Reasons for War with Sir Jeremy Greenstock
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KWAME HOLMAN: The case for war with Iraq was made over the course of a year by American and British officials working and speaking in close coordination.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving.
JACK STRAW: There is clear evidence now that he’s made this, Saddam has made this a charade of an inspection.
COLIN POWELL: Iraq’s record on chemical weapons is replete with lies.
TONY BLAIR: He has to say what has happened, for example, to the 8,500 liters of anthrax.
KWAME HOLMAN: Both governments made a secondary case for war on the grounds that Hussein was a brutal menace to his own people and a threat to stability in the Middle East. To date, none of the Iraqi regime’s alleged weapons stockpile has been found. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer was pressed today about the broader justifications for the war.
REPORTER: You repeatedly assert that he had chemical and biological weapons. Why do you continue to assert that he had them, if we can’t find them?
ARI FLEISCHER: I think the administration asserts it because… and the international community concluded that Saddam Hussein had not accounted for the huge stocks of sarin gas and VX and anthrax that he previously had, knowing that he used chemical weapons against his own people. That’s why we’ve asserted it, because all the reporting indicates that it is true.
KWAME HOLMAN: But not all of that reporting has proven to be true. Recently, the Bush administration has had to explain how this questionable statement got into the most heavily vetted speech a president delivers, the state of the union address.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
KWAME HOLMAN: Late in the day Friday, the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, took the extraordinary step of publicly accepting the blame for the inclusion of the Africa reference in the speech. Tenet’s statement read, in part: “These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president.” The statement also said: “CIA officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues.” Some of the language was changed. “From what we know now, agency officials in the end concurred that the text of the speech was factually correct, i.e., that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa.”
The Tenet statement came just after the president and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, both abroad in Africa, said that the uranium reference had been cleared by the CIA. The president said then he considered the matter closed. But top administration officials spent Sunday morning defending the claim, reasserting its attribution to British intelligence.
DONALD RUMSFELD: It turns out that it’s technically correct what the president said, that the U.K. did say that and still says that. They haven’t changed their mind, the United Kingdom intelligence people.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: This was a part of a very broad case that the president laid out in the state of the union and other places. But the statement that he made was indeed accurate. The British government did say that.
KWAME HOLMAN: The issue of who said what may be in the spotlight again later this week as prime minister Tony Blair visits Washington and addresses Congress.
GWEN IFILL: And with me now is Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who has been the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations since 1998. At the end of this month, he becomes his country’s envoy to Iraq. Ambassador Greenstock, welcome.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Good evening.
GWEN IFILL: You have been up to your eyeballs in this story about Iraq and about the whole lead-up to the war, the case being made for war, and that’s where we stand today as you prepare to leave one job dealing with this issue and go to another. So I want to walk you through the cases that were made for war. Obviously one of the big outstanding questions left right now is the weapons for mass destruction and the search for the weapons of mass destruction. Where does that stand in your estimation right now?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, not at the United Nations, not in my hands at this point. It stands with the people on the ground who are going through the sites that are relevant to this and interviewing the right people, and it stands in our respective capitals. From my point of view, let’s remember this against all the background talk about this, that there was no doubt in any of our minds that Saddam Hussein was not responding to United Nations resolutions on weapons of mass destruction. If there were questions to be answered, he was not answering them. If there were areas to be accounted for, he was not accounting for them. And he goes far wider than just uranium or the number of hours it might have taken him at some point to deploy weapons. The whole story still needs to be told, and we need time and investigations to produce that.
GWEN IFILL: Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors, when they were in Iraq looking for these weapons, had also come to you and others and said, “we need time.” What’s the difference this time?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: We had clear evidence that the inspectors were being deceived, things were being concealed from them. And it was clear to us in Washington and in London that the inspectors were going to achieve what the Security Council needed on the ground. However long they had, Saddam Hussein had prepared for their arrival. He was keeping things out of their reach, and it was that kind of defiance that, as I saw it, led to our governments taking the decision that this was just not worth extending any further, the matter had to be dealt with by other means.
GWEN IFILL: Are you still confident today that those weapons will be found?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I don’t know what actual weapons will be found, but I am confident that the story will be told as to what decision Saddam Hussein made to conceal or destroy the programs that he was undoubtedly pursuing. That’s the point.
GWEN IFILL: That there will be evidence found of weapons programs if not the actual physical weapons?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Particularly if people tell the truth from amongst the Iraqi team that was dealing with this. That’s what we need time for over this coming period.
GWEN IFILL You mentioned Saddam Hussein. Now, intelligence officials all over the place are confirming that the latest videotapes, audiotapes anyway, that we have heard of him, prove that he is probably alive. That was also one of the goals in this effort, the case that was made for war, which was to not only take Saddam Hussein from power, but taken from power. Given what we have seen in the post-war war which may not be some of the attacks on United States and British troops which may or may not have been orchestrated by Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants, do you think that not having found him has been a problem?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, I think that he’s gone from government for good. I think we’re pretty clear about that. Whether he’s alive or he’s dead, there may be people still to be inspired to attack coalition forces. I don’t think his being found or his being alive or dead affects that, but clearly there is work still to be done on security, and we acknowledge that, and we’re doing it. But these things too take time.
GWEN IFILL: Can the work be done if you are not certain whether Saddam Hussein still has the power to orchestrate attacks against coalition forces?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, obviously, the work on security will be done. There is no evidence that he is in communication, command, and control of any forces. It’s much more likely that there are residual orders or suggestions being carried out if the thing should have got to this stage and you still have the capability. “Go on hitting them”: That’s an easy order to leave behind you, and that’s something we’ve got to deal with. The Iraqi people deserve security. The Iraqi people deserve to have government turned back into their hands with proper representation and proper arrangements for their security and economic progress. That’s the priority of the coalition on the ground.
GWEN IFILL: Another case that was made for war, which I’m sure you’ve been following and heard somewhat in Kwame Holman’s piece is the question of the veracity, the worth of British and U.S. Intelligence leading up to the war, particularly dealing with questions from uranium buys from Niger or other countries in Africa. The Bush administration has laid this, this weekend squarely at the doorstep of British intelligence. What is your response to that?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, my response is, to the extent that I’m involved or responsible for this, tell me, please, one piece of intelligence in either country that has been shown to be wrong. The overall picture may turn out to be a bit different because intelligence is always by definition partial, but show me one piece that has been shown to be wrong, and let’s wait for the story to be told properly.
GWEN IFILL: The way I seem to understand it is that the United States government has been saying that the document, or whatever documents they used to base the president’s, the 16 words in the president’s state of the union speech about buying uranium from Niger was wrong, was forged?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: But that wasn’t British intelligence, and we never saw those documents before they were analyzed for whatever results were put into the president’s speech. We were working on a much broader range of material than that, and anyway Mohammed ElBaredi of the International Atomic Energy Authority told us about the forgeries months ago. This is an old story. It was not the sole piece of intelligence on uranium, but let’s leave it at that and wait for the whole story to be told.
GWEN IFILL: So you’re saying that there exist documents other than these forgeries which we’re hearing about, which will support the notion that the Iraqi government was engaged in an active effort to purchase yellow cake for nuclear production from Niger?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I’m not responsible for the intelligence dossier. What I’m saying is there is a whole range of intelligence material which went into our analysis of what we needed to be done on Iraq that goes far more widely than just this single case, for which there was reasonable intelligence basis and none of which has been shown to be wrong in the conclusions that were drawn from it.
GWEN IFILL: I hear you saying something that the president’s spokesmen and his chief of top officials have also been saying, which is the case has to be made that this is wrong, not that it is right. Am I hearing that correctly, that these allegations are not wrong?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I’ve just given you my personal impressions. I am not involved in the explanations that are to be made. There is an inquiry going on to this in the British parliament, and that’s all I can say about it.
GWEN IFILL As you go to your new post as a British envoy to Iraq from your post in the United Nations, do you anticipate that the U.N. will be involved more extensively than it is so far in the postwar war and the rebuilding.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: First of all, the U.N. is involved extensively. The secretary-general’s special representative, Sergio de Mello, played a very good role in the formation and the encouragement of the governing council that’s just been announced. I think the U.N. role, yes, is going to grow, and I think that it’s in all our interests that the international community should be fully involved to the extent of its capability. And I’m sure that’s going to happen, as I approach my time in Iraq.
GWEN IFILL: Can you give me a timetable on when that’s going to happen? Some U.S. Senators have been saying they think that forces there would be less likely to attack if they had blue U.N. arm patches on the uniforms instead of American or British flags.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, that’s a red herring because the U.N. is not asking for and is not likely to be given any security responsibility. The responsibilities they’re likely to grow into are political, human rights, economic, humanitarian, justice, police, other areas; but they’re not going to put on blue berets, we all agree that.
GWEN IFILL: What is the chief first thing that you’ve got to get under control, if that’s the right term, once you get to Iraq and start working more closely with Jerry Bremer?
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, I’m not going to anticipate that. Jerry Bremer is in the lead. I will be there to support him. But the answer to your question, I think, will be political. I think we should be setting out a program for the return of government to the Iraqis. And the more that they can understand about that program and the more they know the timing and the steps to be taken and the more they see the international community supporting that and being involved in it, the more quickly Iraq will be returned to Iraqis and we can all go home and regard the job as well done.
GWEN IFILL: Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, thank you so much for joining us.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Thank you very much.