopes of embarrassing Cheney's hawkish followers. But no evidence has emerged to support this theory, and many intelligence officers embrace a simpler explanation. "They needed this for the case to go to war," says Melvin Goodman, who is now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. "It serves no other purpose."


By and large, knowledgeable government officials in the U.S., Italy, France, and Great Britain are mum. Official government investigations in Italy, the U.K., and the U.S.—including a two-year probe into pre-war intelligence failures by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence—have been so highly politicized as to be completely unsatisfying.


Only the ongoing investigation by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into the Plamegate scandal bears promise. However, it is focused not on the forgeries but on the leaks that were apparently designed to discredit former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson and that outed his wife, former C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame, after Wilson revealed that the Niger story was false. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, has already been charged in the case, and President Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, has been Fitzgerald's other principal target. But, with the dubious exception of an ongoing F.B.I. inquiry, there is no official probe into who forged the Niger documents, who disseminated them, and why, after they had been repeatedly discredited, they kept resurfacing.


Meanwhile, from Rome to Washington, and countless points in between, journalists, bloggers, politicians, and intelligence agents are pondering the same question: Cui bono? Who benefits? Who wanted to start the war?


The Stuff of Conspiracy Fantasies


If Italy seems like an unlikely setting for a black-propaganda plot to start the Iraq war, it is worth remembering that Et tu, Brute is part of the local idiom, and Machiavelli was a native son. Accordingly, one can't probe Nigergate without examining the rich tapestry of intrigue that is Italian intelligence.


Because Italy emerged from World War II with a strong Communist Party, domestic politics had elements of a civil war, explains Guido Moltedo, editor of Europa, a center-left daily in Italy. That meant ultra-conservative Cold Warriors battled the Communists not just electorally but through undercover operations in the intelligence world. "In addition to the secret service, SISMI, there was another, informal, parallel secret service," Moltedo says. "It was known as Propaganda Due."


Led by a neo-Fascist named Licio Gelli, Propaganda Due, with its penchant for exotic covert operations, was the stuff of conspiracy fantasies—except that it was real. According to The Sunday Times of London, until 1986 members agreed to have their throats slit and tongues cut out if they broke their oaths. Subversive, authoritarian, and right-wing, the group was sometimes referred to as the P-2 Masonic Lodge because of its ties to the secret society of Masons, and it served as the covert intelligence agency for militant anti-Communists. It was also linked to Operation Gladio, a secret paramilitary wing in NATO that supported far-right military coups in Greece and Turkey during the Cold War.


In 1981 the Italian Parliament banned Propaganda Due, and all secret organizations in Italy, after an investigation concluded that it had infiltrated the highest levels of Italy's judiciary, parliament, military, and press, and was tied to assassinations, kidnappings, and arms deals around the world. But before it was banned, P-2 members and their allies participated in two ideologically driven international black-propaganda schemes that foreshadowed the Niger Embassy job 20 years later. The first took place in 1980, when Francesco Pazienza, a charming and sophisticated Propaganda Due operative at the highest levels of SISMI, allegedly teamed up with an American named Michael Ledeen, a Rome correspondent for The New Republic. According to The Wall Street Journal, Pazienza said he first met Ledeen that summer, through a SISMI agent in New York who was working under the cover of a U.N. job.


The end result of their collaboration was a widely publicized story that helped Ronald Reagan unseat President Jimmy Carter, whom they considered too timid in his approach to winning the Cold War. The target was Carter's younger brother, Billy, a hard-drinking "good ol' boy" from Georgia who repeatedly embarrassed his sibling in the White House.


It began after Billy mortified the president in 1979 by going to Tripoli at a time when Libya's leader, Muammar Qaddafi, was reviled as a radical Arab dictator who supported terrorism. Coupled with Billy's later admission that he had received a $220,000 loan from Qaddafi's regime, the ensuing "Billygate" scandal made headlines across America and led to a Senate investigation. But it had died down as the November 1980 elections approached.


Then, in the last week of October 1980, just two weeks before the election, The New Republic in Washington and Now magazine in Great Britain published a story co-authored by Michael Ledeen and Arnaud de Borchgrave, now an editor-at-large at The Washington Times and United Press International. According to the story, headlined "Qaddafi, Arafat and Billy Carter," the president's brother had been given an additional $50,000 by Qaddafi, on top of the loan, and had met secretly with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. The story had come dramatically back to life. The new charges were disputed by Billy Carter and many others, and were never corroborated.


A 1985 investigation by Jonathan Kwitny in The Wall Street Journal reported that the New Republic article was part of a larger disinformation scam run by Ledeen and SISMI to tilt the election, and that "Billy Carter wasn't the only one allegedly getting money from a foreign government." According to Pazienza, Kwitny reported, Michael Ledeen had received at least $120,000 from SISMI in 1980 or 1981 for his work on Billygate and other projects. Ledeen even had a coded identity, Z-3, and had money sent to him in a Bermuda bank account, Pazienza said.


Ledeen told the Journal that a consulting firm he owned, I.S.I., worked for SISMI and may have received the money. He said he did not recall whether he had a coded identity.


Pazienza was subsequently convicted in absentia on multiple charges, including having used extortion and fraud to obtain embarrassing facts about Billy Carter. Ledeen was never charged with any crime, but he was cited in Pazienza's indictment, which read, "With the illicit support of the SISMI and in collaboration with the well-known American 'Italianist' Michael Ledeen, Pazienza succeeded in extorting, also using fraudulent means, information … on the Libyan business of Billy Carter, the brother of the then President of the United States."


In an interview with Vanity Fair, Ledeen denied having worked with Pazienza or Propaganda Due as part of a disinformation scheme. "I knew Pazienza," he explained. "I didn't think P-2 existed. I thought it was all nonsense—typical Italian fantasy."


He added, "I'm not aware that anything in [the Billygate] story turned out to be false."


Asked if he had worked with SISMI, Ledeen told Vanity Fair, "No," then added, "I had a project with SISMI—one project." He described it as a simple "desktop" exercise in 1979 or 1980, in which he taught Italian intelligence how to deal with U.S. officials on extradition matters. His fee, he said, was about $10,000.


The Bulgarian Connection


In 1981, Ledeen played a role in what has been widely characterized as another disinformation operation. Once again his alleged ties to SISMI were front and center. The episode began after Mehmet Ali Agca, the right-wing terrorist who shot Pope John Paul II that May, told authorities that he had been taking orders from the Soviet Union's K.G.B. and Bulgaria's secret service. With Ronald Reagan newly installed in the White House, the so-called Bulgarian Connection made perfect Cold War propaganda. Michael Ledeen was one of its most vocal proponents, promoting it on TV and in newspapers all over the world. In light of the ascendancy of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, the Pope's homeland, the Bulgarian Connection played a role in the demise of Communism in 1989.


There was just one problem—it probably wasn't true. "It just doesn't pass the giggle test," says Frank Brodhead, co-author of The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection. "Agca, the shooter, had been deeply embedded in a Turkish youth group of the Fascist National Action Party known as the Gray Wolves. It seemed illogical that a Turkish Fascist would work with Bulgarian Communists."


The only real source for the Bulgarian Connection theory was Agca himself, a pathological liar given to delusional proclamations such as his insistence that he was Jesus Christ. When eight men were later tried in Italian courts as part of the Bulgarian Connection case, all were acquitted for lack of evidence. One reason was that Agca had changed his story repeatedly. On the witness stand, he said he had put forth the Bulgarian Connection theory after Francesco Pazienza offered him freedom in exchange for the testimony. He subsequently changed that story as well.


Years later, Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, who had initially believed the theory, wrote that "I became convinced … that the Bulgarian connection was invented by Agca with the hope of winning his release from prison. … He was aided and abetted in this scheme by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States and William Casey's Central Intelligence Agency, which became a victim of its own disinformation campaign."


Exactly which Americans might have been behind such a campaign? According to a 1987 article in The Nation, Francesco Pazienza said Ledeen "was the person responsible for dreaming up the 'Bulgarian connection' behind the plot to kill the Pope." Similarly, according to The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection, Pazienza claimed that Ledeen had worked closely with the SISMI team that coached Agca on his testimony.


But Ledeen angrily denies the charges. "It's all a lie," he says. He adds that he protested to The Wall Street Journal when it first reported on his alleged relationship with Pazienza: "If one-tenth of it were true, I would not have security clearances, but I do."


Not long before his death, in 2005, Pope John Paul II announced that he did not believe the Bulgarian Connection theory. But that wasn't the end of it. In March 2006 an Italian commission run by Paolo Guzzanti, a senator in the right-wing Forza Italia Party, reopened the case and concluded that the Bulgarian Connection was real. According to Frank Brodhead, however, the new conclusions are based on the same old information, which is "bogus at best and at worst deliberately misleading."


In the wake of Billygate and the Bulgarian Connection, Ledeen allegedly began to play a role as a behind-the-scenes operative with the ascendant Reagan-Bush team. According to Mission Italy, by former ambassador to Italy Richard Gardner, after Reagan's victory, but while Jimmy Carter was still president, "Ledeen and Pazienza set themselves up as the preferred channel between Italian political leaders and members of the new administration." Ledeen responds, "Gardner was wrong. And, by the way, he had every opportunity to raise it with me and never did."


When Reagan took office, Ledeen was made special assistant to Alexander Haig, Reagan's secretary of state. Ledeen later took a staff position on Reagan's National Security Council and played a key role in initiating the illegal arms-for-hostages deal with Iran that became known as the Iran-contra scandal.


The Italian Job


n 1981, P-2 was outlawed and police raided the home of its leader, Licio Gelli. Authorities found a list of nearly a thousand prominent public figures in Italy who were believed to be members. Among them was a billionaire media mogul who had not yet entered politics—Silvio Berlusconi.


In 1994, Berlusconi was elected prime minister. Rather than distancing himself from the criminal organization, he told a reporter that "P-2 had brought together the best men in the country," and he began to execute policies very much aligned with it.


Among those Berlusconi appointed to powerful national-security positions were two men known to Ledeen. A founding member of Forza Italia, Minister of Defense Antonio Martino was a well-known figure in Washington neocon circles and had been close friends with Michael Ledeen since the 1970s. Ledeen also occasionally played bridge with the head of SISMI under Berlusconi, Nicolò Pollari. "Michael Ledeen is connected to all the players," says Philip Giraldi, who was stationed in Italy with the C.I.A. in the 1980s and has been a keen observer of Ledeen over the years.


Enter Rocco Martino. An elegantly attired man in his 60s with white hair and a neatly trimmed mustache, Martino (no relation to Antonio Martino) had served in SISMI until 1999 and had a long history of peddling information to other intelligence services in Europe, including France's Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (D.G.S.E.).


By 2000, however, Martino had fallen on hard times financially. It was then that a longtime colleague named Antonio Nucera offered him a lucrative proposition. A SISMI colonel specializing in counter-proliferation and W.M.D., Nucera told Martino that Italian intelligence had long had an "asset" in the Niger Embassy in Rome: a woman who was about 60 years old, had a low-level job, and occasionally sold off embassy documents to SISMI. But now SISMI had no more use for the woman—who is known in the Italian press as "La Signora" and has recently been identified as the ambassador's assistant, Laura Montini. Perhaps, Nucera suggested, Martino could use La Signora as Italian intelligence had, paying her to pass on documents she copied or stole from the embassy.


Shortly after New Year's 2001, the break-in took place at the Niger Embassy. Martino denies any participation. There are many conflicting accounts of the episode. According to La Repubblica, a left-of-center daily which has published an investigative series on Nigergate, documents stolen from the embassy ultimately were combined with other papers that were already in SISMI archives. In addition, the embassy stationery was apparently used to forge records about a phony uranium deal between Niger and Iraq. The Sunday Times of London recently reported that the papers had been forged for profit by two embassy employees: Adam Maiga Zakariaou, the consul, and Montini. But many believe that they, wittingly or not, were merely pawns in a larger game.


According to Martino, the documents were not given to him all at once. First, he explained, SISMI had La Signora give him documents that had come from the robbery: "I was told that a woman in the Niger Embassy in Rome had a gift for me. I met her and she gave me documents." Later, he said, SISMI dug into its archives and added new papers. There was a codebook, then a dossier with a mixture of fake and genuine documents. Among them was an authentic telex dated February 1, 1999, in which Adamou Chékou, the ambassador from Niger, wrote another official about a forthcoming visit from Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq's ambassador to the Vatican.


The last one Martino says he received, and the most important one, was not genuine, however. Dated July 27, 2000, it was a two-page memo purportedly sent to the president of Niger concerning the sale of 500 tons of pure uranium per year by Niger to Iraq.


The forged documents were full of errors. A letter dated October 10, 2000, was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Allele Elhadj Habibou—even though he had been out of office for more than a decade. Its September 28 postmark indicated that somehow the letter had been received nearly two weeks before it was sent. In another letter, President Tandja Mamadou's signature appeared to be phony. The accord signed by him referred to the Niger constitution of May 12, 1965, when a new constitution had been enacted in 1999. One of the letters was dated July 30, 1999, but referred to agreements that were not made until a year later. Finally, the agreement called for the 500 tons of uranium to be transferred from one ship to another in international waters—a spectacularly difficult feat.


Martino, however, says he was unaware that they were forgeries. He was merely interested in a payday. "He was not looking for great amounts of money—$10,000, $20,000, maybe $40,000," says Carlo Bonini, who co-authored the Nigergate stories for La Repubblica.


SISMI director Nicolò Pollari acknowledges that Martino has worked for Italian intelligence. But, beyond that, he claims that Italian intelligence played no role in the Niger operation. "[Nucera] offered [Martino] the use of an intelligence asset [La Signora]—no big deal, you understand—one who was still on the books but inactive—to give a hand to Martino," Pollari told a reporter.


Rocco Martino, however, said SISMI had another agenda: "SISMI wanted me to pass on the documents, but they didn't want anyone to know they had been involved."


The Cutout


Whom should we believe? Characterized by La Repubblica as "a failed carabiniere and dishonest spy," a "double-dealer" who "plays every side of the fence," Martino has reportedly been arrested for extortion and for possession of stolen checks, and was fired by SISMI in 1999 for "conduct unbecoming." Elsewhere he has been described as "a trickster" and "a rogue." He is a man who traffics in deception.


On the other hand, operatives like Martino are highly valued precisely because they can be discredited so easily. "If there were a deep-cover unit of SISMI, it would make sense to use someone like Rocco," says Patrick Lang. "His flakiness gives SISMI plausible deniability. It's their cover story. That's standard tradecraft with the agencies."


In other words, Rocco Martino may well have been the cutout for SISMI, a postman who, if he dared to go public, could be disavowed.


Martino, who is the subject of a recently reopened investigation by the public prosecutor in Rome, has declined to talk to the press in recent months. But before going silent, he gave interviews to Italian, British, and American journalists characterizing himself as a pawn who distributed the documents on behalf of SISMI and believed that they were authentic. "I sell information, I admit," Martino told The Sunday Times of London, using his pseudonym, Giacomo. "But I sell only good information."


Over the next two years, the Niger documents and reports based on them made at least three journeys to the C.I.A. They also found their way to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, to the White House, to British intelligence, to French intelligence, and to Elisabetta Burba, a journalist at Panorama, the Milan-based newsmagazine. Each of these recipients in turn shared the documents or their contents with others, in effect creating an echo chamber that gave the illusion that several independent sources had corroborated an Iraq-Niger uranium deal.


"It was the Italians and Americans together who were behind it. It was all a disinformation operation," Martino told a reporter at England's Guardian newspaper. He called himself "a tool used by someone for games much bigger than me."


What exactly might those games have been? Berlusconi defined his role on the world stage largely in terms of his relationship with the U.S., and he jumped at the chance to forge closer ties with the White House when Bush took office, in 2001. In its three-part series on Nigergate, La Repubblica charges that Berlusconi was so eager to win Bush's favor that he "instructed Italian Military Intelligence to plant the evidence implicating Saddam in a bogus uranium deal with Niger." (The Berlusconi government, which lost power in April, denied the charge.)


Because the Niger break-in happened before Bush took office, La Repubblica and many others assume that the robbery was initiated as a small-time job. "When the story began, they were not thinking about Iraq," says La Repubblica's Bonini. "They were just trying to gather something that could be sold on the black market to the intelligence community."


But it is also possible that from its very inception the Niger operation was aimed at starting an invasion of Iraq. As early as 1992, neoconservative hawks in the administration of George H. W. Bush, under the aegis of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, unsuccessfully lobbied for regime change in Iraq as part of a grandiose vision for American supremacy in the next century.


During the Clinton era, the neocons persisted with their policy goals, and in early 1998 they twice lobbied President Clinton to bring down Saddam. The second attempt came in the form of "An Open Letter to the President" by leading neoconservatives, many of whom later played key roles in the Bush administration, where they became known as the Vulcans. Among those who signed were Michael Ledeen, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and David Wurmser.


According to Patrick Lang, the initial Niger Embassy robbery could have been aimed at starting the war even though Bush had yet to be inaugurated. The scenario, he cautions, is merely speculation on his part. But he says that the neocons wouldn't have hesitated to reach out to SISMI even before Bush took office. "There's no doubt in my mind that the neocons had their eye on Iraq," he says. "This is something they intended to do, and they would have communicated that to SISMI or anybody else to get the help they wanted."


In Lang's view, SISMI would also have wanted to ingratiate itself with the incoming administration. "These foreign intelligence agencies are so dependent on us that the urge to acquire I.O.U.'s is a powerful incentive by itself," he says. "It would have been very easy to have someone go to Rome and talk to them, or have one of the SISMI guys here [in Washington], perhaps the SISMI officer in the Italian Embassy, talk to them."


Lang's scenario rings true to Frank Brodhead. "When I read that the Niger break-in took place before Bush took office, I immediately thought back to the Bulgarian Connection," he says. "That job was done during the transition as well. [Michael] Ledeen … saw himself as making a serious contribution to the Cold War through the Bulgarian Connection. Now, it was possible, 20 years later, that he was doing the same to start the war in Iraq."


Brodhead is not alone. Several press outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle, United Press International, and The American Conservative, as well as a chorus of bloggers—Daily Kos, the Left Coaster, and Raw Story among them—have raised the question of whether Ledeen was involved with the Niger documents. But none have found any hard evidence.


An Absurd Idea


Early in the summer of 2001, about six months after the break-in, information from the forged documents was given to U.S. intelligence for the first time. Details about the transfer are extremely sketchy, but it is highly probable that the reports were summaries of the documents. It is standard practice for intelligence services, in the interests of protecting sources, to share reports, rather than original documents, with allies.


To many W.M.D. analysts in the C.I.A. and the military, the initial reports sounded ridiculous. "The idea that you could get that much yellowcake out of Niger without the French knowing, that you could have a train big enough to carry it, much less a ship, is absurd," says Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff.


"The reports made no sense on the face of it," says Ray McGovern, the former C.I.A. analyst, who challenged Rumsfeld about the war at a public event this spring. "Most of us knew the Iraqis already had yellowcake. It is a sophisticated process to change it into a very refined state and they didn't have the technology."


"Yellowcake is unprocessed bulk ore," explains Karen Kwiatkowski, who has written extensively about the intelligence fiasco that led to the war. "If Saddam wanted to make nuclear bombs, why would he want unprocessed ore when the best thing to do would be to get processed stuff in the Congo?"


"When it comes to raw reports, all manner of crap comes out of the field," McGovern adds. "The C.I.A. traditionally has had experienced officers…. They are qualified to see if these reports make sense. For some reason, perhaps out of cowardice, these reports were judged to be of such potential significance that no one wanted to sit on it."


Since Niger was a former French colony, French intelligence was the logical choice to vet the allegations. "The French were managing partners of the international consortium in Niger," explains Joseph Wilson, who eventually traveled to Niger to investigate the uranium claim. "The French did the actual mining and shipping of it."


So Alain Chouet, then head of security intelligence for France's D.G.S.E., was tasked with checking out the first Niger report for the C.I.A. He recalls that much of the information he received from Langley was vague, with the exception of one striking detail. The agency had heard that in 1999 the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, Wissam al-Zahawie, had made an unusual visit to four African countries, including Niger. Analysts feared that the trip may have been a prelude to a uranium deal.


Chouet soon found that the al-Zahawie visit was no secret. It had been covered by the local press in Niger at the time, and reports had surfaced in French, British, and American intelligence. Chouet had a 700-man unit at his command, and he ordered an extensive on-the-ground investigation in Niger.


"In France, we've always been very careful about both problems of uranium production in Niger and Iraqi attempts to get uranium," Chouet told the Los Angeles Times last December. Having concluded that nothing had come of al-Zahawie's visit and that there was no evidence of a uranium deal, French intelligence forwarded its assessment to the C.I.A. But the Niger affair had just begun.


Into Overdrive


A few weeks later, on September 11, 2001, terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The neocons had long said that they needed another Pearl Harbor in order to realize their dreams of regime change in Iraq. Now it had taken place. According to Bob Woodward's Bush at War, C.I.A. director George Tenet reported to the White House within hours that Osama bin Laden was behind the attack. But by midday Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had already raised the question of attacking Saddam. Likewise, four days later, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz advised President Bush not to bother going after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan but to train American guns on Iraq instead.


In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Bush's approval ratings soared to 90 percent, the all-time high for any U.S. president. This was the perfect opportunity to go after Saddam, except for one thing: the available intelligence did not support the action. Ten days after the attacks, Bush was told in a classified briefing that there was no credible evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.


Now the Niger operation went into overdrive. The details of how this happened are murky. Accounts from usually reputable newspapers, the United States Senate Intelligence Committee, and other sources are wildly at variance with one another. In October 2001, SISMI, which had already sent reports about the alleged Niger deal to French intelligence, finally had them forwarded to British and U.S. intelligence. The exact dates of the distribution are unclear, but, according to the British daily The Independent, SISMI sent the dossier to the Vauxhall Cross headquarters of M.I.6, in South London. The delivery might have been made, Italian reports say, by Rocco Martino. At roughly the same time, in early October, according to La Repubblica, SISMI also gave a report about the Niger deal to Jeff Castelli, the C.I.A. station chief in Rome. According to a recent broadcast by CBS's 60 Minutes, C.I.A. analysts who saw the material were skeptical.


In addition, on October 15, 2001, Nicolò Pollari, the newly appointed chief of SISMI, made his first visit to his counterparts at the C.I.A. Under pressure from Berlusconi to turn over information that would be useful for America's Iraq-war policy, Pollari met "with top C.I.A. officials to provide a SISMI dossier indicating that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Niger," according to an article by Philip Giraldi in The American Conservative.


According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the analysts saw Pollari's report as "very limited and lacking needed detail." Nevertheless, the State Department had the U.S. Embassy in Niger check out the alleged uranium deal. On November 20, 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, the capital of Niger, sent a cable reporting that the director general of Niger's French-led consortium had told the American ambassador that "there was no possibility" that the African nation had diverted any yellowcake to Iraq.


In December 2001, Greg Thielmann, director for strategic proliferation and military affairs at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), reviewed Iraq's W.M.D. program for Colin Powell. As for the Niger report, Thielmann said, "A whole lot of things told us that the report was bogus. This wasn't highly contested. There weren't strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down."


"Faster, Please"


Michael Ledeen waves an unlit cigar as he welcomes me into his 11th-floor office at the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington. Home to Irving Kristol, Lynne Cheney, Richard Perle, and countless other stars in the neocon firmament, the A.E.I. is one of the most powerful think tanks in the country. It has sent more than two dozen of its alumni to the Bush administration.


After 17 years at the A.E.I., Ledeen is the institute's Freedom Scholar and rates a corner office decorated with prints of the Colosseum in Rome, the Duomo in Florence, and other mementos of his days in Italy. Having served as a consultant at the Pentagon and the State Department and on the National Security Council, Ledeen relishes playing the role of the intriguer. In the Iran-contra scandal, Ledeen won notoriety for introducing Oliver North to his friend the Iranian arms dealer and con man Manucher Ghorbanifar, who was labeled "an intelligence fabricator" by the C.I.A. Ledeen has made his share of enemies along the way, especially at the C.I.A. According to Larry Johnson, "The C.I.A. viewed Ledeen as a meddlesome troublemaker who usually got it wrong and was allied with people who were dangerous to the U.S., such as Ghorbanifar."


Apprised of such views, Ledeen, no fan of the C.I.A., responds, "Oh, that's a shock. Ghorbanifar over the years has been one of the most accurate sources of understanding what is going on in Iran. … I have always thought the C.I.A. made a big mistake."


Bearded and balding, the 65-year-old Ledeen makes for an unlikely 007. On the one hand, he can be self-deprecating, describing himself as "powerless … and, well, schlumpy." On the other, one of his bios grandiosely proclaims that he has executed "the most sensitive and dangerous missions in recent American history."


Ledeen props his feet up on his desk next to an icon of villainy—a mask of Darth Vader. "I'm tired of being described as someone who likes Fascism and is a warmonger," he says. "I've said it over and over again. I'm not the person you think you are looking for. … I think it's obvious I have no clout in the administration. I haven't had a role. I don't have a role." He barely knows Karl Rove, he says. He has "very occasionally" had discussions with Cheney's office. And he denies reports that he was a consultant for Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans, the division of the Pentagon that was famous for cherry-picking and "stovepiping" intelligence that suited its policy of invading Iraq. "I have had no professional relationship with any agency of the federal government during the Bush Administration," Ledeen later clarifies via e-mail. "That includes the Pentagon."


However, there is considerable evidence that Ledeen has had far more access than he lets on to the highest levels of the Bush administration. Even before Bush took office, Rove asked Ledeen to funnel ideas to the White House. According to The Washington Post, some of Ledeen's ideas became "official policy or rhetoric." As for Ledeen's role in the Office of Special Plans, Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the Pentagon during the run-up to the Iraq war, has described Ledeen as Feith's collaborator and said in an e-mail that he "was in and out of there (OSP) all the time."


Through his ties to Rove and Deputy National-Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Michael Ledeen was also wired into the White House Iraq Group, which was charged with marketing an invasion of Iraq.


Ledeen claims, as he told the Web site Raw Story, that he had strongly advised against the plan, saying that the invasion of Iraq was the "wrong war, wrong time, wrong way, wrong place." But the truth is somewhat more complicated. Ledeen had urged regime change in Iraq since 1998, and just four hours after the 9/11 attacks he posted an article on the National Review Web site urging Bush to take "the fight directly to Saddam on his own territory."


But to Ledeen, Iraq was just one part of a larger war. As he later told a seminar, "All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq … that is entirely the wrong way to go about it." He urged Americans not to try to "piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants."


In January 2003, two months before the war started, he wrote, "If we were serious about waging this war, we would, at an absolute minimum, support the Iranian people's brave campaign against their tyrants … and recognize an Iraqi government in exile in the 'no fly' zones we control. … If we don't, we may well find ourselves facing a far bigger problem than Saddam alone."


Ledeen repeatedly urged war or destabilization not just in Iraq but also in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, even Saudi Arabia. "One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please," he wrote. "Faster, please" became his mantra, repeated incessantly in his National Review columns.


Rhapsodizing about war week after week, Ledeen became chief rhetorician for neoconservative visionaries who wanted to remake the Middle East. "Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad," he wrote after the attacks. "We must destroy [our enemies] to advance our historic mission."


The U.S. must be "imperious, ruthless, and relentless," he argued, until there has been "total surrender" by the Muslim world. "We must keep our fangs bared," he wrote, "we must remind them daily that we Americans are in a rage, and we will not rest until we have avenged our dead, we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle."


"An Old Friend of Italy"


As 2001 drew to a close, such positions seemed decidedly outside the mainstream. Career military and intelligence professionals saw the relatively moderate Colin Powell and George Tenet, a Clinton appointee, reassuringly ensconced as secretary of state and director of central intelligence, respectively. "George Tenet had been there for a number of years," says Larry Wilkerson. "He knew what he was doing. He was a professional. What did he have to do with Douglas Feith? It didn't seem possible that someone like Douglas Feith could exercise such influence." But a schism was growing between the cautious realism of analysts in the C.I.A. and the State Department, on one side, and the hawkish ambitions of Dick Cheney and the Pentagon, on the other.


As for Ledeen, how much clout he carried with the administration is a matter of debate. But one measure of his influence may be a series of secret meetings he set up—with Hadley's approval, he claims—in Rome in the second week of December 2001. During these meetings, Ghorbanifar introduced American officials to other Iranians who passed on information about their government's plans to target U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Among those in attendance were Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin of the Office of Special Plans. (In a separate matter, Franklin has since pleaded guilty to passing secrets to Israel and been sentenced to 12 years in prison.) "That information saved American lives in Afghanistan," Ledeen asserts.


But other accounts suggest that Ledeen may have used his time in Italy to reactivate old friendships that played a role in the Niger affair.


According to La Repubblica, Nicolò Pollari had become frustrated by the C.I.A.'s refusal to let SISMI deliver a smoking gun that would justify an invasion of Iraq. At an unspecified date, he discussed the issue with Ledeen's longtime friend Minister of Defense Antonio Martino. Martino, the paper reported, told Pollari to expect a visit from "an old friend of Italy," namely Ledeen. Soon afterward, according to La Repubblica, Pollari allegedly took up the Niger matter with Ledeen when he was in Rome. Ledeen denies having had any such conversations. Pollari declined to be interviewed by Vanity Fair, and has denied playing any role in the Niger affair. Martino has declined to comment.


By early 2002, career military and intelligence professionals had seen the Niger reports repeatedly discredited, and assumed that the issue was dead. But that was not the case.


"These guys in the Office of Special Plans delighted in telling people, 'You don't understand your own data,'" says Patrick Lang. "'We know that Saddam is evil and deceptive, and if you see this piece of data, to say just because it is not well supported it's not true is to be politically naïve.'"


Not everybody in the C.I.A. was of one mind with regard to the alleged Niger deal. As the Senate Intelligence Committee report points out, some analysts at the C.I.A. and other agencies considered the Niger deal to be "possible." In the fall of 2002, the C.I.A. approved language referring to the Niger deal in one speech by the president but vetoed it in another. And in December 2002, analysts at WINPAC, the C.I.A.'s center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, produced a paper that chided Iraq for not acknowledging its "efforts to procure uranium from Niger."


Nevertheless, the C.I.A. had enough doubts about the Niger claims to initially leave them out of the President's Daily Brief (P.D.B.), the intelligence updates given each morning to President Bush. On February 5, 2002, however, for reasons that remain unclear, the C.I.A. issued a new report on the alleged Niger deal, one that provided significantly more detail, including what was said to be "verbatim text" of the accord between Niger and Iraq. In the State Department, analysts were still suspicious of the reports. But in the Pentagon, the Vulcans pounced on the new material. On February 12, the D.I.A. issued "a finished intelligence product," titled "Niamey Signed an Agreement to Sell 500 Tons of Uranium a Year to Baghdad," and passed it to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.


Cheney gave the Niger claims new life. "The [C.I.A.] briefer came in. Cheney said, 'What about this?,' and the briefer hadn't heard one word, because no one in the agency thought it was of any significance," says Ray McGovern, whose job at the C.I.A. included preparing and delivering the P.D.B. in the Reagan era. "But when a briefer gets a request from the vice president of the United States, he goes back and leaves no stone unturned."


The C.I.A.'s Directorate of Operations, the branch responsible for the clandestine collection of foreign intelligence, immediately tasked its Counterproliferation Division (CPD) with getting more information. According to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, just hours after Dick Cheney had gotten the Niger report, Valerie Plame, who worked in the CPD, wrote a memo to the division's deputy chief that read, "My husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity."


Her husband, as the world now knows, was Joseph Wilson, who had served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and as ambassador to Gabon under George H. W. Bush. Wilson approached the task with a healthy skepticism. "The office of the vice president had asked me to check this out," Wilson told Vanity Fair. "My skepticism was the same as it would have been with any unverified intelligence report, because there is a lot of stuff that comes over the transom every day."


He arrived in Niger on February 26, 2002. "Niger has a simplistic government structure," he says. "Both the minister of mines and the prime minister had gone through the mines. The French were managing partners of the international consortium. The French mining company actually had its hands on the product. Nobody else in the consortium had operators on the ground."


In addition, Wilson personally knew Wissam al-Zahawie, the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, whose visit to Niger had raised suspicions. "Wissam al-Zahawie was a world-class opera singer, and he went to the Vatican as his last post so he could be near the great European opera houses in Rome," says Wilson. "He was not in the Ba'thist inner circle. He was not in Saddam's tribe. The idea that he would be entrusted with this super-secret mission to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger is out of the question."


On March 1, the State Department weighed in with another cable, headed "Sale of Niger Uranium to Iraq Unlikely." Citing "unequivocal" control of the mines, the cable asserted that President Tandja of Niger would not want to risk good relations with the U.S. by trading with Iraq, and cited the prohibitive logistical problems in such a transaction.


A few days later, Wilson returned from Niger and told C.I.A. officials that he had found no evidence to support the uranium charges. By now the Niger reports had been discredited more than half a dozen times—by the French in 2001, by the C.I.A. in Rome and in Langley, by the State Department's INR, by some analysts in the Pentagon, by the ambassador to Niger, by Wilson, and yet again by State.


But the top brass at the C.I.A. knew what Cheney wanted. They went back to French intelligence again—twice. According to the Los Angeles Times, the second request that year, in mid-2002, "was more urgent and more specific." The C.I.A. sought confirmation of the alleged agreement by Niger to sell 500 tons of yellowcake to Iraq. Alain Chouet reportedly sent five or six men to Niger and again found the charges to be false. Then his staff noticed that the allegations matched those brought to him by Rocco Martino. "We told the Americans, 'bullcrap. It doesn't make any sense.'"


The Marketing Campaign


Until this point, the American people had been largely oblivious to the Bush administration's emerging policy toward Iraq. But in August 2002, just as Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans formally set up shop in the Pentagon, White House chief of staff Andrew Card launched the White House Iraq Group to sell the war through the media. The plan was to open a full-fledged marketing campaign after Labor Day, featuring images of nuclear devastation and threats of biological and chemical weapons. A key piece of the evidence was the Niger dossier.


Test-marketing began in August, with Cheney and his surrogates asserting repeatedly that "many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon." Making Cheney seem moderate by comparison, a piece by Ledeen appeared in The Wall Street Journal on September 4, suggesting that, in addition to Iraq, the governments of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia should be overthrown.


But the real push was delayed until the second week of September. As Card famously put it, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." The first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was perfect.


The opening salvo was fired on Sunday, September 8, 2002, when National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice 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."


The smoking-gun-mushroom-cloud catchphrase was such a hit that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld all picked it up in one form or another, sending it out repeatedly to the entire country.


Meanwhile, the C.I.A. had finally penetrated Saddam's inner sanctum by "turning" Foreign Minister Naji Sabri. Tenet delivered the news personally to Bush, Cheney, and other top officials in September 2002. Initially, the White House was ecstatic about this coup.


But, according to Tyler Drumheller, the C.I.A.'s chief of operations in Europe until he retired last year, that reaction changed dramatically when they heard what Sabri had to say. "He told us that they had no active weapons-of-mass-destruction program," Drumheller told 60 Minutes. "The [White House] group that was dealing with the preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'"


At roughly the same time, highly placed White House sources such as Scooter Libby leaked exclusive "scoops" to credulous reporters as part of the campaign to make Saddam's nuclear threat seem real. On the same day the "mushroom cloud" slogan made its debut, The New York Times printed a front-page story by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller citing administration officials who said that Saddam had "embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb." Specifically, the article contended that Iraq "has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium."


The next day, September 9, the White House received a visitor who should have known exactly what the tubes were for—Nicolò Pollari. As it happens, the Italians used the same tubes Iraq was seeking in their Medusa air-to-ground missile systems, so Pollari presumably knew that Iraq was not trying to enrich uranium but merely attempting to reproduce weaponry dating back to an era of military trade between Rome and Baghdad. As La Repubblica pointed out, however, he did not set the record straight.


Pollari met with Stephen Hadley, an understated but resolute hawk who has since replaced Condoleezza Rice as national-security adviser. Hadley has confirmed that he met Pollari, but declined to say what was discussed. "It was a courtesy call," Hadley told reporters. "Nobody participating in that meeting or asked about that meeting has any recollection of a discussion of natural uranium, or any recollection of any documents being passed."


But there was no need to pass documents. It was significant enough for Pollari to have met with Hadley, a White House official allied with Cheney's hard-liners, rather than with Pollari's American counterpart, George Tenet. "It is completely out of protocol for the head of a foreign intelligence service to circumvent the C.I.A.," says former C.I.A. officer Philip Giraldi. "It is uniquely unusual. In spite of lots of people having seen these documents, and having said they were not right, they went around them."


"To me there is no benign interpretation of this," says Melvin Goodman, the former C.I.A. and State Department analyst. "At the highest level it was known the documents were forgeries. Stephen Hadley knew it. Condi Rice knew it. Everyone at the highest level knew." Both Rice and Hadley have declined to comment.


Michael Ledeen, who had access to both Pollari and Hadley, categorically denies setting up the meeting: "I had nothing to do with it." A former senior intelligence official close to Tenet says that the former C.I.A. chief had no information suggesting that Pollari or elements of SISMI may have been trying to circumvent the C.I.A. and go directly to the White House.


But the Niger documents had been resurrected once again. Two days later, on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Hadley's office asked the C.I.A. to clear language so that President Bush could issue a statement saying, "Within the past few years, Iraq has resumed efforts to purchase large quantities of a type of uranium oxide known as yellowcake. … The regime was caught trying to purchase 500 metric tons of this material. It takes about 10 tons to produce enough enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon."


In addition, in a new paper that month, the D.I.A. issued an assessment claiming that "Iraq has been vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake."


Later that month, the British published a 50-page, 14-point report on Iraq's pursuit of weapons that said, "There is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa."


"When you are playing a disinformation operation," says Milt Bearden, "you're like a conductor who can single out one note in the symphony and say, 'Let the Brits have that.'"


On September 24, Prime Minister Tony Blair cited that "dossier of death" and asserted again that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Africa. "The reports in [the Niger file] were going around the world, and Bush and Blair were talking about the documents without actually mentioning them," Rocco Martino told Milan's Il Giornale. "I turned the television on and I did not believe my ears."


Now it was time for the international media to chime in with independent corroboration. In early October 2002, Martino approached Elisabetta Burba, a journalist at Panorama, the Milan-based newsmagazine. Burba and Martino had worked together in the past, but there may have been other reasons he went to her again. Owned by Silvio Berlusconi, Panorama was edited by Carlo Rossella, a close ally of the prime minister's. It also counted among its contributors Michael Ledeen.


Martino told Burba he had something truly explosive—documents that proved Saddam was buying yellowcake from Niger. Burba was intrigued, but skeptical. She agreed to pay just over 10,000 euros—about $12,500—on one condition: Martino would get paid only after his dossier had been corroborated by independent authorities. Martino gave her the documents.


When Burba told Rossella of her concerns about the authenticity of the Niger documents, he sent her to Africa to investigate. But he also insisted that she give copies to the U.S. Embassy. "I think the Americans are very interested in this problem of unconventional weapons," Rossella told her.


On October 17, Burba flew to Niger. Once there, she discovered for herself how difficult it would be to ship 500 tons of uranium out of Africa. By the time she returned, she believed the real story was not about Saddam's secret nuclear-weapons program at all, but about whether someone had forged the documents to fabricate a rationale for invading Iraq. But when she reported her findings to Rossella, he called her off. "I told her to forget the documents," he told Vanity Fair. "From my point of view, the story was over."


Now, however, thanks to Panorama, the U.S. had received copies of the Niger documents. They were quickly disseminated to the C.I.A. station chief in Rome, who recognized them as the same old story the Italians had been pushing months before, and to nuclear experts at the D.I.A., the Energy Department, and the N.S.A.


The State Department had already twice cast doubt on the reports of the sale of uranium to Iraq. In the fall, Wayne White, who served as the deputy director of the State Department's intelligence unit and was the principal Iraq analyst, reviewed the papers themselves. According to The Boston Globe, he said that after a 15-minute review he doubted their authenticity.


"Stick That Baby in There"


In early October, Bush was scheduled to give a major address on Iraq in Cincinnati. A few days earlier, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the N.S.C. sent the C.I.A. a draft which asserted that Saddam "has been caught attempting to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide from Africa—an essential ingredient in the enrichment process."


The C.I.A. faxed a memo to Hadley and the speechwriters telling them to delete the sentence on uranium, "because the amount is in dispute and it is debatable whether it can be acquired from the source. We told Congress that the Brits have exaggerated this issue. Finally, the Iraqis already have 550 metric tons of uranium oxide in their inventory." Iraq's supply of yellowcake dated back to the 1980s, when it had imported hundreds of tons of uranium ore from Niger and mined the rest itself. The C.I.A. felt that if Saddam was trying to revive his nuclear program he would be more likely to use his own stockpile than risk exposure in an illegal international deal.


But the White House refused to let go. Later that day, Hadley's staff sent over another draft of the Cincinnati speech, which stated, "The regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa."


This time, George Tenet himself interceded to keep the president from making false statements. According to his Senate testimony, he told Hadley that the "president should not be a fact witness on this issue," because the "reporting was weak." The C.I.A. even put it in writing and faxed it to the N.S.C.


The neocons were not done yet, however. "That was their favorite technique," says Larry Wilkerson, "stick that baby in there 47 times and on the 47th time it will stay. At every level of the decision-making process you had to have your ax out, ready to chop their fingers off. Sooner or later you would miss one and it would get in there."


For the next two months, December 2002 and January 2003, references to the uranium deal resurfaced again and again in "fact sheets," talking-point memos, and speeches. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice all declared publicly that Iraq had been caught trying to buy uranium from Niger. On December 19, the claim reappeared on a fact sheet published by the State Department. The bureaucratic battle was unending. In light of the many differing viewpoints, the Pentagon asked the National Intelligence Council, the body that oversees the 15 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, to resolve the matter. According to The Washington Post, in a January 2003 memo the council replied unequivocally that "the Niger story was baseless and should be laid to rest." The memo went immediately to Bush and his advisers.


Nevertheless, on January 20, with war imminent, President Bush submitted a report to Congress citing Iraq's attempts "to acquire uranium and the means to enrich it."


At an N.S.C. meeting on January 27, 2003, George Tenet was given a hard-copy draft of the State of the Union address. Bush was to deliver it the next day. Acutely aware of the ongoing intelligence wars, Tenet was caught between the hard-liners in the White House, to whom he reported, and the C.I.A., whose integrity he was duty-bound to uphold. That day, he returned to C.I.A. headquarters and, without even reading the speech, gave a copy to an assistant who was told to deliver it to the deputy director for intelligence. But, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, no one in the D.D.I.'s office recalls receiving the speech.


A State of the Union address that was a call for war, that desperately needed to be vetted, had been misplaced and gone unread. "It is inconceivable to me that George Tenet didn't read that speech," says Milt Bearden. "At that point, he was effectively no longer D.C.I. [director of central intelligence]. He was part of that cabal, and no longer able to carry an honest message."


In an e-mail, a former intelligence official close to Tenet said the charge that Tenet was "part of a 'cabal' is absurd." The official added, "Mr. Tenet was unaware of attempts to put the Niger information in the State of the Union speech. Had he been aware, he would have vigorously tried to have it removed."


The next day, despite countless objections from the C.I.A. and other agencies, Bush cited the charges from the fraudulent Niger documents in his speech. Later that year, Stephen Hadley accepted responsibility for allowing the sentence to remain in the speech. He said he had failed to remember the warnings he'd received about the allegations.


Blaming the C.I.A.


In last-minute negotiations between the White House and the C.I.A., a decision was made to attribute the alleged Niger uranium deal to British intelligence. The official reason was that it was preferable to cite British intelligence, which Blair had championed in his 50-page report, rather than classified American intelligence. But the C.I.A. had told the White House again and again that it didn't trust the British reports.


The British, meanwhile, have repeatedly claimed to have other sources, but they have refused to identify them. According to Joseph Wilson, that refusal is a violation of the U.N. resolution stipulating that member states must share with the International Atomic Energy Agency all information they have on prohibited nuclear programs in Iraq. "The British say they cannot share the information, because it comes from a third-country intelligence source," says Wilson. "But that third country is presumably a member of the United Nations, and it too should comply with Article 10 of United Nations Resolution 1441." So far, Wilson says, no evidence of a third country has come to light.


A week after Bush's speech, on February 4, the Bush administration finally forwarded electronic copies of the Niger documents to the I.A.E.A. Astonishingly, a note was attached to the documents which said, "We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims."


On March 7, the I.A.E.A. publicly exposed the Niger documents as forgeries. Not long afterward, Cheney was asked about it on Meet the Press. He said that the I.A.E.A. was wrong, that it had "consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing." He added, "We know [saddam] has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."


On March 14, Senator Jay Rockefeller IV, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to F.B.I. chief Robert Mueller asking for an investigation because "the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq." But Senator Pat Roberts, of Kansas, the Republican chair of the committee, declined to co-sign the letter.


Then, on March 19, 2003, the war in Iraq began.


On July 11, 2003, faced with public pressure to investigate the forgeries, Roberts issued a statement blaming the C.I.A. and defending the White House. "So far, I am very disturbed by what appears to be extremely sloppy handling of the issue from the outset by the C.I.A.," he said.


Under Roberts's aegis, the Senate Intelligence Committee investigated the Niger affair and came to some extraordinary conclusions. "At the time the President delivered the State of the Union address, no one in the IC [intelligence community] had asked anyone in the White House to remove the sentence from the speech," read the report. It added that "CIA Iraq nuclear analysts … told Committee staff that at the time of the State of the Union, they still believed that Iraq was probably seeking uranium from Africa."


In November 2005, Rockefeller and Democratic senator Harry Reid staged a dramatic shutdown of the Senate and challenged Roberts to get to the bottom of the forgeries. "The fact is that at any time the Senate Intelligence Committee pursued a line of questioning that brought us close to the White House, our efforts were thwarted," Rockefeller said.


So far, the Republican-controlled Senate committee has failed to produce a more extensive report.


An Even Bigger Mistake


For his part, Michael Ledeen thinks all the interest in the Niger documents and Bush's famous 16 words is overblown. "I don't want my government's decisions based on falsehoods," he says. "But the president referred to British intelligence. So far as I've read about it, that statement is true."


Ledeen categorically asserts that he couldn't have orchestrated the Niger operation, because he disagreed so strongly with the administration's policy. "I thought it was wrong to do Iraq militarily," he says. "Before we went into Iraq, I said that anyone who thinks we can march into Iraq, overthrow Saddam, and then have peace is crazy. I thought it was a mistake at the time, and the way they did it." He adds, "Let's get real. This is politics. People in office do not like people who criticize them."


It is unclear how these assertions square with the widespread reports that Ledeen was tightly wired into the neocons in the administration; with his long history of ties to SISMI, as reported by The Wall Street Journal and the court records from the trial of Francesco Pazienza; and with Ledeen's own pro-war writings.


Despite all the speculation, there are no fingerprints connecting Ledeen to the Niger documents. Even his fiercest adversaries will concede this. "In talking to hundreds of people, no one has given us a hint linking Ledeen to the Niger documents," says Carlo Bonini of La Repubblica, which is facing a defamation suit by Ledeen in Italy.


It is also unclear what, if anything, the Italians may have received for their alleged participation in Nigergate. In 2005, a consortium led by Finmeccanica, the Italian arms company, and Lockheed Martin unexpectedly beat out U.S.-owned Sikorsky to win a contract to build presidential helicopters. Some saw the contract, worth as much as $6.1 billion, as a reward to Berlusconi for helping Bush on Iraq.


Regardless of who fabricated the Niger documents, it is difficult to overstate the impact of the war they helped ignite. By May 18, 2006, the number of American fatalities was 2,448, while various methods of tracking American casualties put the number of wounded at between 18,000 and 48,000. At least 35,000 Iraqis have been killed. A new study by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001, and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes concludes that the total costs of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion. That figure includes the long-term health-care costs for injured soldiers, the cost of higher oil prices, and a bigger U.S. budget deficit.


But the most important consequence of the Iraq war is its destabilization of the Middle East. If neoconservatives such as Ledeen and their critics agree on anything, it is that so far there has been only one real winner in the Iraq conflict: the fundamentalist mullahs in Iran. For decades, the two big threats in the Middle East—Iran and Iraq—had counterbalanced each other in a standoff that neutralized both. Yet the Bush administration, despite having declared Iran a member of the Axis of Evil, proceeded to attack its two biggest enemies, Afghanistan and Iraq. "Iran is unquestionably the biggest beneficiary of the war in Iraq," says Milt Bearden.


Perhaps it is not surprising that the Bush administration is now rattling its sabers against Iran, which has been flexing its muscles with a new nuclear program. As a result, according to a Zogby poll in May, 66 percent of Americans now see Iran as a threat to the U.S. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national-security adviser to President Carter, has argued that starting the Iraq war was a catastrophic strategic blunder, and that taking military action against Iran may be an even bigger mistake. "I think of war with Iran as the ending of America's present role in the world," he told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. "Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it's still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we'll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world."


To Michael Ledeen, however, Iran's ascendancy is just one more reason to expand the Iraq war to the "terror masters" of the Middle East. "I keep saying it over and over again to the point where I myself am bored," he says. "I have been screaming 'Iran, Iran, Iran, Iran' for five years. [Those in the Bush administration] don't have an Iran policy. Still don't have one. They haven't done frak-all."

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