The Senate Intelligence [sic] Committee has finally deemed it safe to release its report on "whether public Statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq by US Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information.”
What "intelligence information"?
Well, recall that in the summer of 2002, President Bush ordered Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate he could use to "justify" to Congress the war of aggression against Iraq which, we now know thanks to the Downing Street Memos he had already decided to launch.
By law, the constitutional powers of the president to “introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities” are limited, and can only be exercised “pursuant to; (a) a declaration of war, (b) specific statutory authorization, or (c) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”
So, DCI Tenet hurriedly prepared the "slam dunk" NIE on "Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction,” which was central to gullible Congresspersons passing, within days of its receipt, the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq" Resolution of 16 October, 2002.
Years later, the March 2005 report of the Commission on Intelligence contained a scathing chapter on the intelligence’ Bush used to obtain his Congressional "authorization.”
“As war loomed, the U.S. intelligence community was charged with telling policymakers what it knew about Iraq’s nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. The community’s best assessments were set out in an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, a summation of the community’s views.”
“These assessments were all wrong.”
[And in its first report, the Senate Intelligence Committee had come to similar conclusions.]
Now, that "specific statutory authorization" provided by Congress was conditional.
It was contingent upon Bush first pursuing a “diplomatic" or "peaceful solution” through the United Nations. If diplomacy "failed" to "disarm" Saddam Hussein, Bush was then to seek a new Security Council resolution, authorizing the use of “all necessary means,” including force.
If and only if Bush could then get such a new Security Council resolution, was he authorized to use our armed forces to enforce it.
But, by March, 2003 as a result of months of totally intrusive inspections, ordered by UN Security Council, and acceded to by Saddam Hussein it was obvious to everyone that Saddam was "disarmed" and did not pose an immediate threat to us or to anyone else.
Nevertheless, on 18 March Bush notified Congress that no “further diplomatic or other peaceful means will adequately protect the national security of the United States from the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”
That was a lie, of course, and by then, Congresspersons knew or should have known that it was.
However, this just-issued Committee report focuses on five major Bush-Cheney Administration policy speeches;
- VP Cheney, 26 August, 2002, VFW National Convention
- President Bush, 12 September, 2002, UN General Assembly
- President Bush, 7 October, 2002, Cincinnati, Ohio
- President Bush, 28 January, 2003, State of the Union Address
- Secretary of State Powell, 5 February, 2003, UN Security Council
The Committee essentially confines itself to reporting on the extent to which those speeches accurately reflected the consensus or lack of it contained within the classified NIE of October 2002.
But, surely, that is not the issue.
Even when Cheney gave that 26 August 2002 kickoff’ speech, declaring authoritatively that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, the "best intelligence" was to the contrary.
Way back in 1998, Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, first reported to the UN Security Council that –
"there are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance."
Furthermore, ElBaradei’s inspectors has visited Iraq several months prior to Cheney’s speech to verify that their IAEA seals and locks were still intact, and that no attempts had been made to "reconstitute" those capabilities.
So, how could Cheney make that outrageous claim in August? Well, quoth Cheney, "ElBaradei is simply wrong."
Then, in November, 2002, Saddam Hussein acceded to a Security Council request to allow the return of all UN inspectors.
The IAEA reported to the UN Security Council on 27 January 2003 that
"In the first eight weeks of inspections, the IAEA has visited all sites identified by it or by States as significant. No evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities at those locations has been detected to date during these inspections Nor have the inspections thus far revealed signs of new nuclear facilities or direct support to any nuclear activity."
Then, on 7 March, 2003, ElBaradei formally reported to the Security Council that
“After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq.”
Chairman Hans Blix made a similar, but somewhat less definitive, report on his inspectors’ searches for chemical and biological weapons.
Nevertheless, on March 17, 2003, Bush falsely told us;
“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.
And, the next day, Bush notified Congress that he had "determined" that " reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and peaceful means" will "not adequately protect the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”
The day after that, Bush announced that we and our “allies” had already begun the invasion of Iraq.
“The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.”
So, the question for the Committee, then, ought not to have been:
"Did Bush use or misuse that fatally flawed NIE to "build public support" for his invasion and occupation of Iraq?"
"Did Bush deliberately and with malice aforethought launch an invasion and occupation of Iraq knowing full well that under existing Congressional Acts and Security Council Resolutions he had no authority to do so?"
In other words, is Bush a "criminal" under both US and International law?