In his new book, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan charges that the Bush administration manipulated information in a “propaganda” campaign before the Iraq war, making the faulty claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Asked about the book today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended the administration’s actions in the run-up to the war, suggesting there was no manipulation involved. McCain claimed “every intelligence agency in the world” thought Hussein had WMD:
I have not seen the book or the comments. But I know why I supported it [the war] because I believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction as did every intelligence agency in the world and every assessment.
McCain’s blanket statement is wildly off the mark. The Bush administration did set up its own intelligence shops to disseminate faulty intelligence about Iraq’s alleged WMD. But “every” agency in the “world” did not buy the spin — several U.S. agencies were highly skeptical:
State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR): Concluded that the “activities we have detected do not add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what [the INR] would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons.”
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): On March 7, 2003, IAEA chief Mohamed El-Baradei reported there was “no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any nuclear weapons or was in the process of acquiring them.”
Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapon’s inspector: In Jan. 2003, Blix told the U.N. Security Council that his inspection teams had not found any “smoking guns” after visiting some 125 Iraqi sites.
When under pressure, McCain has a habit of making sweeping blanket statements. Criticized for his stance on the 21st Century GI Bill last week, McCain falsely claimed he “received the highest award from literally every veteran’s organization in America.” In December, McCain made the blatantly false assertion that the he is “the only one the special interests don’t give any money to.”