British Prime Minister Tony Blair is back in Britain now facing an ever-widening scandal involving the distortion of evidence on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, but his recent trip to meet with President Bush underscores the partnership the two leaders have shared as both face growing evidence that they knowingly used faulty intelligence to promote their case for war with Iraq.
“The Blair government took the UK to war against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the British public on the basis of evidence which at the time was dubious,” said David Miller of the Sterling Media Research Institute in Scotland. “As it becomes evident that many of the crucial claims made by Mr. Blair — and repeated by President Bush — were unsupported by evidence, Mr. Blair looks to be in danger of being replaced.”
Facing political heat in his own country, Blair went to Washington on July 17th to deliver a speech at a rare joint meeting of Congress in which he attempted to shift the focus of the Iraq debate away from WMDs, the original rationale for launching a preemptive attack against a sovereign nation. “If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that is, at its least, responsible for human carnage and suffering,” Blair said, admitting for the first time the possibility of fallibility in the case Britain and the U.S. made to oust the government of Saddam Hussein.
But while Bush and Blair continue to move the goalposts to defend their military action, scrutiny of their claims about Iraq’s WMDs persist. Asked point-blank if he would take personal responsibility for the words in his State of The Union Address regarding the claim that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from an African nation — which had been refuted by the CIA months earlier — Bush evaded the question saying, “I take responsibility for putting our troops into action.”
No one at the White House has taken responsibility for the statement’s inclusion in the State of the Union Address. “The administration has been claiming that they did not know that the Niger document was a forgery,” said Rahul Mahajan, the author of Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond. “Why then did the U.S. refuse for months to turn over this ‘proof’ to the International Atomic Energy Agency? When it finally turned over the evidence, the IAEA found out in a few hours that the documents were very crude forgeries.”
In an attempt to quell the controversy regarding the faulty intelligence in the State of the Union Address the White House laid the blame at the office of CIA director, George Tenet, who dutifully accepted the responsibility saying that he had cleared the intelligence. However, in a closed-door hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee Tenet acknowledged that the White House had insisted on using the faulty intelligence, according to Sen. Dick Durbin who was present for the hearing.
“The Bush administration is now claiming that the British have other material that they have not seen which supports the claim that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Africa,” said Glen Rangwala, a lecturer of politics at Cambridge University who broke the story that the British intelligence dossier endorsed by Colin Powell was plagiarized from the internet. “Why then isn’t this material turned over to the IAEA? And what could possibly be so secret that it cannot be shown to the Americans at the highest levels?”
Mel Goodman, a former CIA analyst, a professor of international security at the National War College and a senior fellow for intelligence reform at the Center for International Policy, doubts the veracity of the Bush administration’s claim of additional British intelligence.
“During my 24 years with the CIA,” Goodman said, “I have never once heard a British official say that we have this important document but we can’t show it to you. The rule is that truly sensitive stuff, which cannot be shared, is not talked about at all. This is especially true about this particular claim because the uranium market is a heavily monitored international market.”
According to Goodman the false intelligence on uranium is only part of a systematic attempt by the Bush and Blair governments to manipulate intelligence to justify war. “The Niger documents should not distract us from all the other bogus claims that were floating around — regarding aluminum tubes that the U.S. Department of Energy and the IAEA decided could not be used for uranium enrichment, the never-proven Iraq – Al Qaeda links, the massive stockpiles of WMD and the biological and chemical weapons attack that could be launched within 45 minutes. The main question was: Is Iraq an imminent threat? Based on the intelligence, the answer seems to have been no.”
Mahajan agrees, “considering the numerous other falsehoods and misrepresentations, it’s clear that this is a picture not of carelessness about one item but of a concerted drive to war based on lies, to serve motives that are becoming clearer — a military presence in the heart of the Middle East and control of the world’s second-largest oil reserves.”
On the subject of Iraq’s alleged WMDs Bush and Blair appear to be attached at the hip. And with growing evidence of their manipulation of intelligence, both leaders appear poised to take a fall.
Kevin McCarthy is a writer with IPA Media, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.