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In the months leading up to the war, the American people heard increasingly alarming statements from the Bush administration about the growing threat from the Iraqi regime's weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorism. More recently, in the wake of chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay's interim report -- in which he states that his team has so far failed to find any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq -- the administration's official assertions are decidedly more guarded. Trace the evolving rhetoric in this selection of statements from President Bush, Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

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POWELL

[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.

-- Cairo press conference, Feb. 24, 2001

CHENEY

photo of cheney

…The focus is over here on al-Qaida and the most recent events in New York. Saddam Hussein's bottled up

[Interviewer: Do we have any evidence linking Saddam Hussein or Iraqis to [the 9/11 terrorist attacks?]]

No.

--NBC's Meet the Press, Sept. 16, 2001

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BUSH

photo of bush and cheney Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.

-- State of the Union Address, Jan. 29, 2002

BUSH

[Saddam Hussein] is a man who refuses to allow us to determine whether or not he still has weapons of mass destruction, which leads me to believe he does.

-- Press conference, Monterrey, Mexico, March 22, 2002

RUMSFELD

They have weaponized chemical weapons, we know that. They've had an active program to develop nuclear weapons.

--Press conference, Kuwait City, June 11, 2002

CHENEY

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

-- Speech to VFW National Convention, Aug. 26, 2002

RICE

photo of rice We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

-- CNN "Late Edition," Sept. 8, 2002

BUSH

Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. … The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one.

-- Remarks to the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 12, 2002

BUSH

If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, he could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. …

-- Speech in Cincinnati, Oct. 7, 2002

BUSH

photo of bush

We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaida members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September 11 Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.

-- Speech in Cincinnati, Oct. 7, 2002

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RUMSFELD

Iraq's weapons of mass terror and the terror networks to which the Iraqi regime are linked are not two separate themes -- not two separate threats. They are part of the same threat.

-- Speech to Council on Foreign Relations, Jan. 23, 2003

BUSH

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.

-- State of the Union Address, Jan. 28, 2003

BUSH

Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein.

-- State of the Union Address, Jan. 28, 2003

BUSH

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. …

-- State of the Union Address, Jan. 28, 2003

POWELL

photo of powell at the u.n. We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails.

Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent.

He remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons. … He is so determined that has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from 11 different countries. …

What I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network … Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with al-Qaida. These denials are simply not credible. …

-- Remarks to U.N. Security Council, Feb. 5, 2003

BUSH

Sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have. … We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner.

-- Radio address to the nation, Feb. 8, 2003

CHENEY

We know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization.

--Meet the Press, March 14, 2003

CHENEY

[Interviewer: What do you think is the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq?]

Well, I think I've just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons. …

It's only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons.

--Meet the Press, March 14, 2003

BUSH

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.

-- Address to the nation, March 17, 2003

RUMSFELD

photo of rumsfeld

We know where [the weapons of mass destruction] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

-- This Week with George Stephanopolous, March 30, 2003

BUSH

It's going to take time to find them, but we know he had them. And whether he destroyed them, moved them or hid them, we're going to find out the truth. One thing is for certain: Saddam Hussein no longer threatens America with weapons of mass destruction.

-- Speech at Lima, Ohio weapons factory, April 24, 2003

POWELL

I'm absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We're just getting it just now.

-- Remarks to reporters, May 4, 2003

RUMSFELD

We never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.

-- Interview with Fox News, May 4, 2003

WOLFOWITZ

There has been a tendency to emphasize the weapons of mass destruction issue. But … the real thing that has concerned the President from the beginning … is the connection between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. So in a way, that's always been the main thing.

-- Washington Post interview, May 28, 2003

WOLFOWITZ

No one should expect this kind of deception effort to get penetrated overnight.

-- Washington Post interview, May 28, 2003

WOLFOWITZ

In the face of an understanding of a threat of that kind, and the kinds of intelligence assessments that we had, and the kind of determined efforts by this hostile regime to frustrate the whole effort to uncover their weapons, I don't think we were overselling at all.

-- Washington Post interview, May 28, 2003

RUMSFELD

It's a country the size of California. It is not as though we've managed to look every place. … My guess is that the kinds of things that the intelligence community provided Secretary Powell, and Secretary Powell provided the United Nations, will in fact be turned up, to the extent that they're still there.

-- Remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations, May 27, 2003

BUSH

We've found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. … We've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on.

-- Interview with Polish television, broadcast on CNN, May 30, 2003

BUSH

Iraq had a weapons program. Intelligence throughout the decade showed they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced with time we'll find out that they did have a weapons program.

-- Exchange with reporters after cabinet meeting, June 9, 2003

RUMSFELD

The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder. We acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light through the prism of our experience on Sept. 11.

--Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, July 9, 2003

CHENEY

There's no doubt in my mind but what Saddam Hussein had these capabilities. … I'm not willing at all at this point to buy the proposition that somehow Saddam Hussein was innocent and he had no WMD and some guy out at the CIA, because I called him, cooked up a report saying he did. That's crazy….

-- Meet the Press, Sept. 14, 2003

CHENEY

We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s. … With respect to 9/11 … We just don't know.

--Meet the Press, Sept. 14, 2003

BUSH

We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th.

-- White House briefing, Sept. 17, 2003

KAY

We have not yet found stocks of weapons, but we are not yet at the point where we can say definitively either that such weapon stocks do not exist or that they existed before the war and our only task is to find where they have gone. …

We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. …

We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile BW production effort…

Information found to date suggests that Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new CW munitions was reduced -- if not entirely destroyed -- during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections. …

Despite evidence of Saddam's continued ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.

-- David Kay, Interim Progress Report of the Iraq Survey Group, Oct. 2, 2003

POWELL

What we now know as a result of David Kay's efforts confirms that Hussein had every intention of continuing his work on banned weapons despite the U.N. inspectors, and that we and our coalition partners were right to eliminate the danger that his regime posed to the world.

-- Washington Post Op-Ed, Oct. 7, 2003

RICE

The Iraq Survey Group is finding—and recording—proof that Iraq never disarmed, and never complied with UN inspectors. … Let there be no mistake, right up until the end, Saddam Hussein continued to harbor ambitions to threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction, and to hide his illegal weapons programs.

-- Remarks to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (PDF), Oct. 8, 2003

 

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posted october 9, 2003

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