Bush’s Watergate: US misused Iraq intel to take out Saddam
* ‘Senior administration officials repeatedly failed to disclose the contrary views of America’s leading nuclear scientists’
WASHINGTON: Bush administration officials, in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, gave a one-sided view of the case for believing Saddam Hussein had a nuclear arms programme that ignored the doubts of their own experts, the New York Times said on Saturday.
The newspaper made the charge in an article about thousands of high-strength aluminium tubes ordered by Iraq that leading administration officials said were intended for use in uranium centrifuges. “As the only physical evidence the United States could brandish of (Saddam’s) revived nuclear ambitions, they gave credibility to the apocalyptic imagery invoked by President Bush and his advisers,” said the article on the newspaper’s Web site.
It referred to remarks by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in September 2002 in which she said the tubes, a shipment of which were intercepted in Jordan in June 2001, were “only really suited for nuclear weapons programmes”. The paper said that before she made the remarks, “she was aware that the government’s foremost nuclear experts had concluded that the tubes were most likely not for nuclear weapons at all”.
It said the Energy Department experts believed the tubes were probably intended for small artillery rockets, as Iraq itself maintained. “Senior administration officials repeatedly failed to fully disclose the contrary views of America’s leading nuclear scientists,” the Times said, citing Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell by name.
“They sometimes overstated even the most dire intelligence assessments of the tubes, yet minimised or rejected the strong doubts of their own experts. They worried privately that the nuclear case was weak, but expressed sober certitude in public.
“The result was a largely one-sided presentation to the public that did not convey the depth of evidence and argument against the administration’s most tangible proof of a revived nuclear weapons programme in Iraq,” the paper said.
A White House spokeswoman had no immediate comment. But the campaign of Democratic presidential contender John Kerry jumped on the report, issuing an ad that said: “Here’s something new about George Bush, newspapers report he withheld key intelligence information from the American public so he could overstate the threat Iraq posed. Bush rushed to war. We’re paying the price. It’s time for a fresh start.”
The times story said the theory that the tubes were intended for a centrifuge was largely promoted by one analyst at the CIA, a relatively junior staffer who had a background in mechanical engineering and operating US centrifuges. President George W Bush has cited Iraq’s purported cache of weapons of mass destruction as the reason for deposing Saddam. No weapons have been found. reuters