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Mar 7, 2016
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Judith Miller

Did George W. Bush lie to America about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction? Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, covered the lead up to the Iraq War for The New York Times, and settles once and for all the big lie about the war in Iraq.

Did Bush lie about Iraq? No. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was based on widely accepted analysis from reliable intelligence agencies.

  • Why did the U.S. government believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Because the world’s leading counterterrorism and arms control experts said Hussein did. In the aftermath of 9/11, counterterrorism experts overestimated the threat of Iraq in part because they were wary of ever again underestimating a terrorist threat, as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded in 2004.View Source
  • WATCH: Judith Miller on the lead up to the Iraq War.View Source
  • Related Reading: “Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf” – Judith MillerView Source

It wasn’t only Bush who believed Iraq had WMDs—the CIA, Congress, and multiple foreign intelligence agencies believed it too.

  • U.S. Congressional committees had been routinely briefed about expected Iraqi WMD capabilities for 15 years before the decision to invade Iraq — and no concerns about accuracy were voiced. The information supplied to Congress came from the CIA, who expressed “high confidence” that Iraq possessed both chemical and germ-based weapons. The decision to go to war received broad support in Congress from both Republicans and Democrats.View Source
  • WATCH: Journalist Judith Miller on the lead up to the Iraq War.View Source
  • Related Video: “Why America Invaded Iraq” – Andrew RobertsView Source

The myth that the Bush administration pressured intelligence analysts to alter estimates on WMDs in Iraq has been thoroughly debunked. 

  • Multiple investigations concluded that the Bush administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to overestimate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein; instead, counterterrorism experts gave the Bush administration faulty intelligence that overestimated Iraq’s threat level. In other words, what really happened is bad intelligence led to bad policy decisions.View Source
  • WATCH: Judith Miller on the lead up to the Iraq War.View Source
  • Related Video: “How Iraq Was Won and Lost” – Pete HegsethView Source

Why did the intelligence community wrongly believe Iraq had WMDs? After 9/11, experts were afraid of again underestimating threats.

  • Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Judith Miller explains that after 9/11, the intelligence community was afraid of ever again underestimating a terrorist threat. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded in 2004 that rather than manipulation of intelligence data, analysts had given into a collective fear about the threat Saddam Hussein’s regime posed.View Source
  • WATCH: Journalist Judith Miller on the lead up to the Iraq War.View Source
  • Related reading: “The Story: A Reporter's Journey” – Judith MillerView Source

Why did we think Saddam Hussein had WMDs? First of all, he used chemical weapons before on his own people, killing thousands.

  • When the U.S. Congress voted to invade Iraq under George W. Bush, U.S. as well as several international intelligence agencies believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. According to a two-year study by Charles Duelfer (the former deputy chief of the United Nations inspectors who were hunting for WMDs in Iraq) Hussein was denying the existence of WMDs to the West in order to lift sanctions while also trying to intimidate enemies by claiming he had stockpiles of WMDs.View Source
  • Hussein had every intention of increasing Iraq’s WMD capacity, and had used chemical weapons on his own people before, killing thousands.View Source
  • WATCH: Journalist Judith Miller on the lead up to the Iraq War.View Source
  • Related Video: “Why America Invaded Iraq” – Andrew RobertsView Source

Underreported fact: The U.S. found old WMDs hidden in Iraq, including 5,000 chemical warheads, shells and aviation bombs.

  • During the occupation of Iraq, U.S. soldiers uncovered caches of old chemical weapons actively hidden from U.S. inspectors.View Source
  • U.S. soldiers found approximately “5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs” during the occupation of Iraq.View Source
  • WATCH: Journalist Judith Miller on the lead up to the Iraq War.View Source
  • Related Video: “How Iraq Was Won and Lost” – Pete HegsethView Source

Bush didn’t lie about Iraq. Reliable terrorism and arms-control experts said Saddam had WMDs, and the administration believed them.   

  • Did the Bush administration lie about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction? No, the CIA, multiple foreign countries’ intelligence agencies, and Congress had information from reliable counterterrorism and arms-control experts that simply overestimated Hussein’s threat.View Source
  • According to Secretary of State Colin Powell, President Bush also wanted to make the case for war to the international community for broad support, hoping to avoid unilateral action.View Source
  • WATCH: Journalist Judith Miller on the lead up to the Iraq War.View Source
  • Related Reading: “Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf” – Judith MillerView Source

I took America to war in Iraq. It was all me.

OK, it was mostly me.

I had some help from a clueless President George W. Bush and his neoconservative puppet master, Vice President Dick Cheney. Senior White House fanatics spoon-fed reporters like me cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction so that America could invade Iraq and seize its oil.

None of this is true, but many Americans continue to believe it.

People died. It was a war. But President Bush didn’t lie us into it.

The false narrative that he did is itself a lie and deserves to be, at last, retired.

There was no shortage of mistakes about Iraq, and some of the media’s prewar WMD stories were wrong, including some of mine. But so is the enduring, pernicious accusation that the Bush administration fabricated WMD intelligence to take the country to war. Before the 2003 invasion, President Bush and other senior officials cited the intelligence community’s incorrect conclusions about Saddam’s WMD capabilities and, on occasion, went beyond them. But relying on the mistakes of others -- completely understandable mistakes given Saddam’s horrendous record -- and making errors of judgment are not the same as lying.

American, European and arms-control experts, counterterrorism agents, and analysts who studied Iraq and briefed White House officials and journalists were the same people who gave me and my fellow reporters at the New York Times accurate information for years about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s growing threat to America. In fact, eight months before 9/11, the Times published a series of articles on that threat -- a series for which the Times staff, including me, won a Pulitzer Prize.

The members of the intelligence community with whom I dealt were overwhelmingly reliable, hardworking and honest. But they were also human, and, in the aftermath of 9/11, they were very wary of ever again underestimating a terrorist threat.

There’s an enduring myth that policy makers pressured intelligence analysts into altering their estimates to suit the Bush administration’s push to war. Yet several thorough, bipartisan inquiries found no evidence of such pressure. What they reveal, instead, is that bad intelligence led to bad policy decisions.

The 2005 commission headed by former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb and Republican Judge Laurence Silberman called the intelligence community’s estimates on Iraq “dead wrong.” A year earlier, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence denounced such intelligence failures as the product of “group think,” rooted in a fear of underestimating grave threats to national security in the wake of 9/11.

Will Tobey, a former deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration still fumes about the failure to see problems in the CIA’s intelligence that supported Secretary of State Colin Powell’s prewar speech at the United Nations about Iraq’s WMD. Based partly on the CIA’s assurances of strong evidence for each claim, Mr. Powell was persuaded that the case against Saddam was, in his words, “rock solid.”

Why wouldn’t he? Over the previous 15 years, none of the congressional committees routinely briefed on Iraq’s WMD assessments expressed concern about bias or error. The decision to go to war in Iraq received broad support in Congress from both Republicans and Democrats -- and again for good reason. Even if the intelligence community overestimated Saddam Hussein’s WMD capability, it didn’t create it out of thin air. Saddam had used chemical weapons on his own people, killing thousands. He had invaded his neighbors, repeatedly.

No, President Bush did not take America into a war because he was strong-armed by a neoconservative cabal. As President Bush himself famously asserted, he was the “decider.” And no, he didn’t go to war for oil. If we wanted Saddam’s oil, we could have bought it.

President’s Bush decision to go to war was based on the information that he and his team relied on -- information that was collected by the world’s top agents and analyzed by the world’s top analysts, including the intelligence agencies of France, Germany and Russia, countries whose leaders did not support going to war. But they all agreed on one thing -- Saddam had and was continuing to develop WMD.

Our intelligence professionals, and those of major European countries, overestimated Saddam’s capabilities. Mistakes like that filter through the system -- from the White House to Congress to journalists to the public. And those mistakes impact policy. But here’s the key thing to remember -- they were mistakes…not lies.

I’m Judith Miller, contributing editor of City Journal, for Prager University.

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