The White House finally admitted this week that it played fast and loose with the truth in President Bush’s State of the Union address.

Bush claimed the British government had discovered that Iraq attempted to obtain considerable quantities of uranium in Africa. That uranium purchase lie was one of the main arguments the Bush administration gave for preemptive war on Iraq and the imminent danger Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) posed to the U.S.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer admitted the president’s statement was incorrect because it was based on forged documents. The White House acknowledgement came after British parliamentary investigations questioned the reliability of the intelligence.

Pressure has been building on Capitol Hill for full disclosure of the intelligence reports used by the White House and the National Security Council to justify war on Iraq. Questions also surround the involvement of Vice President Dick Cheney in pressuring CIA analysts and promoting selective use of data to make the case for war.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said an inquiry was needed to find out why as late as January 2003 “our policymakers were still using information which the intelligence community knew was almost certainly false.” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC News, “This is a cloud hanging over their credibility, their word.”

With no WMDs found yet, more questions are being asked about the intelligence basis for claims of their existence, as well as for the administration’s continued claim of a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Further proof also emerged that the so-called mobile biological weapons factories highlighted in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s UN presentation in February were no such thing.

Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson 4th, a 23-year career diplomat who was stationed in Iraq in the 1990s, told the Washington Post, “It really comes down to the administration misrepresenting the facts on an issue that was a fundamental justification for going to war.” Wilson said, “It begs the question, what else are they lying about?”

Wilson revealed in a July 6 New York Times op-ed that he was the envoy sent on a CIA mission to Niger to investigate the alleged uranium deal.

Wilson says that in post-trip briefings the validity of the uranium sales report was questioned by Cheney’s staff, who had access to a CIA cable in which Niger government officials denied the allegations as early as March 2002.

Suggesting that the war was politically motivated, Wilson wrote, “Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.” In one interview Wilson said the administration’s war aim was to “redraw the map of the Middle East.”

As the White House dodged responsibility, the CIA, after an internal review, found that it did not have any new data after UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998. It admitted using information from the early and mid 1990s, and insisted that it kept the White House fully informed of this.

With growing bipartisan impatience and congressional closed-door reviews under way, the House voted on June 12 to release to all members intelligence reports previously only available to ten members of the Intelligence Committee.

If the bipartisan calls for broader public investigations are successful the Vice President and top Bush administration aides may be forced to testify under oath.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and 23 other Democrats are calling for wider public hearings by an independent commission. Kucinich said, “The Intelligence Committee is shielding the White House from a full investigation into the role the Vice President played in the lead-up to the war in Iraq.”

Levin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked his committee staff to open up an inquiry beyond the scope of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence. The committee’s closed review is only of past intelligence reports. The new inquiry would investigate “the objectivity and credibility of the intelligence concerning the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq immediately before the war and the alleged Iraq/al-Qaeda connection, and the effect of such intelligence on Department of Defense policy decisions, military planning and conduct of operations in Iraq.”

Wilson’s assessment of the Bush administration echoes the calls on Capitol Hill for a full, public investigation into the war and the occupation of Iraq, “If they’ll lie about things like this, there’s no telling what else they’ll lie about.”

The author can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org

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