Speaker: Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA)
Moderator: Glenn Kessler, diplomatic correspondent, The Washington Post
Council on Foreign Relations
Friday, March 05, 2004
(Note: This is the text of Senator Kennedy's prepared remarks.)
........... The nation is engaged in a major ongoing debate about why America went to war in Iraq, when Iraq was not an imminent threat, had no nuclear weapons, no persuasive links to Al Qaeda, no connection to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
Tragically, in making the decision to go to war in Iraq, the Bush administration allowed its wishes, its inclinations, and its passions to alter the state of facts and the evidence of the threat we faced from Iraq............ If he feels that the White House altered the facts, or misused the intelligence, or ignored it and relied on dubious sources in the Iraqi exile community, Tenet should say so, and say it plainly.
It is not sufficient for Tenet to say only, as he did last week to the Senate Intelligence Committee, that we must be patient. When he was appointed Director of Central Intelligence in 1997, Tenet said to President Clinton, "... I have believed that you...and the vice president must be provided with ... complete and objective intelligence. ... We must always be straight and tell you the facts as we know them." The American people and our men and women serving in Iraq deserve the facts and they deserve answers now.......... According to former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's account in Ron Suskind's book, "The Price of Loyalty," Iraq was on the agenda at the very first meeting of the National Security Council, just 10 days after President Bush's inauguration in 2001. At that meeting, the president quickly--and wrongly--concluded that the U.S. could not do much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said we should "pull out of that situation," and then turned to a discussion of "how Iraq is destabilizing the region."
Secretary O'Neill remembers, "Getting Hussein was now the administration's focus. From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out and change Iraq into a new country. And, if we did that, it would solve everything. It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it--the president saying, 'Fine. Go find me a way to do this.'".......... David Albright, the former weapons inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency, put it this way: "Leaders will use worst-case assessments that point to nuclear weapons to generate political support because they know people fear nuclear weapons so much."........... Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, a recently retired Air Force intelligence officer who served in the Pentagon during the buildup to the war, said, "It wasn't intelligence--it was propaganda ... they'd take a little bit of intelligence, cherry pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, usually by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don't belong together."
As it now appears, the Iraqi expatriates who had close ties to the Pentagon and were so eager for the war may well have been the source of the hyped intelligence. They have even begun to brag about it.
The Pentagon's favorite Iraqi dissident, Ahmad Chalabi, is actually proud of what happened. "We are heroes in error," Chalabi recently said. "As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords, if he wants."......... Link found at http://www.cfr.org/publication.php?id=6834 >>Full story...