The True Bush Legacy
THE 2016 PRESIDENTAL PRIMARIES have certainly had its share of interesting stories. However, one of the most interesting stories so far was last week when Donald Trump, during a primetime Republican debate, accused former president George W. Bush of purposely lying the nation into the Iraq war, and of being negligent in protecting the nation prior to the 9/11 attacks.
These were explosive accusations from the frontrunner in Bush’s own party, and needless to say it caused a big stir. I noticed the most vibrant conversations taking place in the comments sections of social media and news articles. Some people were praising the accusations; while others were angry and said it proved Donald Trump was not a real Republican. I even found many people still defending the Iraq war, saying it wasn’t a mistake and Saddam was a bad guy who deserved to be overthrown. Some people actually believe the weapons of mass destruction Bush claimed Iraq had were found, while others believe the weapons were shipped into Shia controlled Syria or Iran before the UN inspectors returned in 2002.
After reading through hours of comments and conversations I realized a large majority of Americans are totally ignorant when it comes to the facts of this recent American history. I realized there is an entire generation of Americans, and more to come, who will grow up in the post War on Terrorism, amplified security/spy state, without any idea how we got here.
Did the George W Bush administration purposefully lie the nation into war in Iraq, or was it merely a mistake? Was Bush negligent in protecting the nation from the September 11th 2001 attacks, or did he do everything in his power to keep us safe? Was Donald Trump right in his accusation, or had he wondered down a path of wild conspiracy?
These are very serious questions, with very serious implications if the accusations are true. I’m going to answer these questions once and for all, while hopefully educating a few people on the subtle nuances that have been lost in the magnitude of these events.
There was another moment in the Republican debate when Trump asserted, “George Bush… didn’t listen to the advise of his CIA!” I’m not certain what Trump was referring to with that statement, but this was during the back and forth on 9/11 and the Twin Towers coming down on George Bush’s watch. I assume he was referring to pre 9/11 intelligence. We know today that President Bush received a plethora of warnings before 9/11, but the best known is the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) Bush received at his Crawford ranch in Texas on August 6, 2001 --- a full month before 9/11.
There has been a lot made about this PDB, and Trump was most likely referring to it with his comment about the CIA. The first thing that is important to understand about the PDB is that the CIA daily brief to the president is the most sensitive intelligence in the security network. It is meant for the president and his cabinet ONLY! When this highly classified security brief was leaked to the press by a whistleblower from within the agency in the spring of 2002, it was unlawful, unordinary, and unexpected. However, the only reason we in the public know anything about the information in this brief is because of the unknown patriot who broke the law to inform us.
The Bush administration was forced to defend their foreknowledge of the threat after the PDB was first reported on in the CBS Nightly News. Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor, held a press conference the day after the leak to address the controversy. In her prepared statement she states, “There are many varieties of threats. Vary often, we have uncorroborated information. Sometimes we have corroborated but very general information. But I can tell you that it is almost never the case that we have information that is specific as to time, place, or method of attack.” This statement offered the core of the president’s defense. There were no specifics as to time, place, or method.
You should understand that when Rice offered this defense, the PBD was still classified. CBS reported on what had been seen in the leaked document, but the document itself was not declassified and made public until the 9/11 Commission hearings in 2004. That means when Rice made her statement, no one was in a position to verify if what she was saying was true.
Rice continued, “Now, there was a clear concern that something was coming. But it was principally focused overseas.”
This was another very important part of the president’s initial defense, that the PDB was focused on an overseas threat and not a threat in the continental United States. The White House press secretary also attempted to claim the August 6th brief was titled, “Bin Laden Determined to attack ‘the’ United States.
Rice also said the PDB “was not a warning brief but an analytic report”, and the document contained only historical information about methods used by al-Qaeda in the past.
Now that the PBD is part of the public record, we can look at it and easily determine that the Bush administration lied in their initial statements. First of all, the document is titled, “Bin Laden Determined to attack ‘in the’ United States. That’s domestic, not overseas. And “determined”? How can you be determined to do anything in the past? How can it be a historical analytic report if Bin Laden was determined to attack in the United States? That sounds like a warning!
Right there in the title you have all you need to know, to know the Bush administration lied. But it gets worse! The document states:
AI-Qaeda members-Including some who are US citizens-have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks.
A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks...
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country
consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks. Including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations through out the US that it considers Bin Laden-related.
This is not only a warning about a future domestic threat in the United States, it gives clear specifics of cities, buildings, and even methods.
When Rice gave her statement after the PDB was leaked, she addressed the mention of planes being hijacked in the brief. She said, “It mentioned hijacking in the traditional sense… holding passengers and demand the release of one of their operatives.” She said nobody envisioned the use of planes as weapons in a suicide attack.
Frankly, the Bush administration didn’t need to know what the terrorist would do with the planes after they hijacked them. The threat of American passengers as potential hostages in a skyjacking situation was horrible enough. Rice was asked by a reporter after she closed her statement, “Why didn’t the American public know about these facts before they got on planes in the summer and fall of last year”? She said it wasn’t deemed important enough.
With that answer Rice was actually admitting that the administration was negligent. It was important, very important, but George Bush didn’t deem it important enough to act on it.
When former US Senator from Nebraska, Bob Kerrey was questioned about Bush’s response to pre 9/11 warnings in a CNN interview after the 2004 elections, Kerrey (who sat on the Commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks) told reporter Paula Zahn that the Commission had taken an oath not to discuss the report until after that election. Then he tells Zahn:
Now it’s beyond the campaign, so the promise I had to keep this out of the campaign is over. The 9/11 report in chapter eight says that in the summer on 2001, the government ignored repeated warnings by the CIA, ignored, and didn’t do anything to harden our border security, didn’t do anything to harden airport security, didn’t do anything to engage local law enforcement, didn’t do anything to round up INS and consular offices and say we have to shut down, and warn the American people. The famous Presidential Daily Brief on August 6th, we say in the report that the briefing officers believed that there was a considerable sense of urgency and it was current. So there was a case to be made that was not made.
Zahn replies, “But what we continue to hear from this administration is that the threat was much too diffuse. There was no way you could zero in on the fact that al Qaeda was going to use jets as bombs and ram them into buildings.”
Kerrey, "That is a straw-man… Mr. President… You knew they were in the United States. You were warned by the CIA. You knew in July they were inside the United States. You were told again by briefing officers in August that it was a dire threat. And what did you do? Nothing, so far as we could see on the 9/11 Commission. We say that in the report."
You can say you don’t care that President Bush was negligent in protecting the nation prior to 9/11, but to claim he kept us safe goes beyond all logic and reason. However, the more important question is whether it was only neglect, or was it something more nefarious? To answer this question we should look into the second accusation Donald Trump made about George Bush, that he purposely lied to get the nation in a war Iraq.
THE PUSH FOR WAR IN Iraq began soon after the 9/11 attacks, and to believe the two are unrelated is extreme naiveté. They are related in that one was used to create an atmosphere where the other would be accepted. To understand that you must understand where the nation was prior to 9/11 in 2001, and where we were in the 18 months between the attacks and the launch of the Iraq invasion.
The economy was in recession. We had returned to deficit spending, and Bush had just signed a massive tax cut. There was a lot of uncertainty in the nation. There was no way the American people would have supported a primitive war in Iraq prior to the attacks, or even after the attacks, without an imminent threat to national security. That was the case the Bush administration made!
There were two cases made to the nation and world concerning the threat Iraq posed. Both dealt with ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD).
It is necessary to understand the difference between the two cases, because they were intentionally fused together to allow the Bush administration to raise the stakes on the threat. Separating them allows us to get a closer look at the overall sell. One claim was that Iraq possessed an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. The other was that Iraq maintained an on going nuclear program and was on the verge of becoming a nuclear state.
The second case is obviously more egregious.
The first time the American public considered the possible threat of chemical or biological weapons came a week after the 9/11 attacks, when someone began to incite fear by mailing anthrax to major news outlets; American Media Incorporated, NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, and the New York Post.
The interesting thing about the anthrax letters was the hand written notes inside the envelopes with the agent. The letters read, “09-11-01, TAKE PENACILIN NOW. DEATH TO AMERICA. DEATH TO ISRAEL. ALLAH IS GREAT.” These letters confirmed that 9/11 and the anthrax attacks were linked, and that they were both the acts of Muslim extremist.
What makes this note so interesting is that we know today the 9/11 attack and the anthrax attack were completely unrelated, and despite the attempt to make it look like Muslim extremists, the facts are that it had nothing to do with Muslims. Yet, as the attacks were happening everyone assumed the anthrax was a second round of attacks from al Qaeda.
Similar letters containing anthrax were also sent to United States Senators Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle, which shut down Congress as the FBI investigated other threats to lawmakers.
Iraq became a suspect in the anthrax attacks right away. The anthrax sent to the Senators had been highly processed into a near vapor. The deadly agent was the product of a modern, highly technical, bio-weapons program. It would have taken millions to refine, and the list of nations with the knowhow and means to develop such a weapon was very short. Since it was widely believed that al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, this meant they had a state sponsor who gave them the anthrax. If that nation was supplying anthrax to al Qaeda, perhaps they were accomplices in the 9/11 attacks. The Bush administration made it a priority to find out which nation the anthrax came from.
ABC News was the first to start reporting the discovery of bentonite as the additive used to weaponize the anthrax. They reported it to be a trademark of the Iraqi chemical and biological weapons program. They also reported a known meeting involving Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda’s Mohammad Atta.
The Bush administration made insistent denials that bentonite was found in the anthrax. ABC News reported the White House denials, but claimed to have numerous, reliable, diverse sources contradicting the White House. ABC would later assert that these sources manipulated them. It seems that while the Bush administration was publicly denying the bentonite/Iraq connection, unnamed sources within the government were leading ABC journalist to believe such a connection was real.
In a press conference later that year, DHS Director Tom Ridge confirmed that bentonite was not the additive used to weaponize the anthrax. Instead, he said test indicated it was an agent called silica. He also confirmed the anthrax was of the Ames strain. The Ames strain was produced in Ames Iowa. It was an American weapon, and the FBI believed the culprit was a loner in the United States with a scientific background.
This was in November of 2001, meaning the Bush administration knew in 2001 that Iraq had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks. This is important, because when Secretary of State, Colin Powell made the Bush administration’s case to the UN Security Council the anthrax attacks on the United States was part of his case.
The most dramatic moment in Powell’s presentation was when he holds up a small vile of a white powder and says, “less than a teaspoonful of dry anthrax in an envelope shut down the United States Senate in the fall of 2001.” This was a clear attempt to draw a relationship between Iraq and the anthrax attacks.
Five Americans died during the anthrax attacks, and you can imagine the hysteria it caused nationwide in the weeks after 9/11. The majority of frightened Americans still believed Iraq was responsible for the anthrax attacks when Bush began to make the case that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. This is why his case resonated so intensely.
The chemical and biological weapons the Bush administration said were in Iraq were never found. Again, THE CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION SAID WERE IN IRAQ WERE NEVER FOUND!
I must reiterate that because there are some crazy stories about what happened to those weapons. Some people claim that Saddam shipped the weapons to Iran or Syria before he allowed the UN inspection teams back into Iraq. These claims are of course, ridiculous. Besides the fact that it would have been impossible to ship such large quantities of chemical and biological weapons across the Iraqi boarder undetected during the build up to the war, you would also have to explain why the Alawites in Syria, or Mullahs in Iran would risk becoming accomplices to Saddam Hussein.
The most popular piece of disinformation concerning the chemical and biological weapons comes from a New York Times (NYT) article published in October of 2014 titled, “The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemicals Weapons.” The key to understanding why the weapons written about in this NYT article are not the weapons Bush said were there in 2003 is right in the title --- “abandoned”.
Think about it! If the chemical weapons written about in the NYT article were the weapons Bush said were there, wouldn’t Bush and other members of his administration come out and celebrate the fact they were found? They should have been all over the news grandstanding and saying, “We told you so. We were right!” Instead, George’s own brother was forced to say the war was a mistake, after making the first major gaffe of his campaign.
The chemical weapons written about in the NYT article were old munitions that had been sealed in concrete and abandoned. These were not secret, hidden, weapons that were all of a sudden found. The UN inspection team and the Bush administration were aware of these old, useless, munitions. They were not the WMD Bush used to justify invading Iraq.
Regardless, even if Iraq did have the chemical and biological weapons Bush claimed were there, it still would not have been enough to justify the invasion. The weapons had been produced in the 1990s and many experts believed them to be too old to still be effective. Iraq also had no means of delivering chemical or biological weapons to the United States. It would take much more than old chemical and biological weapons to make the case for a primitive invasion of Iraq. It would take the threat of a “mushroom cloud”.
THE NUCLEAR CASE BUSH made against Iraq was a little more elaborate. It included reports that Iraq attempted to buy specially designed aluminum tubes for centrifuges, magnets and high-speed balancing machines; all could be used to enrich uranium. Everything was made to point to the fact that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program.
The most infamous evidence used to make this case was the claim that Iraq was attempting to buy uranium from Niger. This claim hinged two pieces of evidence, a known trip from Rome to Niger by the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican in 1999, and a single document that originated with the Italian military intelligence services. The document is a memorandum drawn up by the government of Niger authorizing the sale of 500 Tons of Uranium a year to Baghdad.
We know today that this document is a forgery containing information that was passed from Rome, to Paris, to London to Washington. We also know today that Iraq had not made such a deal to buy uranium from Niger, and that they had not, in fact, reconstituted their nuclear program. The question we have is, ‘when’ did the Bush administration know this?
I emphasize the Bush ‘administration’, because it doesn’t matter if Bush himself knowing lied, or his administration. Bush was Chief Executive, and the embodiment of the administration. As he often boasted, HE was the “decider.”
There are a few interesting facts about this forged document. First of all, we have no idea who forged this key piece of evidence and feed it to Italian intelligence. There are theories, but no one has been arrested for this serious crime.
The second interesting fact about the document is that it’s not only a forgery; it’s a lousy forgery. It is such a lousy forgery that when the IAEA began looking into the document, they quickly concluded it a fake using not much more than Google searches. It had names wrong, dates wrong, and the wrong offices for Niger politicians.
You may be wondering, if the IAEA could so easily figure this out why didn’t the intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA and others in the United States Intelligence Community?
Well, they did!
The forged document was not included any of the first three reports in United States concerning Iraq’s attempt to buy uranium from Niger, but there were doubts about the claim from the outset, particularly from the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). Niger was a former French colony and the French still maintained tight control of the Nigerien uranium mining. The INR found the claim “highly suspect”.
A declassified report from INR says they believed it would be unlikely to ship “25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor trailers” from landlocked Niger, across at least one border, and travel at least 1,000 miles to reach the sea, undetected. We know today that this memo, which was only declassified after a lawsuit by Judicial Watch, was circulated to the highest levels of the White House. This was a full year before Bush used the bogus intelligence from the forged document in his State of the Union speech.
The United States Intelligence Community first got it’s hands on the forged document in October 2002, when an Italian journalist passed it off to the US Embassy in Rome. The State Department saw problems with the document right away. They were already skeptical and although they did not notice the formatting problems, or problems with names and dates, they did notice a companion document that mentioned some type of major military campaign being orchestrated through the Nigerien Embassy in Rome. It was viewed as ludicrous and “completely implausible”. This document had the same stamp as the uranium document and INR believed all the documents were suspicious.
The State Department passed along copies to the rest of the Intelligence Community, but none of the other agencies seemed to pay attention to them, including the CIA. However, the CIA didn’t need to see the documents. They too where skeptical, and they had already let the White House know of their skepticism.
Two weeks before the forged document was in the custody of the State Department, the CIA was going back and forth with the White House about a primetime speech the president delivered on the threat of Iraq in Cincinnati.
The National Security Council and the CIA couldn’t agree on the use of the uranium deal in the speech, and it went through several drafts. After a seventh daft was sent to the CIA for approval that still included the uranium deal, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) called the Deputy National Security Advisor directly to request the uranium deal be removed from the speech altogether. He told the Deputy that the “reporting was weak” and that the “President should not be a fact witness on the issue.” The White House then removed it from the speech entirely.
Later that same day the CIA followed up with a memo to the White House. The memo offered three points on why the CIA was recommending the sentence about Iraq procuring uranium from Africa be removed. “(1) The evidence is weak. One of two mines cited by the sources is under the control of the French authorities. (2) The procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq’s nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. And (3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them that the Africa story is overblown and telling them this is one of the two issues where we differed with the British.”
This is why it cause such a huge controversy when Bush said in his State of the Union speech four months later, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
How did this erroneous claim from a forged document, a claim the State Department refers to as “highly dubious” in the intelligence brief to Congress just four months prior, a claim that after repeated drafts, and finally a phone call from the DCI directly to request it be removed from the Cincinnati speech, and then a follow up memo outlining the evidence as weak, how does this claim get back into the president’s State of the Union speech to make his case that Iraq had an ongoing nuclear program? And instead of attributing the claim to our own Intelligence Community, why was attributed to the British government?
The Bush administration has said it was attributed to the British government because the British government had already declassified the information. Declassified? The forged document was handed to the State Department by Italian press. How classified was it?
Others have charged that Bush attributed the claim to the British because the United States Intelligence Community would not vouch for it.
In a Meet the Press interview in 2004, Condoleezza Rice was asked how the bogus intelligence got back into the State of the Union after the DCI had personally asked it be taken out of the Cincinnati speech. She said, “It’s not a matter of it getting back in. It’s a matter, Tim, that three-plus months later, people did not remember that George Tenet had asked that it be taken out of the Cincinnati speech and then it was cleared by the agency. I didn’t remember.”
President Bush was making a case that Iraq had an ongoing nuclear program, but the White House forgot the DIC told them this key piece of evidence they were using was weak? Remember the threat they were perpetuating during this time, ‘we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.’
To be fair, there were two agencies within the Intelligence Community that seemed to believe the uranium deal was creditable. One agency was the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Pentagon, where Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith were in control. In September of 2002 these men created a special intelligence unit in the Pentagon called, the Office of Special Plans (OSP).
A month before the OSP was created, the Director of British intelligence, Sir Richard Dearlove, and other top British officials had a private meeting with US officials. His memo to Tony Blair after the meeting reads, “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” It was the mission of the OSP to fix those facts and intelligence.
The other agency was, the Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC). WINPAC was a new, post 9/11 agency within the CIA. The book, “The Italian Letter” claims the director of WINPAC, Alan Foley, told his subordinates in December of 2002, “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find intelligence to allow him to do so.” Foley was the single agent in the CIA who cleared the 16 words in the State of the Union speech. No one else in the agency read it.
Foley told a Congressional Committee that at the time of the speech he believed Iraq was probably seeking uranium from Africa, and he believed that until the IAEA declared the forged document a forgery.
Although, what Foley believed should not have mattered. What the OSP was saying should not have mattered, because once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was back in Iraq doing aggressive and intrusive inspections, it offered the Bush administration the best possible real time intelligence. An active nuclear program is not easy to hide. It leaves behind specific trace evidence of radioactive materials and radioisotopes. If Iraq had an ongoing nuclear program the IAEA would have found some evidence.
The day before President Bush delivered his 2003 State of the Union speech, in which he made a strong case that Iraq had an ongoing nuclear program, along with the infamous ’16 words’, Dr. El-Baradei, head of the IAEA inspection team addressed the United Nations Security Council to update them on the progress of their inspections.
Dr. El-Baradei testified that the IAEA had been in Iraq for nearly three months and they had conducted a total of 139 inspections at around 106 locations; at State-run and private industrial facilities, research centers and universities, new locations discovered by remote monitoring and locations where Iraq’s technical capabilities had been known to exist in the past. He said inspections had been carried out without prior notice, except where Iraqi support was needed, and they had inspected rivers, canals, lakes, and collected a broad variety of other environmental samples. They also had conducted car-borne and gamma surveys for detection of nuclear material. Dr. El-Baradei states, “No prohibited nuclear activities have been identified in these inspections.”
He said some questions remained outstanding and would require further information, and that inspections should be allowed to continue. Then he closed his testimony by restating for good measure, “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.”
Again, this testimony was offered by the IAEA to the Security Council in New York a little more than 24 hours before the 2003 State of the Union speech.
President Bush was not the only member of his administration making such a strong case that Iraq had an ongoing nuclear program. For example, even though Colin Powell did not use the information form the forged document in his presentation to the Security Council, he did make the case Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program. Powell states, “We have no indication that Saddam Hussein has ever abandoned his nuclear weapons program. On the contrary, we have more than a decade of proof that he remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons.” This presentation was also after Dr. El-Baradei had testified that there was no evidence of a nuclear program in Iraq.
Two weeks before the war started Dr. El-Baradei gave his final update to the Security Council on the progress of their inspection. It was in this meeting that Dr. El-Baradei confirmed the document claiming Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger was “inauthentic,” a forgery. This was a sobering conclusion, because it meant someone was intentionally manipulating intelligence and wanted the world to believe Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program. This alone should have garnered more restraint from Bush if protecting the nation was his real reason for taking us to war.
In that final Security Council meeting, Dr. El-Baradei made it clear that Iraq had been forthcoming in its cooperation, and after three months of intrusive inspections his team had found “no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.”
Hans Blix, who led the inspection team in search of chemical and biological weapons, also made similar statements in this meeting. They both requested more time to make final conclusions.
It was clear after this meeting that Iraq was not an imminent threat to the United States or any other nation. If the president was really concerned with preserving peace there was no reason these inspectors should not have been allowed the few months they requested to make those final conclusions. Those conclusions would have confirmed what we know today. They would have save us the blood and treasure wasted in that endeavor, plus the cost to come.
In the end the war had nothing to do with WMD. After the inspectors ruled out WMD, and it was clear Bush was not going to get the United Nations to support his war, and join in an internationally sanctioned coalition, the Bush administration began to make the case that the reason for invading Iraq was to liberate the people of Iraq.
In his prime-time speech to the world hours before the war started, President Bush addressed the people of Iraq directly saying, “The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near.” He was reinforcing a claim that Vice President Cheney had famously asserted the day prior, when Cheney said he believed invading US forces would indeed be greeted as “liberators”. The mission had changed from one of WMD and a threat posed by Saddam, to the mission of liberation through regime change. The mission was named Operation Iraqi Liberation, not Operation Disarm Iraq. Iraq didn’t have any weapons to be disarmed of, and George W. Bush knew that before he started the war.
Samuel C. Winchester