2001: Powell & Rice Declare Iraq Has No WMD and Is Not a Threat

Obtained from www.thememoryhole.org/war/powell-no-wmd.htm

Click here for the video
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This clip from John Pilger's documentary, Breaking the Silence, contains 2001 footage of Powell and Rice declaring that Iraq is not a threat.
Thanks for the video go to Information Clearinghouse and A-infos Radio Project

>>> During the run-up to the 2003 attack on Iraq, we were repeatedly told by US leaders that Iraq absolutely, positively had weapons of mass destruction [read more]. The country was an immediate threat not only to its neighbors but to the entire world. It had the capability of launching WMDs within 45 minutes.

In August 2002, Cheney insisted: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

In a March 2003 address to the nation, Bush said: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

In April 2003, Fleischer claimed: "But make no mistake--as I said earlier--we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about."

In February 2003, Powell said: "We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more."

But two years earlier, Powell said just the opposite. The occasion was a press conference on 24 February 2001 during Powell's visit to Cairo, Egypt. Answering a question about the US-led sanctions against Iraq, the Secretary of State said:

We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq...

[See the page on the State Department Website with Powell's Cairo press conference. The Memory Hole's mirror of the page.]

Furthermore, on 15 May 2001, Powell testified before the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Several kind readers with access to Lexis-Nexis sent me the full transcript of the questions-and-answers portion of Powell's testimony. Here's the relevant extract:

Senator Bennett: Mr. Secretary, the U.N. sanctions on Iraq expire the beginning of June. We've had bombs dropped, we've had threats made, we've had all kinds of activity vis-a-vis Iraq in the previous administration. Now we're coming to the end. What's our level of concern about the progress of Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programs?

Secretary Powell: The sanctions, as they are called, have succeeded over the last 10 years, not in deterring him from moving in that direction, but from actually being able to move in that direction. The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn't have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained. And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear -- I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful. There's no question that they have some stockpiles of some of these sorts of weapons still under their control, but they have not been able to break out, they have not been able to come out with the capacity to deliver these kinds of systems or to actually have these kinds of systems that is much beyond where they were 10 years ago.

So containment, using this arms control sanctions regime, I think has been reasonably successful. We have not been able to get the inspectors back in, though, to verify that, and we have not been able to get the inspectors in to pull up anything that might be left there. So we have to continue to view this regime with the greatest suspicion, attribute to them the most negative motives, which is quite well-deserved with this particular regime, and roll the sanctions over, and roll them over in a way where the arms control sanctions really go after their intended targets -- weapons of mass destruction -- and not go after civilian goods or civilian commodities that we really shouldn't be going after, just let that go to the Iraqi people. That wasn't the purpose of the oil-for-food program. And by reconfiguring them in that way, I think we can gain support for this regime once again.

When we came into office on the 20th of January, the whole sanctions regime was collapsing in front of our eyes. Nations were bailing out on it. We lost the consensus for this kind of regime because the Iraqi regime had successfully painted us as the ones causing the suffering of the Iraqi people, when it was the regime that was causing the suffering. They had more than enough money; they just weren't spending it in the proper way. And we were getting the blame for it. So reconfiguring the sanctions, I think, helps us and continues to contain the Iraqi regime.

But Powell wasn't the only senior administration official telling the truth before the truth became highly inconvenient. On 29 July 2001, Condoleezza Rice appeared on CNN Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer (an anonymous reader sent me the full transcript from Lexis-Nexis). Guest host John King asked Rice about the fact that Iraq had recently fired on US planes enforcing the "no-fly zones" in Iraq. Rice craftily responds:

Well, the president has made very clear that he considers Saddam Hussein to be a threat to his neighbors, a threat to security in the region, in fact a threat to international security more broadly.

Notice that she makes it clear that Bush is the one who considers Hussein a threat. She doesn't say, "I consider..." or even, "We consider..."

Then King asks her about the sanctions against Iraq. She replies:

But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let's remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.

King doesn't think to ask Rice, if Hussein hasn't been getting arms and his forces weren't rebuilt after the 1991 Gulf War, why Bush considers him a threat.

There you have it. Four to seven months before 9/11--and just 15 to 18 months before the drive to attack Iraq seriously revved up--the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor trumpeted that Iraq had a decimated military, no "significant capabilities" regarding WMD, and was so feeble that it couldn't even threaten the countries around it with conventional military power.

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posted 01 Oct 2003 | updated 07 Oct 2003
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