Mr. President, last fall, the White House released a national
security strategy that called for an end to the doctrines of
deterrence and containment that have been a hallmark of American
foreign policy for more than half a century.
This new national security strategy is based upon pre-emptive war
against those who might threaten our security.
Such a strategy of striking first against possible dangers is
heavily reliant upon interpretation of accurate and timely
intelligence. If we are going to hit first, based on perceived
dangers, the perceptions had better be accurate. If our
intelligence is faulty, we may launch pre-emptive wars against
countries that do not pose a real threat against us. Or we may
overlook countries that do pose real threats to our security,
allowing us no chance to pursue diplomatic solutions to stop a
crisis before it escalates to war. In either case lives could be
needlessly lost. In other words, we had better be certain that we
can discern the imminent threats from the false alarms.
Ninety-six days ago [as of June 24], President Bush announced that
he had initiated a war to "disarm Iraq, to free its people and to
defend the world from grave danger." The President told the world:
"Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is
sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies
will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the
peace with weapons of mass murder." [Address to the Nation, 3/19/03]
The President has since announced that major combat operations
concluded on May 1. He said: "Major combat operations in Iraq have
ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have
prevailed." Since then, the United States has been recognized by
the international community as the occupying power in Iraq. And
yet, we have not found any evidence that would confirm the
officially stated reason that our country was sent to war; namely,
that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction constituted a grave threat
to the United States.
We have heard a lot about revisionist history from the White House
of late in answer to those who question whether there was a real
threat from Iraq. But, it is the President who appears to me to be
intent on revising history. There is an abundance of clear and
unmistakable evidence that the Administration sought to portray Iraq
as a direct and deadly threat to the American people. But there is
a great difference between the hand-picked intelligence that was
presented by the Administration to Congress and the American people
when compared against what we have actually discovered in Iraq.
This Congress and the people who sent us here are entitled to an
explanation from the Administration.
On January 28, 2003, President Bush said in his State of the Union
Address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein
recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
[State of the Union, 1/28/03, pg. 7] Yet, according to news reports,
the CIA knew that this claim was false as early as March 2002. In
addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency has since
discredited this allegation.
On February 5, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United
Nations Security Council: "Our conservative estimate is that Iraq
today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical
weapons agent. That is enough to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets."
[Remarks to UN Security Council, 2/5/03, pg. 12] The truth is, to
date we have not found any of this material, nor those thousands of
rockets loaded with chemical weapons.
On February 8, President Bush told the nation: "We have sources that
tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field
commanders to use chemical weapons-the very weapons the dictator
tells us he does not have." [Radio Address, 2/8/03] Mr. President,
we are all relieved that such weapons were not used, but it has not
yet been explained why the Iraqi army did not use them. Did the
Iraqi army flee their positions before chemical weapons could be
used? If so, why were the weapons not left behind? Or is it that
the army was never issued chemical weapons? We need answers.
On March 16, the Sunday before the war began, in an interview with
Tim Russert, Vice President Cheney said that Iraqis want "to get rid
of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United
States when we come to do that." He added, "...the vast majority of
them would turn [Saddam Hussein] in in a minute if, in fact, they
thought they could do so safely." [ Meet the Press , 3/16/03, pg.
6] But in fact, Mr. President, today Iraqi cities remain in
disorder, our troops are under attack, our occupation government
lives and works in fortified compounds, and we are still trying to
determine the fate of the ousted, murderous dictator.
On March 30, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, during the height
of the war, said of the search for weapons of mass destruction: "We
know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad
and east, west, south, and north somewhat." [ This Week , 3/30/03,
pg. 8] But Baghdad fell to our troops on April 9, and Tikrit on
April 14, and the intelligence Secretary Rumsfeld spoke about has
not led us to any weapons of mass destruction.
Whether or not intelligence reports were bent, stretched, or
massaged to make Iraq look like an imminent threat to the United
States, it is clear that the Administration's rhetoric played upon
the well-founded fear of the American public about future acts of
terrorism. But, upon close examination, many of these statements
have nothing to do with intelligence, because they are at root just
sound bites based on conjecture. They are designed to prey on
The face of Osama bin Laden morphed into that of Saddam Hussein.
President Bush carefully blurred these images in his State of the
Union Address. Listen to this quote from his State of the Union
Address: "Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other
plans-this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial,
one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of
horror like none we have ever known." [State of the Union, 1/28/03,
pg 7] Judging by this speech, not only is the President confusing al
Qaeda and Iraq, but he also appears to give a vote of no-confidence
to our homeland security efforts. Isn't the White House, the brains
behind the Department of Homeland Security? Isn't the
Administration supposed to be stopping those vials, canisters, and
crates from entering our country, rather than trying to scare our
fellow citizens half to death about them?
Not only did the Administration warn about more hijackers carrying
deadly chemicals, the White House even went so far as to suggest
that the time it would take for U.N. inspectors to find solid,
'smoking gun' evidence of Saddam's illegal weapons would put the
U.S. at greater risk of a nuclear attack from Iraq. National
Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice was quoted as saying on September
9, 2002, by the Los Angeles Times , "We don't want the 'smoking gun'
to be a mushroom cloud." [ Los Angeles Times , "Threat by Iraq
Grows, U.S. Says," 9/9/02] Talk about hype! Mushroom clouds? Where
is the evidence for this? There isn't any.
On September 26, 2002, just two weeks before Congress voted on a
resolution to allow the President to invade Iraq, and six weeks
before the mid-term elections, President Bush himself built the case
that Iraq was plotting to attack the United States. After meeting
with members of Congress on that date, the President said: "The
danger to our country is grave. The danger to our country is
growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical
weapons.... The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile
material, could build one within a year."
These are the President's words. He said that Saddam Hussein is
"seeking a nuclear bomb." Have we found any evidence to date of
this chilling allegation? No.
But, President Bush continued on that autumn day: "The dangers we
face will only worsen from month to month and from year to year. To
ignore these threats is to encourage them. And when they have fully
materialized it may be too late to protect ourselves and our friends
and our allies. By then the Iraqi dictator would have the means to
terrorize and dominate the region. Each passing day could be the
one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX-nerve gas-or
some day a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally." [Rose Garden
And yet, seven weeks after declaring victory in the war against
Iraq, we have seen nary a shred of evidence to support his claims of
grave dangers, chemical weapons, links to al Qaeda, or nuclear
Just days before a vote on a resolution that handed the President
unprecedented war powers, President Bush stepped up the scare
tactics. On October 7, just four days before the October 11 vote in
the Senate on the war resolution, the President stated: "We know
that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy Ð
the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have
had high-level contacts that go back a decade." President Bush
continued: "We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in
bomb-making and poisons and deadly gasses.... Alliance with
terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without
leaving any fingerprints."
President Bush also elaborated on claims of Iraq's nuclear program
when he said: "The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting
its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous
meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his
'nuclear mujahideen' - his nuclear holy warriors.... If the Iraqi
regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly
enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could
have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." [Cincinnati Museum
Center, 10/7/02, pg. 3-4]
This is the kind of pumped up intelligence and outrageous rhetoric
that were given to the American people to justify war with Iraq.
This is the same kind of hyped evidence that was given to Congress
to sway its vote for war on October 11, 2002.
We hear some voices say, but why should we care? After all, the
United States won the war, didn't it? Saddam Hussein is no more; he
is either dead or on the run. What does it matter if reality does
not reveal the same grim picture that was so carefully painted
before the war? So what if the menacing characterizations that
conjured up visions of mushroom clouds and American cities
threatened with deadly germs and chemicals were overdone? So what?
Mr. President, our sons and daughters who serve in uniform answered
a call to duty. They were sent to the hot sands of the Middle East
to fight in a war that has already cost the lives of 194 Americans,
thousands of innocent civilians, and unknown numbers of Iraqi
soldiers. Our troops are still at risk. Hardly a day goes by that
there is not another attack on the troops who are trying to restore
order to a country teetering on the brink of anarchy. When are they
The President told the American people that we were compelled to go
to war to secure our country from a grave threat. Are we any safer
today than we were on March 18, 2003? Our nation has been committed
to rebuilding a country ravaged by war and tyranny, and the cost of
that task is being paid in blood and treasure every day.
It is in the compelling national interest to examine what we were
told about the threat from Iraq. It is in the compelling national
interest to know if the intelligence was faulty. It is in the
compelling national interest to know if the intelligence was
Mr. President, Congress must face this issue squarely. Congress
should begin immediately an investigation into the intelligence that
was presented to the American people about the pre-war estimates of
Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and the way in which that
intelligence might have been misused. This is no time for a timid
Congress. We have a responsibility to act in the national interest
and protect the American people. We must get to the bottom of this
Although some timorous steps have been taken in the past few days to
begin a review of this intelligence-I must watch my terms
carefully, for I may be tempted to use the words "investigation" or
"inquiry" to describe this review, and those are terms which I am
told are not supposed to be used-the proposed measures appear to
fall short of what the situation requires. We are already shading
our terms about how to describe the proposed review of intelligence:
cherry-picking words to give the American people the impression that
the government is fully in control of the situation, and that there
is no reason to ask tough questions. This is the same problem that
got us into this controversy about slanted intelligence reports.
Word games. Lots and lots of word games.
Well, Mr. President, this is no game. For the first time in our
history, the United States has gone to war because of intelligence
reports claiming that a country posed a threat to our nation.
Congress should not be content to use standard operating procedures
to look into this extraordinary matter. We should accept no
substitute for a full, bipartisan investigation by Congress into the
issue of our pre-war intelligence on the threat from Iraq and its
The purpose of such an investigation is not to play pre-election
year politics, nor is it to engage in what some might call
"revisionist history." Rather it is to get at the truth. The
longer questions are allowed to fester about what our intelligence
knew about Iraq, and when they knew it, the greater the risk that
the people-the American people whom we are elected to serve-will
lose confidence in our government.
This looming crisis of trust is not limited to the public. Many of
my colleagues were willing to trust the Administration and vote to
authorize war against Iraq. Many members of this body trusted so
much that they gave the President sweeping authority to commence
war. As President Reagan famously said, "Trust, but verify."
Despite my opposition, the Senate voted to blindly trust the
President with unprecedented power to declare war. While the
reconstruction continues, so do the questions, and it is time to
I have served the people of West Virginia in Congress for half a
century. I have witnessed deceit and scandal, cover up and
aftermath. I have seen Presidents of both parties who once enjoyed
great popularity among the people leave office in disgrace because
they misled the American people. I say to this Administration: do
not circle the wagons. Do not discourage the seeking of truth in
Mr. President, the American people have questions that need to be
answered about why we went to war with Iraq. To attempt to deny the
relevance of these questions is to trivialize the people's trust.
The business of intelligence is secretive by necessity, but our
government is open by design. We must be straight with the American
people. Congress has the obligation to investigate the use of
intelligence information by the Administration, in the open, so that
the American people can see that those who exercise power,
especially the awesome power of preemptive war, must be held
accountable. We must not go down the road of cover-up. That is the
road to ruin.
very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a
people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret
oaths, and to secret proceedings."--John F. Kennedy
Andrew Gumbel, "Growing Evidence of Deception
by Washington," Independent (UK), April 20, 2003
John Dean, "Could Make Watergate Pale
by Comparison," FindLaw's Legal Commentary, June 6, 2003
Andrew Buncombe, "Ministers knew war papers were forged, says diplomat,"
Independent (UK), June 29, 2003
warned the US Government that claims about Iraq's nuclear ambitions
were not true months before President Bush used them to make his
case for war, the BBC has learned.," BBC. July 9, 2003