Bush faces heat on Iraq lies

With evidence mounting that George W. Bush and top administration officials lied to the American people to justify the Iraq war, the smell of Watergate, Iran-contra and other scandals is starting to waft over the Bush White House.

Two leading senators have called for congressional hearings on the intelligence used by the administration in the run-up to the war. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said a “very thorough investigation” was needed into why the U.S. launched the war. Rockefeller is the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), conceding a “certain problem” with the administration’s credibility, also supported hearings.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and 29 other members of Congress have introduced a Resolution of Inquiry in the House of Representatives to force the Bush administration to turn over evidence for its still unproven assertions that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and therefore attacking Iraq was justified.

“It is long past time that the President and this administration show its evidence,” said Kucinich. “The President led the nation to war, and spent at least $63 billion on that war, on the basis of these unfounded assertions.”

The resolution, introduced June 5, is a “privileged resolution” which must be voted on in committee within 14 legislative days.

Charges are mounting that the Bush administration lied and manipulated evidence to get support for its war on Iraq.

Campaigning in Iowa for the Democratic presidential nomination June 8, Kucinich accused the Bush administration of pursuing a “fraudulent” foreign policy. “They never had the information that they told the American people they had to justify going to war,” Kucinich said, adding that Democrats had to challenge Bush on the issue to ensure he did not use the same tactics to justify sending troops into Iran and Syria.

Florida Sen. Bob Graham, also seeking the Democratic nomination, charged that the Bush administration had engaged in a “pattern of deception and deceit.” Fellow Democratic candidate Howard Dean, former Vermont governor, said, “The president’s credibility is in question.” Referring to the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, Dean told reporters, “I never thought I’d hear this question raised in my lifetime again, but the question really now is going to become ‘what did the president know and when did he know it?’”

A September 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency study, just released by the Pentagon, said there was “no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has – or will – establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.”

The administration was also put on the defensive by a June 8 New York Times report that two high-ranking al Qaeda leaders captured by the U.S. before the war had told the CIA the Iraqi government had no ties to al Qaeda. To “sell” the war to the American public, President Bush and other top officials repeatedly linked Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, although they offered no evidence of such ties.

Another Times report contradicted Bush’s latest claims that two mobile trailers found in Iraq were bioweapons labs. Weapons experts told the Times the administration’s “white paper” on the trailers “was a rushed job and looks political,” and said the administration’s claims were based on questionable suppositions. The trailer setup is not built and designed as a standard bioweapon fermenter, a U.S. scientist said, adding, “Certainly, if you modify it enough you could use it. But that’s true of any tin can.” The London Observer, citing British intelligence sources, reported it “is increasingly likely that the units were designed to be used for hydrogen production to fill artillery balloons.”

Bush’s claim, in his January State of the Union address, that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa for nuclear weapons has been exposed as based on a forged document. Greg Thielmann, a recently retired State Department analyst, told Newsweek he could not believe that Bush would use “that stupid piece of garbage” to support his war policy. “There is a lot of sorrow and anger at the way intelligence was misused,” Thielmann said.

Time quotes an Army intelligence officer saying Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “was deeply, almost pathologically distorting the intelligence.”

A former Atomic Energy Agency arms inspector, David Albright, is quoted saying the White House “deliberately selected information that would increase the perception that Iraq was a serious threat” and “made a decision to turn a blind eye to other explanations.”

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org