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Rice Lies To Wexler About Making False Statements Before The Iraq War

By Matt Corley  

"Rice Lies To Wexler About Making False Statements Before The Iraq War"

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Last month, the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism released a study finding that the Bush administration made “at least 935 false statements” preceding the invasion of Iraq. Condoleezza Rice, who served as National Security Adviser at the time, made 56 false statements.

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) pressed Rice to explain the inconsistencies, asking “isn’t it true that you had intelligence that cast doubt on your repeated claims?” “No, it’s not true,” replied Rice tersely.

Wexler then pointed out that Rice was lying when she said it was “not true” and that there had been “intelligence that cast doubt” on the administration’s pre-war claims:

WEXLER: I simply asked if you had intelligence that was contrary to the intelligence that you reported repeatedly to the American people

RICE: Congressman, I would…

WEXLER: … that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction.

RICE: Congressman, I would suggest that you go back and read the key judgments of 2002. I think that will answer your question.

WEXLER: Yes. And the answer to the question, Madam Secretary, is that, in fact, there were contrary reports. You chose to weigh the reports.

Watch it:

In 2001, Rice argued, “We are able to keep arms from [Saddam]. His military forces have not been rebuilt.” In the lead-up to war, she began making the opposite case.

In her response yesterday, Rice conceded that there was “disagreement” in the intelligence community about “whether or not” Iraq “had reconstituted their nuclear weapons program.” But in 2002, Rice emphatically stated there was no doubt about the intelligence:

RICE: We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance — into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to — high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.

In fact, the potential use of the aluminum tubes was one of the main points of disagreement within the intelligence community. According to the New York Times, “almost a year before” Rice made her statement on the tubes, her “staff had been told that the government’s foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons.” “Ms. Rice knew about the debate,” the paper reported.

Transcript:

WEXLER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Madam Secretary, over the past month, startling revelations have come forward that specifically relate to your conduct prior to 9/11 and in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

A recently released study by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity revealed that you, along with President Bush and top administration officials made a total of 935 false public statements in an orchestrated attempt to take this nation to war.

Here’s a stack of these false statements right here, all 935 of them. This study has found that you, Madam Secretary, made 56 false statements to the American people, where you repeatedly pump up the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and exaggerate the so- called relationship between Iraq and Al Qaida.

Madam Secretary, can you please tell us, isn’t it true that you had intelligence that cast doubt on your repeated claims that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction?

RICE: No, it’s not true, Congressman. With all due respect, I think if you look back at the key judgments of the intelligence estimate about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, you will see that those judgments supported the views of many intelligence agencies worldwide, the views of the United Nations inspectors that Iraq must have been hiding something.

Our own intelligence estimate said that Iraq had reconstituted its biological weapons program, its chemical weapons program, and the only disagreement with whether or not they had reconstituted their nuclear weapons program, although there were certainly elements, including the CIA, that believed that they were in the process of doing so.

Now, Congressman, I take my integrity very seriously and I did not at any time make a statement that I knew to be false or that I thought to be false in order to pump up anything. Nobody wants to go to war.

Saddam Hussein was a threat to this country. We had gone to war against him in 1991. President Clinton had gone to war against him in 1998. We were in a state of war with him. This was a cessation of hostilities, not an armistice, because let’s remember that our pilots were actually flying missions, southern watch and northern watch, and being shot at by his air defenses.

And so, I’m sorry, Congressman, because you’ve questioned my integrity, I ask you to let me respond. Now, we have learned that many of the intelligence assessments were wrong. There have been many, many investigations of that, including Senate Select Intelligence and a number of others, and we have gone to extraordinary lengths to reform our intelligence agencies so that they can make better assessments of situations in which you have nontransparent governments that will not answer the just demands of an international community that had sanctioned and had resolutions against Saddam Hussein several times.

WEXLER: Madam Secretary, if I may…

RICE: So, no, Congressman, at no time did I intend to or do I believe that I did…

WEXLER: I simply asked…

(CROSSTALK)

RICE: … put forward false information to the American people.

WEXLER: I simply asked if you had intelligence that was contrary to the intelligence that you reported repeatedly to the American people…

RICE: Congressman, I would…

WEXLER: … that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction.

RICE: Congressman, I would suggest that you go back and read the key judgments of 2002. I think that will answer your question.

WEXLER: Yes. And the answer to the question, Madam Secretary, is that, in fact, there were contrary reports. You chose to weigh the reports…

RICE: Congressman…

WEXLER: … that supported your…

RICE: No, Congressman…

(CROSSTALK)

… I chose to use — Congressman, I chose to use — Congressman, I’m sorry, I’m going to answer this.

Congressman, I chose to use what every administration uses, which is the collective wisdom of the intelligence community that is in a national intelligence estimate.

I, again, ask you to go back and read the key judgments from 2002 about the state of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs and I think you will see that it was the judgment of the intelligence community as a whole that he had reconstituted his biological weapons program, reconstituted his chemical weapons program, and was seeking to do so with his nuclear weapons program, and might do so within a year if he got foreign assistance.

That was the collective wisdom of the intelligence community. I will be the first to say that it was not right.

WEXLER: Madam Secretary, unfortunately, the American people were denied the opportunity to hear the other side. You may have, rightfully or wrongfully, reached your conclusion, but a legitimate question is why weren’t the American people told that there was contrary intelligence.

RICE: Congressman, I am sorry, I sat through the briefings for the Congress and for the Senate, done by the intelligence community. We were there to provide policy advice, but either George Tenet or John McLaughlin or others gave those briefings.

And, Congressman, the American people were told what their intelligence community as a whole believed to be the assessment concerning Iraq’s programs.

I just want to repeat to you that not only was it our intelligence community, there were other intelligence communities that believed the same. If we didn’t believe that, it’s very strange that we put Iraq under several Security Council resolutions, numbering 16 or 17, demanding that Saddam Hussein answer for his weapons of mass destruction program, that the Resolution 1441, which was a unanimous resolution of the Security Council, saying that he had to answer for his weapons of mass destruction programs.

I’d be the first to say the intelligence was not right and we’ve gone to great lengths to reorganize it so that we can have better intelligence.

But to claim, Congressman, that there were other things that we somehow hid from the American people is simply not right.

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