Bush "Absolutely Confident" of His Decision on Iraq


Thursday  July 9, 2003
(Even though White House admits one prewar claim not accurate) (1060)
By Charles Hays Burchfield
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- President Bush on July 9 defended his use of prewar
intelligence as justification for the Iraq war, saying he is
"absolutely confident" about his actions, despite White House
acknowledgement that one claim Bush made in his 2003 State of the
Union Address about Saddam Hussein pursuing nuclear weapons in Africa
was based on unreliable information.

"I'm absolutely confident in the decision I made," Bush told reporters
at a press availability with South African President Thabo Mbeki in
Pretoria, South Africa.

Bush was on his second day of a five-day, five-country trip to Africa.

"And there's no doubt in my mind, when it's all said and done, the
facts will show the world the truth," Bush said. "And so there's going
to be a lot of attempts to try to rewrite history, and I can
understand that. But I am absolutely confident in the decision I

Bush did not directly address his claim in the January 28, 2003, State
of the Union Address to Congress in which he said, "The British
government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant
quantities of uranium from Africa."

Instead, he defended his decision to go to war by saying Saddam
Hussein posed a threat, and the world is a more peaceful place now
that he no longer rules Iraq.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the
world peace," Bush said. "And there's no doubt in my mind that the
United States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in
removing him from power."

Bush continued by saying, "And in 2003, after the world had demanded
he disarm, we decided to disarm him. And I'm convinced the world is a
much more peaceful and secure place as a result of the actions."

After Bush made his statements, White House Press Secretary Ari
Fleischer told reporters traveling with Bush that the statement about
Saddam Hussein seeking uranium from Africa "should not have risen to
the level of a presidential speech."

After the speech, Fleischer said, the Bush administration learned that
the statement came from forged documents: "With the advantage of
hindsight, it's known now what was not known by the White House prior
to the speech."

The charge of seeking African uranium was based on documents "now
known to be bogus," that were obtained by European intelligence
agencies, Fleischer said. The bogus documents appeared to be
communications between officials in Iraq and Niger.

"It's a classic issue of how hindsight is 20-20," Fleischer said.
"[I]nformation about the [uranium] yellowcake was only brought to the
White House's attention later."

Uranium yellowcake -- a form of lightly processed ore -- through
further processing can be used in fuel rods for nuclear reactors or in
nuclear weapons.

Fleischer said "there's a bigger picture here, and this is what's
fundamental -- the case for war against Iraq was based on the threat
that Saddam Hussein posed because of his possession of weapons of mass
destruction, chemical and biological, and his efforts to reconstitute
a nuclear program."

"The case for going to war against Saddam is as just today as it was
the day the president gave that speech," Fleischer said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Gabon Joseph Wilson, a career diplomat who
served in the U.S. foreign service from 1976 to 1998, was asked by the
Central Intelligence Agency to travel to Niger in February 2002 to
investigate reports that Niger sold Iraq processed uranium in the
1990s that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Wilson -- in a July 6 op-ed article in the New York Times -- wrote,
"It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any
such transaction had ever taken place."

In an interview on July 6 with NBC's "Meet the Press" Wilson said that
if the British and Bush were referring to Niger when they said Africa,
then "that information was erroneous, and ... they knew about it well
ahead of both the publication of the British White Paper and the
president's State of the Union address."

Wilson's report "did not address whether the [yellowcake] documents
were forged or not," but only that Niger denied the allegation that it
sold uranium yellowcake to Iraq, Fleischer said.

"He [Wilson] spent eight days in Niger and concluded that Niger denied
the allegation," Fleischer said. "Well, typically, nations don't admit
to going around nuclear nonproliferation. That's different from what
he reported. The issue here is whether the documents on yellowcake
were forged. He didn't address that issue. That's the information that
subsequently came to light, not prior to the speech."

Fleischer said Bush's statement in the State of the Union Address "was
based on the national intelligence estimate; it was based on
contemporaneous reporting leading up to the speech, which with the
advantage of hindsight we now know that the yellowcake ties to Niger
were not accurate."

Fleischer said that although the specific sentence on Niger yellowcake
was wrong, "that does not change the fundamental case from being

"I think the American people continue to express their support for
ridding the world of Saddam Hussein based on just cause, knowing that
Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons that were
unaccounted for that we're still confident we'll find," Fleischer
said. "It will take as long as it takes until they (WMD) are

Fleischer said "It is the nature of events that information can later
be discovered after a speech -- and when that happens, as is in this
case, it's important to be forthright, which is what this
administration has done -- to discuss it openly, and that's what this
administration has done."

Committees in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are
investigating pre-war intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass

On July 9 in the U.S. Capitol Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle
(Democrat-South Dakota) urged "having a good, bipartisan investigation
so that we know exactly what the facts are." Such an investigation, he
said, is "critical to understanding and writing history the way it
should be."


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