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February, 2004

Bush Changes His WMD Claims

Ignoring his previous definitive statements, President Bush this week sought to change the justification for the US invasion of Iraq.

Before the war, the president said there was "no doubt the Iraqi regime continues to possess the most lethal weapons ever devised," while Vice President Cheney said, "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction...to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

This week, however, in the absence of any evidence of weapons of mass destruction, Bush said the war was justified not because Iraq had WMD, but because Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." When asked last month about the shift from asserting Iraq "possessed" WMD, to Iraq merely exploring "WMD-related-program-activities," Bush replied, "What's the difference?"

Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney made their definitive pre-war statements repeatedly, using specific language. On chemical weapons, Bush said before the war, "the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas"-a claim since debunked by Bush's own chief weapons inspector, David Kay, who said, "Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled chemical weapons program after 1991."

On biological weapons, Bush said before the war that "Iraq has at least seven mobile factories for the production of biological agents - equipment mounted on trucks and rails to evade discovery." However, Mr. Kay reported, "We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile biological weapons production effort." The president also claimed that "Iraq has a growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas." But the Washington Post later reported that the vehicles Bush cited "were never meant to spread toxins" - a fact the US Air Force intelligence service had shared with the administration.

On nuclear weapons, Bush said before the war that "Iraq could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." More famously, in last year's State of the Union, the president said Iraq "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," and told Americans to fear "a mushroom cloud." Similarly, Vice President Cheney said "Saddam has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." But Mr. Kay reported in August, "We have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material."

 

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