Powell Says New Data May Have Affected War Decision
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By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post Staff Writer
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that he does not know whether he would have recommended an invasion of Iraq (news - web sites) if he had been told it had no stockpiles of banned weapons, even as he offered a broad defense of the Bush administration's decision to go to war.
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Even without possessing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) intended to acquire them and tried to maintain the capability of producing them in case international sanctions were lifted, Powell said in an interview. But he conceded that the administration's conviction that Hussein already had such weapons had made the case for war more urgent.
Asked if he would have recommended an invasion knowing Iraq had no prohibited weapons, Powell replied: "I don't know, because it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world." He said the "absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus; it changes the answer you get."
Powell spoke on the Iraq weapons issue for more than half of the hour-long interview. Throughout the discussion, Powell tried to balance the administration's rationale for going to war with the reality that no weapons of mass destruction have been uncovered in Iraq. Former chief U.S. weapons inspectors David Kay told Congress last week that Hussein did not have such weapons at the time of the U.S. invasion.
Nonetheless, Powell said, history will ultimately judge that the war "was the right thing to do."
Powell is widely perceived to have placed his credibility on the line last Feb. 5 when he appeared before the United Nations (news - web sites) Security Council and offered a forceful and detailed description of the U.S. case that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. In that appearance, Powell told the council: "What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
In the interview yesterday, Powell said he had "spent much of the weekend" reading Kay's testimony last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee (news - web sites). Powell came to the interview, held at The Washington Post, with an annotated and highlighted transcript, and suggested that Kay's testimony was more supportive of the administration than many news accounts have portrayed.
Kay "did say, with respect to stockpiles, we were wrong, terribly wrong," Powell said, flipping through the pages of Kay's transcript and quoting from selected sections. "But he also came to other conclusions that deal, I think, with intent and capability which resulted in a threat the president felt he had to respond to."
Powell said, "Saddam Hussein and his regime clearly had the intent -- they never lost it -- an intent that manifested itself many years ago when they actually used such horrible weapons against their enemies in Iran and against their own people."
That intent, Powell said, was also demonstrated by Hussein keeping in place the capability to produce weapons. He said Hussein continued to train and employ people who knew how to develop weapons, "and there's no question about that and there's nobody debating that part of the intelligence."
Moreover, Powell said, Iraq continued to have the "technical infrastructure, labs and facilities, that will lend themselves to the production of weapons of mass destruction." Such facilities "could produce such weapons at a moment in time, now or some future moment in time," Powell said. "I think there's evidence that suggests that he was keeping a warm base, that there was an intent on his part to have that capability."
Powell asserted that Hussein was intent on creating delivery systems, such as longer-range missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
"If you look at my presentation from last year, I talk about intent," Powell said. "I talk about the capability I think is there, the stockpiles, but a large part of the presentation is also what happened" and the unanswered questions about Iraq's weapons holdings. "He got a chance to answer the questions and he didn't answer the questions."
Powell noted that when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Persian Gulf War (news - web sites), U.S. troops expected to be hit with chemical weapons. "We weren't hit with chemical weapons but we found chemical weapons," he said. "So it wasn't as if this was a figment of someone's imagination."
Thus, with U.N. inspectors absent from Iraq for four years, "I think the assumption to make and the assumption we came to, based on what the intelligence community gave to us, was that there were stockpiles present."
Although Kay found the years of sanctions had constrained Hussein, eventually international resolve would have weakened, Powell said.
"I think that the international community wouldn't have kept them constrained," he said. "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if Iraq had gotten free of the constraints and if we had gone through another year of desultory action on the part of the United Nations and when they were freed without threat . . . they would have gone to the next level and reproduced these weapons."
Powell said his Feb. 5 presentation, which contained detailed assertions about Iraq's possible weapons stockpiles, "reflected the best judgments of all of the intelligence agencies. . . . There wasn't a word that was in the presentation that was put in that was not totally cleared by the intelligence community."
Powell noted that not only the CIA (news - web sites) but other intelligence agencies and the United Kingdom "suggested that the stockpiles were there."
Asked whether the American public should be reassured that so many intelligence agencies were so wrong, Powell replied: "I think it should be reassuring to the voters of the United States that we found a regime that's clearly demonstrated intent and clearly had the capability, and that the president had the information from the intelligence community."
Powell added that the American people will understand "with that body of evidence, that was the information and intelligence that was available to the president at that time, the president made a prudent decision."
Powell added he had faith in the intelligence analysts, who he said gave "their best advice."
"I have confidence in the intelligence community," Powell said. "I've seen them do many things that were absolutely brilliant in their concept and their execution, many things we'll never be able to discuss and will never get a headline." With a twinkle in his eye, he added: "Very recently, as a matter of fact. Go research that if you wish."
Interesting read. I disagree with him about how history will judge this war. I think it will be seen as a major gaffe.
Goose From Canada, joined Aug 2003, 1840 posts, RR: 17 Reply 4, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 938 times:
The war is over, isn't it? What possible good can be served by waxing over the reasons why the US and its allies went to war, over and over and over again? I mean, there was no inquiry into the whys and hows over the Allies' entry into the Second World War, or so on.
The effort spent finding the reasons why could probably be better spent dealing with the consequences of actions taken against Iraq...... but that's my opinion.
Goose From Canada, joined Aug 2003, 1840 posts, RR: 17 Reply 7, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 924 times:
The actual fighting is over.... I misstated my point - the US and the Coalition are past the "point of no return" when it comes to Iraq. Giving into hindsight now - and allowing partisan arguments to mislead the government and people from the immediate task at hand - rebuilding a free, post-Saddam Iraq - can't be good for Iraq or the US.
Klaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 20902 posts, RR: 55 Reply 9, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 915 times:
Goose: The actual fighting is over.... I misstated my point - the US and the Coalition are past the "point of no return" when it comes to Iraq. Giving into hindsight now - and allowing partisan arguments to mislead the government and people from the immediate task at hand - rebuilding a free, post-Saddam Iraq - can't be good for Iraq or the US.
"Gee, the victim´s dead anyway; What does it matter now whether I killed him in self defense or whether I murdered him? He would still be dead either way! Just let´s go on with our lives!"
Captaingomes From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 6413 posts, RR: 58 Reply 10, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 907 times:
Interesting how eventhough it seems more clear now that the war was a mistake, people make light of it, as if saying, oh well, we goofed. It seems that a serious strategic error was made, and the potential consequences are nothing to sneer at.
It's great that Saddam is no longer in power, and I hope things will improve for the Iraqi people, but I'm not too sure about the stability in the area improving as a result of the war.
"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster
Goose From Canada, joined Aug 2003, 1840 posts, RR: 17 Reply 11, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 905 times:
Your description is fairly accurate, Klaus, however - what possible use could a judgement either way provide to the current situation in Iraq? Would it solve anything? Would it give the ongoing Iraqi campaign credibility, or take it away? Would revisiting the decision already made to go to War into Iraq, and throwing doubt into the mix in future US operations there, benefit the people and troops in Iraq?
Goose From Canada, joined Aug 2003, 1840 posts, RR: 17 Reply 13, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 863 times:
No. but it may help to avoid other $87 bn (+$50bn )"mistakes" in other countries or situations
You know as well as I do that the findings of this inquiry will not be used in that context... the loudest political lobby groups will use the findings - if they find the Bush administration to be in error - for an ousting of the US president or, worse, a withdrawl from Iraq.
And, if it finds the US administration in error.... can you imagine the damage it could do to future US decision-making when it comes to international issues? It could prove to be a catalyst for a recurring case of "Vietnam syndrome" in US decision-making...... which isn't necessarily a positive outcome either.
Klaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 20902 posts, RR: 55 Reply 16, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 814 times:
Goose: Your description is fairly accurate, Klaus, however - what possible use could a judgement either way provide to the current situation in Iraq?
If it turns out Kay was wrong and there were WMDs after all which were directly threatening the USA with no other means of defense than to invade immediately, then everything will be justified.
If it turns out that "somehow" the US administration was duped into believing a bunch of scheming exile iraqis through an incompetent CIA and was going in without looking twice, the Bush administration will be found to be completely incompetent in security matters leading to impeachment on gross negligence in office or at least will be kept from starting other wars before they´re kicked out of the White House in November.
If it turns out that the Bush administration was served with basically correct intelligence and skewed it by cherry-picking only the incriminating and discarding the exonerating evidence this would amount to a crime in office and the unavoidable impeachment proceedings would probably be highlighted by one of those famous "I am not a crook!" speeches certain presidents seem to be so fond of.
Unless the - extremely unlikely - first case should occur, it would merely open the american public´s eyes to what everybody else had already seen all along: That the US government engaged in a severe breach of international law without justification, even trying to bully others to go along with it, disregarding every warning on the way.
The international credibility of this administration had been torn to shreds a year ago already and I don´t see any way to repair it without flushing the whole bunch out of office and replacing them with new faces whose credibility and integrity are still undamaged.
It sure is a bitter job to do; But nobody could claim that this had come without warning.
Alpha 1 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 18, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 785 times:
Hindsight.... "woulda, shoulda, coulda..." is all that is...
Yes it is, JeffM, but when you do a "woulda, shoulda, coulda", and it's about if you should have bought chicken instead of pork chops for dinner, or if it's about you should have called that girl up that you were dying to date, that's one thing. This "woulda, coulda, shoulda", ended up in a war, where people have died in large numbers. That's nothing to sneeze at, even though you act like it's nothing. It is a big deal, and that's why the President finally gave into having this commission.
War should never be treated as lightly as I think this Administration took in starting this one. It's a serious matter. Stop acting like it isn't.
We can agree to disagree politically, but I applaud you for including all the facts.
EA CO AS, I don't selectively leave anything out of articles. I let it stand or fall on the whole thing. Not everyone on here does that-on both sides of the spectrum. We can disagree on it, but I thought the fact that Powell even uttered those words were siginficant, especially in light of events surrounding this issue this week. I appreciate your candor.
The war is over, isn't it?
Since when? Last time I looked, our boys were still dying over there.
I mean, there was no inquiry into the whys and hows over the Allies' entry into the Second World War, or so on.
Gee, maybe that's because the Allies didn't start that war, bright boy. Ever think of that? We started this conflict, and since the intel seems to have been 180 degrees off, an investigation is absolutely warrented.
Alpha 1 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 21, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 776 times:
Serious matter, yes, can you reverse what has transpired? No.
That's not what it's about, JeffM, and you know it. It's about learning from our mistakes, so they won't be repeated, and find out where improvements in the process can be made. That, ultimately, is why such an investigation should take place.
Alpha, you are oversimplifying the intel situation. I doubt you have ever been involved in the process, so to quit looking like a complete fool, stop making it seem like you have. Bright boy..
JeffM, what's up your butt tonight, eh? It isn't a simple situation ,and everyone knows that, and I for one never said it was. If it were, then we wouldn't be debating about bad intel.
It's you who looks like the fool in trying to bait others, when the rest of us are having a serious discussion of the subject. Grow up.
B757300 From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 4114 posts, RR: 25 Reply 23, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 770 times:
Why did Syria so quickly give in after so many years of stonewalling (for example)?
Actually it was Libya but the point is still the same. Libya saw what happened to Saddam and when they were caught red handed importing nuclear materials and equipment, they decided it was better to give it up rather than suffer Saddam's fate.
The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Commander_Rabb From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 771 posts, RR: 10 Reply 24, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 765 times:
Whatever the merits of the war there are many that feel that we will almost certainly better off in the world now that we are bringing some stability into Iraq and into the Middle East. The road is a long one. And it may get worse. But it is a road we are now on and one we will travel the full distance.
Many are willing to go the distance.
25 Alpha 1: Whatever the merits of the war there are many that feel that we will almost certainly better off in the world now that we are bringing some stability
26 JeffM: The attacks will continue for a while. But they won't last. Tell us alpha....what is stability? How would you get us there?
27 Captaingomes: Jeff, how will the attacks not last? And stability is not achieved by starting wars that are dubious. We needed to take action regarding Saddam, if fo
28 JeffM: The attacks will dwindle as the cowards are caught or killed. Stability will be regained as confidence increases. Dubious, is just your opinion. The t
29 Klaus: JeffM: The attacks will dwindle as the cowards are caught or killed. At the current rate of recruiting, that will be approximately ... never. Great. J
30 Alpha 1: The attacks will dwindle as the cowards are caught or killed. You mean, like has happened In Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians. They've been catching
31 Zak: "Serious matter, yes, can you reverse what has transpired? No" actually yes. the u.s. could for example apologize to the iraqi people for making a hug
32 777236ER: The attacks will continue for a while. But they won't last. Just how much military or political experience do you have?
33 Goose: actually yes. the u.s. could for example apologize to the iraqi people for making a huge mistake by attacking iraq on wrong intelligence, apologize to
34 Alpha 1: The UN's track record when it comes to nation-building is less than stellar; Their track record in the last decade or so in peacekeeping isn't great,
35 Goose: You're right, Alpha - the US doesn't have a all-wins record when it comes to building nations. I mean, you have to take Vietnam into account, name one
36 Klaus: First: "The UN" needs the support of its members to be effective. Without that, any effort will quickly fail. Second: The UN has successfully contribu
37 Goose: Third: The success stories in post-WWII rebuilding had a lot to do with local capabilities politically, socially and technically. US support was very
38 Goose: First: "The UN" needs the support of its members to be effective. Without that, any effort will quickly fail. Hrm... one could argue that any United N