Thursday August 2, 2018
As the George W. Bush administration revved up to attack Iraq 15 years ago, we could see no compelling reason for war. We decided, though, to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt on the chance he had been sandbagged by Vice President Dick Cheney and others. We chose to allow for the possibility that he actually believed the “intelligence” that Colin Powell presented to the UN as providing “irrefutable and undeniable” proof of WMD in Iraq and a “sinister nexus” between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.
To us in VIPS it was clear, however, that the “intelligence” Powell adduced was bogus. Thus, that same afternoon (Feb. 5, 2003) we prepared and sent to President Bush a Memorandum like this one, urging him to seek counsel beyond the “circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
We take no satisfaction at having been correct — though disregarded — in predicting the political and humanitarian disaster in Iraq. Most Americans have been told the intelligence was “mistaken.” It was not; it was out-and-out fraud, in which, sadly, some of our former colleagues took part.
Five years after Powell’s speech, the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee minced few words in announcing the main bipartisan finding of a five-year investigation. He said: “In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”