Interesting. Seems the solid front in the Administration that the war was justifed no matter what is cracking.
Powell Says New Data May Have Affected War Decision
Tue Feb 3, 8:00 AM ET
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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.