Author Topic: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?  (Read 825 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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In the SGU book, pages 212-213, there is a list of conspiracy theories and the amounts of the American people that believe in them, for example that the Moon landing was fake, that CIA created some crack cocaine epidemic in American cities, that vaccines cause autism, and that aliens exist and are visiting the Earth. And:

Quote
Voters are split 44 percent to 45 percent on whether President Bush intentionally mislead us about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 72 percent of Democrats think Bush lied about WMDs, Independents agree 48-45 percent, but just 13 of Republicans think so.

I've seen on so many sites that "Bush lied about Iraq", or "Blair lied about Iraq", that I may have assumed that there was something to it. Is it really on the level of Moon hoax theories? I don't think I have ever really thought about it.

I probably look terribly ignorant now... :-[

I don't consider this topic to belong in the Politics sub-forum as it is about a possible conspiracy theory, not about the merits of the war in Iraq, or subsequent events.
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Offline random poet

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2019, 05:33:48 PM »
They didn't lie. They had good intel that the weapons existed. They just never found any, because they are incompetent and the people sent to look for the weapons were incompetent. That is what I think happened. Moreoever, Bush (or his entourage) is not smart enough to pull off a conspiracy like this.

Or the weapons never existed in the first place. But then, how did Sadam manage to genocide hundreds of thousands of Kurds?

Various governments hid any number of things from the public during that war, but I don't think this is one of them.
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Offline Harry Black

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2019, 05:48:53 PM »
It seems certain that Powel lied. It seems unlikely that Bush did not have the same information or that Powel hid it from him and that intelligence was not shared with the UK.


Offline The Latinist

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2019, 07:17:40 PM »
On the eve of war, the former UN weapons inspector was saying point-blank that they had no WMDs. Yes, they hadn’t been fully compliant with inspections, but he was sure from the work they had been able to do that Iraq no longer had the capability after a decade of sanctions and that their former stockpiles were no longer useful even if they hadn’t been destroyed.  If he was saying this on Fox News then, the administration knew it.  They didn’t care; it was pretense.
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Offline Sawyer

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2019, 07:55:56 PM »
I think I got into an argument about this last time the question came up on the forums because I disagreed with the characterization of "Bush lied".  If you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, it's possible to believe that George W. Bush never *consciously* lied about the presence of WMDs in Iraq.  However, to make that assertion you have to therefore acknowledge that he, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and a dozen other staffers were essentially delusional in their approach to military intelligence.  Basically if they had 4 out of 5 sources insisting there was no evidence of WMDs, they'd pick the one guy claiming that there was evidence and prop him up as only person who really knew what was going on.  They essentially went through this process not just for finding a justification for war, but in trying to predict the outcomes as well.  Plus there was the whole thing where the White House gave exclusive info to the New York Times, and then Cheney cited the resulting articles as "independent" verification of their information.

My overall perception of the start of the Iraq War comes from the Thomas Rick's book Fiasco, which I think may stress the incompetence angle more than the dishonesty.  I'm not sure which is scarier though.  If you really want to get upset about Iraq, go back and read about the start of the Vietnam War and all the obvious mistakes that were made in analyzing intel.  Then remind yourself that Rumsfeld and Cheney lived through that war, came into power right after it, and even made it clear that they could understand the most egregious errors in Vietnam.  Then they said fuck it, let's go to Iraq.

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2019, 10:36:12 PM »
Bush was trying to find an excuse to invade Iraq. The first few didn't fly. Then he hit on WMD's which plenty of people knew Iraq no longer had, but which resonated with the public. Bush lied. I don't view this as a conspiracy theory but as widely-known fact.

If Bush actually thought that Iraq still had WMDs then he was even more incompetent and useless than his most ardent opponents believed.
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Offline Sawyer

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2019, 11:31:45 PM »
I thought about this a little more, and I suppose one of the things that still bothers me about the "Bush Lied" approach is that it essentially shuts off all other avenues of investigation into the beginning of the Iraq War.  If you want to understand why the planning and execution of the war went so poorly, you have to understand the horrible vetting process that the entire administration went through with all military intel.  Believing that the primary problem was dishonesty doesn't get you any closer to understanding that - if anything it obscures the overconfidence and self-deception involved  I don't even think it's a good starting point for characterizing the parasitic relationship that neoconservatives had with mainstream media in the early '00s.  I recall reading about how Wolfowitz was almost giddy about receiving sympathetic coverage from the likes of Christopher Hitchens.  It wasn't that he was happy that Hitchens believed his lies, but that getting an old-guard leftist on board was a confirmation that the facts must have been on their side. 

And on a personal anti-war note, I also despise one of the unstated assumptions that sneaks in here - that if Bush DIDN'T lie about WMDs, then the Iraq War would have been a-okay.  I know no one here is saying that, but it's very easy to make that mental leap.  It was an awful, unjust war no matter how many lies were told or not told.

Offline CarbShark

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2019, 11:44:30 PM »
They didn't lie. They had good intel that the weapons existed. They just never found any, because they are incompetent and the people sent to look for the weapons were incompetent. That is what I think happened. Moreoever, Bush (or his entourage) is not smart enough to pull off a conspiracy like this.

Or the weapons never existed in the first place. But then, how did Sadam manage to genocide hundreds of thousands of Kurds?

Various governments hid any number of things from the public during that war, but I don't think this is one of them.
The weapons never existed. They never had good intel. They had very poor quality intel and convinced themselves it was of the highest quality then convinced everyone else it was too.

At some point we have to consider motivated reasoning, willful blindness and self delusion lies


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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2019, 12:05:17 AM »
They didn't lie. They had good intel that the weapons existed. They just never found any, because they are incompetent and the people sent to look for the weapons were incompetent. That is what I think happened. Moreoever, Bush (or his entourage) is not smart enough to pull off a conspiracy like this.

Or the weapons never existed in the first place. But then, how did Sadam manage to genocide hundreds of thousands of Kurds?

Various governments hid any number of things from the public during that war, but I don't think this is one of them.
The weapons never existed. They never had good intel. They had very poor quality intel and convinced themselves it was of the highest quality then convinced everyone else it was too.

At some point we have to consider motivated reasoning, willful blindness and self delusion lies


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Well, obviously the weapons existed once.  Saddam Hussein had poison gases developed to use against the Iranians in the Iraq-Iran war, and then used them against the Kurds and the Marsh Schiites.

But the weapons didn’t exist in 2003 when Bush ordered the invasion.

The question is whether the reason was incompetence (the intelligence, such as it was, was wrong), negligence (Bush didn’t examine the intelligence sufficiently to determine the quality of the intelligence) or a conspiracy (he knew Iraq didn’t have WMDs, but was going to have Iraq invaded, regardless).

I think it was a mixture of incompetence and negligence.  Even I don’t think that Bush was foolish enough to think that a conspiracy wouldn’t come to light eventually.

And anyway.  They didn’t manage to convince everyone, including the governments of France (French fries anyone?) and Germany.  And large segments of the public.
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Offline John Albert

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2019, 06:09:54 AM »
It's been awhile since I thought about this question, so I went back and reread a few chapters of At the Center of the Storm, the book written by George Tenet who had been Director of Central Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.

Chapters 16 through 18 address the questions of what the US intelligence community thought they knew about Iraq's WMD programs and nuclear aspirations, as well as potential ties to Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. Those chapters detail how that information was communicated to the policymakers, how it was received, re-contextualized, and disseminated to the public in order to justify military action against Iraq.

In Chapter 16, Tenet suggests that the decision to depose Saddam Hussein had been made long before the 9/11 attacks, and originally had little to do with national security interests.   

                   
Quote from: At the Center of the Storm, Chapter 16
The focus on Iraq by senior Bush officials predated the administration. Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and Richard Perle were among eighteen people who had signed a public letter from a group they named “The Project for the New American Century” calling for Saddam’s ouster. It is often forgotten, but regime change in Iraq was also the explicitly stated policy of the Clinton administration, and was the goal of the Iraq Liberation Act, passed by Congress in 1998. One hundred million dollars was appropriated to the State Department for the express purpose of seeking an end to Saddam’s regime. This policy emerged in the aftermath of a failed 1996 covert-action program and was announced to the world. Most important, the U.S. government’s intention to bring about regime change in Baghdad was proclaimed to the long-suffering people of Iraq. America’s promise to topple Saddam remained the law of this land from halfway through Bill Clinton’s second term right up until U.S. troops invaded in March 2003.

But after 9/11, the administration saw a timely opportunity to bust a move against Iraq, even though Saddam was not considered a credible threat. Moreover, nobody in Washington seemed overly concerned about the potential negative consequences of deposing him.

                   
Quote from: At the Center of the Storm, Chapter 16
After 9/11, everything changed. Many foreign policy issues were now viewed through the prism of smoke rising from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. For many in the Bush administration, Iraq was unfinished business. They seized on the emotional impact of 9/11 and created a psychological connection between the failure to act decisively against al-Qa’ida and the danger posed by Iraq’s WMD programs. The message was: We can never afford to be surprised again. In the case of Iraq, if sanctions eroded and nothing were done (and the international community had little patience for maintaining sanctions indefinitely), we might wake up one day to find that Saddam possessed a nuclear weapon, and then our ability to deal with him would take on an entirely different cast. Unfortunately, this train of thought also led to some overheated and misleading rhetoric, such as the argument that we don’t want our “smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat. (In truth, it was not about imminence but about acting before Saddam did.) Nor was there ever a significant discussion regarding enhanced containment or the costs and benefits of such an approach versus full-out planning for overt and covert regime change. Instead, it seemed a given that the United States had not done enough to stop al-Qa’ida before 9/11 and had paid an enormous price. Therefore, so the reasoning went, we could not allow ourselves to be in a similar situation in Iraq.

Tenet hints that the decision to shift the focus of Middle East policy to Iraq was made by the Bush administration, contrary to the advice of the intelligence community and the military.

                   
Quote from: At the Center of the Storm, Chapter 16
I recently talked with a senior military officer who happened to be in Europe when the attacks of 9/11 occurred. Struggling to get a flight back to the United States, he made his way to the U.S. airbase at Mildenhall, England, where he bumped into another temporarily stranded senior official, Doug Feith. They caught a ride aboard an Air Force tanker, one of the few planes permitted to transit the closed airspace of the United States. Onboard the flight, the military officer told Feith that al-Qa’ida was responsible for the previous day’s attacks and a theater-wide campaign would need to be launched against them starting in Afghanistan. To his amazement, Feith said words to the effect that the campaign should immediately lead to Baghdad. The senior military officer strongly disagreed. During meetings at Camp David the weekend following the terrorist attacks, Paul Wolfowitz in particular was fixated on the question of including Saddam in any U.S. response. He spoke of Iraq in the context of terrorism alone. I recall no mention of WMD. The president listened to Paul’s views but, fairly quickly, it seemed to me, dismissed them. So did I. Rumsfeld did not seem nearly as consumed with the Iraqi connection as was his deputy, and he did not join in this portion of the debate in any meaningful way. When an informal vote was taken on whether to include Iraq in our immediate response plans, the principals voted four to zero against it, with Don Rumsfeld abstaining.

White House officials held regular small meetings to hammer out details of managing an Iraqi occupation, as if the invasion and conquest were a foregone conclusion.

                   
Quote from: At the Center of the Storm, Chapter 16
To be sure, a number of people were fixated on Iraq, and a number of decisions and actions during the late fall of 2001 and into early 2002 created a momentum all their own. One of CIA’s senior Middle East experts recently told me of a meeting he had in the White House a few days after 9/11. A senior NSC official told him that the administration wanted to get rid of Saddam. Our analyst said, “If you want to go after that son of a bitch to settle old scores, be my guest. But don’t tell us he is connected to 9/11 or to terrorism because there is no evidence to support that. You will have to have a better reason.” The National Security Council staff held meetings in the White House Situation Room with increasing regularity to discuss Iraq. Many of the meetings were so-called Deputies Committee meetings, or DCs, usually attended by the second in command from the various agencies. Others involved the Principals Committee, or PC. Although I went to some of the PC meetings, I frequently delegated the task to my long-suffering deputy, John McLaughlin. The DCs were already his burden.

Quote from: At the Center of the Storm, Chapter 16
In talking now to those who did attend, I’m told that the sessions, in retrospect, seemed odd. A presidential decision on going to war was always alluded to by the NSC in hypothetical terms, as though it were still up in the air and the conferees were merely discussing contingencies. Sometimes there would be lengthy debates over such arcane details as how quickly after the war began could we replace Iraq’s currency and whose picture should be on the dinar; the old currency had Saddam’s mug on it. In none of the meetings can anyone remember a discussion of the central questions. Was it wise to go to war? Was it the right thing to do? The agenda focused solely on what actions would need to be taken if a decision to attack were later made. What never happened, as far as I can tell, was a serious consideration of the implications of a U.S. invasion. What impact would a large American occupying force have in an Arab country in the heart of the Middle East? What kind of political strategy would be necessary to cause the Iraqi society to coalesce in a post-Saddam world and maximize the chances of our success? How would the presence of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, and the possibility of a pro-West Iraqi government, be viewed in Iran? And what might Iran do in reaction? In looking back, there seemed to be a lack of curiosity in asking these kinds of questions, and the lack of a disciplined process to get the answers before committing the country to war. And in hindsight, we in the intelligence community should have done more to answer those questions even though not asked. One of our senior analysts subsequently told me that the impression given was that the issue of “should we go to war” had already been decided in meetings at which we were not present. We were just called in to discuss the “how” and occasionally the “how will we explain it to the public.”

Quote from: At the Center of the Storm, Chapter 16
Over the past couple of years, I have asked various people who were in senior positions at CIA at the time, “When did you know for sure that we were going to war in Iraq?” The answers are instructive. Those involved in assembling support for the U.S. military had the sense from early in the Bush administration that war was inevitable. By and large, the analysts whom I have talked to—the ones who were following Saddam’s weapons programs or who were examining possible links between Iraq and al-Qa’ida—came much later to the conclusion that we were going to war.

The book contains a lot more detail about the actual intelligence on WMDs, if you want me to post it.

Online Ah.hell

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2019, 09:36:51 AM »
It seems much more like a group think problem than knowingly lying.  I think a lot of folks in the administration really really wanted to overthrow Saddam, a lot of people in and out of the administration thought they had WMD but were hiding them.  So folks in the administration believed something they really wanted to believe regardless of the evidence.  We all do that, its just that it doesn't have the same impact.   More of a shakespearean tragedy than modern political thriller if you ask me. 

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2019, 10:43:58 AM »
It seems much more like a group think problem than knowingly lying.  I think a lot of folks in the administration really really wanted to overthrow Saddam, a lot of people in and out of the administration thought they had WMD but were hiding them.  So folks in the administration believed something they really wanted to believe regardless of the evidence.  We all do that, its just that it doesn't have the same impact.   More of a shakespearean tragedy than modern political thriller if you ask me.

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Offline CarbShark

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2019, 01:34:42 PM »
It's been awhile since I thought about this question, so I went back and reread a few chapters of At the Center of the Storm, the book written by George Tenet who had been Director of Central Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.


Tenet, if anyone, would have been responsible for the questionable intelligence that was trumped up into an excuse for an invasion. 

His opinions are interesting but I'm not sure how reliable he is.

Nothing I was pissed when W awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Offline John Albert

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Re: Is it a conspiracy theory that Bush/Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq?
« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2019, 04:23:38 PM »
Tenet, if anyone, would have been responsible for the questionable intelligence that was trumped up into an excuse for an invasion. 

In his book, Tenet openly addresses the failings of the CIA. He accepts responsibility and expresses his own regrets about the quality of information that was delivered, how the report was worded, and how that was eventually received, spun, and acted upon by the Bush administration.


His opinions are interesting but I'm not sure how reliable he is.

Nobody's reliability is above question. But Tenet was uniquely positioned to present a timely view of the interplay between the intelligence, military, and political communities during the period in question.   

The impression he creates about the White House's strategic interest in Iraq is no secret by this point. His book was a major bestseller and went largely unchallenged by major figures in the intelligence community and the military, and many of his claims have been verified by senior officials. If his overall depiction was totally off-base, I'd have expected a lot more outrage and push-back from others who were there.

If we're trying to arrive at a fact-based conclusion whether or not the Bush administration lied about Iraq having WMDs, George Tenet (as the ranking Central Intelligence officer) is one of the few individuals who can provide firsthand testimony about that. His book testifies about the political attitude toward Iraq. It provides insight into the plans of Bush administration officials, and addresses the unevidenced claims publicly bandied about by Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and others. Most importantly, it provides critical, word-for-word deconstruction and analysis of specific CIA reports about Iraq and WMDs.

Go ahead and handwave it if you like, but it's some of the best-sourced information we have about what was known, what wasn't known, and what was going on inside the White House in the months leading up to the Iraq War. 


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« Last Edit: July 25, 2019, 04:35:32 PM by John Albert »

 

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