With the world economy in shambles and the U.S. economy at the brink of a deep recession, a mention of the name George W. Bush, brings disgust, hatred and disapproval of all he stands for. After all, he is considered a war monger and the president who brought uncertainty and demise to American economy through a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The misconception about George Bush is an attempt to shed lights on the former President’s contribution to the war in Iraq and why the blame on the campaign in Iraq belongs somewhere else and not in the former leader. The September 11, 2001 attack on the twin towers changed the way business is done in Washington and the entire world. Even though, there were warning signs, intelligence analysts both in the United States and friendly nations failed to effectively process or follow-up on leads.
The war in Iraq dates back to the invasion of Kuwait in 1991, giving rise to the first Gulf War in which the U.S. help drive Saddam Hussein’ troops out of Kuwait. There were indications Saddam was using chemical weapons on the Kurds of Northern Iraq and also that he was building his weapons of mass destruction. The beginning of the diplomatic war on Iraq intensified immediately after September 11, based on intelligence that elements of Al Qaeda were recruiting in Iraq creating a so-called link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attack which turned out to be false.
When George Bush came to power in 2001, the issue of Iraq was already on the agenda however, the newly elected President had no inkling he would become a war-time President. The road to Iraq and the story behind the invasion was all a product of both U.S. and foreign intelligence. No doubt George Bush was the commander in Chief of the U.S. Army and therefore, in the position and with authority to order American troops to war however, no American President has ever ordered troops to war without the approval of Congress and whenever such is the case, all actions are based on accurate intelligence study.
On October 1, 2002, the CIA released a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessing the threat represented by Iraq’s WMD activities. Few days after the report, Director of the CIA George Tenet published an unclassified document on the subject of Iraq’s WMD program. Over the next two weeks after release of the document, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed a joint resolution authorizing the use of force on Iraq. The resolution did not lead to immediate action on Iraq; the U.S. took the case before the UN Security Council with the hope of securing the cooperation of Iraq through the establishment of a new inspection regime in the country.
On February 5, 2003 the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, gave a presentation based on U.S. intelligence findings regarding Iraq’s WMD. The Secretary of State acting on U.S. intelligence stated that Iraq and terrorism go back decades; he claimed that according to U.S. intelligence, the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein trained Palestine Liberation Front members in explosives and that Saddam Hussein used the Arab Liberation Front to funnel money to the families of suicide bombers. He also claimed that based on U.S. intelligence, Iraq harbored a terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associate of Osama Bin Ladin.
Even though, remnants of Al-Qaeda operatives were later found in Iraq, the intelligence presented by the U.S. turned out to be false and as the story would unfold, Saddam Hussein had no link to Al Qaeda and 9/11. President Bush believed the intelligence to be true and therefore, acted on the intelligence presented to him when he ordered U.S. troops to war in Iraq. Any President would have done the same when your own intelligence agencies, indicate with certainty that Iraq had a link to Al-Qaeda and 9/11. The question is who is to blame the intelligence agencies or the President who acted based on it?
The Committee set up to review both the (white paper) report presented by George Tenet, and the (NIE) report came to the conclusion that the white paper presented a stronger characterization of the threat represented by Iraqi WMD, than did the NIE, and that the stronger characterization was not supported by the underlying intelligence. The committee’ report stated that the intelligence community produced reasonable conclusion on the links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda however, it found gaps in the intelligence gathering methods used to arrive at that conclusion.
Much of the committee’s investigation focused on the CIA’s preparation and distribution of the documents relating to Iraqi’s support for terrorism. An initial version of the document was presented to senior Bush officials in September 2002; an updated version was later given to Congress in January 2003. Based on the documents, CIA analysts came to the conclusion that although Saddam Hussein likely had several contacts with Al-Qaeda in the 1990s, the contacts did not graduate to the level of a formal relationship. In fact, other CIA intelligence gatherings show that Iraq and Al-Qaeda were cautious of working together.
The committee report further show there was no evidence to the conclusion that Iraq was complicit or offer assistance in any Al-Qaeda attack; the report criticized the CIA for its lack of human intelligence resources in Iraq to assess Iraq’s ties with terrorism prior to the invasion. The report points to widespread flaws in the NIE report and attributes such flaws to failure of intelligence analysts to present accurate information. According to the committee, the NIE report on Iraq’s continuing program for WMD was overstated and not supported by underlying intelligence.
On the issue of whether Iraq was trying to purchase uranium from Niger the report concludes that prior to October 2002, it was reasonable to conclude Iraq may have been trying to obtain uranium from Africa however, the committee noted some intelligence flaws in the way the information gathering was handled and the lack of transparency; for example, references to Iraqi’s uranium procurement efforts were removed from some speeches by intelligence officials but left in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.
The committee stated there was poor communication between the CIA and other intelligence agencies prior to the invasion; a section of the report addressing Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons program shows there was poor intelligence gathering in Iraq. Adequate human intelligence was lacking and the NIE report including other statements regarding Iraq’s biological and chemical weapon’s program, were for the most part not supported by intelligence information provided to the committee.
On the speech presented to the UN Security Council by Colin Powell, as a move to generate support and convince UN members of Iraq’s weapon’s program and link to terror, the committee came to the conclusion that much of the information provided or cleared by the CIA for inclusion in the speech was misrepresented, misleading, overstated and incorrect.
The 9/11 commission also came to the conclusion that U.S. intelligence gathering was fragmented pre-invasion of Iraq; it was poorly coordinated and managed before the attack of 9/11. The commission report described a “loose collection” of intelligence agencies operating independent of one another with little cooperation or communication. The commission faulted the Director of CIA George Tenet, for lacking a proper management strategy to combat terrorism before 9/11. Many lawmakers blamed the CIA and the FBI for missing “connections” with terrorist; their failure to share tips gave rise to holes in the intelligence that led to the war in Iraq.
In essence, the blame for the invasion of Iraq belongs in the intelligence flaws and not in George Bush. Any attack on his campaign for the war in Iraq, is a misconception about a war-time president; had he failed to react in the wake of the 9/11 attack on American soil, he would have been harshly criticized by the populace. George Bush was a war-time leader who acted based on poor intelligence and as such he should be remembered.
Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is an expert in general law, foreign relations and the United Nations. He is the author of ‘Murder of Diplomacy'(2010) and ‘Wills Law and Contests’ (2011).
Categories: War and Politics
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