The newly released Chilcot Report on Iraq is British understatement, to a fault. In fact, it is understated so far as to miss the plain truth of the matter. Saying only that extremely questionable intelligence “was not challenged [by the Bush and Blair regimes] and it should have been” is failing to say plainly what the evidence so clearly shows: George W. Bush lied; so did Tony Blair.
To demonstrate that, let’s try a simple exercise: let’s compare what White House officials said about Iraq in the run-up to war with what they knew at the time — or at the very least, should have known, because the intelligence was available to them.
What they said: “We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from the testimony of defectors — including Saddam’s own son-in law” (in the words of Dick Cheney).
What they knew: Testimony obtained by reporters in 2003 showed that Saddam’s son-in law told UN weapons inspectors that “all weapons — biological, chemical, missile, nuclear — were destroyed.” In other words, he said the opposite of what Cheney claimed he said.
What they said: Saddam Hussein is “aggressively seeking nuclear weapons” (Cheney). Iraq attempted to acquire aluminum tubes that were “only really suited for nuclear weapons development” (Condoleeza Rice). The US has “irrefutable evidence” that the tubes were destined for centrifuges (Cheney). “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” (Rice).
What they knew: Department of Energy scientists had concluded that these tubes were the wrong size for centrifuges, but were the proper size for conventional, non-WMD rockets. Post-war CIA inspectors concluded that, indeed, the tubes had been used for this purpose and were, in inspectors’ words, “innocuous.”