Note: The following essay by Professor of Government Calvin F. Exoo was printed in The California Telegraph and
the Philadelphia Herald on December 12, 2005. The views expressed are those
of Professor Exoo.
SLU Prof: Bush White House Condemned By Its Own Words
Vice President Cheney, wrapping himself in the righteous indignation that only people
caught red-handed seem able to muster, said this recently: "The suggestion that's been
made by some...that the President of the United States or any member of this administration
purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest
and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
Very well then. No charges here. Instead, let's try a simple exercise: let's compare what
White House officials said about Iraq in the run-up to war with what they knew at the
time - or at the very least, should have known, because the intelligence was available
What they said: "We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to
acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the testimony of
defectors - including Saddam's own son-in law" (Cheney).
What they knew: Testimony obtained by reporters in 2003 showed that Saddam's
son-in law told UN weapons inspectors that "all weapons - biological, chemical, missile,
nuclear - were destroyed." In other words, he said the opposite of what Cheney claimed
What they said: Saddam Hussein is "aggressively seeking nuclear weapons"
(Cheney). Iraq attempted to acquire aluminum tubes that were "only really suited for
nuclear weapons development" (Condoleeza Rice). The U.S. has "irrefutable evidence" that
the tubes were destined for centrifuges (Cheney). "We don't want the smoking gun to
be a mushroom cloud" (Rice).
What they knew: Department of Energy scientists had concluded that
these tubes were the wrong size for centrifuges, but were the proper size for
conventional, non-WMD rockets. Post-war CIA inspectors concluded that, indeed, the
tubes had been used for this purpose and were, in inspectors' words, "innocuous."
What they said: There is a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda
terrorist network" (Colin Powell).
What they knew: A special UN committee on terrorism, in its report on
al Qaeda, concluded, "Nothing has come to our notice that would indicate links between
Iraq and al Qaeda." The CIA had earlier come to the same conclusion, citing "critical
gaps" in evidence and the "questionable credibility" of sources. The 9/11 Commission
also found no link between Iraq and al Qaeda. At least one Commission member charged
that the administration had delayed the Commission's report in order to "get
the war in Iraq in and over before it came out."
What they said: "Intelligence leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime
continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised... I would
remind you that...report came out of the IAEA that they were six months away from
developing a nuclear weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need." (George W. Bush)
What they knew: As the International Atomic Energy Agency stated at
the time, no such report had ever been issued. Indeed, the IAEA did report that it had
"found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program
This exercise could go on and on, featuring all of the pre-war hobgoblins and
bugbears: "Uranium from Africa," "500 tons of VX nerve agent, a single drop
will kill in minutes,"
"terrorist training camp inside Iraq," "25,000 liters of anthrax, enough to kill
"500 tons of sarin," and of course, the promise that might nowadays be funny if it
were not so tragic: "They will greet us as liberators." In all these cases,
unambiguous pronouncements were based on very ambiguous intelligence, or worse, on
intelligence that flatly contradicted the pronouncements.
No, Mr. Vice President, there will be no charges here; no words like "dishonest
and reprehensible," which you've hurled at your critics. Indeed, no such invective is
necessary; the testimony of your own words is condemnation enough.
(Citations to the sources of information in this essay are available to editors on request.)
Posted: November 22, 2005