A nonpartisan commission appointed by President Bush has completed a study of the reasons that we went to war in Iraq. It concluded its research with a lengthy statement that scourges the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency for misinforming the president on the true situation in Iraq and for feeding the White House with false information on two vital matters. To wit:
First, they informed the president that Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s dictator, had weapons of mass destruction. The report says that he did not. They also reported that Saddam had close relations with Osama bin Laden and his global terrorist outfit Al Qaeda, This was also untrue.
The report of the presidential commission confirmed an earlier finding by a Senate investigating committee. Indeed, it was the hope of the White House that the presidential commission would reverse the findings of the Senate. Instead, it did just the opposite.
Was there any reason to believe that Saddam had WMD? Yes. During the eight-year war between Iraq and Iran, the United States was a staunch ally of Iraq. And during that period, the United States provided Saddam with chemical and biological weapons. But after the Gulf War, we stipulated that Saddam had to get rid of the weaponry we gave him. And he kept his word.
Weaponry aside, the charge that Saddam was in cahoots with bin Laden is, to any slightly informed observer, absurd. Saddam and bin Laden represent opposite ends, ideologically, of the Muslim world.
In light of all these facts, how did three-plus intelligence agencies come individually and collectively to their conclusions?
More than a few high-ranking intelligence operatives spoke to the president before 9/11 about the likelihood of a terrorist attack on the United States. The president did not show any interest; he wanted to hear more about Iraq.
Why Iraq? Saddam had nationalized the oil industry in Iraq. Whoever took over Iraq would have control of its oil industry. If the United States took over, it would put power in the hands of two men who had oil in their blood and on their brains: Bush and Cheney.
People in the intelligence agencies were not ignorant about what the White House wanted. They knew that people in positions of power who did not fall in line would not last long in their posts. Even our most competent secretary of state, Colin Powell, ultimately was ousted because he wasn’t a “yes man.”
What we are surmising and suggesting is that the intelligence agencies tailored their findings to please the oily president and his equally oily vice president. They all could have concluded their reports honestly with the old fashioned signoff: “Your obedient servant.”