U.S. administration has abruptly revised its explanation for invading
Iraq, as Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asserted that a changed
perspective after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — not fresh evidence
of banned weapons — provoked the war.
"The coalition did not act
in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's
pursuit of weapons of mass murder," Mr. Rumsfeld testified yesterday
before the Senate armed services committee.
"We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light, through the prism of our experience on 9/11."
was an about-face from a man who confidently proclaimed in January:
"There's no doubt in my mind but that they [the Iraqi government]
currently have chemical and biological weapons." (He was seconded in
March by Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said of former Iraqi dictator
Saddam Hussein: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear
And in London Thursday, the BBC reported senior
British government sources saying that Whitehall had virtually ruled
out finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which they now believe
were destroyed or hidden permanently before the war began.
Rumsfeld's reversal came as the administration scrambled to defend
itself from accusations that it deliberately used false or misleading
information to bolster one of its primary justifications for the war.
Monday, the White House acknowledged that U.S. President George W. Bush
was wrong when he said in his State of the Union address in January
that Iraq had recently tried to purchase large quantities of uranium
from Africa to build nuclear weapons. He cited British intelligence
reports of documents that purported to show an Iraqi attempt to buy a
form of raw uranium known as yellowcake. The documents were later
discredited as forgeries.
While the White House justified the
invasion to topple Mr. Hussein on the ground that his biological,
chemical and nuclear weapons posed a threat, no such arms have been
uncovered in the 10 weeks since the war ended.
Mr. Bush unapologetically defended the war while in the middle of his five-day, visit to Africa.
Hussein was a threat to world peace. And there's no doubt in my mind
that the United States, along with allies and friends, did the right
thing in removing him from power," he said yesterday at a joint news
conference with South African President Thabo Mbeki.
for the first time about the uranium, he said: "There's going to be a
lot of attempts to rewrite history. But I am absolutely confident in
the decision I made."
White House officials said information
that the documents may have been forged had not reached top-level
policymakers before the public statements.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he
found out "within recent days" that the information had been
discredited, but he defended the U.S. intelligence throughout the Iraq
conflict as "quite good" and said Iraq "had 12 years to conceal"
weapons programs. "Uncovering those programs will take time," he said.
Several Democrats heightened calls for a full-scale investigation on whether intelligence was manipulated.
bad enough that such a glaring blunder became part of the President's
case for war," Senator Edward Kennedy said. "It's far worse if the case
for war was made by deliberate deception. ... We cannot risk American
lives based on shoddy intelligence or outright lies."
and British forces facing almost daily assaults, he and other senators
grilled Mr. Rumsfeld on whether more troops were needed in Iraq.
Rumsfeld told the committee that talks were under way to increase NATO
involvement in Iraq peacekeeping efforts. He maintained that most of
Iraq is safe after the war, with most of the recent attacks against
U.S. and British forces concentrated in Baghdad and surrounding areas.
Kennedy expressed skepticism, saying he was "concerned that we have the
world's best-trained soldiers serving as policemen in what seems to be
a shooting gallery."
With reports from the Guardian, Reuters