If you blinked–or were busy buying hot-dogs and beer for a Fourth of July cookout–you might have missed the latest evidence that George W. Bush misrepresented the threat from Iraq as he guided the country into invasion and occupation in the Middle East.
The day before Independence Day, Richard Kerr, a former CIA deputy director who is leading a review of the CIA’s prewar intelligence on Iraq’s unconventional weapons, held a series of interviews with journalists and revealed that his unfinished inquiry had so far found that the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction had been somewhat ambiguous, that analysts at the CIA and other intelligence services had received pressure from the Bush administration, and that the CIA had not found any proof of operational ties between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime.
In other words, Bush lied.
Bush had said that intelligence gathered by the United States and other nations had determined–“no doubt”–that Hussein possessed WMDs, and he had declared that the Iraqi dictator was “dealing” with al Qaeda. Kerr’s statements undermined these vital assertions Bush had made to justify the war.
Kerr was not trying to be difficult. His remarks were primarily pro-CIA. He maintained that the agency had been right to tell Bush and top administration officials that Hussein was seeking WMDs. He said that intelligence analysts had resisted pressure and had done a fine job, considering the limited amount of material they had to work with. Kerr noted that US intelligence analysts had been forced to rely upon information from the early and mid-1990s and had little hard evidence to evaluate after 1998 (when UN weapons inspectors left the Iraq). The material that did come in after then was mostly “circumstantial” or “inferential,” he said. It was “less specific and detailed” than in earlier years, “scattered.” Speaking to The Washington Post, he commented, “It would have been very hard to conclude those [WMD] programs were not continuing, based on the reports being gathered in recent years.” And he noted that CIA intelligence reports included the “appropriate caveats” regarding their less-than-definitive conclusions. (An unclassified CIA report released last October said, without qualification, “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons.” But its supporting material was nuanced, and Kerr noted that intelligence analysts usually pointed out that their information was not perfect.)