December 17, 2005
On March 16, 2004, a report (Iraq on the Record) was published. It
was the compilation of public statements made by various U.S.
government officials about Iraq that later were proven to be false.
Because of the large size of the report, only portions are included
here. These encapsulations prove the deceit of the administration in
its justification for invading Iraq.
has been little publicity of this report. What should make it damning
is that it was prepared by a U.S. Congressman, Henry Waxman, who voted
in favor of invading Iraq. The report is concise and comprehensive. The
writers compiled a database of the hundreds of misleading statements
and outright lies told by the administration. The portion here only
delves into the nuclear weapons aspect. In addition, the full report
goes on to discuss the lies about Iraq’s chemical and biological
weapons programs as well as the nonexistent ties between Iraq and
Iraq on the Record
The Bush Administration’s Public Statements on Iraq
Prepared for Rep. Henry A. Waxman
Number of Misleading Statements
The Iraq on the Record
database contains 237 misleading statements about the threat posed by
Iraq that were made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary
Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice. These
statements were made in 125 separate appearances, consisting of 40
speeches, 26 press conferences and briefings, 53 interviews, 4 written
statements and 2 congressional testimonies. Most of the statements in
the database were misleading becaause they expressed certainty when
none existed or failed to acknowledge the doubts of intelligence
officials. Ten of the statements were simply false.
Timing of the Statements
statements began at least a year before the commencement of hostilities
in Iraq, when Vice President Cheney stated on March 17, 2002, "We know
they have biological and chemical weapons." The Administration’s
misleading statements continued through January 22, 2004, when Vice
President Cheney insisted: "there’s overwhelming evidence that there
was a connecton between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government." Most of the
misleading statements about Iraq — 161 statements — were made prior to
the start of the war. But 76 misleading statements were made by the
five Administration officials after the start of the war to justify the
decision to go to war.
30-day period with the greatest number of misleading statements was the
period before the congressional vote on the Iraq war resolution.
Congress voted on the measure on October 10 and October 11, 2002. From
September 8 through October 8, 2002, the five officials made 64
misleading statements in 16 public appearances. A large number of
misleading statements were also made during the two months before the
war began. Between January 19 and March 19, 2003, the five officials
made 48 misleading statements in 26 public appearances.
Topics of the Statements
237 misleading statements can be divided into four categories. The five
officials made 11 statements that claimed that Iraq posed an urgent
threat; 81 statements that exaggerated Iraq’s nuclear activities; 84
statements that overstated Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons
capabilities; and 61 statements that misrepresented Iraq’s ties to
Statements by President Bush
September 12, 2002 and July 17, 2003, President Bush made 55 misleading
statements about the threat posed by Iraq in 27 separate public
appearances. On October 7, 2002, three days before congressional votes
on the Iraqi war resolution, President Bush gave a speech in
Cincinnati, Ohio, with 11 misleading statements, the most by any of the
five officials in a single appearance.
of the misleading statements by President Bush include his statement in
the January 28, 2003, State of the Union address that "the British
government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant
quantities of uranium from Africa;" and his statement on May 1, 2003,
that "the liberation of Iraq … removed an ally of al-Qaeda."
Statements by Vice President Cheney
Between March 17, 2002, and January 22, 2004, Vice President Cheney made 51 misleading statements about the
threat posed by Iraq in 25 separate public appearances.
of the misleading statements by Vice President Cheney include his
statement on September 8, 2002, that "we do know, with absolute
certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the
equipment he needs … to build a nuclear weapon;" his statement on March
16, 2003, that "we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear
weapons;" and his statement on October 10, 2003, that Saddam Hussein
"had an established relationship with al-Qaeda."
Statements by Secretary Rumsfeld
Between May 22, 2002, and November 2, 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld made 52 misleading statements about the threat
posed by Iraq in 23 separate public appearances.
of the misleading statements by Secretary Rumsfeld include his
statement on November 14, 2002, that within "a week, or a month" Saddam
Hussein could give his weapons of mass destruction to al-Qaeda, which
could use them to attack the United States and kill "30,000, or 100,000
… human beings:" his statement on January 29, 2003 , that Saddam
Hussein’s regime "recently was discovered seeking significant
quantities of uranium from Africa;" and his statement on July 13, 2003,
that there "was never any debate about whether Iraq had a nuclear
Statements by Secretary Powell
Between April 3, 2002, and October 3, 2003, Secretary Powell made 50 misleading statements about the threat
posed by Iraq in 34 separate public appearances.
Powell sometimes used caveats and qualifying language in his public
statements. His statements that contained such cautions or limitations
were not included in the database.. Nonetheless, many of Secretary
Powell’s statements did not include these qualifiers and were
misleading in their expression of certainty, such as his statement on
May 22, 2003, that "there is no doubt in our minds now that those vans
were designed for only one purpose, and that was to make biological
Statements by National Security Advisor Rice
Between September 8, 2002, and September 28, 2003, National Security Advisor Rice made 29 misleading statements
about the threat posed by Iraq in 16 separate public appearances.
Ms. Rice had the fewest public appearances and the fewest misleading
statements, she had the highest number of statements — 8 — that were
false. The false statements included several categorical assertions
that no one in the White House knew of the intelligence community’s
doubts about the president’s assertion that Iraq sought to import
uranium from Africa.
CATEGORIES OF MISLEADING STATEMENTS
misleading statements by President Bush, Vice President Cheney,
Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor
Rice fall into four general categoriesL (1) statements suggesting that
Iraq posed an urgent threat, (2) statements regarding Iraq’s nuclear
activities, (3) statements regarding Iraq’s biological and chemical
weapons capabilities, and (4) statements regarding Iraq’s support of
Statements that Iraq Posed an Urgent Threat
February 5, 2004, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet
categorically stated that the U.S. intelligence community "never said
there as an 'imminent’ threat." Yet this was not the impression
conveyed by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld,
Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice in their public
statements on Iraq. In 10 different appearances, these five officials
made 11 statements claiming that Iraq posed an urgent threat.
- President Bush stated on October 2, 2002: "the Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency … (I)t has
developed weapons of mass death."
- President Bush stated on November 20, 2002: Today the world is … uniting to answer the unique and urgent
threat posed by Iraq,"
President Cheney stated on August 26, 2002: "Simply stated, there is no
doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is
not doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our
allies, and against us."
one instance, Secretary Rumsfeld said hat Iraq could give weapons of
mass destruction to al-Qaeda in "a week, or a month," resulting in the
deaths of up to 100,000 people. On November 14, 2002, Secretary
transport yourself forward a year, two years, or a week, or a month,
and if Saddam Hussein were to take his weapons of mass destruction and
transfer them, either use them himself, or transfer them to the
al-Qaeda, and somehow the al-Qaeda were to engage in an attack on the
United States, or an attack on U.S. forces overseas, with a weapon of
mass destruction, you’re not talking about 300, or 3,000 people
potentially being killed, but 30,000, or 100,000 … human beings."
Statements About Iraq’s Nuclear Capabilities
their potential for destruction and their ability to evoke horror,
nuclear weapons are in a class by themselves. As Dr. David Kay, former
special advisor to the Iraq Survey Group, testified on January 28,
2004: "all of us have and would continue to put the nuclear weapons in
a different category. It’s a single weapon that can do tremendous
damage, as opposed to multiple weapons that can do the same order of
damage … I think we should politically treat nuclear as a difference."
precisely this reason, the Administration’s statements about Iraq’s
nuclear capabilities had a large impact on congressional and public
perceptions about the threat posed by Iraq. Many members of Congress
were influenced by the Administration’s nuclear assertions than by any
other piece of evidence. Rep. Waxman, for example, wrote to President
Bush in June 2003 that in voting for the Iraq war resolution: "Like
other members, I was particularly influenced by your views about Iraq’s
nuclear intentions. Although chemical and biological weapons can
inflict casualties, no threat is greater than the threat of nuclear
weapons." Numerous members of Congress stressed Iraq’s nuclear threat
in their floor statements explaining their support of the resolution.
the significance of the nuclear issue, President Bush, Vice President
Cheney, Secretary Powell, Secretary Rumsfeld, and National Security
Advisor Rice repeatedly misrepresented the nuclear threat posed by
Iraq. The five officials made 49 separate public appearances in which
they made misleading statements about Iraq’s nuclear threat. In these
appearances, they made a total of 81 misleading statements regarding
Iraq’s nuclear activities.
misleading statements generally fall into one of three categories: (1)
misleading statements about the status of Iraq’s nuclear program: (2)
misleading statements about the purpose of aluminum tubes sought by
Iraq, and (3) misleading statements about Iraq’s attempts to obtain
uranium from Africa
Claims About the Status of Iraq’s Nuclear Program
to the war, there were significant divisions within the intelligence
community about whether Iraq had resumed efforts to make nuclear
weapons. In his speech on February 2, 2004, Mr. Tenet explained that
there was not unanimity on whether Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear
program and that these differences were described in the National
Intelligence Estimate (NIE): "let me be clear where there were
differences, the Estimate laid out the disputes clearly." In
particular, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research
(INR) concluded in the NIE that "(t)he activities we have detected do
not, however, add to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing
what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach
to acquire nuclear weapons." INR added: "Lacking persuasive evidence
that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear
weapons program, INR is unwilling to speculate that such an effort
began soon after the departure of UN inspectors." The INR position was
similar to the conclusions of the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA), which concluded there was "no indication of resumed nuclear
activities … nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited
doubts and qualifications, however, were not communicated to the
public. Instead, the five Administration officials repeatedly made
unequivocal comments about Iraq’s nuclear program. For example,
President Bush said in October 2002 that "(t)he regime has the
scientists and facilities to build nuclear weapons and is seeking the
materials required to do so." Several days later, President Bush
asserted that Saddam Hussein "is moving ever closer to developing a
President Cheney made perhaps the single most egregious statement about
Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, claiming: "we know that he has been
absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe
he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." He made this statement
just three days before the war. He did not admit until September 14,
2003, that his statement was wrong and that he "did misspeak."
Bush and others portrayed the threat of Saddam Hussein waging nuclear
war against the United States or its allies as one of the most urgent
reasons for preemptively attacking Iraq. Administration officials used
evocative language and images. On the eve of congressional votes on the
Iraq war resolution, for example, President Bush stated: "Knowing these
realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us.
Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof —
the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
the commencement of military operations in Iraq, Administration
officials continued to make misleading statements regarding Iraq’s
nuclear program. For example, Secretary Rumsfeld denied on July 13,
2003, that there was "any debate" about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities
within the Administration. "We said they had a nuclear program. There
was never any debate."
the war ended, the Iraq Survey Group has been unable to find evidence
of the nuclear program described by the five officials. On October 2,
2003, David Kay reported that "we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq
undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons
or produce fissile material." In
his January 28, 2004, testimony, Dr. Kay reported that "(I)t was not a
reconstituted , full-blown nuclear program." He added, "As best as had
been determined … in 2000 they had decided that their nuclear
establishment had deteriorated to such point that it was totally
useless." His conclusion was that there was "no doubt at all" that Iraq
had less of an ability to produce fissile material in 2001 than in
1991. According to Dr. Kay, the nuclear program had been "seriously
degraded" and the "activities of the inspectors in the early '90s did a
Claims about the Aluminum Tubes
In 2001 and 2002, shipments of aluminum tubes to Iraq were intercepted. This discovery led to an active debate
within intelligence agencies about the intended use of the tubes.
experts believed the tubes were for conventional rockets rather than a
nuclear development program. In his February 5, 2004, speech, Mr. Tenet
explained that disagreement over the purpose of the aluminum tubes was
"a debate laid out extensively in the estimate and one that experts
still argue over." The agency with the most technical expertise in this
area, the Department of Energy, believed the tubes were likely not part
of a nuclear enrichment program, stating in the NIE that "the tubes
probably not part of the program." The International Atomic Energy
Agency agreed, concluding: "There is no indication that Iraq has
attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment."
addition to dissent from the Energy Department and international
inspectors, the State Department also expressed formal reservations,
stating in the NIE that "INR is not persuaded that the tubes in
question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors." Instead, the State
Department accepted the "judgement of technical experts at the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks
to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges."
The State Department explained its position in detail:
very large quantities being sought, the way the tubes were tested by
the Iraqis, and the atypical lack of attention to operational security
in the procurement efforts are among the factors, in addition to the
DOE assessment, that lead INR to conclude that the tubes are not
intended for use in Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.
According to the NIE, "INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most
likely the production of artillery rockets."
doubts about the use of the aluminum tubes were not conveyed by
Administration officials, however. Instead, the aluminum tubes became
one o the two principal pieces of information cited by the
Administration to support the claim that Iraq was reconstituting its
nuclear weapons program. President Bush, Vice President Cheney,
Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice made 10 misleading
statements in 9 public appearances about the significance of the
example, Ms. Rice stated on September 8, 2002: "We do know that there
have been shipments going into … Iraq … of aluminum tubes that … are
only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge progtams."
Similarly, Vice President Cheney said on September 8, 2002: "(Saddam
Hussein) now is trying, through his illicit procurement network, to
acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium to make the
bombs … (s)pefically aluminum tubes." These statements were misleading
because they did not present the possibility that the tubes were
suitable or intended for another purpose, or acknowledge that key U.S.
experts doubted that the tubes were intended to make nuclear bombs.
one instance, Secretary Powell did acknowledge that some experts
disputed that the aluminum tubes were intended for nuclear uses. In his
February 5, 2003, address before the United Nations, Secretary Powell
stated: "By now, just about everyone has heard of these tubes and we
all know that there are differences of opinion. There is controversy
about what these tubes are for. Most U.S. experts think they are
intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium."
Even in that statement, however, Secretary Powell did not make clear
that experts from the Department of Energy and the State Department’s
own intelligence division played a significant role in the analysis of
this issue and in formal and deliberate dissents had disputed the view
that the tubes would likely be used to enrich uranium.
another occasion, Secretary Powell cited the tubes as evidence of
pursuit of nuclear weapons, without noting that the intended use of the
tubes was under dispute, asserting: "We also know that Iraq has tried
to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes, which can be used to enrich
uranium in centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program."
January 27, 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency had reached
the tentative conclusion that the aluminum tubes "would be consistent
with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be
suitable for manufacturing centrifuges." Following the occupation of
Iraq, the Iraq Survey Group did not find evidence indicating that the
tubes were intended for nuclear use. In his January 28, 2004,
testimony, Dr. Kay announced: "It is my judgement, based on the
evidence that was collected … that it’s more probable that those tubes
were intended for use in a conventional missile program, rather than in
a centrifuge program."
Claims about Uranium from Africa
significant component of the Administration’s nuclear claims was the
assertion that Iraq had sought to import uranium from Africa. Ad one of
a few new pieces of intelligence, this claim was repeated multiple
times by Administration officials as proof that Iraq had reconstituted
its nuclear weapons program. In total, the five Administration
officials made misleading assertions about Iraq’s attempts to obtain
uranium from Africa in 7 statements in 6 public appearances.
his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, President Bush
stated: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein
recently sought significant quantities or uranium from Africa … Saddam
Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has
much to hide."
Other officials echoed this statement. In a January 23, 2003, New York Times
op-ed piece, Ms. Rice argued that Iraq had lied in its December 2002
declaration, noting: 'the declaration fails to account for or explain
Iraq’s efforts to get uranium from abroad." In his opening remarks in his televised press conference on January
29, 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld stated: "(Saddam Hussein’s) regime … recently was discovered seeking significant
quantities of uranium from Africa."
claims that Iraq was seeking to import uranium were misleading. The
documentary evidence behind the assertions was declared to be "not
authentic" by the International Atomic Energy Agency. An envoy, former
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was sent by the CIA to investigate the
alleged purchase. Ambassador Wilson concluded that it was "highly
doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place," and on his
return, he provided detailed briefings to the CIA and to the State
Department African Affairs Bureau.
evidence emerged that the importation claim was false, Ms. Rice claimed
that the White House had no knowledge of these doubts. She asserted
unequivocally that no senior White House officials were informed about
questions about the uranium claim prior to its use in the State of the
Union Address. She stated that: "(t)he intelligence community did not
know at that time, or at levels that got to us … that there was serious
questioning about this report." As she put it on another occasion:
(H)ad there been even a peep that the agency did not want the sentence in or that George Tenet did not want
that sentence in, that the Director of Central Intelligence did not want it in, it would have been gone.
Rice’s claims were simply false. The CIA sent two memos to the National
Security Council — one of which was addressed to Ms. Rice personally —
warning against including the item in a speech by the President.
Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet also "argued personally"
to Ms. Rice’s deputy national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, "that
the allegation should not be used" by the President. Further, in the
October 2002 NIE provided top White House officials, the State
Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research had stated that claims
that Iraq sought to acquire uranium in Africa were "highly dubious."
the White House was forced to admit its error. On July 9, 2003, White
House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said that the statement about
importing uranium from Africa "should not have risen to the level of a
presidential speech. The White House minimized the significance of the
Administration’s use of the Niger claim, arguing that it was "only a
small part of an 'overwhelming’ case that Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein posed a threat to the United States."