Bush: Lying or Delusional on WMD?

Reviewing George Bush’s statements on Iraq leads to only two possibilities. Either the guy was lying about WMD in Iraq or he is as incompetent as his worst critics have argued in believing this regardless of the evidence. A liar or delusional?There has been recent evidence released for each possibility.

Writing in Salon, Sidney Blumenthal reported evidence that Bush had squelched evidence which contradicted his public statements on WMD in Iraq:

On April 23, 2006, CBS’s “60 Minutes” interviewed Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief of clandestine operations for Europe, who disclosed that the agency had received documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD. “We continued to validate him the whole way through,” said Drumheller. “The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.”

Now two former senior CIA officers have confirmed Drumheller’s account to me and provided the background to the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it. They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet never shared Sabri’s intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to the former officers, the intelligence was also never shared with the senior military planning the invasion, which required U.S. soldiers to receive medical shots against the ill effects of WMD and to wear protective uniforms in the desert.

Instead, said the former officials, the information was distorted in a report written to fit the preconception that Saddam did have WMD programs. That false and restructured report was passed to Richard Dearlove, chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on it as validation of the cause for war.

Secretary of State Powell, in preparation for his presentation of evidence of Saddam’s WMD to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, spent days at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and had Tenet sit directly behind him as a sign of credibility. But Tenet, according to the sources, never told Powell about existing intelligence that there were no WMD, and Powell’s speech was later revealed to be a series of falsehoods.

Blumenthal goes on to discuss how the evidence that Saddam did not have WMD was suppressed with the justification that, “This isn’t about intelligence. It’s about regime change.”

The CIA officers on the case awaited the report they had submitted on Sabri to be circulated back to them, but they never received it. They learned later that a new report had been written. “It was written by someone in the agency, but unclear who or where, it was so tightly controlled. They knew what would please the White House. They knew what the king wanted,” one of the officers told me.

That report contained a false preamble stating that Saddam was “aggressively and covertly developing” nuclear weapons and that he already possessed chemical and biological weapons. “Totally out of whack,” said one of the CIA officers. “The first [para]graph of an intelligence report is the most important and most read and colors the rest of the report.” He pointed out that the case officer who wrote the initial report had not written the preamble and the new memo. “That’s not what the original memo said.”

Despite all the efforts to cook the evidence, there is some evidence suggesting that Bush continued to believe his own false statements. Think Progress quotes from Robert Draper’s book Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush which reveals that Bush was still claiming that there was WMD in Iraq in 2006 despite a series of reports finding no signs of WMD.

Bush, for his part, was not disposed to second-guessing. Throughout 2006, he read historical texts relating to Lincoln, Churchill, and Truman — three wartime leaders, the latter two of whom left office to something less than public acclaim. History would acquit him, too. Bush was confident of that, and of something else as well. Though it was not the sort of thing one could say publicly anymore, the president still believed that Saddam had possessed weapons of mass destruction. He repeated this conviction to Andy Card all the way up until Card’s departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMDs.[p. 388]

There is room for arguing that Bush was lying or delusional. Either way he is unfit to be president.

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