Januray 21, 2006
Testimony for International
Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush
Administration, Riverside Church, New York, Jan 20-22, 2006. Thanks to
Jonathan Schwarz and Bob Fertik for assistance.
[Powerpoint Slide 1]
I to list all the pieces of evidence that Bush took us to war with
lies, we'd have lost tens of thousands of lives and tens of billions of
dollars before I finished. So, I'll give you a short version. But we're
killing people every day and churning through tens of thousands of
dollars a second, so even this isn't going to be cheap.
[Powerpoint Slide 2]
John Conyers has produced a 273-page report that focuses on this topic.
Congressman Henry Waxman has put online a searchable database of lies.
You can find these and numerous other collections of evidence at
www.afterdowningstreet.org Some of the best sources of this material
are books. Much has been reported in books, as well as on the internet
and the radio that has never made it into newspapers or television.
Larry Everest's book is one of the best at making this case, and it was
written prior to the surfacing of the strongest piece of evidence, the
one I'm going to talk about, the Downing Street Minutes.
Bush's war plans (as well as – according to recent reporting by Jason
Leopold on truthout.org – his illegal spying on Americans) predate
Sept. 11, 2001, that date is pivotal. The crimes of that day were used
to justify another crime.
On Sept. 14, 2001, Congress passed a
joint resolution authorizing Bush to "use all necessary and appropriate
force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines
planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that
occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or
persons." The resolution also said "Nothing in this resolution
supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution." That
Nixon-era resolution restricts the president's ability to take the
nation to war without Congressional approval.
[Powerpoint Slide 3]
Sept. 25, 2001, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo wrote a memo
stating, "The President may deploy military force preemptively against
terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them,
whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents
of September 11." The memo says that the president's powers are
[Powerpoint Slide 4]
The Downing Street
Minutes that were leaked to the media this past spring were accompanied
by seven other secret documents, one a background paper circulated in
preparation for the meeting that the minutes recorded on July 23, 2002.
The other six were memos exchanged by top British officials in March,
The March memos make clear that Bush had determined to
go to war and was building a case around WMDs and ties to 9-11, a case
that the British found unconvincing. They also make clear that Blair
had agreed to go along with the war but was seeking to persuade Bush to
invest more effort in winning over public opinion and in "the need to
wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors." That is: to give an ultimatum to
Hussein that he would refuse – a refusal that could be used to argue
that the war was legal.
By July, 2002, Blair still had concerns.
We have known since last May that on July 23, 2002, as recorded in the
Downing Street Minutes, Blair was briefed by Sir Richard Dearlove, the
head of MI6, about talks he had recently had with members of the Bush
[Powerpoint Slide 5]
But it was only
this month, with the publication of James Risen's book "State of War"
that we learned that Dearlove was in part reporting on a CIA-MI6 summit
he had attended with other top MI6 officials at CIA headquarters on
Saturday, July 20, 2002, and that, according to "a former senior CIA
officer," the meeting was held "at the urgent request of the British."
CIA officials believe "Blair had ordered Dearlove to go to Washington
to find out what the Bush administration was really thinking about
Iraq." During the day-long summit, Dearlove met privately with CIA head
George Tenet for an hour and a half.
[Powerpoint Slide 6]
is a New York Times reporter. It was this same book that compelled the
New York Times to publish the story of unauthorized NSA spying. No U.S.
corporate media outlet has yet published the story of the CIA-MI6
meeting. It is unclear for how many months the New York Times refused
to publish that story prior to the release of Risen's book, but it
clearly intends to maintain its silence.
[Powerpoint Slide 7]
days after that meeting, and months before Bush went to Congress or the
UN or the public for approval of a war, Blair and Dearlove met at #10
Downing Street, and the minutes of that meeting are recorded as the
Downing Street Minutes or Downing Street Memo. Also taking part in the
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Then Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith
Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee John Scarlett
Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, Chief of Defence Staff, head of Britain’s armed forces
Sir David Manning, a foreign policy advisor
and Matthew Rycroft, a Downing Street foreign policy aide who took the minutes
The Downing Street Minutes are short, to the point, and shocking. They make clear that
Bush had already decided to go to war long before approaching Congress
or the public or the UN about it, and had already started the attack
with increased bombings;
2. Bush had already decided to lie about weapons of mass destruction and ties to 9-11;
3. The Brits were concerned by the illegality of an aggressive war, but the Bush Administration was not;
4. Going to the UN was an attempt to justify the war, and the hope was to craft an ultimatum that Saddam Hussein would reject;
5. The focus of the Bush and Blair administrations was on selling the war to the public, and not at all on trying to avoid it;
The Bush and Blair administrations were aware that Iraq was no threat,
and were willing to attack Iraq precisely because it posed no serious
threat of fighting back.
[Powerpoint Slide 8]
Downing Street Minutes were first published by the Sunday London Times,
shortly before the 2005 British election, the Blair Administration
chose not to deny their authenticity. Shortly after the Minutes were
released, sources within both the Bush and Blair Administrations
confirmed their accuracy to the press. A former senior US official told
Knight Ridder that the Downing Street Minutes were "an absolutely
accurate description of what transpired." Two senior British officials,
who asked not to be further identified, told Newsweek in separate
interviews that they had no reason to question the authenticity of the
Downing Street Minutes.
The minutes begin with the Chairman of
the Joint Intelligence Committee John Scarlett reporting on plans for
regime change in Iraq. While publicly the Bush-Blair administrations
were saying they wanted to avoid war and were only concerned by Iraq's
alleged WMDs, privately they were focused on regime change and saw war
as the only way to effect it.
[Powerpoint Slide 9]
The Minutes then move to Dearlove's report on his meeting with Tenet and the CIA. Dearlove is referred to as "C."
reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible
shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush
wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the
conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were
being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN
route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's
record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath
after military action."
Dearlove's conclusions are corroborated
by other sources. We know from independent reporting that Bush had a
war with Iraq in mind even prior to his first term in office, as did
the Project for a New American Century. Bush Treasury Secretary Paul
O'Neill says Bush was planning war and regime change in January 2001.
In March of 2002, Bush was reported as saying "F--- Saddam, we're
taking him out." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was reported as
planning an attack on Iraq just hours after the Sept. 11, 2001,
airplanes hit. National security official Richard Clarke says Bush told
him on Sept. 12th to find reasons to attack Iraq. Republican Senator
Trent Lott says the Bush Administration was focused on regime change in
Iraq shortly after 9-11. On September 19 and 20th, the Defense Policy
Board met at the Pentagon and discussed ousting Hussein. On September
20th, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, wrote a memo
advocating attacking Iraq, which he referred to as "deliberately
selecting a non-al Qaeda target like Iraq." Also, on September 20th, it
is reported that Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from the
war on terror. Bush replied, "I agree with you Tony. We must deal with
this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back
In February 2002, Senator Bob Graham told the Council
on Foreign Relations that a military commander had said to him:
"Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We
are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of
Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq."
had decided to "justify" the war "by the conjunction of terrorism and
WMD" is borne out by the entire "marketing campaign," which fixated on
these twin justifications. The Bush Administration formed the White
House Iraq Group (WHIG) in August 2002 to market the war. The
Administration waited to introduce the WHIG's product to the public
until September 2002, because, as White House Chief of Staff Andrew
Card told The New York Times,"[y]ou don't introduce new products in
That "the intelligence and facts were being fixed
around the policy" is confirmed by the multi-layered effort by the
Administration to pressure officials within the Administration to find
links between Saddam and September 11 and to manipulate intelligence
officials and agencies into overstating WMD threats. Further evidence
includes the forgery of documents purporting to show that Iraq had
tried to purchase uranium, and the retribution exacted against those
who questioned that lie (including Ambassador Joseph Wilson and IAEA
Director General and now Nobel Peace Laureate Mohammed El Baradei).
Just this week, the New York Times reported on a newly released State
Department memo that, in early 2002, had debunked the claim that Iraq
had tried to purchase uranium in Niger.
[Powerpoint Slide 10]
Downing Street Minutes go on to record that Admiral Sir Michael Boyce,
Chief of Defence Staff (referred to as CDS), reported that military
planners would brief CENTCOM, Rumsfeld, and Bush in early August. After
detailing military options for the attack on Iraq, according to the
"The Defence Secretary said that the US had already
begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime. No decisions
had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for
military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30
days before the US Congressional elections."
That the US had
already begun "spikes of activity" to pressure Iraq has been
subsequently confirmed by numerous accounts. As reported in the Sunday
London Times, in May 2002, with a conditional agreement in place with
Britain for war, the US and UK began to conduct a bombing campaign in
Iraq. This was 10 months before the Bush Administration supposedly
determined that all diplomatic means had been exhausted and six months
before Congressional authorization for the use of force. According to a
document found by RawStory.com, Lieutenant-General T Michael Moseley
said that the "spikes of activity" were part of a covert air war that
"laid the foundation" for the war.
[Powerpoint Slide 11]
The Minutes continue:
Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this
week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military
action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin.
Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was
less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan
for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors.
This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force."
Minutes go on to relate that the Attorney General explained that regime
change is not a legal basis for military action, but Blair said that
"it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam
refused to allow in the UN inspectors."
As planned here, the US
and the UK did in fact ask for UN authorization to demand the
reintroduction of weapons inspectors, which they received on November
8, 2002. But they were unable to "wrongfoot Saddam" or legalize the
war, because he accepted the terms eight days later, and inspections
resumed on November 27th. On March 18, 2003, the inspectors left Iraq
on the advice of the United States. On July 14, 2003, Bush – pretending
that the wrongfooting of Saddam had actually worked – lied in response
to a question from a Washington Post reporter by saying: "The
fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And
the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the
inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a
reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power..."
[Powerpoint Slide 12]
Bush and Blair were asked about the Downing Street Minutes last summer,
their main response was that after the meeting recorded in the Minutes,
they had gone to the United Nations in an effort to avoid war. But the
evidence is clear that going to the UN was an attempt to legalize a war
that they had already decided upon. When this failed, when an avenue to
avoid war opened up in the form of new inspections, and when the UN
refused to authorize the war, Bush and Blair launched the war anyway.
Finally, the Minutes state that the Chief of Defence Staff said
military were continuing to ask lots of questions. For instance, what
were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did
not collapse and urban warfighting began? [Manning] said that Saddam
could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence
This section suggests that at least some in the room
believed Hussein might actually have some sort of WMDs, although – as
already stated – they did not believe he was threatening anyone, and
they believed that whatever WMDs he had, they were less than those of
Libya, North Korea, and Iran.
[Powerpoint Slide 13]
Here's another date: March 18, 2003
is not just the date on which inspectors left Iraq. It is also the date
on which Bush sent Congress a formal determination, as required by the
Joint Resolution on Iraq passed by Congress in October 2002, that
military action against Iraq was necessary to "protect the national
security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by
Iraq." Bush sent Congress a one-page letter and a nine-page report.
report claimed that Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons, as
well as proscribed missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles with which to
deliver them, and that Iraq was reconstituting a nuclear weapons
It further claimed that members of al Qaeda were in
Iraq, that Iraq was aiding and harboring other international terrorist
organizations, and that Iraq had provided training to al Qaeda.
It is a felony to lie to Congress.
[Powerpoint Slide 14]
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DAVID SWANSON is a co-founder of After
Downing Street, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of
Democrats.com. He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of
America, and serves on the Executive Council of the
Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a
newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs
including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential
campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications
Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN,
the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson
obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of
Virginia in 1997.