The central claim at the heart of the Bush administration’s case for going to war was thoroughly discredited by the New York Times yesterday. Before the war, the Bush administration stated without doubt that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding a nuclear weapons program and, as proof, it pointed to the only physical evidence it could find: Iraq’s attempt to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes. We now know, however, that the smoking gun was a fabrication. According to the New York Times, top U.S. nuclear weapons experts strongly contradicted the White House claim. The tubes, simply put, were the wrong kind for enriching uranium. Nonetheless, the White House ignored the experts and kept their views from the public. The result: “a largely one-sided presentation to the public that did not convey the depth of evidence and argument against” the apocalyptic claims.
THE TRUTH BEHIND THE ALUMINUM TUBES: The tubes were the wrong sizeÃ‚Â “too narrow, too heavy, too long” for a centrifuge. They had a special coating to protect them from the weather, which was “not consistent” with use in a centrifuge, as it could cause bad reactions with uranium. They were ill-suited for bomb making.
DISINGENUOUS RICE: National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice hit the Sunday show circuit yesterday in an attempt to spin this latest evidence that the administration manipulated intelligence. Appearing on ABC News This Week, she said it was still unclear whether Iraq was using the tubes for a nuclear weapons program or for a conventional rocket program ? ignoring the conclusion of the Senate intelligence committee, U.N. investigators and intelligence experts from the United States. “As I understand it, people are still debating this,” she stated. David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said with the “overwhelming number of experts and the evidence” debunking this claim, Rice was “grasping at straws” to suggest this was still a debatable issue, adding, “I think she is being disingenuous and just departing from any effort to find the truth.”
CONDI THEN AND NOW: In 2002, Rice charged the tubes were “only really suited for nuclear weapons programs,” ominously adding, “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” She also claimed in July 2003 that “the consensus view” in the intelligence community was that the tubes “were suitable for use in centrifuges to spin material for nuclear weapons.” Yesterday, however, Rice admitted she in fact knew at the time that intelligence analysts were locked in intense debate over the issue.
CHENEY’S CHARGES: Appearing at various times on Meet the Press in the lead up to war, Vice President Cheney went even further, saying “he knew ‘for sure’ and ‘in fact’ and ‘with absolute certainty’” that Hussein was buying the equipment to build a weapon. Cheney claimed: “He [Saddam] has reconstituted his nuclear program” ? none of this was backed by the CIA report.
POWELL PUTS DOWN EXPERTS: In a 2003 speech to the U.N. Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell referenced the tubes, saying, “Other experts and the Iraqis themselves argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher.” The New York Times points out, “Mr. Powell did not acknowledge that those ‘other experts’ included many of the nation’s most authoritative nuclear experts, some of whom said in interviews that they were offended to find themselves now lumped in with a reviled government.”